This Week’s Hotspots
The power of negotiation wins! The Belgium government reached a deal with the region of Wallonia on the EU-Canada free trade agreement known as CETA. The official acceptance by Wallonia on Thursday removes the last obstacle the trade agreement faced within the EU.
Also concerns over Russian policies dominated the European Council’s plenary session. European Council President Donald Tusk reported that EU leaders were “without illusions” on the current state of the EU-Russian relationship. “Disinformation campaigns, cyber-attacks, political interference – as Russia tries to weaken and split the EU, we need to stick to our values and stand united”, the President said.
Yet Serbia voiced a positive approach, as it stated it aims to act as a bridge in the normalisation of EU-Russia relations. The Serbian President expressed the country’s position after meeting with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) representative to Serbia.
In France, police officers protested the poor condition of France’s Internal Security Forces. The officers are expressing frustration over a lack of efficient equipment and legal restraints to defending themselves. The incident that sparked the protests was a gang attack with Molotov cocktails that wounded four policemen.
… also in France, Hollande hailed the evacuation of the Calais Camp which was hosting the biggest number of refugees in the country, in dreadful conditions. The refugees had aimed to reach the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, charities say more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors have been left in the camp.
France’s neighbour Germany, is continuing counterterrorism operations throughout the country. German policemen conducted 13 break-ins as part of investigations that have targeted asylum seekers, including citizens from the Russian federation, who are suspected of supporting the Islamic States (IS).
Furthermore, the Members of European Parliament (MEP)’s Foreign Affairs committee called upon the EU last Monday to establish a common defence policy as well as a European Headquarters from where to command and manage multinational forces for rapid deployment. They further urged member states to set defence spending at 2% of GDP (a NATO requirement). Additionally, they launched a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operation in Iraq.
Did you hear?… The EU parliament awarded two Yezidi women who managed to flee sexual enslavement by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq the Sakharov Prize for freedom of speech. The young women campaign for the fate of the Yezidi people and for human rights.
Lastly, Moldova has held its first presidential elections in 20 years on Sunday. The battle was split between the pro-Russian bloc and those promoting integration with the EU. The election will go into another round next month, as the pro-Russian candidate was unable to obtain a majority of votes.
Creating a European Army
Creating a joint European Army and opting for closer defence cooperation seems attractive – on paper. In reality, not all 28 states may be capable of taking on an equal burden to major states in terms of military equipment. However, Lithuania and Latvia, who share borders with Russia, are showing exemplary cooperation. The two countries reached a deal to acquire a common air defense system. Yet, similar initiatives have failed to crystallise. The push for more integrated European forces will be complex.
The Asian March to the Arctic
The Arctic has caught Asian countries’ attention for several reasons. Their intention to acquire scientific knowledge there is motivated by climate change. Climate change is impacting upon the Asian geographic space and economic activity. Asian states have clearly expanded interference in the Arctic in three ways. They have increased their participation in international conferences related to the region. They have increased their involvement in Joint Scientific projects and research stations around the Arctic Ocean. And lastly, they have encouraged the training of domestic experts on the region and a rising amount of Asian researchers are publishing on the Arctic.
UN Report on Refugees
In a recent report on refugees, the UN reflected on the possible evidence that the Islamic State (IS) and other terrorist organisations may have used migrant flows for radicalisation purposes. According to the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, however, “there is no evidence that migration leads to increased terrorist activity. Migration policies that are restrictive or that violate human rights may in fact create conditions conducive to terrorism”. Thus, a harsh approach by European member states’ to migration policy could actually make Europe more prone to terrorist attacks.