Tuesday, February 6

Tuesday, February 6

EUROPEAN UNION EXPANSION West Balkan strategy paper to be unveiled in Brussels The EU will launch its enlargement plan today

EUROPEAN UNION EXPANSION

West Balkan strategy paper to be unveiled in Brussels

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker looks on before addressing the European Parliament during a debate on The State of the European Union in Strasbourg

Photo: Reuters/Christian Hartmann

The EU will launch its enlargement plan today meant to kickstart long-stalled membership negotiations with the five former Yugoslavian republics plus Albania.

The aspirational strategy seeks to integrate Serbia and Montenegro into the EU by 2025 and to have Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo to be at an advanced state of negotiations. It now has a powerful backer in European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who in 2014 was lukewarm to imminent expansion. It also has the crucial support of Bulgaria, which holds the current rotating presidency of the EU.

However, Germany is wary of expansion without proper foreseeable economic reforms, especially in dealing with corruption. Spain and others also oppose Kosovo’s candidature as it may galvanise the ambitions of Kosovan separatists.

Despite these issues, the EU is also motivated to counter traditional Russian influence in the region—fueled further by the glacial pace of the accession process. Expect a slower road to Brussels for Serbia and Montenegro, who may be accepted after 2025. The others will likely take longer.

CORSICAN NATIONALISM

Macron to avoid concessions to nationalists during Corsica visit

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Photo: Goffphoto.com

Today, French President Emmanuel Macron will visit the French territorial collectivity of Corsica to address demands for greater autonomy from Paris.

On Saturday, between 6,000 and 25,000 nationalist demonstrators marched across the Mediterranean island to show solidarity ahead of the visit. Since their unprecedented victory in last December’s elections, nationalists have been pressing for further legislative independence. They are calling for a universal amnesty for Corsican prisoners jailed for pro-independence violence, the Corsican language to have the same legal status as French and restrictions on property acquisitions by non-Corsicans.

Today’s visit marks the twentieth anniversary of the assassination of Claude Érignac, France’s top official on the island who was killed during a wave of violence orchestrated by the National Liberation Front of Corsica. Mr Macron is set to unveil a controversial monument honouring Mr Érignac.

Consistent with Mr Macron’s moderate approach to governing, expect the president to attempt negotiating with nationalist opposition, which only started refraining from violence in 2014. However, Mr Macron will also cater to the majority of the French populace by opposing significant concessions to the nationalists, such as a universal amnesty for convicted rebels.

KENYA’S POLITICAL TUMULT

NASA opposition alliance protests as tensions escalate in Nairobi

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Photo: Dai Kuokawa/EPA

Kenya’s opposition National Super Alliance (NASA), led by its leader Raila Odinga, will march to Nairobi’s Central Police Station today to protest against police abuses.

Last August, Kenya’s highest judicial body nullified Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the 2017 presidential election due to “irregularities and illegalities” in the voting process. However, Odinga boycotted the revote and Kenyatta emerged victorious again. Since August, opposition supporters have clashed with police. Odinga and his supporters allege that electoral reforms were not implemented between the two elections. They also assert that Kenyatta’s government has significantly curtailed freedom of expression, particularly of the press.

With Odinga recently sworn in by NASA leaders in a mock inauguration as the “people’s president” and arrests of opposition leaders increasing—the fourth happening last Friday—do not expect the situation in Kenya to deescalate anytime soon. Watch out for the extent to which Kenyatta’s government continues to crackdown on opposition politicians versus the extent to which NASA’s base resorts to violence to achieve their somewhat unclear political endgame.