This Week’s Hotspots
The EU migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, urged member states to implement the refugee quotas assigned by the agreement reached by the EU. During a meeting with EU Interior Ministers in Malta, the German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, seconded Mr Avramopoulos and stated that Germany and France have contributed to a new draft agreement that offers compromises. He however did not reveal details.
EU officials have revealed their intentions to extend Schengen border controls for another three months. The proposal requires the approval of member states before adoption.
Julian King, the EU security commissioner, warned for a potential increase in cyber attacks. He stated there is a need to shed light on the rising issue because entities “use cyberspace to spread doubt about our [European] political systems.”
Europol reported a 10-fold increase in information sharing within the EU. Over the past two years, member states have increasingly supplied the EU with suspected terrorist lists. Nevertheless, Europol Director Rob Wainwright said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that while there is increased willingness to share information, it remains a challenge to share enough information to preempt a lone wolf attack “that is very difficult to stop”.
The EU is increasing the funds for the East StratCom taskforce in response to fake news originating in Russia and spreading through France, Germany and the Netherlands. More than 2,500 fake news articles aimed at damaging the stability of the EU have been found.
At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov stated that Russia had not curbed its relationship with the EU, dismissing the effects of EU sanctions on the country. On the other hand, the Slovakian Foreign Minister, Miroslav Lajčák said it would be good for Russia to integrate with the EU, in order to face global challenges and to reflect its global position, as the two parties currently lack the bilateral agreements necessary to cooperate.
At the Arctic Frontiers conference in Norway international environmental organisations, along with Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Hurtigruten, and Dr Sian Prior, the Clean Arctic Alliance’s lead advisor, backed the ban on the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic.
The British government released a bill containing two clauses that offer the Commons five days to trigger Article 50. On an optimistic note, Brexit’s secretary, David Davis hoped that the parliament “will respect the decision taken by the British people and pass the legislation quickly”.
In the Netherlands, the government announced an international fund to enable women’s access to abortion in reaction to Trump’s reverse of the US abortion policy concerning aid to NGOs.
Preparing for Trump
Norway has positioned its F-16 fighter jets on standby in the Arctic. The reassertion of Russia’s military force, along with Donald Trump’s statements, led Norway to assign additional troops to the protection of transatlantic security. According to Norwegian defence officials, “European unity is fragile: While northern and eastern Europe see Russia as the biggest looming problem, southern Europeans are stressed by migration flows from Syria and elsewhere”. Fearing the Trump administration’s lack of strong commitment to the security of NATO, Norway will spend the coming years upping its defence weapons against potential attacks.
The UK turns to America, away from the EU
The UK has landed the first post-inaugural meeting with President Donald Trump. In doing this, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, might be searching for a trade deal, a better alliance against Russia, and cooperation on an aggressive approach to ISIS. Trump might be relying on May to enhance his image in the Media, and aim to push NATO member states to increase their defence spending. Depending on its outcome, the first meeting might raise a lot of new issues.