MAY 2012 -- Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba visited India on 30 April for high-level talks with his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, on many important issues, thereby reinforcing the importance of the bilateral relationships towards each other and for the region. During a visit to India in December 2011, Japan's Prime Minister Noda Yasuhiko had stressed the importance of India in the realm of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Such bilateral visits by top political leaders only reinforce common interests on bilateral, regional and global issues.
MAY 2011 -- Are Latin America's two largest countries partners, or rivals? As simple as the question may be, when applied to current Latin American affairs the answer may hold far more implications than commonly expected. Long considered natural opponents, vying for the same kind of regional influence and international clout as any other emerging power, both countries have thread a fine line in recent years as they sought to present an ambivalent image of converging interests and growing economic ties that have helped to mask competition between one another.
Pooling and Sharing: A Contribution to the European Integration?
APRIL 2012 -- Reducing national defense budgets is a logical strategy in times of austerity. However, the risk exists that cuts in military capabilities could affect the EU role as a global player and its capacity to lead civilian and military missions, or even to maintain the missions already deployed. From a strategic point of view it is necessary to balance budgetary measures and geopolitical priorities in order to avoid a shortage of capabilities. EU Member States must find a solution to their chronic deficiency when it comes to supporting military missions.
The G-20 and the Power Club Approach to Global Governance: The Price of Efficiency
Mohamed Mansour Kadah
MARCH 2012 -- Global governance by clubs has clear advantages with respect to efficiency, both in terms of time and resources. On the other hand, this form of global governance has a legitimacy deficit, at least in strict, formal terms.
The EU and Emerging Markets: Portugal's Economic Partnerships in Times of Crisis
MARCH 2012 -- The current economic stagnation of traditional Portuguese markets has forced the country, as well as its EU companions, to place their bets on emerging markets. This bet has great visibility, usually including state visits or major business delegations. Luanda has certainly received many of these over the last couple of years, and not only from Portugal, like Angela's Merkel visit to Luanda in July 2011, among others. Since investment and trade are not a zero-sum game, the key challenge for Portugal will be to maintain its European market and, in parallel, build on its existing relations with non-EU countries to expand economic relationships.
FEBRUARY 2012 -- The main obstacles fueling a potential British deviation from the EU's integration route remain unaltered. But for all purposes, the path ahead is more flexible than many believed after David Cameron's fiery justification of the veto. Conciliatory statements and gestures have arisen since the European Council held in December 2011.
'Europe in Crisis': Global Order, Integration, Crisis and the Future
FEBRUARY 2012 -- How to contextualize the present European crisis in broader dynamics? More specifically: how to understand the European Union in the global order? What is driving the process of European integration? What are the challenges to the consolidation of the European Union? What is the future of the Union? These are challenging questions that arise in the debate about Europe and its place in the international arena. A few ideas will be drop on this article to make sense of Europe's place in world affairs and on the context upon which the present crisis should be understood.
Guinea-Bissau: Presidential Election amidst Political Turmoil
FEBRUARY 2012 -- Even with Carlos Gomes Júnior as the frontrunner, Guinea-Bissau stands once again at an all too familiar crossroad, where the choices made will greatly impact any intended course, which could then bring the country either up to its feet or down to its knees. In order to tackle them it will be thus required nothing short than a democratic solution fully legitimized by the voters and afterwards, dully backed by the remaining international community.
JANUARY 2012 -- As Peru sets its eyes more and more on Europe, it will surely find an eager group of potential partners waiting to get on board, including Portugal. Supported by the favorable business context fomented by the Free Trade Agreement, both countries thus appear poised to head on towards new and increased stages of economic and trade exchanges.
CPLP and Equatorial Guinea: Chronicle of a foretold membership?
DECEMBER 2011 -- The CPLP member states -- and especially Angola and Brazil -- wish to strengthen their bilateral economic relations with Equatorial Guinea, and benefit from its oil and gas wealth, as well as reinforce their geopolitical influence within the Gulf of Guinea. Unlike Angola and Brazil, Portugal's political and economic bilateral interests are of little relevance. However, Portugal will have to try to find a balance that embraces the interests and beliefs of domestic and external players.
The aftermath of the 2011 Duma elections: moving to Russia 2.0
DECEMBER 2011 -- At the end of 2011, or 20 years after the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia finds itself at the crossroads again. In 2012, if Putin returns to the Kremlin, he will have a hard job getting rid of the system he established during the 2000s and setting up a fundamentally new paradigm. He will have to find the proper balance between technology and democracy that will fit the country for, at least, the next ten years. It is high time to move to Russia 2.0.
Thailand floods: Not enough to destroy the government
DECEMBER 2011 -- Thailand's worst floods in 50 years have posed a tremendous challenge to the newly elected government. Whether Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra can withstand the high tide of public criticism and sail to the end of her four-year term has been a hot topic of discussion in the mainstream Thai media. The government cannot avoid taking the blame for the underperformance and mismanagement by the Flood Relief Operations Center, but the damage will be insufficient to affect the strong popular support it enjoys through the Peua Thai Party.
Portugal and the Palestinian bid to join UNESCO and the United Nations
NOVEMBER 2011 -- Portuguese Foreign Minister Paulo Portas explained the abstention as a "European vote", adding that the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, urged European Union (EU) member states to abstain. Yet, since 28 October, Portas knew that a consensus among EU countries on an abstention was impossible to obtain. Foreign Minister Portas added, one day later, that Portugal could not "vote in favor because there is still no concrete sign of peace negotiations". At the same time, as if trying to square the circle, he emphasized that Portugal would never vote against the Palestinian bid. Probably, there is an additional factor that can help explain the Portuguese vote: simply put, Portas did not wish to vote 'against' the United States. Thus, the abstention was a compromise political solution.
Taur Matan Ruak: the first candidate for the 2012 presidential elections in Timor Leste?
SEPTEMBER 2011 -- Along with Ramos-Horta, Mari Alkatiri and Xanana, Matan Ruak is one of the four most popular figures in Timor Leste. Since Alkatiri intends to contest the next parliamentary elections -- also in 2012 -- and settle scores with Xanana, this means that FRETILIN will not have an opponent at his level. However, if Ramos-Horta decides to run for a second presidential term, the CNRT and Xanana will be confronted with an important challenge.
Brazil's Haiti drawdown: reflections on global aspirations
SEPTEMBER 2011 -- One cannot fail to notice the discrepancies that are bound to deepen when Brazil puts its announcement regarding a MINUSTAH withdrawal into practice. Indeed, while still staking its claim for a seat on the UNSC, Brazil will surely find it harder to present its case as an engaged global security partner in current international affairs when its track record is compared to that of its peers, who remain fully committed to peacekeeping missions.
Portugal and the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020: another tough battle looming on the horizon?
SEPTEMBER 2011 -- If one bears in mind what happened in previous negotiating cycles, then one should not rule out that the bickering might take longer, with a prolonged give and take exercise beyond 2012. With or without delays in reaching a political compromise, the fact is that the ongoing MFF negotiations will be one of the most important matters that will be dealt with by Portuguese diplomacy in the coming months. If the previous negotiations regarding Financial Perspectives 2007-2013 were tough, the current ones promise to be even more difficult.
Cape Verde's presidential elections: time for round two
AUGUST 2011 -- On August 7th, Cape Verdeans went to the ballot to choose a successor for outgoing President Pedro Pires, in office for the past ten years and thus constitutionally forbidden from running for a third term. In a country so used to the tense political dichotomy between the ruling PAICV and main opposition party MpD, the mere existence of four different candidates effectively managed to provide a glimpse of diversity for such an election, but the results of the first round highlighted once more the deep fracture lines dividing the country in terms of political representation.
Barracks and bombast: is Renamo's rhetoric of militarization and partition a serious threat in Mozambique?
AUGUST 2011 -- A party built out of war and disorder, Renamo thrives on conflict, and so in this instance it appears to be manufacturing discord without offering any constructive alternatives to Frelimo policy. If Renamo truly wishes to 'defend democracy', the party would do best to leave its militant pretensions, and Dhlakama, behind, and focus on challenging Frelimo through political means.
Who wants to play the Russian roulette in Guinea-Bissau?
AUGUST 2011 -- At a time when the wounds opened by the political and military crisis of April 2010 havee yet to heal, Guinea-Bissau once again lives days of unrest and political instability. Unlike what has happened in the last few years, Portugal does not have the political strength to once again support Guinea-Bissau in the EU, in the United Nations, and elsewhere. The Portuguese government could not afford it and, quite possibly, also would not want to do it again. Thus, Portugal should send a discreet but clear message to the local political players: if anyone wants to play Russian roulette, then they shall do it at their own risk, and must be prepared to accept the consequences.
São Tomé and Príncipe: the final decision of the presidential elections
João Ricardo Mendes
AUGUST 2011 -- Manuel Pinto da Costa is considered by local media and some foreign analysts as the favorite to replace Fradique de Menezes after his last presidential term. On August 7, we will see if the São Toméan voters were willing to elect Manuel Pinto da Costa or if they preferred to give a blank check to ADI's political family.
JULY 2011 -- It is not likely that Timor will suddenly back down from its initial claims anytime soon. Especially if we take into consideration that the 2012 elections in Timor Leste are right around the corner and that any meaningful concession could politically damage many of the current intervening actors. But be that as it may, the cautious reactions to the new Woodside leadership by local authorities might indicate a new willingness to sit at the table rather than negotiate through rumors, leaks and outraged declarations to the media, as both sides have frequently done in the past.
JULY 2011 -- The Partnership for Modernization, which was supposed to fill the gap between Moscow and Brussels' visions of the economic and political development in Russia, proved completely vain. While the EU stresses the need for political reforms, economic integration and cooperation on science, Russia intends to use European technology to modernize its industry in order to gain political clout in the global arena. Moscow prefers to achieve this goal by signing industrial contracts at a bilateral level, leaving the political component of the Partnership to the EU.
From São Tomé to Praia: two elections, a different set of expectations
JULY 2011 -- At a glance, any immediate and swift analysis of both São Tomé and Príncipe and Cape Verde would certainly reach the conclusion that both countries are headed for a quintessential political summer. With presidential elections scheduled for July 17 and August 7, easy comparisons between the decisions that these two insular Lusophone states will have to make in the coming months, are thus only expected.
Angola's new focus on Africa rewards the relationship with Namibia
JULY 2011 -- Angola's renewed reentrance into the African political scene appears to be moving forward without any substantial obstacles. Having announced in Nigeria its intention of embarking on a new phase by developing and solidifying relations with African countries, Angolan diplomacy was quick enough to match its words with deeds, seizing the opportunity of Namibian President Lucas Pohamba's trip to the United Kingdom to schedule a brief meeting with Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, after being received by Foreign Minister George Chicoty.
JULY 2011 -- Portugal has to recognize that only steady high-level political contacts can, at this point, generate the kind of trust and appeal that in the end attracts such foreign investments. In truth, it amounts to nothing short of a laborious undertaking with dividends only sure to arrive on a mid-term basis. Still, as opportunities abroad begin to dwindle and as traditional financial investors remain persistently skeptical, sovereign funds will most certainly continue to be a mandatory target for Portuguese economic diplomacy.
São Tomé and Príncipe: follow up of the first round of the Presidential elections
João Ricardo Mendes
JULY 2011 -- The next President of the Palácio Cor de Rosa will surely face a difficult task and probably focus his attention on the country's external credibility, fighting for good governance and, above all, ensuring political stability. For all these reasons, the upcoming presidential elections in São Tomé and Príncipe will certainly be very interesting to follow.
The Portuguese-speaking African countries and regime change in Libya
JUNE 2011 -- As far as the Portuguese-speaking African countries are concerned, Angola's foreign policy will benefit from the Libyan regime change, Cape Verde and Mozambique will be able to live with it, while Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé and Príncipe will inevitably end up paying the bill.
JUNE 2011 -- Five months later it is safe to say that the bilateral honeymoon period between Argentina and Brazil is clearly over. The catalyst for such a turnaround hardly comes as a surprise: much like in the past, trade issues, once again take central stage. Indeed, the latest events replicate an all too familiar pattern in modern Brazilian-Argentinean relations.
Regional parliaments in Southern Africa: why SADC's project is doomed to fail
JUNE 2011 -- In a region where conflict still exists, peace is often broken by localized power struggles and regimes are nothing but a patchwork of most political systems that have been attempted by mankind, the imposition of a SADC parliament with the ability to make states endorse its decisions is a project doomed to fail.
Portugal and Venezuela: continuity in times of change?
JUNE 2011 -- A future government of PSD/CDS-PP, in substance, is likely to maintain the approach taken by the previous government of the Socialist Party, in part because it will continue the focus of the previous government on economic diplomacy, as well as its strategy to guarantee new energy suppliers. Under normal circumstances, the goal of deepening the relationship with Venezuela will continue with the new government, perhaps with some nuances of a political nature.
Angola and China: building friendship through infrastructure
MAY 2011 -- It is clear that despite much criticism, China's reach in Angola has largely favoured the general population and the government. At a time when the international financial institutions were reluctant to provide Angola with the necessary funding, the Chinese system made use of its natural pragmatism to craft profitable deals and secure access to oil reserves. Politically and culturally there appears to be no credible evidence to conclude that China's grip on Angolan political and cultural life is even active, as the Angolan elite is too weary of any attempts to control its country or turn it into a client state. In the end, perhaps it is not a marriage, but a very fruitful friendship indeed.
São Tomé and Príncipe: an election to divide them all?
MAY 2011 -- Against all odds, becoming the next President of São Tomé and Príncipe is quickly turning out to be one of the most coveted political races in the entire region. Indeed, judging from the multitude of pre-announced -- already formalized or soon to be -- candidacies, the next few months in the small archipelago promise a divisive campaign with no clear frontrunner in sight.
The last stretch: ICC's arrest warrants on Libyan top leaders
MAY 2011 -- Although the arrest warrants will be a legal step with solid foundations, the ICC's decision has an inherent political dimension that goes far beyond the jurisdictional scope. When the UNSC referred the Libyan Crisis to the ICC, it simultaneously approved a series of other measures including imposing an arms embargo on the country, banning travel rights for 16 Libyan leaders and freezing the assets of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his family. In other words, it was a decision clearly intended to increase pressure over the Libyan regime, more than punish human rights violations. This distinctive political dimension becomes even more obvious if one bears in mind the evolution of the Libyan crisis, particularly with regard to the stance taken by the international community. These arrest warrants are, perhaps, an attempt by the international community to end a marathon whose finish line, despite the distance already traveled, has been difficult to see.
Timor Leste's 'David and Goliath' clash with Australia
MAY 2011 -- Australia's plans to tackle the growing waves of immigration reaching its shores suffered a massive setback with the rejection by the Timor Leste Parliament of a proposal to set up a refugee processing centre in that country. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had hopes this project would be approved and implemented, as Australia appears to have just a handful of options left to solve its immigrant challenges.
Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and the East African Federation
MAY 2011 -- The East African Community (EAC) is again under the spotlight, as the supposed deadline for becoming a federation is closing in, compounded by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni's statements concerning his role in the creation of the project. The EAC represents Africa's latest attempt to form a regional federation, which would be comprised of Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. The idea is to politically unite the five countries into the East African Federation until 2015. Having already established a common market for goods, labor and capital, a common currency is also expected to be adopted no longer than 2012, representing the ultimate step in building an economic federation.
All eyes on Timor Leste: juggling regional security sensitivities
MAY 2011 -- How should a small and fragile state cope with active interest in its underlined strategic value for the entire region from several surrounding neighbors? Moreover, how should such a country skillfully handle contradictory defense considerations emanating from a distinctive set of international security suitors without antagonizing any of them? As straightforward as they may seem, these are just some of the questions that today's policymakers must answer in Timor Leste, a country exhibiting more and more signs of a carefully designed security approach, based simultaneously on an equidistance between every major player and occasional tokens of commitment for a selective few.
MAY 2011 -- For all accounts, not only did Cape Verde's foreign gravitas significantly expand in the last ten years -- the Special Partnership with the EU, accession to the World Trade Organization, worldwide praise for its good, governance indicators, or reconnecting with the ECOWAS, are just some noteworthy examples -- but it also wisely capitalized on such endeavors so as to reinforce and sustain the government's own reform efforts under the so-called "Transformation Agenda", primarily aimed at elevating the archipelago's economic and social conditions to an unparalleled level in the region.
South Africa goes BRICS: the importance of 'ubuntu' in foreign policy
MAY 2011 -- By entering the BRICS, South Africa will gain much more visibility, more political influence in decision-making, overall greater 'power'. Accordingly, and as a country that is miles away in terms of economic and political development in comparison to the rest of Africa, will South Africa become overwhelmed by this new BRICS status and forget the very roots of its foreign policy? If not, will South Africa work to enrich its own accounts or will it do so while bringing other African countries into the fold?
Are times-a-changing for Portuguese foreign policy?
APRIL 2010 -- Ever since the return to democracy Portugal has steadily pursued its external priorities, with almost no meaningful change occurring whenever the usual rotations of government took place. Traditionally structured around a trilateral axis -- namely European integration, transatlantic relations and Lusophone ties with Portuguese-speaking countries -- Portuguese foreign policy has consistently had an extremely strong internal backing over the years, which in turn allowed it to resist the fast-paced evolution of the surrounding international context and adapt to new geostrategic realities.
APRIL 2010 -- SADC will have an important role to play both in Zimbabwe's electoral process and in the period that concludes any type of government. Going through a severe humanitarian crisis, with little support from the international community, it will fall upon SADC's shoulders to solve the dire issues of Zimbabwe. Perhaps the Angolan government's experience will evoke a better understanding of the nature of this political conflict, yet history has always tested the strength of a new unity government after the failure of a previous one.
APRIL 2011 -- Angola is being granted a chance to prove its worth in this drawn out geopolitical quagmire. As the driving forces behind this latest political-military surge abroad, one could easily mention the significant Angolan economic interests in the country -- the exploration of lucrative mineral bauxite easily comes to mind -- but regional considerations must also be taken into account. Clearly, Angola is no longer too coy to display the full extent of its increasing economic power, and thus seeks to firmly entrench its status within the wider African context with this timely intervention.
APRIL 2011 -- Unlike the ECOWAS, so far the SADC has been unable to congregate in a productive way, although the tables seem to be turning for Robert Mugabe, especially since South African President Jacob Zuma adopted a much tougher stance towards his regime. While the outcome of this political crisis is still unclear, it is apparent that the SADC possesses neither the strength nor the unity to make its policies significant, a weakness revealed when Robert Mugabe refrained from adopting any of SADC measures without significant regional consequences.
APRIL 2010 -- The debate concerning the pros and cons of humanitarian armed intervention is one of the most complex of our time. It poses many practical, theoretical, logistical and philosophical questions, which the very young and unorganized international community is not yet capable of answering. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the motivations, national interests, immoral conceptions and egotistic significance of the intervention in Libya, there is truth in stating that it is in fact stopping a dictator from attempting against the lives of civilians. Muammar Gaddafi was, and is, an enemy of many in the west. His regime represents the distasteful repression most countries in the world condemn. However, even when some western countries appeared to have made peace with Gaddafi -- an embarrassing political error -- the coalition decided to take action and with the United Nations' consent intervene and stop what seemed a probable massacre of innocent lives.
MARCH 2011 -- Common sense tends to dictate that the presence of a foreign dignitary in one's country is usually cause for a significant boost in bilateral relations, with diplomatic courtesies and multiple political-economic agreements frequently on the heels of such occasions. Moreover, if the two countries in question share a supposedly common bond, consistently nurtured by a long historical and cultural background, the stakes are understandably higher, as public opinion will rightfully expect an announcement of some sort, reflecting the depth and substance in bilateral ties on one hand, and the political will to continue moving forward, on the other.
New challenges and opportunities for Brazil's defense policy
MARCH 2011 -- In any post-election context, overall policy changes are usually bound to happen. Although far from absolute, new governments tend to bring forward new priorities and, more importantly, take under consideration new underlined variables which inevitably end up shaping any intended course of action. Comprehensive reviews of past approaches or previous decisions are thus frequently in order. In that sense, Brazil's own process of political transition is naturally no exception. But amid Dilma Rousseff's new managing style and prime concerns, defense policy in particular appears to have drawn the shortest straw, at least for the time being.
MARCH 2011 -- Since NATO did not enhance cooperation with Libya or even Cote d'Ivoire's military, to name a few, authoritarian leaders are still able to direct their country's armed forces against civilians. In the end, for all its dialogue and pompous words, NATO's 'state of the art' security doctrine has still not taken root.
MARCH 2011 -- There has been substantial agitation in Angola and within the Diaspora, after an email circulated calling all Angolans to take the streets in Luanda and protest against the regime. The movement is anonymous, which does not carry much political credibility, and the demonstration was an utter failure. It was an attempt to import the Northern African revolts into Angola. However, as much as the organizers feel their country is not ruled under the best governance practices, a contagious effect of the kind will not take place in Angola.
An ocean apart? Angola, Brazil and the need for a strategic framework
MARCH 2011 -- The proposed strategic partnership unquestionably faces many obstacles ahead. Among others, for example, is the need to overcome the oil burden in the bilateral trade balance while diversifying it or even readjusting institutionally established procedures to Dilma Rousseff's new foreign policy, still in development.
An unshaken alliance: Angola's stance in the Côte d'Ivoire
MARCH 2011 -- Angola's reach appears to go beyond its regional scope. Its government was able to extract dividends from UNITA's loss of international influence, by either conserving ties or simply by sponsoring regime change in those countries which supported the latter. Having successfully broadened its contacts, today, almost a decade after the demise of Jonas Savimbi, Angolan foreign policy has grown out of its civil war shell, to become not only a well connected player faithful to its past allies, but also an actor capable of influencing regional powers and even the international community itself.
Political turbulence in the MENA region: change we can trust in?
MARCH 2011 -- The political approach ahead is crystal clear: the EU and the US must promote and support the establishment of robust systems of checks and balances, i.e. mechanisms of horizontal accountability, as well as an array of measures that promote free and fair elections, inclusive suffrage, safeguard the right to run for office, freedom of expression, alternative sources of information and associational autonomy.
A safe bet: Portuguese Technical-Military Cooperation with Lusophone Africa
MARCH 2011 -- How effectively is TMC used in the prosecution of Portuguese foreign policy? In other words, is it considered a worthy bargaining chip in any eventual dispute or are the relations with these countries so far advanced, that any fallback would likely be hard to achieve? The answer lies precisely with the specific nature of this kind of cooperation. As it so happens, military ties of this sort are usually extremely resilient to any political mood swing and tend to endure in time, especially so when the official discourse wears down and the public novelty fades away. In this context, the example of Guinea-Bissau comes to mind, as it is a constant reminder of how pressing security needs can rapidly overcome political breakdowns, stalemates or indecisions. Portugal's continuing interest and TMC efforts in the case of Guinea-Bissau are therefore proof that these situations are not so easily reduced to an 'all or nothing' logic.
FEBRUARY 2011 -- There is a plethora of outstanding issues that need to be settled in the next few months, in the long term it is of paramount importance to guarantee peaceful cohabitation between north and south Sudan. Attention must also be paid to the promotion of stability in the sub-region considering the fact that Sudan is seen as a strategic interest to Egypt and that its former President Hosni Mubarak has just resigned from office. In the meantime, a strong European Union and United Nations engagement is expected after July 2011, especially to support capacity and institutional building in South Sudan.
FEBRUARY 2011 -- The election of December 2010 showed that even if the result was flawed, the President still enjoys the support of a majority of the Belarusian people. Households are afraid of losing their social benefits, especially among farmers and pensioners, and enterprises do not want to lose their subsidies, which is quite a natural reaction. The time has come for politicians in Minsk to make crucial and difficult choices, if they truly want their country to develop and integrate in the world economy. Thus, during the next five years, the last dictator in Europe will face a tough agenda to survive politically as his usual tricks, known worldwide, will not succeed anymore.
Aid for legitimacy: São Tomé and Príncipe hand in hand with Taiwan
FEBRUARY 2011 -- It becomes clear how this process of exchanging recognition for financial support provides a win-win situation for both São Tomé and Príncipe and Taiwan. Since there is no absolute certainty in arguing that China would provide the same help to São Tomé and Príncipe if it stopped recognizing Taiwan while the former's entire economic system is dependent on foreign financial support, for the time being the privileged relationship the country maintains with Taiwan is nothing but an advantage for the functioning of São Tomé and Príncipe as a state.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Guinea-Bissau: a toothless body, or a dangerous one?
JANUARY 2011 -- Guinea-Bissau does not have the critical mass, a developed civil society, and a strong independent media. All three are fundamental to the success of any TRC and yet the country does not have any of them. Moreover, Guinea-Bissau suffers from a clear institutional frailty, which does not bode well for success. One has trouble imagining how a TRC could have any meaningful output towards national reconciliation within this highly adverse context. A TRC in Guinea-Bissau, as a relevant and important instrument of national reconciliation, is mere wishful thinking.
Brazil's selective nuances: the Argentinean example
JANUARY 2011 -- With the new Brazilian government still settling in after its recent inauguration, it is only natural that the international community remain expectant regarding Dilma Rousseff and her team's intended governing path. Pinpointing possible changes of course or indications of continuity for Brazil in the coming years has thus become a priority for many world capitals, eager to discover if President Lula da Silva's successor will bring with her any real political change.
JANUARY 2011 -- The elected President of Côte d'Ivoire has been put in a powerless position, only able to wave his head in agreement with the international community but unable to act in any way due to his political dependency on ECOWAS and the 10.000 UN peacekeepers stationed in the country, among other reasons to preserve his physical integrity. This situation might have nefarious consequences on his mandate in case Gbagbo refuses to leave the country and remains as a political actor.
The spillover effects of Sidi Bouzid: a survivability test to the Tunisian regime
JANUARY 2011 -- Tunisia is often portrayed as an oasis, both in the African and Arab context. Indeed, considering that shortly after its independence Tunis adopted a sustainable economic model, or that it developed social policies that generated unique literacy rates, safeguarded women's rights, and established health care, the country ruled by President Ben Ali is in fact a laudable example. So how has one desperate act fueled generalized civil unrest?
Referendum in a powder keg: independence for South Sudan
JANUARY 2011 -- An independent South Sudan would not bring about a unified nation-state but rather a conglomerate of different ethnic groups who -- each in their own way -- associate with a loose definition of South Sudan statehood and society. Hence, nothing guarantees that these ethnic groups can be mobilized to secede from South Sudan and create yet another new state, especially since the southern population hopes that secession will bring about a quick improvement in the quality of life -- an expectation present in most secessionist regions, but one the very young and inexperienced South Sudanese government will find impossible to meet.
DECEMBER 2010 -- The reform of any diplomatic network is an endless task and the situation in Portugal is no exception. A diplomatic network should be like a living body, constantly changing in order to better reflect the country's national interests. In the last few years, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Luís Amado, has spoken about the necessary reform of the Portuguese diplomatic network. In his view, Portugal had too many embassies in the European Union, and too few in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Côte d'Ivoire: A test tube for Angola's regional policy?
DECEMBER 2010 -- Angola may come to play a relevant backstage role here, where Mbeki failed under the limelight. The million-dollar question is how to devise a successful exit strategy. By chance, the current crisis in Côte d'Ivoire might become a test of Angola's capacity to safeguard and promote its regional interests.
Brazil and the recognition of the Palestinian state: more than words?
DECEMBER 2010 -- Probably better than any other international newcomer with global aspirations, Brazil understands that in order to achieve a much coveted seat at the table, it has to actively engage in puzzling issues that persistently grab the world's focus but constantly elude any kind of resolution. Such a definition could very well apply to the Middle East scenario and all its deadly variables.
The repercussions of Brazil's increasing diplomatic assertiveness
DECEMBER 2010 -- The diplomatic recognition of the Palestinian state and the nuclear fuel swap agreement with Iran had one thing in common: both were faced with US opposition and show that Brazilian diplomacy is prepared to tread a different path from the US to safeguard its national interests. This possible change in the relationship between Brazil and the US matters to Portugal, since it might have a diplomatic spillover effect on Portuguese diplomacy. It seems that Portugal will be confronted with a new reality, and despite the historic ties that bind Brazil and Portugal, it is likely that sometimes the two countries will be unable to converge on some diplomatic issues.
South Atlantic crossfire: Portugal in-between Brazil and NATO
NOVEMBER 2010 -- The latest quarrel concerning Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim's spree of public declarations -- through which he sought to convey Brazil's opposition to the alleged expansion of NATO's interest to the South Atlantic -- may just require such scrutiny. The fact that long-time ally Portugal has apparently acted as the herald of discord only added further surprise to the entire situation. In this context, the need to tackle NATO's inner evolution, Portugal's calculations and Brazil's own motives, became suddenly more pressing. Consequently, a careful assessment of Brazil-NATO relations is in order.
Keeping the Germans happy, the Russians in and the Americans out
NOVEMBER 2010 -- Recent developments have intensified the debate regarding Russia's position in Europe and the possibility of the country enhancing its cooperation with western institutions and organizations. The NATO summit and the NATO Russia council in Lisbon are the culmination of decades of attempts to mend fences.
NOVEMBER 2010 -- Dilma is in a much better position than most President-elects. Not only does she have the necessary amount of time to bring together a competent and credible team -- that can cover for her, when she decides to invest more time in internal issues, a more than probable scenario -- but she also enjoys the active support of Lula da Silva, who is more than happy to show her the ropes of international politics and point the way of greater emergence in the world's establishment.
Portugal and Algeria: Still looking for greater strategic depth?
NOVEMBER 2010 -- The Maghreb is becoming increasingly important within Portugal's foreign policy. Aside from the traditional three pillars -- European, Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking countries) and Transatlantic -- one might say that the Maghreb has the potential to become the fourth pillar of Lisbon's foreign policy. However, if the Maghreb is to become the fourth pillar in Lisbon's foreign policy, then in the case of Algeria the substance of the relationship must acquire the same amount of strategic depth in political matters as it has obtained already in economic issues. Therefore, greater developments regarding political issues are required in order to balance bilateral ties, and to assure the durability and structural dimension of this partnership.
Keeping business in and politics out: Angola's multi-vector foreign policy
OCTOBER 2010 -- Angola must take advantage of the dynamics of its foreign policy and extract the necessary gains for its development. Aligning itself with the developing world would be a mistake, as it would open hostilities with other powerful interests. Hence, the country must remain open to the world without taking any partisan position. This means it must not become too absorbed with its growing power, but rather play along until the time to assume a position congruent to its national interests and identity arrives.
OCTOBER 2010 -- Hostage taking can only be solved by addressing the structural dimension of the problem. It is an enormous challenge with many potential roadblocks, but it is also the only way to offer a sustainable solution to the threat posed by AQIM.
Russia's energy strategy: Between keeping the grip on the European Union and diversifying into Asia
OCTOBER 2010 -- If as agreed Russia is able to enter the Chinese gas market by 2015, it will get the ultimate weapon that any energy exporter could dream of: great leverage over two big markets. Then, almost nothing would prevent Russia from setting energy volumes and prices, depending on its political will, in Europe and in Asia.
SEPTEMBER 2010 -- As his second term gradually comes to an end, President Lula da Silva seems keen on leaving a noticeable legacy in Brazil's foreign policy. Amidst an overreaching agenda it has been the consistent improvement of ties with the African continent and Brazil's newfound role in South-South international relations that has won him the widespread praise and respect of developing nations.
SEPTEMBER 2010 -- The organization is going through its weakest moment in decades of terrorism, and negotiations are a natural step to take, as it allows the terrorist group to save face under the illusion that it negotiates because it wants and not because it needs to.
Is foreign policy an issue in Brazil's presidential elections?
SEPTEMBER 2010 -- Brazil's foreign policy has gained substantial gravitas during Lula's two terms at the helm of the country. Consequently, any candidate's intended plans for the country's policy abroad should be given some much needed focus and dignified attention. As Brazil goes to vote on October 3, it will not only seek a new leader but also a new face and voice to present to the world, a person who will inevitably and decisively shape the country's agenda for years to come.
São Tomé and Príncipe: Heading into political instability as usual?
AUGUST 2010 -- As soon as electoral results were known, political observers immediately predicted that São Tomé was heading "once again for a fragile government", thus "prolonging political instability". Indeed, the failure to form a government coalition, together with São Tomé's track record, fully supports their pessimistic predictions. Since the transition to democracy between 1990 and 1991, São Tomé and Príncipe has had an extensive list of prime ministers heading an equally vast list of governments. Since then, no government has lasted a full parliamentary term, even when they were able to form a coalition to support them, and several governments were extremely short-lived. After 1991, on average, a government has not lasted two years. Moreover, political instability was further reinforced with a military coup in July 2003 and one alleged coup attempt in February 2009. Overall, political stability has not been one of São Tomé's main characteristics.
Russia's Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol beyond 2017
Philippe Conde and Vasco Martins
MAY 2010 -- Unexpectedly, and cloaked in secrecy, both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovych, announced on 21 April 2010 a new agreement concerning the extension of the lease on Russia's Black Sea naval base in the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol, one of Russia's most important military installations. The agreement aims to extend the 1997 lease accord on the Russian base in Sevastopol, set to expire in 2017, for twenty five more years, until 2042, with the possibility of further extension by another five years. In return, Russia will invest in Sevastopol's economic and social development, and, most importantly, will cut prices on natural gas exports to Ukraine by about 30% of the market price, an estimated US$40 billion, according to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Mozambique and an African solution to the Zimbabwe stalemate
MAY 2010 -- Mozambique, Machel's native country, may have a unique ability to fill this role. Mugabe has shown himself unwilling to countenance any Western impositions upon him, and only slightly more willing to yield to pressure from South Africa's leaders. Mugabe and ZANU-PF are historically indebted, though, to Mozambique and the Frelimo-led government for the provision of bases and support during the guerrilla struggle against Rhodesia. This gives Mozambique increased legitimacy in pressuring Mugabe, forestalling accusations of imperialist motivations.
Presidency of the European Union: Maghreb as an opportunity for Spain
MARCH 2010 -- Spain's diplomatic relation with the Maghreb is centered on Morocco and marked by a history of shifts between cooperation and conflict. Those conflicts, usually fueled by territorial disputes, are not enough to mitigate the importance that the region has to Madrid. In fact, those conflicts are a reflection of needs and interests that bond the two parties together. After trying different approaches, and as a consequence of the current situation, Spain seems to be reinvesting in Europeanizing its Mediterranean agenda. Spain needs to regain influence in the region as well as to counterbalance France's self-interested ventures. As such, the EU-Morocco summit appears to be a good sign of such intentions.
EU and Latin America: Reviving a Ten Year Old Partnership
MARCH 2010 -- Presented with the upcoming opportunity to overcome the obstacles to a prosperous relationship, the leaders of Europe, Latin America and Caribbean must remember their shared common values and principles, the lessons from the past and the possibilities for the future, in order to create a long-lasting and stable political climate for both societies, as well as to face the diverse problems that stand in the way of a common and sustainable development. More than the usual photo-ops, political declarations or legitimate concerns, the two parties must come together -- bearing in mind the Rio legacy as well as the new world challenges -- so as to put in place concrete and substantial measures that will allow the integral and complete fulfillment of this bi-regional partnership.
FEBRUARY 2010 -- In August 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's deputy chief, announced that the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) had joined his organization, an alliance later confirmed by GSPC who adopted a new name: Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In a speech broadcasted by al-Qaeda's media wing as-Sahab, Zawahiri said "we pray to Allah that this [alliance] would be a thorn in the neck of the American and French crusaders and their allies, and an arrow in the heart of the French traitors and apostates". To understand AQIM's motivations and mission, it is necessary to look at its evolution and also to try to grasp its current operational scope. This in turn requires an examination of the context surrounding political relations between Europe and the Sahel region -- the latter being the breeding ground and base of AQIM.
FEBRUARY 2010 -- Although UNASUR currently gathers the focus and expectations of the entire continent, South America should be accustomed by now to such formal entrepreneurships. In fact, since the 20th century, South America has diversified its internal relations and encouraged multiple solutions towards a sustainable development and a peaceful co-existence, though with mixed results. UNASUR's potential merits are indisputable. It envisions a shared and mutual future for nations once considered irreconcilable, and proposes a common regional identity that fosters the external role of South America on the world stage.
Using BRIC to build at sea: The Brazil-China aircraft carrier agreement and shifting naval power
JANUARY 2010 -- In the short term, it appears that Brazil will mainly gain international prestige and pride from the aircraft carrier flight training agreement, as well as closer relations with China, while the Chinese will receive the more tangible benefit of a shorter timetable for beginning naval aviation operations once the construction of an aircraft carrier is completed. In the long run, however, Brazil may be the big winner if its assistance to China results in increased Chinese pressure for Brazil's inclusion as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Regardless of the long-term outcomes, the agreement provides a clear signal to the world that the global balance of power is shifting not only economically, but also militarily, as the large emerging countries of the BRIC group seek to translate fiscal power into force projection capabilities.