This Week’s Hotspots
On Monday, a lorry drove into the largest Christmas market in Berlin leading to 9 deaths and more than 50 people injured. The authorities are looking for a Tunisian suspect. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Earlier on the same day, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot dead by a Turkish gunman angry at Russian involvement in Syria. The police killed the attacker when he refused to surrender.
In reaction to intensifying Russian aggression The United States has resupplied an old Dutch military base, Eygelshoven. The precautionary measure taken by the Obama Administration is meant to strengthen NATO’s presence in Europe and enable the US to form a heavily functioning brigade on the continent.
Meanwhile, European Defense spending is expected to rise as global threats intensify. According to a Bloomberg analysis the anticipated rise in expenditure is set to reach 1.4 percent by 2025.
The European Council held a conference to discuss migration, security, external relations, and youth and economy. Topics on the agenda were control of migration into the EU, the relationship with Ukraine, economic challenges and cooperation with NATO.
Brexit was also on the Agenda, but Theresa May decided to leave the conference right before discussions started. The meeting was aimed at dividing the work among European institutions before the formal initiation of Brexit talks.
During the conference, on the topic of Ukraine, EU member states decided to extend economic sanctions against Russia. Implementation of the Minsk agreement continues to fail and no political solution to the crisis is being reached.
A conference was held in Ireland, jointly organised between the Irish division of the European Migration Network and the Economic and Social Research institute. Oxfam Ireland stated that the European policy for refugees is proactively harming those seeking asylum in a continent that hosts “500 million of the wealthiest people on the planet”.
Poland is at risk of facing sanctions from the EU over its security crackdown aimed at stabilising recent riots. Protests erupted on Saturday when the government decided to limit press access to parliament.
Finland, who will be chairing the Arctic Council from 2017 till 2019, is planning to host a Trump-Putin meeting at the upcoming summit in 2017.
The Swedish government has advised local authorities to prepare the defence infrastructure for a potential outbreak of war with Russia. The decision is seen as part of the return to the Swedish Cold War era “Total Defence Strategy” released last year in reaction to a “worsening international situation” and “increased uncertainty in the immediate area”.
Finally, IMF director Christine Lagarde has been convicted of negligence and failing to protect France’s financial interests while serving as Finance Minister under the Presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy.
The right-wing threat to the EU
The shocking Brexit result and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States seem to have paved the way for the rise of right-wing politicians in the EU. Next tests for the future of the EU will be Angela Merkel’s rerun in Germany and upcoming national elections in The Netherlands. While Merkel is facing strong criticism over her refugee policy the Dutch far-right party led by Geert Wilders is heading the polls in The Netherlands. In Italy the far right five-star party currently leading the polls is exploiting the former prime minister’s resignation. Eyes are also fixed on France and the rise of Marie Le Pen ahead of elections next year.
Terrorists and the EU’s illicit weapon trade
The EU’s counter-terrorism strategy includes the anticipation and prevention of a one-man or ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attack. An added worry in this regard is the potential use of illegal weapons in such an attack. Potential terrorists in Europe are assessed to have the capability to execute large-scale attacks and not only with the use of vehicles like in Nice and Berlin. Serious concerns exist over the continued increase in the smuggling of small-scale weapons. While Kalashnikovs for instance do not appeal much to criminals they could be the weapon of choice for terrorists; they can kill a large number of people quickly.