Global Europe Brief, powered by Facebook: ‘Strategic autonomy’ dreams continued

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EDITOR’s TAKE

‘Strategic autonomy’ strikes again. This time at the EU summit.

EU leaders on Friday (26 February) debated efforts aimed at beefing up the bloc’s defence capabilities and reaffirmed their old vows to slowly develop a joint European military-industrial complex.

However, ambitions of the EU’s role as a ‘geopolitical actor’ remain unheeded as deep divisions remain between member states who see NATO as the main pillar of the continent’s security, and others pushing for a more autonomous path.

How much “strategic autonomy” does the EU need?

French President Emmanuel Macron has been pushing for the EU to stand on its own feet when it comes to security, and no longer rely solely on US military protection.

Last week, Macron said his concept of “European strategic autonomy” in the defence sector did not mean he wanted to drift apart from the United States but that it would make Europe a more reliable partner and strengthen NATO.

“The capacity for the EU to act in a more autonomous way unnerves member states on the front line against Russia because they fear a disengagement from NATO,” one senior EU official said.

The key question remains what ‘strategic autonomy’ would actually mean as it seemingly means different things for anyone between Lisbon and Tallinn. But most member states do not want to play the two institutions off against each other.

→ Read more details on the EUCO discussion here:

EU and NATO leaders aim to expand cooperation, despite dreams of 'strategic autonomy'

EU leaders on Friday (26 February) debated efforts aimed at beefing up the bloc’s defence capabilities. The discussion comes as ambitions of the EU as a ‘geopolitical actor’ remain unheeded.


EU IN THE WORLD

RUSSIA TIES. The EU should target Russian President Vladimir Putin’s close circle of people and ‘hit him where it hurts’, two close associates of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny told reporters in Brussels earlier this week as they were expecting EU foreign ministers decision on possible sanctions. They also warned of the increasing influence of corrupted Russian money in Europe.

Borrell, meanwhile, is still nursing the wounds from his disastrous Moscow trip. He admitted to EU foreign ministers earlier this week that he had mishandled the recent visit , diplomatic sources have told EURACTIV. The European Commission did not confirm this but stressed there had been broad support for the veteran Spanish diplomat.

DRC ATTACK. European Council President Charles Michel expressed his “shock” following the death of Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo in what is believed to have been an attempted kidnapping attack.

PERSONA NON-GRATA. The EU declared Venezuela’s ambassador to the bloc “persona non grata” in a tit-for-tat move after Caracas expelled its own envoy.

GLOBAL TAX. The international community should agree on the establishment of a global minimum corporate tax rate, according to a new UN report. The proposal is part of a package of reforms to combat tax evasion and money laundering, and ensure that cash strapped governments can boost their public finances in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DEFENCE CORNER

EUROPE-AFRICA COMMAND. Moving troops between Africa and Europe more efficiently during a crisis is expected to be streamlined and allow better synchronisation between European NATO allies and Africa, US generals said on Tuesday. The announcement comes after the Pentagon merged the commands responsible for operations in Africa and Europe into a single new combined command last November.

TECH RACE. The European Commission announced three flagship projects – in drone technologies, space communication and space traffic management – aimed at giving the 27-country bloc a competitive edge in these new fields.

PANDEMIC RADICALISATION. Extremist groups, left-wing and right-wing, jihadists and radicals, are taking advantage of the vulnerability created by the pandemic in Europe to spread their message of hate on social networks and the internet, the chief of the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), Catherine De Bolle, has warned.

TRANSATLANTIC LINK

NORD STREAM 2. The US government is confident its sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany will have an impact. In a document obtained by EURACTIV Germany, the State Department lists 18 European companies that have already ended their cooperation with the project.

EURASIA DIGEST

GEORGIA MEDIATION. A group of MEPs have asked European Council President Charles Michel to use his upcoming visit to Georgia to mediate between the government and the opposition, in a bid to address the “rapidly deteriorating political situation” in the country.

NEUTRALITY CALLS. After Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused the military of an attempted coup, an EU spokesman called on the armed forces to “maintain neutrality in political matters” in line with Armenia’s Constitution. Pashinyan defied calls to resign and accused the military of an attempted coup, as divisions over his handling of last year’s war with Azerbaijan brought thousands to the streets.

COURT CASE. Ukraine has accused Russia of targeted assassinations of “perceived opponents” in a case lodged at the European Court of Human Rights, the latest salvo by Kyiv in a barrage of legal complaints against Moscow.


WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING 

ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS…

Europe’s everyday business is still stuck in lockdown reality, until further notice. We’ll keep you updated on all relevant EU foreign affairs news, as we enter a busy spring period.

  • UN, Switzerland and Sweden host Yemen pledging conference
    | Monday, 1 March 2021 | video link
  • European Parliament’s AFET Committee
    | Monday, 1 March 2021 | video link
  • EU trade ministers meet
    | Tuesday, 2 March 2021 | video link
  • European Council President Michel visits Georgia
    | Wednesday, 3 March 2021 | Tbilisi, Georgia

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