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ASEAN – Still Democratic?

By Ariane Combal-Weiss

23 October 2017

In this 50th anniversary year of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), there are increasing concerns about the decline in democracy in the region. In the past year, the EU has repeatedly expressed alarm over the systematic human rights abuses and violations of fundamental freedoms in different ASEAN countries. The European Parliament’s resolution on 3 October, for example, stated that the EP was “deeply concerned at the erosion of democracy and the violations of human and minority rights and continued repression and discrimination in countries of the region.”[1] The declining democracy is also affecting EU policy towards the region. The FTA negotiations with Thailand are on hold while during her visit to ASEAN countries in March, Trade Commissioner Malmström warned that the human rights abuses in the Philippines could threaten the Philippines’ exports to the EU and the negotiations towards a bilateral FTA.[2] Other EU officials and parliamentarians have made similar statements condemning the restriction of civil liberties and fundamental rights in the region,[3] and supporting the ceaseless commitment of human rights activists.[4]There have also been critical voices from within ASEAN. Under the 2012 ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, all ten members pledged to protect human rights and democracy. In September, however, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) warned about the worrying state of civil liberties and fundamental rights in Southeast Asia.[5]

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MD

EU’s Tough Statement on Myanmar

By Ariane Combal-Weiss

17 October 2017

The EU Foreign Affairs Council this week adopted a tough statement on Myanmar talking of the “deliberate action to expel a minority” taking place in Myanmar. [1]  Although the Rohingya crisis is not new, recent months have seen a dramatic escalation of violence in the Rakhine State with over half a million Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh. This mass exodus was described by the UN as a “textbook example of an ethnic cleansing”.

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ch

China and the new International Order

By Tim Rühlig

1 October 2017

“China is making a path for other nations around the world who are trying to figure out not simply how to develop their countries, but also how to fit into the international order in a way that allows them to be truly independent, to protect their way of life and political choices in a world with a single massively powerful centre of gravity.”


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rakhine

The Rakhine State Danger to Myanmar's Transition

By International Crisis Group

11 September 2017

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india

The Sino-Indian BRI equation

By Observer Research Foundation

19 July 2017

Over a month has passed since India walked a lonely path and boycotted the Belt and Road Forum, China’s showpiece international conference on its most ambitious economic and political initiative in recent times. The decision made news and provoked strong and divergent opinions, not least within India.

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MK

Merkel vs. Trump at Hamburg G20

By Fraser Cameron

1 July 2017

Traditionally G20 summits are meticulously prepared in advance by a group of senior officials known as Sherpas. The final communique is often drafted and largely agreed on a couple of weeks before the leaders meet. Not this time.

As world leaders prepare to descend on Hamburg on 7-8 July the German hosts have not even circulated a draft statement, such is the gulf between Merkel’s wishes and Trump’s refusal to go along with what had previously been mainstream G 20 positions on trade and climate change.

The Europeans already had a taste of the Trump medicine at the G7 summit in Sicily in May. Trump refused to endorse either the Paris climate change agreements or the benefits of free trade.

Right after the G7 meeting, Merkel embarked on a round of meetings with fellow G20 leaders in an effort to shore up support for the Paris agreements and globalisation. She can rely not only on fellow Europeans but China and even India to back her views. She thus hopes to gain sufficient support to isolate Trump in Hamburg. But it is doubtful if isolation will lead to a change of heart by the US president.

Trump is likely to be further annoyed by the European Commission’s decision to fine Google two billion euros, quite a tidy sum even by Trump’s standards. In turn, the US Senate has angered Merkel by threatening German companies involved in the Nordstream project bringing gas from Russia to Germany. They added insult to injury by stating that Germany should instead buy liquid gas from the United States.

The president has caused further consternation by hinting that he will ban steel imports from Europe and elsewhere under the guise of protecting national security.

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aus

Prospects for EU-Australia Relations

By Fraser Cameron

9 June 2017

In the wake of President Trump’s abdication from global responsibility, the EU is seeking to deepen relations with like-minded partners such as Australia. Delegates attending the inaugural EU-Australia Leadership Forum in Sydney in early June were agreed that the two actors not only shared common values but also shared many interests including free trade, the multilateral institutions and the Paris climate change accords. There exists a rich institutional structure under-pinning the relationship but it is largely at official level and the public have little awareness of the depth of relations. Politicians and officials agree this will have to change in order to secure essential public support for future cooperation. A complication for the near future will be the impact of Brexit as politicians in London and Brussels jostle for Australia’s attention.

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br

How Asia views Brexit

By Rui Yan

8 May 2017

Asian countries were shocked at the June 2016 Brexit referendum result and since then have been struggling, along with the rest of the world, to try and understand the implications. The Japanese government was quick to issue a memo outlining the needs of Japanese companies. China was dismayed at David Cameron and George Osborne (the twin architects of the ‘golden era’ of UK-China relations) resigning. Many Chinese talked of ‘democrazy’ as they felt bemused at such an important decision for the future of the country being taken by a referendum. India was flattered that Theresa may chose India for her first overseas trip but made clear that there would be no trade deal without improvements in the visa scheme for Indians.

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OBOREU

Can OBOR bring the EU and China closer together?

By Fraser Cameron, Director

17 April 2017

Although the geographical limits of OBOR have never been defined, the initiative has a domestic as much as an international context.It aims to close development gaps within China, provide an outlet for surplus capacity, and also improve connectivity between China and Europe. It is part of the overall Going Global strategy. OBOR enjoys strong support at the highest levels in China whereas European opinion is more cautious and waiting to see whether concrete projects materialize. No one doubts the need for massive infrastructure investment in the many countries between China and the EU but the OBOR initiative could face many potential pitfalls including political instability, terrorism, corruption, high costs, harsh terrain, long distances to the market, and tensions with other great powers. It is clear that far greater attention should be paid to political risk analysis for the successful implementation of OBOR. The Chinese should be wary of over-selling OBOR. Some official commentaries have tended to exaggerate the achievements to date. Shared interests should lead  to China-Europe cooperation on OBOR. The vision for OBOR is ambitious, but if well implemented, it has the potential to benefit the various countries and societies along the road, not least in promoting sustainable development. It could also impact on global governance. The popularity and success of OBOR initiative will depend not only on the economic gains and benefits, but also on successful cooperation on issues such as culture, tourism and people to people exchanges.

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korea

The presidential election in South Korea

By Mascha Peters

14 April 2017

On 10 March the constitutional court of South Korea upheld a parliamentary motion to impeach president Park Geun-hye, clearing the way for a snap presidential election on 9 May. A clear majority of South Koreans view the first-ever impeachment of a South Korean president as a chance for a fresh start after months of protests, which drew up to one million citizens onto the streets. With at least 61 members of the ruling New Frontier Party (NFP) voting in favour of Park’s impeachment, hopes are now high for a democratic boost for the country. The scale of civic protest is comparable only to the one which triggered the downfall of the last authoritarian regime 30 years ago.

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