Global Europe Brief: No summit, no cry?

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.

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SANCTIONS SUMMIT DELAY

The EU summit postponement might have come at the right time.

After Turkey and Greece have agreed to talks over disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean, the EU seems to be unlikely to follow through on a threat to impose sanctions on Ankara. In parallel, technical military talks are underway at NATO level.

But that’s only one of the sanction issues at hand. The fate of proposed sanctions on some 40 senior Belarusian officials is up in the air, eroding EU credibility as it seeks to support a pro-democracy movement in Belarus.

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya urged the EU to show courage and impose sanctions on longtime-strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, as the bloc continued to face internal squabbles.

Deep divisions have long been threatening to turn the EU’s foreign policy into a toothless tiger, abolishing the principle of unanimity, as some have suggested in past weeks, might not necessarily be the solution – only think of the example of Cyprus, blocking the proposed EU sanctions against Belarus, citing the bloc’s inaction over Turkish aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“I don’t blame Cyprus for anything. But it is perfectly clear that we need Cyprus in order to gain unanimity,” the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters after this week’s meeting of EU foreign ministers, adding that he “perfectly understands the situation of Cyprus”.

Indeed, some might call it ‘hostage taking’, but it was a desperate act by a small country to make fellow member states care about a threat that does not look too existential to most other members.

Waiting for next week’s rescheduled summit, have a look at EURACTIV’s video explainer which gives you a closer look at how the EU’s sanction regime works and what the current challenges are. → EU sanctions explained

EU IN THE WORLD

MIGRATION PACT. The European Commission proposed to member states to share responsibility for asylum seekers under a “mandatory solidarity” mechanism. With the new migration pact, it hopes to avert a replay of the 2015 migration crisis by giving the countries a choice between taking in migrants or helping to send them back home.

The new proposal cause mixed reactions around Europe, with the Eastern European countries rejecting the EU’s latest plans after talks with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels, and insisting that the plans for tougher new asylum rules do not go far enough.

AFRICA SUMMIT. Talks on a new EU-Africa partnership have been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, conceded, as a key summit of the two sides has been postponed until 2021. In March the European Commission unveiled a document intended to kick-start a six-month consultation process that would culminate in a new blueprint to be agreed at the EU-African Union summit in October.

EU-CHINA RELATIONS. China accepts well-intended criticism coming from the EU, but it does not accept malicious attacks and will not allow anyone to meddle in its internal affairs, the country’s ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee (AFET). His comments came a week after EU and Chinese leaders agreed at a virtual summit to speed up negotiations and conclude before the end of the year a long-standing investment deal, despite Europe’s lingering concerns over Beijing’s human rights record and its treatment of Hong Kong.

DEFENCE CORNER

MILITARY MOBILITY. Since the 1990s, European infrastructure has been developed purely for civilian purposes, but military aspects have in recent years gained in importance as they could fill funding gaps for dual-use infrastructure projects.

NORDIC DEFENCE. Defence ministers of Finland, Sweden and Norway met this week in the town of Lemmijoki in northern Norway to discuss Nordic defence cooperation and matters related to regional security. According to analysts, however, the meeting was more than meets the eye. 

ABANDONING TARGETS. The Czech Republic will not spend 2% of its GDP on defence by 2024 and will not fulfil its NATO pledge, Finance Minister Alena Schillerová and Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar announced this week, EURACTIV.cz’s Ondřej Plevák reports.

ENLARGEMENT LATEST

NEW PARLIAMENT. Democratic Front MP Milan Knezević announced that his alliance had nominated Aleksa Bečić, leader of the coalition Peace is Our Nation, as the Montenegrin speaker, and Zdravko Krivokapić, the lead name on the list titled “For the Future of Montenegro” as the country’s prime minister-designate, EURACTIV.rs reports.

EURASIA DIGEST

PARTNERSHIP MISSING. The EU’s Eastern Partnership is often touted by European officials as one of the bloc’s most foreign policies but it was barely mentioned in Commission president’s first annual address, despite calls for more political signalling.

REFORMS, REFORMS. The EU’s support for Ukraine will continue, but the “EU is not a charity or cash machine” and support “is also linked to the urgent need to enhance the rule of law and develop the fight against corruption,” the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said amid growing concerns of stalling reforms and attacks on anti-graft institutions in the post-Soviet country.

‘GLOBAL DYSFUNCTION’. Kazakhstan was a target of disinformation earlier this year when allegations started circulating in the media that it was working on biological weapons similar to COVID-19. Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has therefore proposed establishing an International Agency for Biological Safety, accountable to the UN Security Council.

US ELECTION WATCH

It’s 40 days until the US presidential election. The race is getting tighter and the election could be won narrowly.

What we watch and why it matters: Recent polls show the possibility for Democratic contender Joe Biden to win s becoming more plausible, with him leading in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and essentially even in Florida, all of them having been Trump states in 2016. According to some pollsters, Biden is also running close or better in red states Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina.

WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING 

ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS…

Europe’s everyday business is heading into a busy autumn season. We’ll keep you updated on all relevant EU foreign affairs news, as operations start to move exclusively online.

  • Ninth round of post-Brexit talks
    | Monday, 28 September 2020 | Brussels, Belgium
  • French President Macron visits Lithuania, Latvia
    | Mo-Tue, 28-29 September 2020 | Baltics
  • German finance minister Scholz briefs on EU challenges
    | Monday, 28 September 2020 | Berlin, Germany
  • Trump and Biden in first US presidential debate
    | Wednesday, 30 September 2020 | Cleveland, United States
  • EU-Ukraine Summit (tbc)
    | Thursday, 1 October 2020 | Brussels, Belgium
  • European Council on foreign policy
    | Thu-Fri, 1-2 October 2020 | Brussels, Belgium

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