Global Europe Brief: ‘Coalitions of the Willing’, Balkan disappointment & Hungary’s ‘Eastern Opening’

Your weekly update on the EU from the global perspective.

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The Global Europe Brief takes a small break this week.
We’re back with our regular edition next week.


EU IN THE WORLD

VACCINE TRADE-OFFS? When the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) was agreed “in principle” last December, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron were rather satisfied. But things have gone downhill since then. Some insiders say there has been more to Franco-German efforts to clinch the deal than has been reported.

BELARUS SANCTIONS. The EU is readying a fourth round of sanctions against senior Belarus officials in response to last year’s disputed presidential election and could target as many as 50 people from June, four diplomats said.

MIGRATION PACT. European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has acknowledged that progress on the new Pact for Migration and Asylum, proposed by the European Commission in September, has been “slow”.

DELAYED PARTNERSHIP. Talk of an EU–Africa partnership may have only emerged in the last two years, but the promise of better trade and political relations with its southern ‘sister continent’ came from Jean-Claude Juncker, who set out plans for a continent–to–continent trade deal and a change in the narrative in 2018.

But both EU and AU officials are adamant that the pandemic has not derailed the ‘partnership strategy’. Instead, they say, one consequence of COVID is likely to be a focus on greater cooperation on healthcare and other policy topics. Read more in our policy brief here.

EU-UK DISCRIMINATION. There has been confusion over whether EU citizens with pre-settled status enjoy the same rights to welfare benefits in the UK such as universal credit and housing benefit as those with settled status and British nationals.

A quarter of EU citizens living in the UK do not feel they are treated equally to UK citizens, according to the first survey of EU citizens by the watchdog set to protect their rights published on Thursday.

TRANSATLANTIC TAKE

CLIMATE TALK. Implementing a border levy to price carbon-intensive imports and protect European industries will be “extremely complicated,” warned Jonathan Pershing, a member of the US climate envoy’s team. But despite reservation over Europe’s carbon border levy, the US is also considering the idea.

DEFENCE CORNER

‘COALITIONS OF THE WILLING’. There is ‘clarity of understanding’ that circumstances for European defence have changed and there is an increased recognition Europe cannot be geopolitically relevant without having a military dimension, Portugal’s defence minister, João Gomes Cravinho, told EURACTIV in an interview.

KFOR WITHDRAWAL? An unnamed great power is launching a demand to withdraw NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) and United Nations Mission (UNMIK) from Kosovo, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Thursday, adding that he will ask NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to step in.

CIVIL PROTECTION. EU member states this week approved a strengthened EU Civil Protection Mechanism, with new rules to better prepare for emergencies like forest fires, and more resources allowing a faster response to new threats such as pandemics.

GERMAN DEFENCE. German defence projects with a total value of several billion euros are at risk of being scrapped as the necessary budget has not been secured yet, according to a confidential paper by the defence ministry in Berlin.

B9 GROUP. Leaders of the Bucharest Nine (B9) group condemned acts of sabotage committed by Russia on NATO territory and expressed their view that the Atlantic alliance members must address the security implications of China’s global rise together.

ENLARGEMENT LATEST

‘DEEP DISAPPOINTMENT’. The EU is facing lingering nationalism, a weak economy and widespread disappointment with its fading EU membership prospects due to a stop-go enlargement process in the Western Balkan region, according to a preparatory working document, seen by EURACTIV.

At the same time, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi’s proposal to press ahead with accession talks with Albania but exclude North Macedonia, for now, has sparked criticism in Austria and beyond.

PHOTO-OPS. Janez Janša surprised everyone by deciding to unveil the priorities of Slovenia’s presidency of the Council of the EU during a trip to Greece this week. If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is – we’ve seen Western Balkans summits come and go, usually amounting to little more than photo opportunities, writes Zoran Radosavljevic.

VETO CONTINUED. Facing pressure from EU members, the Bulgarian ambassador to the EU explained to EU ministers his country’s decision to veto the start of neighbouring North Macedonia’s accession negotiations. Spoiler alert: The change of government in Bulgaria is unlikely to change the country’s position vis-à-vis Skopje, in the absence of tangible progress at the bilateral level.

BOSNIA GAME. EU leaders should reject any new talk of ethnic division and secession in the western Balkans and finally make good on their promises to the region’s nations, write MEPs Tineke Strik and Viola von Cramon-Taubadel in EURACTIV.

EURASIA DIGEST

‘EASTERN OPENING’. The Hungarian government has been boasting of its trade policy’s Eastern success, but data shows that the country’s economic reliance on the EU has not changed since 2010, and the promised Eastern opportunities have not materialised, EURACTIV’s media partner Telex reports.

REBALANCED RELATIONS. Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva has said that he would like Portugal’s EU Presidency to be remembered as the “one that rebalanced the relationship with Asia”.

GEORGIA RELEASE. Georgia this week released jailed opposition leader Nika Melia on bail posted by the EU, in a move expected to defuse a political crisis in the Caucasus country.

EU-KAZAKHSTAN. Former European Commission Vice President Günther Oettinger called for elevating the EU-Kazakhstan relations to “a new level”, inviting the European business to invest more in added-value products manufactured in the Central Asian country.


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 Europe is slowly moving towards an opening after the pandemic.

  • Western Balkan leaders annual meeting on EU accession
    | Monday, 17 May 2021 | Kranj, Slovenia
  • European Parliament plenary session
    | Mo-Thu, 17-20 May 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
  • US envoy to Afghanistan testifies in Congress on troop withdrawal countdown
    | Tuesday, 18 May 2021 | Washington, United States
  • Russian Duma debates end to Open Skies security treaty with US
    | Wednesday, 19 May 2021 | Moscow, Russia
  • Ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council
    | Wednesday, 19 May 2021 | Reykjavik, Iceland
  • EU trade ministers meet
    | Thursday, 20 May 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
  • G20 Global Health Summit
    | Friday, 21 May 2021 | Rome, Italy

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