News Archive – May 2015

McCain seeks defense funding to aid Asean against China
Malaysian Insider, May 29, 2015 – Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made the proposal in an amendment to the 2016 US Defense Authorization Act expected to be passed later this year, entitled the South China Sea Initiative. It allows for the provision of up to US$425 million (RM1.55 billion) over five years to countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for “equipment, supplies, training and small-scale military construction.”
Some members of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including US-ally the Philippines and fellow claimant Vietnam, have been vocal critics of Chinese actions in the South China Sea, but the group as a whole has been divided on the issue and reluctant to intervene.

Russian-Chinese partnership is not a threat to other countries – former FM
Eurasia - Map-Europe-China-Track2RT (Russia), May 29, 2015 – Russia and China are moving towards the formation of a continental partnership that would include cooperation not only within the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) but also with the Silk Road – an economic project that is supposed to link East Asia and Europe, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.
De-Dollarization Du Jour: Russia Backs BRICS Alternative To SWIFT – MINA (Macedonian International), May 29, 2015 – Sputnik News has the latest: Russia is ready to consider the creation of a currency union with other members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday. “In this [EEU] format it would be possible to consider the possibility and conditions of eventually creating a monetary union,” Medvedev said.
The prime minister is currently in Kazakhstan for a session of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council. The EEU, which officially came into force January 1, 2015, comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. The bloc seeks to achieve greater economic integration, including the free flow of goods, services, capital and labor across its member states.

SAARC Flagsaarc-mapSAARC:
Modi’s Forthcoming Bangladesh Visit: Consolidating Relations And A Sub-SAARC – Analysis
Eurasia Review, May 30, 2015 – This will be the first SAARC sub-regional cooperation and will not be impacted by blocking policies of SAARC members like Pakistan. This will be a peoples’ project in which the interests of the people of all four countries are invested.
European Day: Pakistan, neighbours should learn from EU to live in peace: Qadir – Daily Times (Pakistan), May 30, 3015 – The minister for SAFRON congratulated the EU countries, as on this day the European Union was created in the aftermath of two World Wars, because the wisdom had dawned upon the EU leaders to forge unity and get together for achieving development in a peaceful and congenial environment.

Asean Peacekeeping Force? Points to ponder
The Straits Times, May 28, 2015 – Malaysia has revived the 2003 Indonesian proposal to establish an Asean Peacekeeping Force (APF) as one of its Asean chairmanship initiatives. Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein affirms it as a step towards enhancing Asean unity. He said that “we need to find matters where we can unite”.

eurasian-european_unionsGeorgia, Moldova, Ukraine: EU-Dreaming Despite the Difficulties
Eurasianet, May 27, 2015 – “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin looks stronger and more consistent, and Georgians have lost confidence that the EU can be a credible actor.” A recent poll for the National Democratic Institute suggests that Georgian support for the EU is declining. Although 68 percent of 4,360 respondents expressed support for Euro-Atlantic integration, approval for the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union has grown threefold since November 2013 to 31 percent of respondents.

nafta-flagNAU - Caution SignNORTH AMERICA:
Federal Panel Lets Injunction Against Obama’s Immigration Actions Stand
New York Times, May 26, 2015 – A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied the Obama administration’s request to lift a hold on the president’s executive actions on immigration, which would have granted protection from deportation as well as work permits to millions of immigrants in the country illegally.
Obama immigration overhaul and ‘Dreamers’ handed another legal setback – Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2015 – A split federal appeals court on Tuesday let stand a lower court’s ruling that has stymied Obama administration plans to shield up to 5 million people – including young immigrants known as “Dreamers” – from deportation. At issue was President Obama’s proposed extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, created in 2012, and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents, or DAPA, which was scheduled to start in May.

SAARC Flagsaarc-mapSAARC:
Pact ready for seamless transit of vehicles in four SAARC nations
Economic Times (India), May 26, 2015 – The pact, called the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle agreement, will regulate passenger and cargo vehicular traffic among these four of the eight SAARC members, the source said. The government had said earlier that the agreement had provisions to enable other SAARC nations (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka) to join this framework. Once implemented, the agreement will reduce the costly and time-consuming unloading and loading of people and goods at border crossing points….

EU-flagEU - european_union_mapEUROPEAN UNION:
Pro-Europe lobby must not rely on economic argument, says campaigner
The Guardian (UK), May 26, 2015 – …Britain, alone among major EU member states, boasts both a largely anti-EU (or at least, highly critical) press and a partly Europhobic governing elite. But there are factors that could play in the yes camp’s favour. Recent polling for British Influence shows anxiety about a possible breakup of the UK may be important: “One in five people say they’ll change their no [anti-EU] vote to a yes if Britain’s exit from the EU also means Scotland leaving the UK,” Wilding said.

Eurasec FlagEurasian-Union-Belarus,_Kazakhstan,_and_RussiaEURASIAN ECONOMIC UNION:
Yosub: Talk of single currency in EEU is premature – Belarusian News, May 26, 2015 – When he spoke about the countries of the EEU, Vadim Yosub stressed that their economies are currently in different economic cycles and stages of development. “It is just impossible to introduce a single currency artificially,” the expert believes. In his words, this should be preceded by a long process of approximation of the economic policies, tax systems, and principles of exchange rate polices and financial market operation.
Azerbaijan says can’t join Russia-led trade bloc because of Armenian “occupation”
Azerbaijan might consider joining the EEU if Armenia “pulls its troops out of Azeri territory.”
ArmeniaNow, May 26, 2015 – “The customs union plays an important role in the EEU. But we can’t co-exist within this union with, say, Armenia. But if Armenia withdraws its troops, if the borders are opened, if there is a normalization of the situation, if there is an economic component between Armenia and Azerbaijan, who knows what will happen tomorrow. As they say, never say never,”

Arab League flagArabLeagueARAB LEAGUE:
Arab army chiefs plan for joint Arab force
The National (Abu Dhabi, UAE.), May 25, 2015 – Army chiefs of staff of Arab countries have drafted a protocol for a new joint force to intervene in Middle East hotspots on missions ranging from fighting militants to Iran-backed groups …. However, there was dissension over the force being headquartered in Cairo, the home of the Arab League.

Kyrgyzstan joins Eurasian Economic Union, nascent Russia-led trade bloc
Fox News, May 21, 2015 – President Almazbek Atambayev on Thursday signed the law ratifying Kyrgyzstan’s entry, joining Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus.

Kenyatta pushes for full economic integration of Africa
AU - African Union & Sub-RegionsCapital News (Kenya), May 18, 2015 – The president said Africa needs to work together towards an integrated economy, trade, investment and the free movement of people across borders. That integration should start by breaking the artificial borders created by the colonial masters…. President Kenyatta gave the example of the successful integration of the East African Community to underline the fact that the full integration of Africa is possible. He said the dreams of the EAC partners to establish the block’s Customs Union, a Common Market, a Monetary Union and ultimately a Political Federation are about to be fully realized.
EAC members to harmonise primary and secondary education curricula – NTV Uganda, May 19, 2015 – Chairman of the East African Community council of ministers, Abdalla Saddala, told the regional assembly that they are in the process of developing Instructional materials to re-orient teachers to the approved EAC curricula.
Fortifying Africa’s Legislature – CNBC Africa, May 18, 2015 (video) – Bethel Amadi, the president of the Pan African Parliament joins CNBC Africa to discuss how Africa’s legislature can be strengthened in the years ahead.
AU Blames Terrorism On Foreign Millitary Interventions – New Zimbabwe, May 16, 2015 – The African Union (AU) has said it is concerned about increase in terrorist activities in the continent blaming such crises on foreign military intervention. The continental body feels a home grown military force would end instability and ensure peace prevails by “closing out” western powers’ interference under the guise of military help.

Nigel Farage isn’t the biggest threat to the Eurosceptic cause. Vladimir Putin is
EU - european_union_mapSpectator (UK), May 14, 2015 – In contrast to Islam, Vladimir Putin and his brand of authoritarian white conservative Christian Orthodoxy makes a perfect villain against which the multiculturalist, socially liberal, atheistic European Union leaders can unite its people…. Russia’s emergence as a new opponent is certainly bad news for European conservatives, and for Eurosceptics in particular.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Thank you, Mr. Putin – DW (Deutsche Welle – Germany), March 21, 2014 – “With your annexation of the Crimea you have thrown a much-needed lifeline to…European integration…”

GCC flagGCC-mapGCC:
Israel: Go Ahead and Give the Gulfies Guns
Foreign Policy, May 13, 2015 – Another reason for Israel’s relaxed temperament is its newfound kinship with Arab countries who share its concerns about Iran’s rise in the region. “The Israelis have cared less about the deals happening this week because there’s a feeling in Israel that they now have an undeclared ally in the GCC against Iran,” said David Ottaway, a Gulf expert at the Wilson Center, using an acronym for the six countries that makeup the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Consultation key to making Pacific Regionalism more than a buzzword
Radio Australia, May 14, 2015 – Right now the Pacific Islands Forum is calling for submissions from across the region, as it seeks to develop a future Pacific agenda, and to identify common priorities. And once what is called a Framework for Pacific Regionalism is put in place, the hope is it will deliver greater regional integration.

Arab League flagArabLeagueARAB LEAGUE:
Arab Nations to Meet over ISIS Takeover of Libya
Breitbart, May 12, 2015 – An unnamed Arab League source tells Gannett’s Defense News that the heads of state of seven Arab countries will meet with Libyan officials on May 18 to discuss possible military intervention in that nation, as the Islamic State continues to expand its influence over large swaths of the country.

nafta-flagNORTH AMERICA:
Rand Paul Comes Out Swinging Against Obama’s Secret Trade Deal Amid Collapse
NAU - 3 Countries in TPPBreitbart, May 12, 2015 – Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has joined the chorus of Republican presidential candidates and members of Congress opposed to granting President Barack Obama’s request for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which would fast-track the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Pacific Rim trade deal.
Europe, Mexico to seek new trade pact to deepen North American ties Today’s Zaman (Turkey), May 11, 2015 – The European Union and Mexico will launch negotiations towards a new free-trade agreement later this year, as Europe seeks to tie its economy closer to North America following a deal with Canada and efforts to sign an accord with the United States.
FLASHBACK: TPP ‘Back Door’ to Deepen NAFTA
YouTube video, Nov 16, 2013 – The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trans-regional trade deal, would use a “back door” approach to further empower NAFTA, Arturo Sarukhan, then Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S., said at the NAFTA 20 Summit.

GCC flagArab League flagGCC, ARAB LEAGUE:
New Arab coalition discusses coming together to intervene in Libya
Sacramento Bee, McClatchy, May 11, 2015 – The countries sending representatives to Egypt include Jordan and Sudan and four members of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All seven nations are members of the Saudi-led coalition currently opposing Houthi rebels in Yemen. Notably, the gathering in Egypt excludes another Gulf Cooperation Council member, Qatar, which supports the Libyan Dawn administration in Tripoli…. The May 18 meeting would follow up discussions last month by Arab League military chiefs in Cairo….
Beware the pan-Arab army – Israel Hayom, May 12, 2015 – …Israel does not have the luxury of dismissing Middle East dynamics, even when it concerns countries with which it has peace treaties — and especially with regards to a pan-Arab army that includes nations with which such treaties do not exist. An Arab coalition that seeks to stop Iran and its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Sinai and Yemen from expanding Tehran’s regional influence is a welcome development, as long as we remember that even what appears to be steadfast and permanent may prove fleeting.

UK Independence Party rejects resignation, Nigel Farage remains leader
CTV News (Canada), May 11, 2015 – UKIP chairman Steve Crowther …. said the party had done extremely well on a national level despite Farage’s defeat in the South Thanet district. He said UKIP’s performance in the May 7 election had been “a great success.” UKIP won only one seat in the British Parliament but got roughly 13 per cent of the vote, which was considered by many political observers to be a strong showing. It also scored well in local council elections…. Crowther said Farage would lead the party’s campaign to win a referendum that would take Britain out of the European Union.

Eurasec FlagEurasia - Map-Europe-China-Track2EURASIAN UNION:
China, EAEU pledge to further cooperation
Xinhua (China), May 9, 2015 – Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng met Friday with Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) Trade Minister Andrey Slepnev, vowing to enhance cooperation between China and the bloc. Gao said that visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have reached broad consensus on the docking of China’s Silk Road Economic Belt initiative and the Eurasian economic integration and that China agreed to launch talks with the EAEU on an economic and trade cooperation deal.

Arab League flagARAB LEAGUE:
Arab League close to forming unified military force
ArabLeagueAl Arabiya (Dubai, UAE), May 10, 2015 – Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said the Arab League is moving closer to forming a joint Arab military force, pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Saturday.
Pact for stability: The Egyptian role in a joint Arab force
Ahram (Egypt), May 10, 2015 – The threats facing Arab states ‎are too great for individual countries to handle alone and a joint Arab ‎force is now a prerequisite for successful defence of the region…. General Mohamed Ali Bilal, the commander of Egyptian forces during ‎the war to liberate Kuwait, stresses that the political, economic and ‎military dimensions of the project demand a degree of political ‎harmony among its founders…. How will its tasks, duties, responsibilities and scope of activities be ‎set? Structurally, there is a need to determine whether the force is ‎subordinate to a regional organisation – the Arab League – or is a ‎multinational force independent of such an umbrella.

nafta-flagBuilding a North American CommunityNORTH AMERICA:
Report: Obama Administration Admits Breaking Executive Amnesty Injunction
Breitbart, May 8, 2015 – The Obama administration violated U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s injunction halting President Obama’s executive amnesty programs, Justice Department lawyers have admitted to the court, according to the Washington Times.

UK Election Result Forecast Casts “Brexit” Shadow Over European Union, Calls For Cameron Courage
EU - european_union_mapForbes, May 7, 2015 – The Conservative Party of David Cameron is set to obtain the largest number of seats in British parliament, in a dramatic departure from earlier opinion polls, and now has to make good on a promise to hold a referendum on Britain’s position in or out of the European Union.
UK Election 2015: The UKIP Paradox, With Millions Of Votes And Only Two Seats
International Business Times, May 8, 2015 – But the paltry number of seats won by the party does not paint the full picture. UKIP has in fact done exceptionally well in percentage terms, and only the quirks of the British electoral system with its first-past-the-post system are keeping it out of the circle of power. At midnight New York time, with 276 seats already assigned, it had won more than 1.3 million votes or 11 percent of the electorate, making it the third biggest party in the United Kingdom. The popularity of Farage’s message, based on a return to values described as traditionally British and a deep antipathy for the European Union, is easy to gauge by the growth in the UKIP vote, which showed an increase of 8.6 percent from the previous election. No other party has seen such an increase.

Eurasec Flageurasian-european_unionsEURASIAN UNION:
Why Armenia turned to Russia instead of the West
Washington Post, May 7, 2015 – Not long before Ukraine signed the agreement with the European Union that precipitated a crisis with Russia that continues to unfold, Armenia, Ukraine’s small neighbor to the south, made a different decision. Following a discussion with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced that his country would affiliate for trade purposes with the Eurasian Economic Union — Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan — rather than the European Union.

GCC flagGCC:
Yemen’s GCC membership is rightly back on the agenda
GCC-mapAl Arabiya, May 7, 2015 – If the news is confirmed, the intention of Yemen’s government in exile to request membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) this month comes at an awkward time.It is difficult to see how those challenges can be met if Yemen, the poorest Arab country, remains an outcast next to the energy-rich GCC states…. It represents a market to be explored by the GCC if general economic conditions in Yemen improve, and Yemenis could fill the many jobs that are unlikely to be taken by current GCC citizens.
The Gulf’s Failure in Yemen – Foreign Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations), May 6, 2015 – For decades, Yemen had made requests to join the GCC because inclusion would end the restrictions on Yemeni laborers in the Gulf and thus, provide its youth with labor opportunities. However, Yemen’s Gulf neighbors dismissed its appeals for membership. Although they did not give a formal reason for the rejection, it is quite obvious that Yemen is much poorer than the GCC members and further, is the only republic in this club of monarchies.

UNASUR - Clenched FistUnasur chief calls for concrete steps towards regional integration
Shanghai Daily, May 6, 2015 – “We have to work on South American citizenship,” said Samper, saying consulates could work together on consolidating the Unasur visa, as well as common passport. In the area of military integration, Unasur has made some progress, but much more needs to be done, said Samper.
“The South American School of Defense has already been launched … in response to the nefarious School of the Americas, at which for many years they tried to indoctrinate the region’s high command in two sophisticated theses: first, that our enemies were the communists who would invade us (and) second … that the conflicts existed among ourselves. Peru against Ecuador, Argentine against Chile … that we were our own enemies,” said Samper.

ASEAN’s stance is a blow for China
China Post, May 6, 2015 – The rotating ASEAN chairman this year is Malaysia, which has its own dispute with China but which is known as a moderate that eschews confrontation with Beijing. But the chairman’s statement makes it clear that the Chinese strategy of divide-and-conquer has failed and ASEAN as a grouping is opposed to China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, specifically, its claim to almost the whole sea and its land reclamation and the construction of air and sea military facilities that can be used by its military.

EU-flagEU - european_union_mapEUROPEAN UNION:
Gun Laws Around the World: Where Does the European Union Stand on Firearms?
Newsmax, May 4, 2015 – While the subject of gun control is hotly debated in the United States, the European Union has a very different outlook. Unlike the U.S., where the right to individual gun ownership is protected in the constitution, regulation of firearms in the EU is seen as a legitimate and necessary role of government. This is more in line with gun laws around the world, and it’s a fundamentally different perspective than that of the U.S. While Americans see gun ownership as a right, Europeans are more likely to see it as a privilege.

GCC flagGulf-Cooperation-CouncilGCC:
Gulf States Want U.S. Assurances and Weapons in Exchange for Supporting Iran Nuclear Deal
Wall Street Journal, May 2, 2015 – The leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, plan to use a high-stakes meeting with President Barack Obama later this month to request additional fighter jets, missile batteries and surveillance equipment. They also intend to pressure Mr. Obama for new defense agreements between the U.S. and the Gulf nations that would outline terms and scenarios under which Washington would intervene if they are threatened by Iran, according to these officials.

ArabLeagueArab League flagARAB LEAGUE:
Bettering Arab regional arrangement key necessity
Gulf Today (U.A.E.), May 3, 2015 – Dr Maryam Lootah, Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at UAE University, discussed “The Actual Arab Regional Arrangement: the Basics and Main Players.” …. She cited the European Union and similar unions in Asia as examples. “Such unions have shifted from economic integration to social and political integration based on a common social and security identity. The Arab regional arrangement has unique terms and elements by virtue of its geography, history and culture – language, religion and identity.” However, she expressed concern that some policymakers have weakened the role of the Arab League -for example – by establishing sub-arrangements with each one considering its own priorities. [Example: Gulf Cooperation Council]

Overt religious persecution in 8 of 10 Asean states, study finds

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Malay Mail, May 1, 2015 – Blurring lines between religion and nationalism, weak rule of law and the politicisation of religion are primary factors fuelling religious persecution in member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and across the region, concluded a study commissioned by the Human Rights Resource Centre for Asean. Based on research conducted in all 10 member states between February and December last year, “Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion” found varying degrees of overt religious persecution in eight Asean countries, with the exception of Singapore and Brunei.

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