It is quite sad to see the Prime Minister of Greece to celebrate the outcome of a referendum that sent a resounding “No” to the EU proposal for austerity on one day while proposing and passing a budget that fits the essence of austerity on another day (The New York Times 7/10/2015).

There is really no political choice for Prime Minister Tsipras to go against the austerity measure unless he wants to push Greece out of the Euro zone, and the EU member states as well as the international creditors hold the exclusive financial lifeline for the country of almost 11 million people (CIA 7/10/2015). It is on EU’s exclusive terms on whether Greece can stay in the EU.

Being part of the EU is not merely a financial benefit but also a privilege of identity. Joining one of the largest economic and cultural bloc of the world entails the association of a political experiment that goes beyond the Westphalian national sovereignty into a transnational association of states that attempt to strive for the common good. In this day in age, being “European” does not merely mean being on the continent of Europe but also being part of the EU.

Granted, the current situation with Greece is unprecedented, and there seems to be wide consensus that the possibility of forcing Greece out of the EU would set a chain of financial and societal instability in Europe. For now, Europe needs to trust Greece and be a partner, not an antagonizer, to help the endangered EU member out of this agonizing fiscal crisis.

Again, a few hundred billions of Euros might not sound big if it is the cost to stabilize Europe for many generations to come. Europe needs to see the larger picture.

The people in Greece has voted “no” on a national referendum that determined whether Greece should accept the European Union’s demands for further austerity measures in order to receive additional EU bailout funds (The New York Times - 7/5/2015). The vote secures the political future of Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, giving him additional political power to fight for a more favorable financial package from the EU leaders.

Even though the vote signals that the people of Greece oppose additional austerity measures, it does by no way show any significant support for Greece to leave either the Euro currency or the EU. Furthermore, people voting for the austerity vote should not be interpreted as people simply supporting the austerity measures but instead signifies the fear that Greece might be expelled from the EU if austerity measure was not implemented.

Simply, Greece does not want to leave the EU or abandon the currency. It simply does not accept the austerity measures imposed by the EU leaders.

Whether Prime Minister Tsipras’ ability to lift Greece out of the current miserable situation is a question for further debate, but the EU's poor performance in helping Greece brings the question on whether there ought to be a change in leadership in the EU to avert a crisis that might permanently damage the union. The austerity measures brought forth by Germany has the predictable outcome of shrinking Greece’s GDP, which would make it even harder for the country to raise funds to pay for the perpetual financial obligations for years to come.

Should Germany step aside and let other none-austery-centric nation take leadership in Europe? Perhaps.

Or perhaps the existing EU leadership should abandon austerity talks and start a serious conversation on measures on forgiving parts of Greece’s debt. This potential route might cost hundreds of billions of Euros, which is a substantial amount of money. But if there is an attainable, money amount that can avert the possibility of the EU’s slow demise, even several hundreds of billions of Euros might not be a bad amount.

The EU leadership now probably faces the most daunting test that would see whether the European Project survives or slowly deteriorates due the leadership’s refusal to lend a real hand towards Greece.

So far, the ongoing issue of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in order to find safe refuge in the EU has been met with a humanity focus by the EU Commission. By focusing on EU’s responsibilities on taking care of the migrants show the EU Commission’s commitment in protecting the well being as well as basic human rights of all people, even beyond the EU’s borders.

Unfortunately, the discussion on migrant allocation has been met with some moderate resistance among EU member states, and now Germany and France is calling for more equitable allocation of migrant distribution as the two countries argued that they have already contributed much more on this issue than other member states (Deutsche Welle 6/1/2015).

The proper allocation of migrants is a difficult issue but needs to be addressed quickly in order to meet the upcoming demands of processing the refugees. It has already been commented that the EU must also go beyond looking at the short term need of the migrant crisis and also look at long term solutions to meet this humanitarian problem, including the possibility of exercising EU’s foreign policy to stabilize the regions that most migrants come in the first place (DS NETS 5/5/2015).

With EU’s commitments on human rights, it is unfortunately that some EU member states oppose the EU plan of allocating migrants to their country. Driven by anti-immigrant parties, these EU member states are voicing opposition, driving the possibility that the EU allocation plan might not have enough support to materialize (Voice of America 5/27/2015).

If the EU member states fail to approve any migrant allocation plan, which is one of the basic, fundamental first steps in tackling this humanitarian crisis, then it signals the EU’s inability to pass any subsequent medium and long term plan to handle this issue effectively. This is largely driven by the anti-immigration parties in the EU, and these parties do not want migrants from destabilized regions coming into Europe.

In order to even possibly stop the migrants from coming to the EU, the EU member states need to address the question of migrant allocation. However, the anti-immigration parties do not want to entertain the possibility of migrants coming into their home towns, so some EU member states oppose to the migrant allocation plan due to home political pressure.

Why can’t the anti-immigration parties recognize that by opposing the migrant allocation, the EU can’t make any significant steps in preventing migrants coming to the EU in the first place? Unless these parties want strict EU borders to prevent migrants from reaching in the EU in the first place, the anti-immigration parties are blocking the same proposal that is designed to address the problem of migrants in the first place.

If the anti-immigration parties are successful in preventing the EU from making the first step of addressing this migrant problem, then the EU will have to sit helplessly as more migrants come year after year. At a certain point, the issue of migrant allocation will come again, and on that time the issue will be more severe.

This News Comment is updated on the bottom of the original article.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon is expected to visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex to visit South Korean run factories and North Korean workers (Arirang News 5/19/2015). Kaesong, located about six miles north of the Demilitarized Zone, represents a rare economic venture between North and South Korea. According to the US Congressional Research Service, “The [Kaesong Industrial Complex] aims to attract South Korean companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, seeking lower labor and other costs for their manufactured products as an alternative to establishing subsidiaries in China or other low-wage markets.” (4/18/2011) In exchange for providing low cost labor, the North Korean government is not only able to receive infrastructure support from South Korea but also receive US Dollars legitimately.

Given that Kaesong provides a steady stream of US Dollars, it is unlikely that North Korea would jeopardize the industrial project in the name of national pride. Even at the height of nuclear tension in 2013, it was North Korea asking South Korea to consider reopening the complex...after North Korea de facto temporarily shut the complex down a few month earlier (South China Morning Post 8/7/2015). After waves of criticisms and demands to never repeat the unilateral shutting down of the complex by South Korea, Kaesong Industrial Complex reopened (CNN 9/16/2013). Even at the most tensed times, North Korea caved in.

Kaesong Industrial Complex provides a tiny taste of capitalism for the North Korean workers as the North Korean government collects the workers’ wages.

Given years of North Korean cooperation to develop the Kaesong Industrial Complex, there is no question of North Korean government’s ideological tolerance to the capitalism in Kaesong. With limited options of attracting foreign direct investments, it is likely that North Korea’s future actions (including provocations that involve weapon firings to the sea) would be calculated such that it would not cause enough geopolitical destabilization that would jeopardize the Industrial Complex itself.

In a way, allowing the UN Secretary General to visit the Industrial Complex shows North Korea’s desire to get international legitimacy in providing low cost manufacturing options to other foreign investors.

Update: According to the BBC and other news outlets, North Korea has cancelled the UN Secretary General's visit without providing an explanation. The UN Secretary General said the cancellation was "deeply regrettable". Due to lack of information on North Korea's intention, it is difficult to provide analysis on the situation, but it is possible that some type of domestic instability resulting from an internal power change might have played a role in the cancellation (DS NETS 5/14/2015).

One of the major South Korean newspaper reported that the reason for the execution of the former North Korean Army chief was due to the chief dozing off during a meeting. (Chosunilbo 5/14/2015) While getting verifiable from North Korea has traditionally been challenging, the execution of Hyon Yong-chol seems to be verified according to South Korea’s National Intelligence Service. However, there are still experts that doubt whether the Army chief was executed. (New York Times 5/14/2015)

Regardless of whether the execution has taken place, the rift between the old guard and Kim Jung Un’s younger generation seems to be growing in North Korea. Suddenly promoted to the top of command from an almost unknown son of the previous leader, Kim Jung Il, Kim Jung Un has been attempting to consolidate his political power in the isolated regime. The executing of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, represents Kim Jung Un’s unrelenting strategy of purging those who might oppose him regardless of rank. In the mean time, Kim Jung Un wasted no time promoting his 26 year old sister Kim Yo-jong to a senior official of the ruling Worker’s party. (Telegraph 11/27/2014)

The purging of the old and promoting of the new is inevitably bringing to a potential coup. Especially without having total control and loyalty from the Army, Kim Jung Un might be facing growing silent dissenters within the Army ranks. The possible execution of the Army chief might have been done to instill fears within the country, but the leader of North Korea might have increased discontentment among the old ranks in the Army and the party. Without absolute loyalty from all ranks in North Korea’s power structure, there is a growing potential of a power restructure without Kim Jung Un on top.

The recent coup development in Burundi might provide insight to what North Korea leadership might be planning in the next several years. (Reuters 5/14/2015) If the North Korean leadership believes that there is even a small discontentment against Kim Jung Un within the party, then Kim Jung Un will not leave North Korea no matter how important potential diplomatic opportunities he might achieve abroad. Just like how the President of Burundi was attempted to be ousted by a discontent Army general, if Kim Jung Un leaves North Korea with some discontent party base, there is a possibility that a coup might occur in North Korea while Kim Jung Un is abroad.

This would potentially leave several consequences. North Korea will sacrifice developing foreign courtship with its allies in order to weed out potential dissenters by using any means possible. While the success of the regime to solidify support via eliminating dissention is now questionable, what is certain is the diplomatic rift between North Korea and its closest allies: China and Russia. Already, the Chinese leadership is displeased on North Korea’s way of continuously destabilizing the Korean peninsula (New York Times 4/13/2013), and it has been reported that even Russia demanded North Korea to discontinue to Nuclear program as the condition for allowing Kim Jung Un to attend the significant 70th anniversary of World War II victory parade in Moscow ( 5/11/2015), which Kim Jung Un did not attend. (CNN 4/30/2015) Ultimately, North Korea is continuously going to be isolationist, perhaps even with its allies, and conditions within the country will deteriorate due to UN sanctions.

While it is almost impossible to know when North Korea will have a significant leadership change, it seems that the current diplomatic and domestic conditions in North Korea are at best in facilitating a potential coup.


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