On Jan. 15, it became clear to the people of Russia that they would never again have the opportunity to vote for Vladimir Putin. It also became clear that they would live with him for the foreseeable future.
In his annual State of the Nation address, Mr. Putin promised that he would step aside in 2024 when his current term expires. At the same time he outlined a series of sweeping constitutional reforms that would likely go into force this year: Russia will remain a presidential republic but future presidents will be limited to two terms in office. Parliament will have the right to appoint government ministers, including the prime minister.… Seguir leyendo »
En 1991 llegué a Detroit para realizar mi primera visita a Estados Unidos. Mis anfitriones, de la ya extinta Agencia de Información de EE UU, estaban decididos a mostrarme a mí y a los demás búlgaros del grupo no solo el sueño americano, sino sus puntos débiles. Antes de recorrer la ciudad, nos dieron instrucciones sobre cómo conducirnos en lugares supuestamente peligrosos. Nuestros anfitriones dejaron claro que, si no queríamos convertirnos en víctimas, no debíamos actuar como tales. Caminar por en medio de la calle y mirar nerviosamente a nuestro alrededor con la esperanza de encontrar un policía solo aumentaría la probabilidad de un atraco.… Seguir leyendo »
«Si tratas de fracasar y lo consigues”, preguntaba el monologuista estadounidense George Carlin, “¿qué es lo que has logrado?”. Lo que responda cada uno a esta pregunta indicará qué piensa de la elección de Ursula von der Leyen como presidenta de la Comisión Europea. En mi opinión, la antigua ministra de Defensa alemana merece dirigir la Unión, pero el turbio proceso de su candidatura ha convertido el deseo de los ciudadanos de tener una UE más democrática y abierta en una broma. El escaso margen con el que ha sido elegida no tiene que ver con sus cualidades de líder, sino con las negociaciones entre bastidores.… Seguir leyendo »
Dentro de dos semanas, los europeos depositarán sus votos para elegir al nuevo Parlamento Europeo. Quien lea los grandes periódicos y escuche a los dirigentes políticos del continente acabará creyendo que el electorado europeo está radicalmente polarizado y los votantes se disponen a hacer una elección trascendental. Estos comicios, nos dicen muchos, son una especie de referéndum. La extrema derecha cuenta con que sean un referéndum sobre la inmigración (o, mejor dicho, sobre la ineptitud de Bruselas para abordarla), mientras que los progresistas y europeístas las conciben como un plebiscito sobre la supervivencia de la Unión Europea. Los estrategas de extrema derecha confían en que las elecciones se parezcan a la victoria de Donald Trump en 2016, y los progresistas esperan que recuerden a la segunda vuelta de las elecciones presidenciales de 2017 en Francia, cuando Emmanuel Macron derrotó a Marine Le Pen.… Seguir leyendo »
In less than a month, Europeans will cast their ballots to elect the next European Parliament. If you read the Continent’s major newspapers and listen to political leaders, you will come to believe that the European electorate is radically polarized and voters are prepared to make a fateful choice. The elections this month, we often hear, will become a kind of referendum. The far right expects it to be a referendum on migration (or more accurately, on Brussels’s failure to deal with it), while progressive pro-Europeans foresee it as a referendum on the very survival of the European Union. Far-right strategists hope that the election will resemble Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, while pro-European progressives expect the elections to resemble the second round of the presidential vote in France in 2017, when Emmanuel Macron defeated Marine Le Pen.… Seguir leyendo »
Democratic politics need drama. Elections are a form of therapy session in which voters are confronted with their worst fears – a new war, demographic collapse, economic crisis, environmental horror – but become convinced they have the power to avert the devastation. “As the election approaches,” Alexis de Tocqueville observed during his travels across the US in the early 19th century, “intrigue becomes more active and agitation lively and more widespread. The entire nation falls into a feverish state … As soon as fortune has pronounced … everything becomes calm, and the river, one moment overflowed, returns peacefully to its bed.”… Seguir leyendo »
“In the Balkans the transition is over,” Remzi Lani, an Albanian political analyst, told me some time ago. But unlike in many post-Communist countries, Mr. Lani didn’t mean a transformation from dictatorship to democracy. “We transitioned from repressive to depressive regimes.” He is right. The old Communists and radical ethnic nationalists are largely gone; in their places is stagnation — economic, social and political.
The question now is how these depressive regimes fit into a growing geopolitical rivalry.
A day before his recent visit to Belgrade, Serbia, President Vladimir Putin of Russia expressed his great displeasure with Macedonia’s name change and accused “the United States and certain Western countries” of “destabilizing” the region; the Russian foreign minister, meanwhile, denounced “the willingness of the United States to lead all Balkan states into NATO as soon as possible and to remove any Russian influence in this region.”… Seguir leyendo »
Not so long ago, Europeans believed that despite Donald Trump’s harsh words, Washington would never endanger its Cold War alliances. “Do not read his tweets, follow his actions,” senior American officials told their European colleagues when the conversation turned to the future of the trans-Atlantic relations.
How wrong we were to believe them. It was the tweets that really mattered in the end.
Within hours of the religiously anticipated NATO summit in Brussels today, President Trump was castigating Germany, historically one of America’s closest allies, claiming, ridiculously, that it is “captive” to Russia and calling NATO countries “delinquent.”
Clearly, Mr. Trump is ignoring European Council President Donald Tusk’s appeal: “Dear America, appreciate your allies.… Seguir leyendo »
Debating the fate of Poland during the waning days of World War II, Winston Churchill is reported to have cautioned Joseph Stalin that he should to take into account the views of the Vatican. The Soviet leader interrupted Churchill: “How many divisions does the pope of Rome have?” Three decades later, Churchill’s admonition seemed prescient: The election of the Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II in 1978 was a first step leading to the dismantling of Soviet Communism.
Amid today’s heated rhetoric on Europe’s refugee crisis, Central Europe’s populist leaders seem to paraphrase Stalin: “How many elections has the pope won?”… Seguir leyendo »
The presidential election in Russia a week ago resulted in an impressive, if unsurprising, victory for Vladimir Putin. He was elected to a fourth term with a wide margin and high turnout in a vote that appeared to be the cleanest in Russia’s recent history (at least when it comes to what happened on Election Day itself).
But this election was about more than just reinstalling Mr. Putin in the Kremlin. It signaled the beginning of post-Putin Russia. Because while the president has gained popular support for policies like annexing Crimea and confronting the West, the legitimacy of his next term will be determined by his success in reassuring ordinary Russians that his regime will endure even when he is no longer in the Kremlin.… Seguir leyendo »
El pasado octubre, un grupo de respetados pensadores conservadores de todo el continente publicaron un manifiesto titulado Una Europa en la que podemos creer. Es, desde varias perspectivas, un documento amable y bellamente escrito, una mezcla retórica entre el discurso del movimiento de liberación nacional perteneciente a los gloriosos días de la descolonización y una guía retrógrada de museo.
Al leer esta declaración, los lectores se quedan con la impresión de que los conservadores europeos son antiimperialistas (se quejan de que la Unión Europea es “un imperio de dinero y leyes”), anticolonialistas (“la inmigración sin asimilación es colonización”) y defensores del Estado-nación que menosprecian las élites proeuropeas (que, según declaran, están “cegadas por la vanidad y las ideas autocomplacientes de un futuro utópico”).… Seguir leyendo »
“Burning Bush,” the 2014 movie by the legendary Polish film director and Solidarity activist Agnieszka Holland, was one of the most important cultural events in Central Europe in recent years. An ethical thriller, the film is set in 1969, soon after a Czech student named Jan Palach set himself on fire to protest the Soviet Union’s occupation of his country and draw attention to the authorities’ attempts to normalize Czechoslovak life afterward. Palach’s aim, it seems, was to put a screeching halt to evil’s banalization.
Three years after the film’s release, in the late afternoon of Oct. 19, Piotr Szczesny, a 54-year-old father of two, set himself on fire in front of the Communist-era Palace of Culture in Warsaw.… Seguir leyendo »
Germans have enjoyed a long holiday from history, but it looks like their vacation is over. That was the impression I got while traveling through Germany last month before the federal election. I was struck by how abnormally normal the country seemed: prosperous, democratic and tolerant. While other European societies are torn apart by anxiety and anger, in Germany a vast majority of citizens are satisfied with their economic situation. The government has more euros to spend than ever before, unemployment is almost nonexistent, and the tone of the electoral campaign differed from the last American election in the way a family drama differs from a horror movie.… Seguir leyendo »
If you want to understand what is going on in Central Europe right now and why thousands of young people are on the streets of Budapest, Bucharest, Bratislava or Warsaw, the only thing you have to do is watch Kristof Deak’s 25-minute movie “Sing,” the winner of this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short film.
The story takes place in Budapest in the early 1990s. Zsofi, a young girl, has just arrived in a new school, and she is excited by the opportunity to sing in its award-winning school choir. Erika, the music teacher, permits Zsofi to join but asks her to open her mouth without singing because she is not yet sufficiently skilled.… Seguir leyendo »
When you can’t understand why people behave in a certain way, the easiest thing to do is to convince yourself that people do not know what they are doing. This is what European political, business and news media leaders have done in response to the populist wave that is sweeping the old Continent. They are shocked that many of their compatriots are voting for irresponsible demagogues. They find it difficult to understand the sources of the rage against the meritocratic elites best symbolized by the well-trained, competent civil servants in Brussels.
Why are the “exams-passing classes” so resented at a time when the complexity of the world suggests that people need them most?… Seguir leyendo »
Being Bulgarian, I can tell you that international news media cover elections in small European countries the same way a literature professor reads a spy novel during a summer holiday: It’s a pleasant diversion, but one quickly forgets the characters, and it doesn’t really matter if the narrative gets scrambled. Normally, this is not a problem, but it can become one next year.
In 2017 there will be elections not only in Germany, France and the Netherlands but also most likely in Greece, Italy and, again, Bulgaria. This will be a moment of truth for Europe. Social media is being invaded by fake news and conspiracy theories, while mainstream outlets are obsessed with the Kremlin’s interference in the electoral politics of Western democracies.… Seguir leyendo »
Americans may be divided between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton, but the rest of the world isn’t. A recent WIN/Gallup International global poll conducted in 45 countries shows Mrs. Clinton decimating her opponent. She wins by a landslide almost everywhere — including Melania Trump’s native Slovenia — with two telling exceptions: Russia and the Palestinian Authority.
That Russians are cheering for Mr. Trump is not difficult to explain. With Russian-American relations at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, Mr. Trump went out of his way to make it clear that he sees Russia as an ally and President Vladimir V.… Seguir leyendo »
As I was boarding a Turkish Airlines flight to Ankara some days ago, a flight attendant handed me a slickly produced brochure telling the story of the failed coup attempt of July 15. It praised the Turkish people and their spirited defense of democracy, and it blamed the Gulen movement that allegedly organized the coup, portraying it as the sort of dark religious conspiracy that you’d expect to find in a Dan Brown novel.
The patriotic brochure foreshadowed much of what I was to hear from government ministers, independent journalists and opposition leaders during my visit in the country. These very different individuals, often coming from opposite political camps, were in lock step on one thing: The July 15 coup attempt was completely unexpected (in a country that had endured four coups in recent decades), and for that reason deeply traumatic.… Seguir leyendo »
Samuel Johnson once wrote of the “wonderful concentration of the mind” that the prospect of being hanged brings. It is how European leaders should feel in the wake of Brexit. As the reality of a British departure from the European Union sinks in, policy makers are being forced to concentrate their minds on some very uncertain and unsettling repercussions.
Despite a clear win for the Leave faction, the impact of the Brexit vote is ambiguous both for Britain and for the European Union. It’s not even clear when and how the exit will occur. One can’t help but hum a line from the Eagles: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”… Seguir leyendo »
In the final days of June 1914, a telegram arrives in a remote garrison town on the border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. On it is a single sentence in capital letters: “Heir to the throne rumored assassinated in Sarajevo.”
In a moment of disbelief and anxiety, one of the officers begins speaking Hungarian to his compatriots. The others can’t understand a word, but they suspect that the Hungarian is probably not unhappy with the news that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whom Hungarians see as partial to the empire’s Slavs, cannot now become the next emperor.
Another officer, a Slovene, who has long questioned the loyalty of Hungarians, insists that the conversation be in their common language, German.… Seguir leyendo »