Valeria Biagiotti

Smoldering societies
A tale of two Turkeys

Since the uprisings in the Middle East began, Turkey has played the role of stable democratic interlocutor in the region. Now the unrest has spread to its own population and its much-vaunted political model is being put into question.

Arab disillusion

Notwithstanding the turmoil surrounding the presidential elections in Egypt, it is safe to say that Egyptians have never experienced such an array of choices – if not possibilities.

Europe fights to survive
The best Poland ever

Wedged firmly in the current European morass, Poland has somehow managed to thrive. Now with the credibility that success generates, it is trying to guide a sclerotic EU toward a more pragmatic union.

Flip side
Speaking the language of soft power

One of the best ways to spread a culture and thereby gain influence is to make that culture’s language understood. New emerging powers are now promoting their languages in order to increase their international appeal.

The new Arab order Islam women money
What Arab women want

No one in North Africa has more at stake in the outcome of elections than women. While the recently deposed leaders had poor human rights records, they often granted women more freedom than tradition would normally allow. 

Talking heads
Where the “stans” stand

The Central Asian region is for many a mysterious area, often superficially identified as a homogeneous block of countries. No wonder it has become a preferred setting for novels and films which are set in remote and dangerous countries – usually “virtual” countries whose names regularly end in “-stan.” Such limited knowledge of the area is also a result of its relative stability, as – despite recent crises in Uzbekistan and Kirghizstan – no major changes have taken place in those countries since they gained independence from the USSR in 1991. Because of this stability and the longstanding rule of most leaders of the region, some observers have made a comparison between Central Asia and the area caught up in the Arab spring. Perhaps it would help to understand who the leaders of these countries are and how they see the future of their homeland, especially with respect to the Arab Spring. Whether or not the situations are analogous, this is an area the international community should increase its focus on. With its immense resources, Central Asia is an indispensable actor in promoting global energy security. It also maintains a crucial geostrategic position between the US, Europe and “new” powers like China and India, without forgetting Russia. In short, the Great Game has gone global.

Talking heads
No world for male candidates

According to the UN, the current representation of women in decision-making governmental bodies is still very low and is far from reaching 30%, which is considered the minimum percentage required to influence decision-making processes and political agendas. Thus it is surprising that in the last year, a wave of female presidential candidates have been running in various countries scattered all over the world. One of them, Yingluck Shinawatra, succeeded and is set to become the first female prime minister of Thailand. For the others, the road is uncertain and may be still long and tortuous, partly because some of the candidacies are rather controversial. Notwithstanding the results, the increase in number of female candidates can already be considered a success, as an example and an inspiration to many other women. As the late Geraldine Ferraro – the first woman to run for vice president in the US, who recently passed away – said, “Every time a woman runs, women win.”

Serbia: 24 klicks from the EU

With Europe’s most wanted fugitive awaiting trial for war crimes, there is no excuse for not letting Serbia into the EU. Or is there? Some issues, such as Kosovo remain. But most of all, Europe’s willingness to expand in the middle of a crisis will decide.

Flip side
Sport diplomacy: a win-win game

Sport can be an extraordinary diplomatic tool, allowing conflicting countries to take that symbolic first small step toward reconciliation.

Talking heads
Courage, fear and pushiness

Natural and nuclear catastrophes, unprecedented uprisings and political changes in critical areas of the world, states risking bankruptcy. Rarely as often as in the last months have world leaders been facing situations which could potentially turn the current global system upside-down. Such situations are testing their resoluteness and their ability to take crucial and vital decisions. While making rational choices, leaders cannot disregard citizens’ concerns, be it the fear of new catastrophes, of massive migrations or the reluctance to pay the price for other countries’ shortcomings. Without being overwhelmed or manipulated by emotions, decision-makers must channel them into productive and adaptive actions. Quoting General George Patton, “There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.”

Chosen words
Culture and warfare Books and bullets
Talking heads
Tricky starts

A tricky start. This is the thread uniting such different leaders as the ones chosen for this month’s Talking Heads section. In the cases of Dilma Rousseff and Alassane Ouattara, the starts of their mandates as presidents of Brazil and Côte d’Ivoire certainly have been – or rather, should be as far as the latter is concerned. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, on the other hand, share ­­the challenges of taking over “heavy” rotating presidencies.