Global Europe Brief: German priorities, Turkish problems & unfreezing talks

Welcome to EURACTIV’s Global Europe Brief, your weekly update on the EU in the global perspective from our foreign affairs news team: Georgi Gotev and Alexandra Brzozowski.

You can subscribe here.

///

GERMAN PRIORITIES

Speaking with one European voice vis-á-vis China, keeping an increasingly assertive Russia at distance, taking a tough stance on Turkey in Libya and saving the waning transatlantic relationship – the next six months in which Germany will be at the helm of the European Council will be busy.

In recent weeks, Chancellor Angela Merkel has already come under heavy criticism from her own party and opposition politicians who say she is not taking a tough enough line on China.

While the notion that Europe expects Germany to lead might sound unremarkable, in the world of German foreign policy, it represents a significant shift after decades of hesitancy. The next six months will show whether Berlin is capable of such a change.

But finding common ground among 27 member states on such thorny issues as dealing with Russia and China could become a challenge, especially as foreign policy decisions usually require unanimity. Some say now might be the time to abolish the principle when it comes to the EU’s foreign policy making.

And then there’s defence.

One of the main objectives under Germany’s EU presidency will be the discussion on the bloc’s newly announced “strategic compass”, a tool meant to align member states’ threat perceptions and still divergent strategic cultures, in what is seen as an attempt to move towards an EU Defence Union.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to re-evaluate military threat perceptions across the EU, defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said while presenting her government’s Council Presidency priorities on security and defence for the next six months.

According to her, member states must link their capabilities “more closely and intelligently”.
However, cuts to the European Commission’s draft defence budget proposal and divergent security priorities across the bloc threaten to make this a ‘Mission Impossible’.

EU IN THE WORLD

TURKISH PROBLEMS. EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell met Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, who publicly threatened the EU with retaliation if further sanctions are imposed on Ankara. The threat was met with a diplomatic appeal for dialogue, which – it is increasingly clear now – sometimes just doesn’t cut it. Many hope that Monday’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Turkey’s role in the Eastern Mediterranean will indicate which way the wind blows.

A number of high-ranking MEPs called on Borrell, to take a tougher stance against Ankara.

At the same time, the German government has made unusually specific statements on Turkey’s Syria policy and criticised the invasion of the Kurdish region there, calling it illegitimate.

More dark clouds might be on the horizon as the US announced on Wednesday (8 July) it plans to conduct military training with Cyprus for the first time, defying NATO ally Turkey, which warned of destabilization.

DEFENCE CORNER

‘HOSPITAL TRAINS’. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to re-evaluate military threat perceptions across the EU, Kramp-Karrenbauer said at the presentation. According to her, this could be achieved by creating a new joint military project of a ‘hospital train’ under the EU’s permanent structured cooperation (PESCO), to be used for medical evacuation operations.

LOOMING DEADLINE. The world’s only remaining nuclear arms control treaty is set to expire in less than a year unless Russia and the US agree to roll it over. While Washington has repeatedly called on China to take part in negotiations to extend it, the overall tone between the three nuclear powers is becoming rough.

HOST COSTS. Germany has spent more than $1 billion over the past decade to cover the costs related to the stationing of US troops on its territory, according to figures by the German finance ministry, which a key government official called “anything but too high”, citing related economic benefits. The publishing of the financial statement comes barely a month after US President Donald Trump announced that he would order a major reduction in US troop capacities in Germany, from around 34,500 personnel down to 25,000.

ENLARGEMENT LATEST

UNFREEZING TALKS. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host together with the EU a video summit on Friday (10 July) between Serbia and Kosovo aimed at easing tensions between the Balkan neighbours. The new push for the talks made by Macron’s office came after Kosovo’s President Hashim Thaci was charged last month with war crimes by prosecutors in The Hague. Additionally, both sides will relaunch talks in Brussels on Sunday (12 July), EU spokesman Peter Stano told reporters in Brussels.

CURFEW CLASHES. In response to the newly tightened COVID-19 measures, a group of opposition supporters stormed the Serbian parliament building in Belgrade in protest against a lockdown planned for the capital this weekend to halt the spread of the virus. Reacting to cases of police brutality the EU warned that the restrictive COVID-19 measures must not threaten fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to peaceful protests, a spokesperson for the European Commission said.

EURASIA DIGEST

ENDANGERED EU LOANS. The EU’s €1.2 billion macro-financial assistance (MFA) programme for Ukraine “could be jeopardised” should the International Monetary Fund (IMF) consider its programme with  Kyiv to be “off-track” because of the recent resignation of the country’s central bank governor.

POLITICAL PERSECUTION. “We are alarmed by continuous attempts to misuse the Ukrainian justice system for politically motivated persecution of political opponents,” said lawmakers from the informal Friends of European Ukraine group, voicing their concern over the legal proceedings against ex-president Petro Poroshenko in June.

BELARUS SANCTIONS. Over 30 MEPs have called for sanctions on the Belarusian leadership over its pre-election crackdown, asking Brussels to “review and expand the list of sanctions against Belarusian officials and companies involved in curtailing human and democratic rights during this election campaign”. At the same time, they expressed support of for a European ‘Magnitsky Act’,  for which EU foreign ministers cleared the way to start work on last December, but which has not borne fruit yet.

KAZAKH RECOVERY. As Kazakhstan faces a new wave of the pandemic that forced authorities to reimpose a two-week quarantine, the country ponders its future in a post-COVID-19 world. In a Special Report, EURACTIV looked into the role of renewables in Kazakhstan’s future, the importance of skills investment and digitisation and asks whether the new economic reality is an opportunity for European investors.

US ELECTION WATCH

It is 117 days until the US Presidential elections and the campaign has taken yet another unexpected turn with rapper Kanye West announcing his bid for the presidency.

What to watch and why it matters: The anti-Trump super PAC, known as The Lincoln Project. With clever campaign ads and searing social media attacks, the group run by a host of so-called never-Trump Republicans has drawn notice to the short-comings that bother Republicans about Trump, COVID-19 handling included. At the same time, another ad by Republican Voters Against Trump was branded as the most effective political ad in recent campaigns.

WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING 

ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT DAYS…

With Europe’s everyday business slowing down for summer break, we’ll continue to keep you updated on all relevant EU foreign affairs news.

  • France, Germany host Kosovo-Serbia summit
    | Friday, 10 July 2020 | videoconference
  • Kosovo-Serbia dialogue
    | Sunday, 12 July 2020 | Brussels, Belgium
  • Foreign Affairs Council
    | Monday, 13 July 2020 | videoconference
  • German foreign minister Heiko Maas in AFET
    | Monday, 13 July 2020 | Brussels, Belgium
  • Brexit negotiators Barnier and Frost meet
    | Monday, 13 July 2020 | Brussels, Belgium
  • German defence minister AKK in SEDE
    | Tuesday, 14 July 2020 | Brussels, Belgium
  • EU-India Summit
    | Wednesday, 15 July 2020 | videoconference
  • European Council on COVID-19 recovery package
    | Thu-Fri, 17-18 July 2020 | Brussels, Belgium

Thanks for reading! 
If you’d like to contact us for leaks, tips or comments, drop us a line. 

Like what you see? Sign up for the full newsletter here, for free!

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe
Contribute