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Sea change ahead

Portugal — Maritime Economy

Portugal’s beaches are renowned for their surf and sardines but the country’s minister of the seas sees more lucrative opportunities in the coastline. Ana Paula Vitorino wants her historically seafaring nation to ship out once more. “The Portuguese coast needs to become a central aspect of everyday life,” says the minister. To that end, Portugal has applied to extend its continental platform by 200 nautical miles. If approved by the UN, Portugal will control a swathe of ocean the size of Iran – the area includes the current Economic Exclusive Zones of Azores and Madeira islands – meaning the country will have more sea to exploit for mineral exploration and more surface for offshore energy development.

Vitorino’s department is tapping into Portugal’s location and logistical capacity with a target of increasing shipping- container traffic by 200 per cent by 2026. This will be achieved by boosting the role of ports – Sines, Lisbon and Leixões are three hubs that are undergoing expansions.

However, the pace and scale of the plans have set off alarm bells for some. Critics, including the vocal Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association, fear that “resource extraction” will irrevocably damage biodiversity in Portuguese waters.

But Vitorino is arguing for “sustainable commercialisation” and clean-energy opportunities. A floating wind turbine farm off the northern coastal city of Viana do Castelo, the first to exist in open Atlantic waters, is due to open later this year.

As the fishing industry declines while tourism increases, it is clear that Portugal is undergoing an economic sea change. On Vitorino’s to-do list is inducing a change in mindset too. “The Portuguese perceive the sea as something from our past,” she says. “But I believe it is our future.”


Reputation watch

Poland — Law

Up to 20 million people of Polish ancestry live outside Poland. Now the diaspora is being called on to “document and react to manifestations of anti-polonism” by informing their nearby embassy. The appeal was made by the speaker of the Senate, Stanislaw Karczewski and comes hot on the heels of a controversial law introducing a penalty of up to three years in prison for anyone convicted of blaming Poland for the crimes of the Third Reich. But diplomacy and education would be a much better way to defend Poland’s good name, rather than an army of vigilantes.


Tit for tat

Ukraine — Opposition

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili’s dream of making a political comeback in Ukraine hit a snag in February when he was arrested in Kiev and deported to Poland. The firebrand politician was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship last year after falling out with his former ally, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, who had appointed him governor of Odessa in the aftermath of the pro-European revolution of 2014. Forcing his way back into the country last September, Saakashvili reinvented himself as a government critic and had set up a protest camp outside parliament.

But don’t count Saakashvili out yet: the government’s treatment of the former Georgian leader has energised its opponents and given his anti-corruption movement a fresh boost. It’s not unlikely that Saakashvili will make another comeback in Ukraine before next year’s presidential elections.


Q&A – Hisyar Ozsoy

Vice co-chair of foreign affairs, Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP), Ankara

After decades of conflict, a Turkish military offensive on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria has once again escalated tensions between Ankara and its largest minority. The operation follows more than a year of sweeping purges that have jailed Kurdish officials and closed oppositional media outlets. monocle sits down with Hisyar Ozsoy of the pro-Kurd minority-focused Peoples’ Democratic party to put the current events in context.

Has the Afrin strike affected Turkish-Kurdish relations?
Since President Erdogan suspended the peace process in 2015, relations between Kurds and the government have been quite bad, and with this invasion of Afrin, relations have further deteriorated. The Turkish government views Kurds as enemies and is trying to prevent them from forming any kind of autonomous existence in Afrin and other regions. And if it continues on this course, the Kurdish movement will resist this totally unlawful assault.

Several members of the HDP are in jail. With elections on the horizon, can HDP retain enough voter support to remain in parliament?
If there are free and fair elections we should be able to pass the 10 per cent voter threshold required to stay in parliament. But as presidential elections approach, the pressure on the HDP will increase. In 2018 there will be more arrests and detentions. The Turkish government wants to wipe out the opposition. It is hurting us, of course, but I don’t think Erdogan will win in the long run.

What role should the international community play in Turkish-Kurdish relations?
Western politicians have expressed concerns but it seems that the Turkish-Russian intervention in Syria has received some kind of de facto approval. At the end of the day, the West doesn’t want to lose Turkey to Russia and they don’t want to alienate Erdogan.

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