This Week’s Hotspots
Over 20 heads of state took part in the three day Munich Security Conference. Talks focused on the prospect of NATO, and the relationship with the US and the European Union. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, stated: “NATO and the European Union in the last seven months have developed 42 common projects, concrete projects from cyber- to maritime cooperation”. Also the role of Russia in Ukraine and Syria, and defence spending, were discussed.
At the Security Conference, furthermore, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “Islam is not the source of terror” and called on Europe to welcome more refugees based on its human rights obligations. She also emphasised the importance of cooperation to combat terrorism, rather than adopting radical policies.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende will visit Russia for the 4th International Forum “The Arctic- Territory of Dialogue” which will take place in Arkhangelsk. The trip is the first of its kind for a Norwegian foreign minister in three years.
Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former president who resides in Russia, has allegedly presented a Ukraine peace plan to President Donald Trump to end the enduring conflict. According to analysts, the proposal is unlikely to be taken seriously because Yanukovych lacks support from the domestic population and is barely trusted by the West.
French anti-fraud officers raided National Front’s headquarters to investigate whether the political party used European Parliament funds for fake job salaries. The spokesperson of the far-right party’s presidential candidate Marie Le Pen said that it was a “media operation whose goal is to disturb the course of a presidential campaign.”
Donald Tusk was re-elected to the European Council. An overwhelming number of member states supported Tusk’s amidst harsh criticism from Polish official figures.
The United Kingdom will face tough negotiations over the cost of exiting the EU over the next two years. According to the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, “The British people have to know, they know already, that it will not be at a discount or zero cost. The British must respect commitments they were involved in making. So the bill will be, to put it a bit crudely, very hefty.”
“With elections coming up this year in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and perhaps Italy, European intelligence services across the Continent have sounded the alarm about Russian attempts to influence the outcome though targeted disinformation and propaganda, as they appeared to do in the U.S. presidential election. […] But in the face of this mounting pressure, one of Russia’s neighbours has emerged unusually resistant to the wider information war waged by Moscow across Europe: Finland. […]. Unlike its neighbors, Helsinki reckons it has the tools to effectively resist any information attack from its eastern neighbour. Finnish officials believe their country’s strong public education system, long history of balancing Russia, and a comprehensive government strategy allow it to deflect coordinated propaganda and disinformation.”
“French politics in the past few decades has been characterised by a relatively stable alternation in power between a center-right party (recently renamed the Republicans), standing for market liberalisation and traditional social values, and its center-left rival (the Socialist Party), which stands for more social welfare and economic redistribution. […] Today, these parties are but shadows of their former selves. Facing historically low approval ratings, the incumbent Socialist president, François Hollande, decided not to seek re-election. His former prime minister, Manuel Valls, lost in the primaries against the outsider Benoît Hamon, whose signature proposal for a universal basic income succeeded in mobilising support from the far left of the party’s base but seems to have little chance of being taken seriously by the broader electorate.”