This Week’s Hotspots
Last week, the Italian police shot the 24-year-old Tunisian Berlin attacker Anis Amri. The suspect fled to from Germany to Italy via France.
Frontex has warned the European Union of Islamic State members weaponising and mobilising refugees in camps. Europol’s latest report stresses on a tendency for the refugees to radicalise: “Given that it is in the interests of IS to inflame the migration crisis to polarise the EU population and turn sections of it against those seeking asylum, some infiltration of refugee camps and other refugee/migrant groups is likely,” the report said.
Further on Europol, the European Parliament approved Georgia’s membership to the organisation. Georgia’s Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Mgebrishvili stated that the move would increase information sharing and enable the country to adopt a European policing module.
The EU-Arab League summit joined ministerial personnel from both sides for the fourth time. The conference resulted in a joint statement on Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine. The two parties reemphasised the importance of their cooperation to combat rising threats.
The Polish government stated that it would not endorse the President of the European Council Donald Tusk for a second term.
Vladimir Putin expressed interest in developing and strengthening ties with the European Union. During a press conference he urged the Union to speak with a single voice.
Russia’s energy company Gazprom submitted its settlement proposal to the European Commission to resolve its antitrust case. The Commission has accused the company of monopolistic practices that have hindered competition over gas pricing.
Meanwhile, Serbia is seeking a stronger defence relationship with Russia. The country however reassured its neutrality, expressing its continued motivation to join the European Union.
In Europe’s south, Eurozone creditors agreed to debt-relief measures for Greece to ease the tensions in the country. The step is seen as a test of the country’s readiness for the final stages of the bailout.
According to the BBC’s political Editor Laura Kuenssberg, the Queen made comments supporting the Brexit move before the referendum took place. The Sunday Times has also touched upon this in March 2016.
EU Challenges in 2017
2016 has been a tough year for the European Union with the refugee crisis, terrorist attacks, and Brexit – 2017 will be critical. France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, and Slovenia will hold crucial elections for the cohesiveness of the EU, as the Liberalism that beat communism during the Cold War is struggling to stay in touch with the general population. Socio-economic issues, and issues such as burka bans, same sex marriage and EU ‘exit’ or ‘stay’, will dominate as politicians will capitalise on them to gather votes.
The EU-Russia Relationship in 2017
EU-Russia relationship has strongly declined since 2014. However, the election of US President Donald Trump may actually cause EU and Russian interests to converge again. Even though Vladimir Putin speaks of the need for a stronger EU policy and solidifying the relationship with the EU, it is unlikely that both sides will soon agree on how to achieve those goals. Russia’s bilateral relationships with countries like France and Italy, however, remain quite strong. The Union’s crisis might just force both sides to elevate their relationship as they are put to the test on the regional and international level.