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European Union

It is the nature of geopolitics that the quiet and odd may have more significance in the long run than the events that carry noisy headlines.Catalonia is a region in northeastern Spain. Its capital, Barcelona, is the second-largest city in Spain and the country's industrial and commercial hub. Catalonia is also a region that for decades has had a substantial independence movement seeking to break away from the rest of Spain. George Friedman of Stratfor weighs Catalonia in the context of Europe's past..

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Distinct interests sparked the European involvement in Libya. The United Kingdom and France have issued vociferous calls for intervention in Libya for the past month, ultimately managing to convince the rest of Europe with some notable exceptions to join in military action, the Arab League to offer its initial support, and global powers China and Russia to abstain from voting at the U.N. Security Council.

U.S. President Barack Obama said March 21 that the leadership of the U.S.-European coalition against Libya would be transitioned to the European allies "in a matter of days." While the United States would retain the lead during Operation Odyssey Dawn intended to incapacitate Tripoli's command and control, stationary air defenses and airfields Obama explained that Odyssey Dawn would create the "conditions for our European allies and Arab partners to carry out the measures authorized by the U.N. Security Council resolution." While Obama pointed out that the U.S.-European intervention in Libya is very much Europe's war, French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91) and Italian aircraft carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi (551) arrived in waters near Libya, giving Europeans a valuable asset from which to increase European air sortie generation rates and time on station.

Before analyzing the disparate interests of European nations in Libya, one must first take stock of this coalition in terms of its stated military and political goals.

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By Peter Zeihan

Europe is on the cusp of change. An EU heads-of-state summit Dec. 16 launched a process aimed to save the common European currency. If successful, this process would be the most significant step toward creating a singular European power since the creation of the European Union itself in 1992 that is, if it doesn't destroy the euro first.

Envisioned by the EU Treaty on Monetary Union, the common currency, the euro, has suffered from two core problems during its decade-long existence: the lack of a parallel political union and the issue of debt. Many in the financial world believe that what is required for a viable currency is a fiscal union that has taxation power and that is indeed needed. But that misses the larger point of who would be in charge of the fiscal union. Taxation and appropriation who pays how much to whom are essentially political acts. One cannot have a centralized fiscal authority without first having a centralized political/military authority capable of imposing and enforcing its will. Greeks are not going to implement a German-designed tax and appropriations system simply because Berlin thinks it's a good idea. As much as financiers might like to believe, the checkbook is not the ultimate power in the galaxy. The ultimate power comes from the law backed by a gun.

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Editor's note: This is the third installment in a series of special reports that Dr. Friedman will write over the next few weeks as he travels to Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Poland. In this series, he will share his observations of the geopolitical imperatives in each country and conclude with reflections on his journey as a whole and options for the United States.

By George Friedman

In school, many of us learned the poem Invictus. It concludes with the line, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." This is a line that a Victorian gentleman might bequeath to an American businessman. It is not a line that resonates in Romania. Nothing in their history tells Romanians that they rule their fate or dominate their soul. Everything in their history is a lesson in how fate masters them or how their very soul is a captive of history. As a nation, Romanians have modest hopes and expectations tempered by their past.

This sensibility is not alien to me. My parents survived the Nazi death camps, returned to Hungary to try to rebuild their lives and then found themselves fleeing the communists. When they arrived in America, their wishes were extraordinarily modest, as I look back on it. They wanted to be safe, to get up in the morning, to go to work, to get paid to live. They were never under the impression that they were the masters of their fate.

The problem that Romania has is that the world cares about it. More precisely, empires collide where Romania is. The last iteration was the Cold War. Today, at the moment, things seem easier, or at least less desperate, than before. Still, as I discussed in Borderlands, the great powers are sorting themselves out again and therefore Romania is becoming more important to others. It is not clear to me that the Romanians fully appreciate the shift in the geopolitical winds. They think they can hide in Europe, and perhaps they can. But I suspect that history is reaching for Romania again.

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By Dr Robert Crowcroft

Today the spectre of conflict in Europe has receded to the point that a general war is virtually unthinkable. Since the termination of the Balkan wars, smaller conflicts are also unlikely. A view has arisen that the structures of stability and co-operation are now so deep that Europe is perhaps in a state of 'perpetual peace'. This is usually attributed to post-war Franco-German reconciliation, the rise of the European Union, economic interconnectedness, and the Euro. And it is true that no region has such a range of well-developed institutions as Europe from the EU to NATO, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Western European Union, and more. Indeed analysts now often find Europe the arena that inspired International Relations theory so dull that they look elsewhere for the required fix of tension, competition, and violence. But the current state of affairs is not as resilient as some maintain. It might be that the whole rationale for co-operation between the states of Europe is, actually, remarkably thin.

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Dr Robert Crowcroft

Two decades ago, analysts expected the reunified Germany to adopt a more assertive role in international politics. Yet since 1991 Germany has been only a small and generally unimpressive presence on the world stage. In footballing terms, a Premiership club, certainly; but more West Ham than Arsenal. While Berlin is insistent on playing the role of a 'good' neighbour so as not to reawaken memories of German aggression for the most part this is down to routine diplomatic incompetence and policy misjudgement. A brief historical detour underlines this. In the early 1990s, German ambition was obvious. The country hoped for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, and made a major financial contribution to the costs of the 1991 Gulf War. But the focus of German policy was directed at Europe, and here German assertiveness and influence was clear. The Maastricht Treaty transformed the EC into an EU on German lines; agreement was reached for a single currency, again on German lines; and a form of federalism was adopted, fully compatible with German understandings of that concept. Germany also led the way in recognising the collapse of Yugoslavia, and facilitated the entry into the EU of pro-German nations like Austria, Sweden, and Finland. In essence, there was every sign that the old German 'customs union', Mitteleuropa the dream of the Kaiser was at last about to emerge.

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