ENC Analysis-Religious soft power in the South Caucasus: The influence of Iran and Turkey
The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) released its new analysis entitled “Religious soft power in the South Caucasus: The influence of Iran and Turkey“
This ENC Analysis is authored by Dr. Ansgar JÃdicke, ENC Academic Council Member, and focuses on the changing geopolitical situation for Iran and Turkey, the impact in South Caucasus as well as the question of how these competing geopolitical influences work in the realm of religiously based soft power.
The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) released its new analysis entitled “Statecraft in the Age of Connectivity: The Case of Kazakhstan’s Diversified Railways Diplomacy“
This ENC Analysis is authored by Dr. Nicola P. Contessi, international affairs specialist with expertise in international transport, global governance, foreign policy and rising powers, and a regional focus on Eurasia, and focuses on the fact that Astana has positioned itself at the center of both the east-west and the north-south intercontinental corridors, alleviating its dilemmas of dependence while expanding both access and transit revenues. It has done so by adopting a diversification strategy in which long-haul rail transport is divvied up into three main components: route planning, logistics hubs, and railway access.
The full analysis is available in PDF format below.
The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) has published its latest booklet entitled “The Future of Europe and Turkey”. This publication, which was produced with the financial support of the Delegation of the European Union to Turkey, Friedrich Naumann Stiftung (FNF) and Economic Development Foundation (IKV), is part of the ENC Training and Public Lecture Programme in Brussels and in Turkey.
The booklet, which was co-edited by Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, ENC Managing Directorand Andreas Marazis, ENC Head of Research for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, includes forewords by Ambassador Christian Berger, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Turkey and Faruk Kaymakci, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Director for EU Affairs.
The publication presents innovative perspectives on some of the most pressing challenges that characterise the current state of affairs of EU’s foreign policy and its Global Strategy, namely data privacy, which Dr. Ronald Meinardus (Head of Friedrich Naumann Stiftung Turkey Office) declares to be the “major concern of governments, civil society and citizens in all parts of the worldâ€. Technology and digital innovation are also highlighted throughout the booklet as imminent priorities to look out for in the future of Europe.
The future of EU-Turkey relations is examined critically by prominent experts on the subject, such as Ayhan Zeytinoglu (IKV Chairman) and Samuel Doveri Vesterbye. The authors offer a reflection on the main challenges and opportunities of the Turkish membership perspective but also on the visions of the EU across the country and the world. Despite the recent ups and downs between Turkey and the EU, Mr. Zeytinoglu argues that “it is still possible to make a new beginning”.
More than 3.000 copies of the ENC booklet were distributed among university students, academic staff, and governmental and non-governmental partners in Turkey. The project equally disseminated the publication online and offline during a dissemination lecture series with local partners, including outreach to student groups and university faculties across Turkey.
The ENC Booklet “The Future of Europe and Turkey” is available in English and Turkish:
ENC Analysis: In favour of censorship & propaganda: Elites, media capture & the journalistic profession in the WB
The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) released its new analysis entitled “In favour of censorship and propaganda: Elites, media capture and the journalistic profession in the Western Balkans (the case of Serbia)”.
The ENC Analysis is written by Prof. Branislav Radeljić, ENC Academic Council Member and Director of Internationalization at Necmettin Erbakan University. In his paper, Dr. Radeljić uses Serbia as a case-study to describe the behaviour of political and economic power structures towards the media sector, as well as the decision of numerous journalists to embrace self-censorship due to external and in-house pressures. He argues that along with the different regimes, journalists themselves should also be blame for the precarious status of the journalistic profession. By ignoring ethics and codes of conduct in the face of government propaganda and highly problematic agendas, journalists have simultaneously contributed to the erosion of their own profession. The piece likewise suggests that international state and non-state actors can only provide evaluations and recommendations, but not the solution to the media crisis in Serbia and the regime’s preference for authoritarian rule.
To mark the launch of the report, ENC and Internews organized an online event that took place on Friday, 11th of December 2020, featuring key opening remarks by Ambassador Peter Burian, European Union Special Representative for Central Asia, Marc Fiedrich, FPI2 Head of Unit at the European Commission, and Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive at Internews. The panel consisted of Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, ENC Managing Director, Andreas Marazis, ENC Head of Research for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Shairbek Dzhuraev, Co-founder and President of Crossroads Central Asia. Ilhan Kyuchyuk, MEP from the Renew Europe Group and Rapporteur for Uzbekistan in the European Parliament wrapped up the event with his closing remarks.
Amb. Burian started by highlighting that post-COVID-19 recovery, while being very challenging, is also a unique opportunity to build back better. The importance of the ENC and Internews report is therefore crucial, as it helps the EU rethink its approach and better apprehend groups that were never focused on before. This societal participation is crucial in contributing to sustainable and inclusive governance.
A major constraint in standing up to the crisis is the uneven digitalisation happening in Central Asian countries, which undermines both governmental and societal efforts to address the pandemic. Among implications of this digitalisation is the limited access to reliable information due to the inability of state agencies to provide official data on time and attempts to conceal the scope of the problem. However, increased digitalisation can mitigate the effects of the crisis, especially for people living in rural and remote area.
Labour migrants, for example, which is one of the communities ENC and Internews focused on, were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, as they are not part of any social protection from their home nor host countries. This creates grievances and ground for radicalisation, and explains that, whereas most people joining ISIS from other parts of the world do so because of ideological reasons, recruits from Central Asia are lured based on economic incentives and misinformation.
Marc Fiedrichagreed that the pandemic has brough the issue of disinformation into all societies around the world, and that working on this issue will help us understand how manipulation of information is being used and what challenges the media are facing in Central Asia. To ensure that information is not used to undermine democratic institutions or to advocate violent extremism, it is important to support the media and civil society organisations (CSOs) but also government institutions, religious leaders and active citizens. Mr. Friedrich highlighted the importance of the report as a way to further nuance our appreciation of the different problematics in Central Asia.
Jodie Ginsberg emphasized that access to trustworthy and accurate information is not just a public good but can genuinely save lives, which is why this report is particularly important today. Ms. Ginsberg stated Internews’ ambition that journalists and media from Central Asia will use this report as a reference point in their own projects covering vulnerable communities, as it highlights the important gap of evidence on how vulnerable communities have been affected by the pandemic. Stakeholders, including governments and the international community could also learn from it, and use it in their communication strategies by creating people-centred stories and make the voices of the vulnerable communities heard.
During the panel discussion Samuel Doveri Vesterbye presented the methodology of the study, a tailor-made and rapid online analysis methodology based on a quantitative data survey of approximately 2,000 respondents across vulnerable communities in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, as well as 500 qualitative semi-structured in-depth interviews with all three vulnerable communities and 120 “eliteâ€ interviews with content producers (journalists and bloggers) across Central Asia. He also refered to the desk research and the consultations with academics and fields experts that took place in order to identify the different vulnerable communities and the research gap.
Moving on to the key findings of the study, Mr. Doveri Vesterbye elaborated on the socio-economic impact of the pandemic. The findings suggest that labour migrants and ethnic minorities were the most impacted groups, reporting high level of unemployment and labour uncertainty. Another very clear pattern is that women are a particularly exposed sub-division within already vulnerable communities, especially regarding unemployment and uncertain work status rates. In general, 20% more women reported unemployment compared to men.
Andreas Marazis explained the study’s findings related to trends and patterns of media consumption in Central Asia, which revolve around three categories: the media preferences, the internet access to information restrictions, and the language preference and availability for information consumption. In terms of media preference, data from the vulnerable communities and content producers suggest that the two main sources are television and the Internet. With regards to the different platforms, social media (mainly Instagram and Vkontakte), and instant messaging applications (WhatsApp and Telegram) are the most used. On the issue of Internet restrictions, 36% percent of refugees and stateless persons reported Internet restrictions in their country of residence. However, for ethnic minorities in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, it goes up to respectively 56% and 50%. Finally, the findings show that vulnerable groups favour the Russian language, with the exception of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, thus revealing a linguistic gap in terms of local news.
Shairbek Dzhuraev focused on the impact of COVID-19 on media consumption. The pandemic became an unexpected source of danger to our physical well-being in addition to a sudden change in our way of life (shutdown of offices, closing of borders, lockdown). There was a significant increase in news consumption, especially related to the virus (statistics, precautionary measures), followed by a reverse effect of disengagement and demand for non-COVID-19-related content. Instant messaging services, in particular Telegram, Instagram and Zoom, saw a major growth in usage as a result of the pandemic. In terms of trust, there were three important trends found. Firstly, in Central Asia, international media are more trusted on COVID-19-related matters. Secondly, there is a discrepancy between those considering online media or television as the biggest source of unreliable information. Finally, there is no consensus on what type of information is actually “fake news”. As a result, debunking disinformation became a priority for content producers.
As a conclusion, Ilhan Kyuchyuk highlighted the importance of focusing on vulnerable groups in Central Asia, as challenges of Central Asia become part of the EU challenges as well, and cited for example illegal trade, terrorism, migration and climate change. When hit by a pandemic, it is even more crucial that the EU helps and supports groups that were the most affected: it is both an ethical and pragmatic choice, as when vulnerable people are suffering, they can become victims of disinformation and radicalization.
You can watch the recording of the report launch event below
The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) released its new analysis entitled “Will Deliberation Save Our Democracies? A domestic and foreign policy analysis”
The ENC Analysis of November 2020 is written by Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, ENC Managing Director and expert in Turkey and the Middle East and Pepijn Kennis, ENC External Advisor and Member of the Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region.
The 21st century democracies have witnessed lower voter turnouts in elections, declining trust in public institutions and widening polarisation, both politically and socially. Samuel Doveri Vesterbye and Kennis Pepijn provide an analysis of the ineffectiveness of our current electoral governance systems with regards to polarisation, information consumption and new technologies, including disinformation. The authors draw on literature and academia to explain how information is being consumed and how societies are increasingly divided. They explain how online algorithms and digital echo chambers are increasingly polarising voters while enhancing levels of disinformation, which pose both a problem in domestic and foreign policy. The analysis paper examines how deliberative democratic governance based on sortition can help curtail these issues. It is recommended that new and effective citizens-based democratic models should be used more and institutionalised within the EU domestic and foreign policy context, particularly through local-to-local (municipal; civil society) cooperation and democracy instruments in EU foreign policy to fight disinformation.
The full analysis is available in the PDF version below.
ENC Analysis: “Keep your friends close and Turkey closer: EU-Turkey relations in the midst of global and regional crisis.”
The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) released its new analysis titled “Keep your friends close and Turkey closer: EU-Turkey relations in the midst of global and regional crisis“.
This article is written by Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, ENC Managing Director and expert in Turkey and the Middle East. The paper focuses on the discovery of five gas fields of natural gas reserves located in Cypriot, Egyptian and Israeli maritime exclusive economic zones (EEZ). A proposed underwater Eastmed Pipeline (e.g. From Cyprus through Crete to Italy) could transport future gas discoveries to Europe. An alternative option also suggests the expansion of existing (or new) regasification plants along the littoral state(s) in the region. The author argues that both solutions will pose ecological and economical challenges and will interfere with non-delineated waters, which are disputed by Turkey. In addition, Ankara continues to engage in seismic and drilling activities off the coast of Cyprus and Greek islands, which has convinced littoral states that Turkey won’t accept international law if a pipeline were to be built. As European countries gear up for the Special European Council on the 24th and 25th of September, relations between the European Union (EU) and Turkey have hit rock bottom. Ankara’s decision to pull back the Oruç Reis for “maintenance” is positive, but the risk of further punitive measures against Turkey now depends on internal EU negotiations.
ENC study: the impact of COVID-19 on media consumption among vulnerable communities in Central Asia
The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC), in cooperation with Internews Central Asia, presented the preliminary findings of their new study during an online event, which took place on August 6th, and was live streamed on Facebook. The study aims to provide a mapping of media and information consumption among three target communities (labour migrants, refugees/stateless persons and ethnic minorities) during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also identifying their vulnerabilities and risks of social exclusion.
Andreas Marazis, ENC Head of Research, Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, ENC Managing Director and Shairbek Dzhuraev, co-founder and director of Crossroads Central Asia shared early findings of their research on media consumption among vulnerable communities in Central Asia, the impact of COVID-19 and the link between access to information and poorer socio-economic conditions.
The first results arising from the quantitative data survey, which reached thousands of interviewees, showed that COVID-19 had a tremendous impact on the living conditions of these communities. Over 50% of labour migrants in the region are currently unemployed, a number which is due to increase over time, while poverty among refugees is becoming more widespread.
At the same time, the findings demonstrated that these communities lack coverage in most media platforms (TV, radio, press and online media) across the region and need to be more representated through different minority languages beyond Russian.
The results also indicate that the levels of uncertainty for all groups rose, including unemployment. However, labour migrants and refugees/stateless people are far more at risk of job uncertainty. Concerning income levels, refugees and stateless people reported the lowest levels, followed by labour migrants, whereas ethnic minorities reported the most financially secure status among the three groups.
The graphics below demonstrate some of these figures:
When it comes to media consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of internet is widespread among all communities with an absolute majority confirming online platforms as their preferred medium to access news and information, with the exception of Uzbekistan, where social media usage is low in comparison. Language concerns on COVID-19 information are also high among all groups and range between 10 and 20% of individuals within these communities desiring other languages than the ones available to obtain information.
Overall, there were varying degrees of trust towards government in terms of their handling of the new Coronavirus and availability of information, standing at 50/50 in most countries. However, many individuals simply did not have access to diverse and/or quality information, or the tools to access it.
ENC and InternewsCentral Asia will continue their research until the end of September 2020, looking into finalising the report by the end of October 2020.
You can access the video of the online event here.
ENC Analysis – The Eastern Neighbourhood between Shifting Logics of Power
The European Neighbourhood Council (ENC) released its new analysis entitled “The Eastern Neighbourhood between Shifting Logics of Power”.
The ENC Analysis is written by Dr. Kevork Oskanian, ENC Academic Council Member and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, UK. This paper describes the recent evolution of the relations of power between the EU and its ‘Eastern neighbourhood’. The author argues that the european normative power has diminished in the region as it is facing severe challenges. The current crisis of liberalism has put the coherence of EU foreign policy under unprecedented threat, especially in relation to the Eastern partners, who he points out should prepare for a “worst-case” outcome of disengagement and increased incoherence.
ENC Analysis – The New EU Strategy on Central Asia Putting Renewable Energy on the Map
The European Neighbourhood Council releases its new analysis entitled “The New EU Strategy on Central Asia: Putting Renewable Energy on the Map”.
The ENC Analysis is co-authored by Andreas Marazis (ENC Head of Research for Eastern Europe and Central Asia) and Federico Ohle (ENC Research Assistant).
The study highlights a significant shift in focus towards sustainability and development of the renewable energy sector from the 2007 to the 2019 EU Central Asia Strategy. It provides an explanation of why this might be the case and recommends future courses of action for the EU and Central Asian states towards sustainable development, clean energy and climate change.
The full analysis is available in the PDF version below