EU IN THE WORLD
SAHEL. French President Emmanuel Macron hosted on Monday (13 January) his counterparts from five Sahel countries seeking more backing in the fight against a murderous jihadist uprising. Recently rising “anti-French tensions” in the region, however, promised to make the talks a tricky matter.
While French-led 4,500 soldier-strong Operation Barkhane was supposed to be France’s contribution to driving jihadists from the Sahel region, one of its main spheres of influence in Africa, Macron is instead increasingly isolated – both in Africa and in Europe, writes EURACTIV’s Benjamin Fox. While Macron managed to secure only some cosmetic commitments at the six-way summit, there is little sign that other EU countries are likely to share the burden any time soon.
IRAN. With the prospects of a potential US-Iran war fading, EU foreign minister said during an emergency session last Friday they are willing to maintain the Iran nuclear deal as long as Tehran fulfils its commitments in order to achieve it. Effectively this means they are ready to risk a rift Washington, ironically, for having their own foreign policy for once.
But Europe is not ready to maintain the deal at any cost, showing that European patience to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme might have its limits: As a response to renewed violations of the deal by Tehran, its European signatories (France, Germany, UK) triggered the agreement’s dispute resolution mechanism.
While the E3 hope that by activating the mechanism, they could bring Iran back into full compliance with its JCPOA commitments, a failure of the talks could effectively lead to the re-imposition of UN sanctions and the death of the troubled nuclear accord.
Meanwhile, INSTEX, the EU-Iran trade mechanism, has become a point of contention between Europe and the Trump administration, with Washington effectively threatening to sanction anyone using the mechanism. However, European efforts to ensure continued trading with Tehran despite the sanctions have so far had little impact and no transactions had been made so far, EURACTIV’s Alexandra Brzozowski has found.
LIBYA. Russia and Turkey have attempted to broker an open-ended ceasefire agreement between the two warring sides in Libya but failed to agree to end the nine-month war over the capital Tripoli. Although the head of the UN-supported Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, signed the agreement, Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the eastern-based Libyan National Army, did not.
“From a European perspective, it has been troubling to see that the EU has found it challenging to play a meaningful role in Libya while Russia and Turkey have taken the lead,” security expert Niklas Novaky told EURACTIV. “The Berlin Libya conference will be a key moment for Europe to reclaim some influence and develop a role for itself in the peace process,” he added.
No single geographic location makes the EU more vulnerable these days than Libya. Regrettably, the situation in this Mad Max country is likely to get worse before it gets better, writes EURACTIV’s Georgi Gotev in his commentary.
Meanwhile, Germany’s decision not to invite Greece to a conference on the Libya crisis next Sunday (19 January) while Turkey will attend the meeting, has left the Greek government smarting from a perceived diplomatic snub, writes EURACTIV’s Sarantis Michalopoulos.
The EU, on the other side, is getting prepared for a potential migration wave resulting from the crisis, an EU spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday (15 January. “Being prepared, not acting ad hoc is a very important strand in our thinking for the migration policy,” said Dana Spinant.
VENEZUELA. With the ongoing economic and political crisis dragging on in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro said he was open to allow United Nations and European Union observers to monitor legislative elections slated for later this year. The EU had expressed its full support to Juan Guaidó as president of the National Assembly and described the voting session that led to the “election” of Luis Parra as “not legitimate as it did not respect the legal procedures, nor the democratic constitutional principles”.
CFSP. In a resolution assessing the state of play on the EU´s common foreign and security policy, EU lawmakers had expressed their full support for new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s decision to transform the EU executive into a ‘geopolitical Commission’. “With the beginning of a new political cycle, there is an urgent need for a stronger, united and proactive EU,” Foreign Affairs Committee chair David McAllister (EPP, DE) said, adding that the role of the European Parliament should be reinforced. Notable point in the resolution: MEPs have called for stronger EU engagement in the Arctic.