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EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell’s trip to Moscow keeps haunting Brussels and has confirmed for many the desolate state of the bloc’s foreign policy-making.
Facing calls of resignation, Borrell announced ‘concrete proposals’ towards sanctioning Moscow, as MEPs accused him of ‘falling into a trap’ set by Russia’ foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Moscow, meanwhile, tries to exploit divisions between EU member states and the weakened position of Borrell, with the aim to trigger discussions about EU’s foreign policy integrity.
“Even if the High Representative feels humiliated, I believe this humiliation comes not from Russia – it certainly didn’t happen in Moscow, but rather here in Brussels upon his return,” the Ambassador of Russia to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told EURACTIV’s Georgi Gotev.
→ Read the full interview with Russia’s envoy to the EU here:
Moscow is aware of the fact that foreign policy decisions are not made in Brussels, but rather in Berlin, and to a currently lesser visible extent, in Paris. Putin might have not taken such a gamble with Merkel.
But are the rest of EU leaders going to fall into Moscow’s trap?
For some, Borrell may be an easy target. But many tend to forget that he is not the one who has the last say. Borrell provides EU leaders with options, the final decisions are up to the member states.
EU’s foreign policy has been fragmented for a long time now, with member states having strong disagreements on a number of issues of high geopolitical importance for the bloc, ranging from Nord Stream 2, to Russia’s Navalny case, China’s global rise and Turkey.
In most cases, Europe’s periphery is disregarded or at least not sufficiently heard in Brussels, despite efforts being present and vocal.
This week, a two-hour meeting organised by Poland with EU and foreign diplomats, dedicated to the bloc’s “next steps” on Russia, discussed potential sanctions against Moscow with jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s close associates.
Eastern Europe, which has been sending warning messages over Russia’s plans since 2007, is still overlooked when it comes to Belarus or Nord Stream 2.
“The only adequate reaction to the confrontational attitude of Russia can be the discontinuation of the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) investment. This would be a clear and unequivocal consequence of outrageous statements made by the representative of Russian authorities about the EU in general and about the individual member states,” wrote Andrzej Sadoś, the permanent representative of Poland to the EU, in an op-ed for EURACTIV.
But sanctions decisions, especially in German business-oriented minds, are a rare good these days.
EU IN THE WORLD
CHINA SUMMITEERING. In the next five years, China intends to import more than €140 billion of goods from Central and Eastern European countries (CEE) countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping said during the “17+1” summit of China and Eastern European countries as Beijing made attempts to lure them with trade and vaccine promises.
At the same time, Portugal’s foreign minister Augusto Santos Silva said that China should not be considered a substitute for the US, emphasising that Beijing is an economic partner, while Washington is an ally.
In an interview with EURACTIV in January, Santos Silva had suggested revamped EU-India relations could counterbalance the bloc’s relations with China.
MERCOSUR ‘NON’. France said it “will not sign at this stage” the trade liberalisation agreement between the EU and Mercosur, the French foreign trade minister said recently, adding he “expects guarantees” from the South American bloc on “environment and health standards.
ARCTIC POLICY. As the EU works on its Arctic policy update, to be published by the end of this year, youth representatives from the European Arctic have called on policymakers to ensure that Arctic youth and Indigenous peoples are included in the actions that will directly affect their futures.
BREXIT TRADE(-OFF). The UK government has denied reports by road hauliers that exports to the EU fell by two thirds in the first month of the new UK-EU trade deal, saying: “We do not recognise this figure”.
At the same time, the UK expects the EU to ask for a two-month extension to ratify the new post-Brexit trade deal, David Frost, London’s chief negotiator on the pact, told UK lawmakers. This comes after both sides have also been at loggerheads for weeks over the diplomatic status of the EU’s embassy staff in London.
EU-TURKEY SUMMIT. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told German Chancellor Angela Merkel he hopes for a summit with EU leaders in the first half of 2021 to ease tensions.
YEMEN CEASEFIRE. Welcoming the EU’s pledge to triple humanitarian help for Yemen in 2021, MEPs urged the European Commission and member states to lead international efforts to urgently scale up humanitarian aid. However, French and Spanish EU lawmakers refused to endorse calls to demand accountability for member states that violate EU arms export rules by selling security equipment to Yemen.
MSC2021. Listen up, security folks, because the Munich Security Conference is mulling a virtual event for 19 February, after the regular edition in February was postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
GERMAN SPENDING. Berlin has submitted a record annual budget of €53.03 billion to NATO up 3.2% from the previous year (51.4 billion). However, this figure is 1.57% of the country’s GDP, and thus still well below NATO’s 2% target.
INFO WAR. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how important it is to effectively and quickly fight against disinformation campaigns. The Czech Republic has long underestimated this problem, EURACTIV Czech Republic’s Lukáš Hendrych writes.
KFOR MISSION. Hungary has received support from NATO to appoint a new Kosovo Force (KFOR) commander, EURACTIV Serbia reports.
TAX HOPES. The EU and UK ambassadors to Washington said they were encouraged by signs the Biden administration will re-engage in talks on reforming global tax rules for digital companies after discussions stalled under former President Donald Trump.
KOSOVO RECOGNITION. In response to US President Joseph Biden’s message supporting Serbia in reaching an agreement with Kosovo focused on mutual recognition, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said the term “mutual recognition” was not mentioned in any agreement or resolution.
CAUSA BELARUS. A leading Member of the European Parliament has organised a debate intended to overturn a decision by the assembly’s President David Sassoli not to open an office in Brussels representing the Belarus opposition, presumably under the advice of EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell.
KYIV-TBILISI TRIP. While European lawmakers were scolding Borrell for his ill-fated trip to Russia, European Council President Charles Michel has announced he will be travelling to Ukraine and Georgia in March. The trip is likely to appease the Russia hawks in the European Parliament.
ARBITRARY SENTENCING. Brussels and Washington have condemned the heavy prison sentence slapped on a Georgian citizen by the authorities in the Russia-controlled Georgian region of South Ossetia.
WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING
- Why the European Union Cannot Do Foreign Policy [Carnegie Europe]
- Biden’s Top Challenge Abroad Is Something No One Wants to Talk About [New York Times]
ON OUR RADAR FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS…
- NATO Defence Ministerial
| Wed-Thu, 17-18 February 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
- European Commission communications & action plans
| Wednesday, 17 February 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
Expect a Joint Communication on strengthening the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism / Trade policy review, including WTO reform initiative / Action plan on synergies between civil, defence and space industries / Communication on a bio-defence preparedness programme
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[Edited by Benjamin Fox]