GIS Dossier: The Western Balkans
Of all Europe’s trouble spots, the Western Balkans have a solid claim to being the most troublesome. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the region is finally stable and – save for a violent flare-up or two – peaceful. But plenty of tensions remain, corruption runs rampant and the rule of law is unevenly applied. With all these potential stumbling blocks, the region’s road toward prosperity remains bumpy. This Dossier reviews GIS reports on this region, so critical to Europe’s lasting peace.
Energy cybersecurity: The need for effective resilience
Despite repeated warnings of a “digital Pearl Harbor,” advanced economies such as the United States and the European Union are more exposed to cyberattacks than ever. These vulnerabilities can be traced to the spread of new digital technologies, the electrification of transport and heating systems, robotics and artificial intelligence. That puts a premium on efficient cybersecurity strategies based on a layered defense in depth, focused on mitigating the effects of attacks and allowing faster recovery of critical infrastructure.
China’s soft landing in the Balkans
In the next few years China will be opening an investment bridgehead in the Balkans. As other powers such as Russia and Turkey have increased their geopolitical presence in the region, China’s expansion will be even stronger – but different in kind because it will be a “soft,” mostly economic penetration. The push will be all the more powerful if the European Union neglects the region, as seems probable with its decision to delay the next round of accession until 2025.
Serbia prepares to change course on Kosovo
The Serbian-Albanian dispute over Kosovo has kept the Western Balkans unstable for more than a century. Now, President Aleksandar Vucic is preparing the Serbian public for a new opening – recognition of Kosovo’s independence as the price of admission to the European Union. The Serbian public and senior officials are far from convinced this is the right move – some are calling for partitioning the territory and keeping Serbia’s orientation towards Russia.
Debate: What China’s new Silk Road means for Europe
In a debate last month in Warsaw, politicians, bankers and businessmen considered the implications for Europe of China's Belt and Road Initiative – likely to be Eurasia's largest infrastructure project in this century. It is both an economic opportunity and a portent of growing Chinese preeminence on the continent.
Jokowi’s prospects and Indonesia’s future
Indonesian President Joko Widodo – better known as Jokowi – has run up against tough political resistance. He is learning the hard way that the country’s cumbersome bureaucracy does not react as quickly as the businesses he has run. But despite some mistakes, he still retains public support due to his focus on economic development and infrastructure. If he can see his ambitious initiatives through and make Indonesia a “Global Maritime Fulcrum,” the country would play a pivotal geopolitical role.
Tension in the India-China relationship
Though the standoff on the Doklam Plateau between India and China seems to have been resolved, the countries’ Himalayan border will continue to be a source of tension. As emerging world powers with aspirations for hegemony, both are jockeying for influence in other countries in the region, such as Nepal and Bhutan.
Russia losing the new Great Game
Chinese leader Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow last month brought a raft of investment deals, suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin is successfully executing his version of a pivot toward Asia. But appearances deceive. The Sino-Russian "strategic partnership" is not an agreement between equals, and Russia has lost the upper hand in Central Asia.
Opinion: Control of trade routes is decisive
China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) is at once a trading and a political strategy. By securing trade routes and enlisting allies, the Chinese are laying the groundwork for their long-term resurgence as Eurasia’s leading economic and political power. If it continues to stand aside from this process, Europe would be making a historic mistake.
The fog of cybersecurity
A worldwide surge of sophisticated cyberattacks has alarmed business, governments and experts alike. As long as it remains difficult to identify the attackers, while offensive cyber tools become more commonplace and easily available, one can expect such assaults to increase. Disruptive attacks on critical infrastructures have already crossed the “red lines” of past forecasts. Even so, we may still be underestimating the threat.