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Europe

  • Written by Fabrizio Tassinari

Calling Europe's bluff in north Africa

EU flag at the European Parliament. Photo: Flickr/European Parliament. Europe has taken too little interest in the political path of its southern neighbours, argues Fabrizio Tassinari.

An old Moroccan legend has it that the people of Andalusia, in Southern Spain, once complained to king Alexander of Macedonia about the continuing pillaging at the hands of the north African Berbers. The king ordered his best engineers to dig a huge channel between Spain and Africa. The Strait of Gibraltar thus came to be and the Andalusians lived in security happily ever after. 

In the face of the momentous popular upheaval shaking north Africa, Europe is still living the fairy tale. At a meeting on 31 January, EU foreign ministers reached out to the new authorities in post-Ben Ali Tunisia and expressed their support for an "orderly transition" in Egypt. But the message during recent years has been something strikingly different: Europe has neither encouraged democratic transformation nor prioritised reforms in the region. Much like the Andalusians, the paramount objective has been to keep north Africa at arm's length from Europe.

  • Written by Peter Lippman

Bosnia’s politics of paralysis

Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina.Bosnia’s tenth election since the end of the war of 1992-95 highlights the damaging influence of a post-war settlement that institutionalises ethnic politics, says writer and human rights activist, Peter Lippman.

A predictable routine has dominated Bosnia-Herzegovina’s political cycle in the fifteen years since the end of the country’s war in 1995. Every two years when elections are held, Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslim), Serbs, and Croats elect their leaders, soon come to despise them, and then re-elect the same people next time round.  

 

A number of factors made the campaign in this, the tenth election since the Dayton agreement of November 1995 that concluded the war, more fraught even than usual - among them the pressures of a continuing economic crisis, the mounting evidence of political stagnation, and heightened separatist rhetoric. But will these events catalyse Bosnia into change, or only confirm its inability to escape the melancholy cycle? There were some surprises in the general elections that took place on 3 October 2010. But a close look at the results gives little hope that the trend will soon be reversed.

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