Global Europe Brief: The three ??? and Germany’s future foreign policy

Your weekly update on the EU from the global perspective.

Welcome to EURACTIV’s Global Europe Brief, your weekly update on the EU from a global perspective.

You can subscribe here.


The American book series about three junior detectives, known as Die drei ??? (= The Three Question Marks), has been very popular in Germany.

As the race to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel heats up, the three main contenders to succeed her are also facing a mystery of sorts, namely what their country’s foreign policy will look like in the post-Merkel era.

The German election campaign has only just begun, but analysts believe that in terms of foreign and security policy, none of the five parties in the running presents a fully reassuring image to Germany’s neighbours or allies.

“Of course, elections are generally not fought or won on foreign policy. But German voters would do well to remember that their country’s wealth and power depends on the stability and security of its neighbourhood,” commented Constanze Stelzenmüller, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute.

The Greens made their first move a few weeks ago, with Annalena Baerbock saying her country must be more active on foreign policy and take more responsibility for its own security, in a sign the party is shifting away from its pacifist stance towards more centrist policies.

Main talking points: More German engagement on the international stage, a firm stance on Russia and China, and a rethinking of how defence spending could be repackaged.

CDU hopeful Armin Laschet set out his own foreign policy vision in a big speech this week, which unsurprisingly showed he largely prefers to keep his predecessor’s diplomatic line, with little nuance on foreign and security policy.

Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, the finance minister in the federal government, has so far kept a low profile and made no big revealing speeches.

Likewise, when the three of them faced off in their first three-way debate this week, they broke little new political ground.


BLOCKED EU. EU foreign ministers called for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and boosted humanitarian aid for Gaza, but once again failed to reach the unanimity that might give the EU leverage in peacemaking efforts.

Hungary said it cannot approve a new EU trade and development accord with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries because it would bring more migrants into the bloc.

The EU could begin issuing statements on behalf of 26 members rather than all 27 following a series of vetoes by Hungary on a range of issues, an EU diplomat told journalists.

CHINA FREEZE. As expected, the European Parliament halted ratification of a new investment pact with China until Beijing lifts sanctions on EU politicians, deepening a dispute in Sino-European relations and denying EU companies greater access to China.

MIGRATION WOES. The Portuguese EU Council presidency “will fight until the last minute of its term of office” for an agreement on the Pact on Migration and Asylum proposed by the European Commission, the country’s foreign minister told EU lawmakers this week.

The comments came just before Moroccan border guards sealed off the crossing into Ceuta following days of an abrupt migrant crisis that saw over 8,000 people enter the Spanish enclave.

ARCTIC TALKS. With a warming climate melting more Arctic ice cover and global industries eager to exploit the region for shipping, fishing, drilling and mining, the United States and Russia sounded a rare cooperative note as they went into an Arctic meeting this week.


TRADE TRUCE. The EU and US took a step towards a post-Trump trade truce, agreeing to hold talks to end a tit-for-tat feud over steel and aluminium tariffs. The Europeans will, in addition, temporarily suspend a plan to increase tariffs on the US.

Brussels and Washington are also working to resolve a dispute over subsidies to aircraft makers and should be able to do so by July, the EU’s trade chief said in a further sign of improving transatlantic trade ties.


TURKISH REQUEST. NATO member Turkey has submitted an application to participate in the EU’s Dutch-led military project on military mobility, despite tense relations with Greece and Cyprus. While the request is being reviewed, EU diplomats are split over Ankara’s possible participation.

UK GOES INDO-PACIFIC. The UK carrier strike group (CSG), will set sail this weekend to visit more than 40 countries and “strengthen an alliance of like-minded democracies” in the Indo-Pacific region, UK officials told reports in a briefing. The move is likely to upset China.

“We are going in a confident manner, but not a confrontational manner,” UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told a think tank this week. He, however, did confirm the CSG would travel through the South China Sea to Japan.

FIGHTER JET DEAL. France, Germany and Spain reached a deal over the next steps of the development of a new fighter jet, Europe’s largest defence project at an estimated cost of more than €100 billion.

NEW CHIEF. Austrian Chief of Staff Robert Brieger was appointed the new head of the EU Military Committee (EUMC), a body of the chiefs of general staff of the EU states, responsible for the implementation of the EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP), from 1 June 2022.

BLACK SEA HUB. A $152 million US-funded construction project will turn the former Soviet base of Campia Turzii in central Romania into a new major hub for NATO aircraft in the Black Sea region, BalkanInsight reports.

ARMY EXTREMISM. A German soldier who allegedly plotted to attack prominent politicians while posing as a Syrian refugee will go on trial from this week onwards in a bizarre case fuelling concerns over right-wing extremism.


‘COMPROMISE SOLUTION’. EU officials arrived on Friday in Sofia with a compromise solution to overcome the Bulgarian veto against North Macedonia starting accession negotiations, former Bulgarian foreign minister Ekaterina Zaharieva announced, warning that their proposal is against the Bulgarian interest.

At the same time, Croatia’s President Zoran Milanovic said on Thursday North Macedonia has fulfilled all the democratic conditions to open EU accession talks, but it is constantly being “kicked” around. Shortly before, Sofia criticised his statements about Bulgaria’s policy towards Skopje.


RUSSIA TALK. In a wide-ranging interview, the Russian Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, talked to EURACTIV’s Georgi Gotev about the current tensions against the background of purported covert operations by Russian military intelligence GRU on EU soil, jailed dissident Alexei Navalny and the Sputnik vaccine.

Best bit: We asked whether, in light of worsening relations, he will be the last Russian ambassador to the EU. Read the interview to find out what he replied.

ASSOCIATED TRIO. Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are hoping to join the EU have formalised their cooperation towards a more ambitious European integration this week during a meeting of their foreign ministers in Kyiv.

Kakha Kuchava, the speaker of the parliament of Georgia, told EURACTIV more about the latest developments since the mediation by Council President Charles Michel, the role of Russia and the new format of the “Associated Trio” between Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

LOBBY TRANSPARENCY. Before the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Kazakhstan in February, there was no comprehensive dialogue at the decision-making level and no complete analysis of the EU lawmakers’ sources of information, Elvira Azimova, Kazakhstan’s commissioner for human rights, told EURACTIV in an interview.



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.

  • EU summit on Russia, COVID-19, Climate, UK
    | Mo-Tue, 24-25 May 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
  • European Parliament’s SEDE Committee
    | Tuesday, 25 May 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
  • NATO’s International Conference on Cyber Conflict
    | Tuesday, 25 May 2021 | Tallinn, Estonia
  • European Parliament’s AFET Committee
    | Wed-Thu, 26-27 May 2021 | Brussels, Belgium
  • EU foreign ministers meet
    | Thursday, 27 May 2021 | Lisbon, Portugal
  • EU defence ministers meet
    | Friday, 28 May 2021 | Lisbon, Portugal

Thanks for reading! 
If you’d like to contact us with 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