ESPAS Annual Conference: Global Trends to 2030: The Making of a New Geopolitical Order?


Thanks to Daniele Réchard and her team for organising an excellent day as part of the ESPAS ‘Global Trends to 2030: The Making of a New Geopolitical Order?’ event, and good to see so many friends there, inter alia Angela Wilkinson, Aaron Maniam, Jeanette Kwek, Norbert Reez, Jaana Tapanainen, Kristel Vanderelst, Thomas Lehr, Alun Rhydderch, Duncan Cass-Beggs, Joshua Polchar, and Christopher Cordey …

Many speakers focused on the threats we face, so I used the chance to promote Garret Banning’s idea of a starting an Annual Opportunity Assessment hearing. His logic: the US has an annual threat assessment, so why not also look for the opportunities in a systematic way as well: social, technological and political change makes many things possible in international relations today that were not possible before, and as Mary Kalder pointed out, if we only look at things through the geopolitical lens, everything seems very bleak…. And my thought: no need to wait for the US on this, let’s have the European Parliament organise the opportunity assessment (and please, if so, not in a standard format, let us be creative for once!)

Looking at the Catalan crisis from a European angle


Last night I was a speaker in the e-conference “Looking at the Catalan crisis from a European angle“.

Listening to the arguments, it struck me that the voices we hear on both sides – Spanish and Catalan – are mainly the nationalist ones: Catalan nationalists point out that even today Catalan is not an official  language in which they can write to the government in Madrid.  But they sound like Margaret Thatcher when saying “I want my money back” – in their case from the Spanish budget, in hers from the EU. Both statements miss the benefits that flow from such transfers. The Spanish nationalists see Spain as a single entity that is indivisible, and a historic given that may not be challenged. The very idea that some people may not be happy with Spain is almost an existential challenge. But what about the others?  As a European, I look at both nationalisms and do not like what I see. Both have an aggressive tone: Why should I pay for them? vs. They must stay with us whatever they think!. The start of a solution: a meaningful EU citizenship?  Perhaps, but only if rights are matched with duties and there is a duty to fellow citizens elsewhere – there is no free lunch. Yes, speak your language, but if your neighbour cannot, do not insult them…