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Showing posts from June 26, 2014

Letter from Ethiopia: Splendid Isolation

The first thing that stood out to me in Addis Ababa was its Christian character: Here, Christianity is not a colonial vestige but an endemic phenomenon. The Ethiopian Kingdom of Axum adopted Monophysite Christianity in the fourth century, long before the conversion of most of Europe. Amid a maelstrom of historical change, the empire, known as Abyssinia, clung to its Orthodox view of Christianity, taking refuge in the mountains and turning away from the sea, its erstwhile source of affluence and influence.

Thinking of these early Christians cut off in these remote mountains, I cannot help but remember the early Portuguese explorers who thought Ethiopia to be the kingdom of the mythical Prester John, who, as legend has it, ruled in splendid isolation, detached from the Muslim coast. The nature of the Christian imagery in Ethiopia is surprising to me. In a nation possessed of deep national pride, most of the portraits of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are fair-skinned, in the style of Greek or…

Moldova Risks Destabilization by Signing EU Agreement

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (R) welcomes Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca on May 15 at the EU headquarters in Brussels.(JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Moldova's official adoption of the EU association and free trade agreement on June 27 will be a notable milestone in the country's EU integration efforts, but it will be met with opposition on several fronts. After signing the deal, Moldova is unlikely to experience a Ukraine-type situation in which armed separatists pose a substantial threat to the government or in which Russia moves to annex Moldovan territory. However, several areas could destabilize the tiny but strategic country that is part of the greater competition between Russia and the West.

Analysis


Several players inside and outside of Moldova -- including Transdniestria, Gagauzia, the opposition Communist Party and Russia -- have opposed Moldova's signing of the EU association and free trade agreement. Below is a breakdown of the risks…

Hungary to Address Foreign-Denominated Loan Repayments

The name and logo of the Hungarian National Bank (Magyar Nemzeti Bank) adorn the main entrance of the bank headquarters in downtown Budapest.(ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Before the end of the year, Budapest will approve new measures to try to help households repay their foreign-denominated loans. In the coming weeks, the debate will revolve around exactly what to do and how to distribute the costs.

Analysis


The Hungarian government's efforts to relieve households struggling to repay their foreign-denominated loans saw a new chapter June 24, when Economy Minister Mihaly Varga said the government would present a "clear and straightforward solution" before the year ends. This comes after the Hungarian Constitutional Court determined that banks should have offered detailed information about the risk when offering those loans and cannot unilaterally change the terms of the loans.

Before the European crisis, foreign-denominated loans, mostly in Swiss francs but also…

Russia: Intimidating Ukraine, Even Through Diplomacy

A man views what is left of his house in Slovyansk, Ukraine, on June 24.(JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary


Russia's upper house withdrew a key resolution June 25 that authorized the Russian military to intervene in Ukraine. By revoking this decree, Moscow aims to demonstrate its commitment to finding a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis. Despite advocating talks between Kiev and the eastern separatists, the Kremlin is focused on protecting its own interests. As long as the Ukrainian government fails to satisfy the Kremlin's main demands, which ultimately boil down to the decentralization and neutralization of Ukraine, Russia will continue supporting the armed separatist movement in eastern Ukraine to apply leverage during its negotiations with Kiev.

Analysis


Russian President Vladimir Putin asked Russia's Federation Council on June 25 to reverse its March decision authorizing military intervention. At the same time, Putin also announced that while he supports Uk…