“FOUR billion people will be called to vote... That’s a unique element of this year”
The New Year is full of tensions and conflicts in an increasingly complex world facing multiple challenges. Here, Pol Morillas, Director of the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, or CIDOB, analyses some of the current geopolitical trends.
At CIDOB, you define 2024 as a year of ballot boxes and weapons...
Yes, not all elections will be equally free. There will be elections in Russia, for example, and in the great democratic pillars of the world – although they also have problems when it comes to the quality of democracy: in the US, in the whole of the EU, in India... Indeed, four billion people will be called to vote. That’s a pretty unique element of this year.
What about conflicts?
We’re facing a scenario of very large international conflict, a greater number of active focal points than in recent decades. The war in Gaza, the war in Ukraine and others that we talk less about but are equally important, such as Sudan, Yemen...
What characterises this scenario of conflict?
That they are not only localised conflicts: there’s often the possibility of regional escalation. All of the international powers have something to say about many of these conflicts and what comes next. There’s no longer a police officer of the world, as the US used to be called, but many international actors, starting with China, but also Russia, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Do we turn to war as a way of resolving conflicts?
Every international conflict has its own local logic, as we see now in Gaza, for example. But there are additional elements: a much more competitive international order in which the great powers understand that we have entered effective multipolarity and in which everyone tries to defend their interests through alliances in each of these conflict scenarios. And conflict resolution frameworks, the guarantors of international peace and security, such as the United Nations Security Council, are especially inoperative because they’re subject to these dynamics of geopolitical confrontation, of national interests to the extreme, and no one therefore has the capacity to activate multilateral or global crisis resolution mechanisms.
Why are June’s European elections important?
It will be a time to account for European actions in recent crises: the pandemic – the Next Generation funds, their use and joint debt – and the response to the war in Ukraine. But it will also decide what Europe we want for the coming years. And this Europe has a kind of discourse, contained until now, of returning to the nation state, of devolution of powers to member states. And this is defended by Eurosceptic parties as a whole, which are not always far right. We’ll see what majority is formed in the European Parliament and from there will come the issue of migration and asylum, fiscal rules, the green transition... and, externally, whether Von der Leyen’s idea of geopolitical Europe is consolidated, of being a power in itself in a much more multipolar and much more confrontational world of interests.