We are familiar with the numbers of Syrian refugees flooding into Europe – over a million displaced Syrians have migrated to Europe since the crisis began in 2015. The statistic we are unfamiliar with, however, is the growing number of Syrian refugees heading home from Europe. In 2017, 66,000 refugees returned to Syria from abroad, mostly from neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey. The number of refugees returning from Europe is currently only a fraction of that number, but as the dust settles in Syria and refugees continue to face hostility in host countries, the number returning from Europe is set to rise. It is unclear just how many refugees are leaving Europe, mainly because most of them utilise illegal pathways to get home. However, research conducted since last year has revealed the phenomenon of “reverse migration”. Click on the image to read more.
In her first public lecture in Singapore, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini asserted that the EU is a steadfast “global actor”. Yet, she did not mention any grand EU strategy in the Asia/Indo-Pacific region, in response to America’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, the Chinese Belt and Road initiative and Japan-India Asia-Africa Growth Corridor. To assert its “global actorness”, we argue that the EU should pursue a three-pronged global trade diplomacy to lead the reform of the WTO, forge high standard FTAs with partners around the world, and increase public acceptance of free trade at home. Click on the image to read more.
For some time now, the commentaries, op-eds and analyses in the liberal press have suggested a US retrenchment and withdrawal from the “liberal world order” under the Trump administration. Indeed, what the US has been doing under Trump is neither liberal nor orderly, but it is also not a retrenchment from the world. What Trump is really trying to do is to reassert US primacy in the world through brute force – through verbal insults, through its financial and market power, and if necessary military might. Trump is giving substance to its America First policy not by making the US more competitive and unbeatable but by browbeating others into retreat. The US is not in retreat. Instead Trump is trying to make “Pax Americana” in his own image. Realising that America is not exactly in the sweetest spot, and that others are fast catching up or even ahead, the only way Trump feels America could win is that others lose. So, he is on a war of attrition wearing down others with his constant tweets and threats, and using divisive tactics to undermine multilateral institutions and coalitions that stand in his way. Click on the image to read more.
Today, 9th May, is Europe Day. The Declaration of 9th May 1950 delivered by Robert Schuman, then foreign minister of France, was considered to be the starting point of the European integration project – beginning with the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952 to what has developed into the European Union (EU) we see today. In her commentary, Dr Yeo Lay Hwee, reflected on the momentous decision taken by European leaders back then to bring about peace and reconstruction in continental Europe and contrast it with what is happening in the EU today. She believed that the EU can build on the experience and success it has achieved so far to address the fear and fury amongst European voters and create a better Europe for its citizens and for the world. Click on the image to read more.
1 March is ASEM Day. I am sure not many of you have heard of ASEM Day. Hence, the Director of the EU Centre, Dr Yeo Lay Hwee and her colleagues Ms Shada Islam from Friends of Europe and Dr Bart Gaens from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs have jointly penned a short op-ed to provide some background and perspective on the significance of ASEM Day. Click on the image to read more.
Overall, 2017 has turned out to be a fairly good year for the EU. However, challenges remained, and these are the things in 2018 that we should be watching to see where the EU is heading: Populism and Nationalism, Migration, and EU’s relations with other major powers. Click on the image to read more.
The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of Foreign Ministers (ASEM FMM) took place in Myanmar on 20-21 November 2017, against the backdrop of the plight of the Rohingyas in the Rahkine state in Myanmar. The exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees into neighbouring Bangladesh and the unfolding humanitarian crisis made it impossible to be ignored by the ASEM ministers. While the human rights situation in the Rakhine state did not make it to the official agenda of the 13th ASEM FMM, efforts were made by both Asian and European foreign ministers on the sidelines of the meeting to help bring about a long term solution to the crisis. Click on the image to read more.
The collapse of Germany’s coalition talks on Sunday (19 Nov) is the latest shock to hit Europe and has raised concerns that the European Union’s (EU) biggest country will send the bloc into paralysis. This is a 180 degree turn from fears of a “German Europe”- German domination of the EU – to worries on what will happen to EU reforms and policies without a strong German hand. Click on the image to read more.
In a 200-minute speech full of jargons and clichés, Chinese president Xi Jinping in his address to the 19th Party Congress not only lauded what had been achieved by the party since the 18th Party Congress in 2012, but also announced the advent of a new era for China to become a truly influential country in the world, one that all Chinese can be proud of. However, this great socialist modernization of China will only be achieved in a two-stage plan. From 2020 to 2035 China will be transformed into a modern, innovative socialist country, with strong economic and scientific power delivering on improved livelihood for the people and closing of the urban-rural income disparity. And from 2035 to 2050, China will establish itself as a Great Power, a prosperous and influential country in the world, fulfilling the long-awaited “Chinese Dream” of national rejuvenation. Click on the image to read more.
After the ECJ’s ruled on the “mixity” of the EUSFTA in May, hopes are high for Singapore to benefit from freer access to Europe and for the deal to serve as a template for a region-to-region EU-ASEAN FTA. Yet, many worry that European-style product-specific rules of origin would be problematic for Singapore which thrives on foreign inputs and for ASEAN countries with weak institutional capacities to administer the agreement. Is there any truth to these concerns? Click on the image to read more.