Plus, NATO’s Baltic strategy and a new political opening for Georgian opposition leader Ivanishvili.by Ky Krauthamer, Ioana Caloianu, and Joshua Boissevain 22 May 2012
Serbian President-elect Tomislav Nikolic made a point of stressing his commitment to a pro-Western course within hours of his victory, The New York Times reports. He said “Serbia would not stray from its EU path” and named German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a preferred European ally.
Previously, Nikolic, leader of the Serbian Progressive Party (SPS), served as a deputy prime minister in Slobodan Milosevic's government in 1999-2000. In 2008, SPS broke away from the Serbian Radical Party as a conservative, pro-European party that also insists on Kosovo remaining within Serbia.
Two weeks after being sworn in for a third term as Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin announced the new government under Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev 21 May, replacing all but a few key posts, according to RIA Novosti. Among those remaining in pivotal roles are First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, all of whom are considered important Putin loyalists. Some new faces also feature in the cabinet.
The new appointments have analysts wondering how much of a role Medvedev will have in the future. “This government is officially Medvedev’s, but in reality it is Putin’s,” RIA Novosti quoted one political analyst as saying.
Another sign Putin was transferring more power to the Kremlin came on 22 May with the naming of seven former cabinet ministers to fill posts in his new presidential administration, according to Radio Free Europe. In a surprise move, Putin appointed Nurgaliyev as a deputy head of the presidential security council.
The amended constitution now allows EU citizens who were born in Georgia and have lived there permanently for at least the last five years to run for office. An earlier draft of the bill specified 10 years of permanent residence, which was cut to five years reportedly after Ivanishvili said he would still be barred from political activity because his permanent residence began in 2004, Civil.ge reports. Ivanishvili lived for many years in Russia and holds a French passport.
Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream political movement is shaping up as a serious competitor to Saakashvili’s ruling party in the October parliamentary voting. The new law would also permit Ivanishvili to run for president in 2013 without getting citizenship.
In a speech in Chicago on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Saakashvili said “enemies of Georgian democracy” wanted to make it look as though the country was a place where the opposition was deprived of political rights. But parliament had defused that allegation, he said, asking, "How many countries allow participation of non-citizens in presidential and parliamentary elections?”
Joint NATO air patrols over the three Baltic countries are a good example of the alliance’s ability to adapt to changing security conditions, NATO leaders said at their summit in Chicago this week.
U.S. President Barack Obama said the cooperative air patrols, known as Baltic Air Policing, demonstrate the alliance’s commitment to collective defense, the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn said in a statement. The mission also “spares Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania the great expense of procuring and maintaining supersonic fighters and allows them to focus on other capabilities that add value to NATO.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the joint patrols would continue indefinitely. The mission allows the Baltic countries to focus their resources on critical areas including the Afghanistan operation, he said in a 20 May press conference.
In Chicago, Latvian President Andris Berzins said the joint air patrols were one of the best examples of the “smart defense” approach favored by NATO leaders, according to the Baltic Times.
Sikorski said the potential collapse of the euro zone was the “greatest threat to Poland,” far more than terrorism or the planned Russian missile emplacements near the EU border.
As the EU’s largest economy, Germany is “indispensable,” but neither is Germany “big enough to dominate,” he said. “Berlin also needs partners – and you need more than just one. These partners, including the Polish, also demand a lot of the Germans.”
Sikorski said the European Central Bank’s moves, backed by Berlin, to inject liquidity into the European banking system had helped ease the euro crisis. He added, “I also understand Germany's historical aversion to inflation. But when the survival of the entire euro zone is at stake, then one must consider the risks and also be prepared to risk a bit more inflation than usual.”
At the height of the euro crisis in November, “we really were threatened with the collapse of the euro zone, showing just how fragile Europe is,” he said. “I distrust people who say the process of renationalization could be arrested at a certain stage. I fear that it would be a dynamic process which you cannot control.”