This Week’s Hotspots
Canada’s International Trade Minister walked out on Wallonia after CETA negotiations reached an impasse. The Belgian regional government, which represents 3.5 million Europeans, is posing a threat to ratification of the trade agreement that will increase access to Canadian goods to over 500 million EU residents.
On the other side of the world, Iraqi forces have launched the long-awaited Mosul offence. In reaction, on October 18, The EU commissioner for security union Julian King called to secure the European borders. King fears that the recapturing of the city will cause ISIS foreign fighters to return from Mosul.
Nevertheless, Aleppo was also on the EU’s list of ‘key topics’ for debate. The EU officially condemned Russian atrocities in the besieged city. However, Italy opposed EU sanctions on Russia over Syria and called for diplomatic initiatives to alleviate the situation.
Also, the EU-Indian relationship is likely to deepen after both parties signed their Memorandum of Understanding last week. The EU will be sharing its experience on water law and governance with the Indian government with the goal of improving the country’s water management.
… Shifting to the EU border, signatories are starting to implement the Turkish-EU refugee deal, in place since March. Recently, Turkey took in 59 migrants whose asylum claims had been rejected by Greece, as well as 15 Syrians that did not undergo the asylum procedure.
Meanwhile, Greece will be receiving 200 million euros in EU aid, of a total of 700 million euros pledged to Greece as part of the refugee deal in March. The money will go to refugee-related projects to mitigate the massive migrant influx.
Anyhow! European Union leaders agreed on Friday to modernise European tools to defend it against unfair trade practices. John Claud Juncker expressed his disdain of protectionism; yet, he differentiated between harmful protectionist practices and the need to protect the interests of the Union.
Across the Channel, Scotland is calling for equal treatment in the Brexit talks, as the UK hosted a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) last Monday. The Brits met with the leaders of Schotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the first time since the British vote.
Finally, Lithuania casted its second round of voting for the parliamentary election on the 23rd of October, which will determine the faith of 68 seats.
European military training does not equal the creation of a military
Pauline Massart, deputy director for security and geopolitics at the think tank Friends of Europe, elaborated on the positive impacts of a more joint European military. She believes the elevation of military training from the national to the European level will strengthen EU’s “cross-fertilisation of ideas”. She states the initiative will create a sense of unity among European member states without infringing on their sovereignty. Cooperation between countries will facilitate the deployment of European military forces through increased interoperability and modernisation.
Russia and NATO’s power struggle over the Baltic
Ever since the Russian-Ukrainian conflict ignited in 2014, NATO has had its guards up regarding the Baltic. The Baltic region is of high geographic importance to Russia, with its oil and gas resources, important trade routes, and as a geographical challenge to Western dominance. The North Pole is also of great strategic interest, as exploitation of Arctic resources could enable Russia to dominate the energy market in the future.
Growing EU scepticism in Central Europe
Far right movements have captured elements of the young generation of Central Europe. In Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland scepticism and disdain towards the political establishment are intensifying. Neoconservative parties are succeeding by highlighting daily problems the average population can relate to. With the refugee crisis, and extremism and unemployment on the rise, citizens disappointed in the typical political parties are won over by populist and nationalistic rhetoric.
*Military Interoperability: “the ability of military equipment or groups to operate in conjunction with each other” (Oxford Dictionary of English).