Weekly WBE Monitor #8

This Week’s Hotspots

 Last week, Amnesty published a paper reporting the derogatory methods used against migrants by the Italian authorities. According to the report police officers used measures amounting to torture and abuse to coerce those who refused to get fingerprinted. Taking the fingerprints of migrants is a EU obligation aimed at preventing them from claiming asylum elsewhere in Europe.

Continuing on the same issue, Turkey threatened to cancel the EU migrant deal if its citizens are not granted visa-free access to the Union, which the EU promised as part of the deal. Ankara‘s patience ran out when EU officials expressed how unlikely it is that this part of the bargain will turn into reality soon. As part of the agreement, the EU namely also expects Turkey to move away from (recently adopted) aggressive law enforcement measures.

 Close-by, Cyprus and Greece have taken initiative on behalf of the European Defence Agency (EDA) by hosting a group of experts looking into the protection of the EU energy infrastructure.

In Britain, the Lord Chief Justice and the judges of the High Court ruled on November 3rd that PM Theresa May needs parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50 and initiate Brexit. The government, nonetheless, is seeking to appeal the verdict by December. It is seen that this ruling empowers lawmakers to pressure the new PM to obtain a “soft” exit from the Union.

In other EU politics, the 5th annual Summit of the Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (China-CEEC Cooperation) took place in Riga on Saturday. China announced an $11 billion investment fund to finance infrastructure and technology-related manufacturing projects in the Central and Eastern European countries.

Another summit, taking place from the 3rd to 4th of November in Athens, aimed to foster EU-Arab cooperation. The conference focused on the strengthening of collaboration on migration, terrorism and refugees.

However, one of the EU developments that stood out most this week was the approval from the EU for Mahan Airlines to fly commercial flights over European territory. The airline is the second largest in Iran but is allegedly affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and under terror-related sanctions by the US since 2011.

 Iran also found a new partner in Greece, who defied EU and US sanctions against Iran. According to the Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, a new deal struck with Iran serves in favour of cheaper oil supply to Greece. Some say this might initiate a broader decay of the sanctions-regime on Iran.

Did you know? Russia has dug up a secret Nazi base in the Arctic dating back to WW2. Scientists were able to access the military station due to rising temperatures and the consequent defrosting of the ice.

… and lastly, Bulgaria held its first round of presidential elections last Sunday. The polls so far predict a success for the Russian-leaning former air force commander Rumen Radev. Current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has promised to call for early parliamentary elections if she loses the presidential race.

Selected Pieces

(Analysis) The New Approach to the Russian-West Narrative

A report was published last October by two prominent experts on Russian foreign policy called “Detachment Instead of Confrontation: Post-European Russia In Search of Self-Sufficiency”. The document discussed why the Kremlin should disengage with the EU rather than to confront it. It is argued that the typical arguments of Russia and the West have only resulted in the reproduction of stereotypes. According to Fyodor Lukyanov, Russia must take a new standpoint and “look at Europe as an extremely important partner, but not as an existential condition for our [Russia’s] normal development.”

 Nord Strom 2

A new Russian-German gas pipeline is being constructed by Russia’s state-owned company Gazprom, in cooperation with a number of Western European countries. Notably, this initiative has resulted in an unprecedented coalition between the German Christian Democrats and the Green Party as they both oppose the project. As they see it, the new pipeline is being built from a pure political, not economic, standpoint. Both political parties reject the idea of supporting Russia economically, as it will enable Russia to increase its military presence in Syria.

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