Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Sitrep - Feb 2, 2016

As the northern hemisphere winter ends, Greece is warning that refugee numbers will swell. The embattled country is already struggling under the weight of thousands of new refugees in 2015, but an extra 50,000 to 70,000 predicted per month during spring may push the fragile economy to breaking point.

Spring is also reinvigorating movements along the “Balkan route” into Europe, where tens of thousands of refugees are presently stuck on the wrong side of the border. Clashes are increasing between refugees and border police. This unrest is especially worrisome given the history of Muslim and Christian animosity in the region.

A cease-fire organised for the Syria conflict continues to hold, but only just. Over the first few days after the February 27 truce came into effect, Russia cancelled its airstrikes and shelling by regime forces stopped. However, strikes, shelling and gunfire are reportedly increasing across the Syrian theatre this week.

It is in Russia’s interest to maintain the truce for as long as possible, in order to capitalise on the momentum of its recent engagements and to re-arm. But Moscow does not control either the regime forces, extremist groups or the rebels. Each of which have their own reasons for violating the cease-fire.

Ireland’s elections over the weekend continue an EU-wide trend of antipathy for establishment parties, with voters rejecting the government of Prime Minister Enda Kenny. Regardless of the exact mix of the next coalition, the new government will have to balance economics with politics to maintain the surprisingly healthy recovery achieved by the Irish economy over the past few years.

Ireland registered 6.9% growth in 2015, making it the fastest recovering EU country. Unemployment is also down. However, while the country is healthier, its severe austerity continues to frustrate voters, particularly where they concern the disproportionately low level of public spending. The financial crisis is not over, but as the politics cools the economy will return to centre stage.

No comments: