European Union Geopolitical Watch – From 10 December to 16 December 2022

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team: Audrey Moisan, Antoine Bézier, Yanis Kourrad, Etienne Mathieu

13/12/2022: The 3rd Summit on the war in Ukraine was held in Paris. -Yanis Kourrad-

On 13 December, the Paris summit on the war in Ukraine was held, the objectives of which were to organise immediate international aid to Ukraine to cope with the winter, on the one hand, and to envisage the reconstruction of the country by signing supply contracts, on the other. Bringing together 66 delegations from countries and dozens of international organisations, a first meeting was held in the morning and resulted in the collection of nearly one billion euros in donations to keep the so-called essential infrastructures running. Indeed, in recent months Russia has opted for a reconfiguration of its military strategy, the objective of which is the destruction of the main Ukrainian infrastructures in order to weaken Kiev. French President Emmanuel Macron summed up Russia’s tactics at the first summit meeting as “a cynical strategy to destroy civilian infrastructure in order to bring Ukraine to its knees. The objective is clear: respond to military defeats by spreading terror among civilians, try to break the back because it cannot maintain the front”. 

Indeed, the latest figures from the Ukrainian Ministry of Economy paint an alarming picture of the Ukrainian economy with a predicted decline in GDP of between 35% and 40% by 2022, in addition to a destruction rate of civilian infrastructure – such as hospitals, schools and power plants – of up to 50%. At the same time, as cold weather sets in across the region, some 6.5 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homes and 12 million are now without access to electricity. Exceeding the expectations of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had hoped for €800 million in donations, the €1 billion in donations collected will be redistributed as follows 415 million euros will be injected directly into the energy sector, 38 million into the food sector, 25 million into water, 22 million euros into transport, 17 million into the health sector and the rest, almost 493 million, is yet to be determined. Thanks to this collective effort, the Ukrainian president congratulated himself by declaring that “our country will not sink into darkness” at a press conference after the first meeting, while the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Denys Chmyal, said he was “grateful to all the countries that remain our enemy allies in this dark time” at the same press conference

The Paris summit also saw a second meeting in the afternoon, notably between the Ukrainian delegation and some 700 French companies to discuss the reconstruction of the country. As the leading foreign employer in Ukraine, French companies are essential assets for Ukraine, whose reconstruction “cannot wait”, in the words of Bruno Le Maire during the meeting. A contract worth 100 million euros was signed for the supply of rails, bridges and seeds. For example, 20,000 tonnes of rails produced in France by the German company Saarstahl will be used to rebuild 150 kilometers of railways in Ukraine. In addition to this, Ursula von der Leyen announced complementary macro-financial assistance of €18 billion in 2023, as well as the purchase of 30 million LED light bulbs during this meeting. 

Finally, if China is the great absentee of this summit because it was not invited, the international solidarity towards Ukraine was expressed during this conference by the presence of the ambassadors of the Gulf States or India, as well as by the presence of the International Monetary Fund for example. Thus, the G7 member countries agreed in particular on the establishment of a platform for the coordination of donations intended to better optimise the arrival of international financial flows. Finally, some American officials took advantage of this summit to announce the sending of a battery of Patriot missiles to Ukraine, at a time when Kiev is cruelly lacking in sufficiently robust defence and attack weapons.

14/12/2022: EU and Hungary reach agreement. -Audrey Moisan-

On 13 December, the European Union and Hungary reached an agreement on the country’s recovery plan. The plan had been suspended last September, following Viktor Orban’s statements offensive to human rights.

The European Union is now committed to providing the necessary financial aid to the Magyars, on the condition that Viktor Orban and his regime continue with judicial reforms and anti-corruption measures in a move towards democracy (Courrier International), albeit in a more limited way than initially planned. Hungary has also withdrawn its veto on aid plans to Ukraine and accepted an agreement on minimum taxation of profits (Les Echos, Toute l’Europe, Le Monde)

According to Les Echos, one of the reasons for this compromise would be to be able to conduct the European Summit on 15 December without any problems. This agreement also allows Hungary to keep the planned aid, it would otherwise have lost 70% of what was originally intended for it under the European aid plan.

15/12/2022: Bosnia and Herzegovina achieves official candidate status for EU membership. -Antoine Bézier-

On 15 December, the heads of state and government of the 27 European Union countries, meeting at a summit in Brussels, granted Bosnia and Herzegovina official status as a candidate for EU membership (France 24). The decision comes a week after a summit in Tirana at which the EU reaffirmed its support for an enlargement process for the Western Balkans (Euronews). European Council President Charles Michel welcomed the decision on Twitter:Bosnia and Herzegovina was granted the status of candidate country today. A strong signal to the people, but also a clear expectation for the new authorities to deliver on reforms. The future of the Western Balkans is in the #EU Congratulations!” Last October, the European Commission recommended that the poor, unstable country facing secessionist threats be made an official candidate for EU membership (Euronews). The member states said the country would have to carry out major reforms in fundamental rights, the rule of law, the fight against corruption and organised crime, and migration management. Under the complex political system inherited from the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which ended the Bosnian War that began in 1992, the Balkan country is divided into a Serbian entity (Republika Srpska) and a Muslim-Croat federation linked by a weak central authority. While the Bosnian member of the tripartite presidency Denis Becirovic welcomed this “hand extended by Brussels” as an “opportunity not to be missed“, the president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, while welcoming this decision, deplored the slowness of a process that began in 2003 and said that Bosnia-Herzegovina would need “financial support of 20 billion euros” to be able to align itself with the EU acquis (France 24).

15/12/2022: The European Union adopts the minimum tax of 15% on the profits of multinationals. -Etienne Mathieu-

On 15 December, the 27 member states of the EU adopted a minimum tax of 15% on the profits of multinationals. The entry into force of this measure is planned in one year, on December 31, 2023. This is the transposition into European law of a recommendation made last year by the OECD for more tax justice. The European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, spoke of a “long journey” and welcomed this decision, as reported in Le Figaro.

This agreement was previously suspended on the veto of Hungary and Poland. A compromise was found with the financing by the European Union of recovery plans of several billion euros in these two countries; the same compromise also concerns the financial assistance of the Union to Ukraine for the year 2023.

French newspaper Le Monde emphasizes that the decision is primarily aimed at digital giants and must fight against tax evasion practices. The ultimate goal is to obtain an international agreement beyond the framework of the OECD or the European Union.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed “a major step forward for all those who care as we do about tax justice“. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared that the minimum taxation of multinationals was “one of [his] most cherished projects“.

16/12/2022: European Parliament recognises Holodomor as genocide. -Antoine Bézier-

On 16 December, as reported in a press release, MEPs adopted a groundbreaking resolution on the history of Ukraine: “In a resolution adopted on Thursday, the European Parliament recognises the famine inflicted by the Soviet regime on Ukraine in 1932-1933 – known as the Holodomor – as genocide. MEPs strongly condemn these acts, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians, and call on all countries and organisations that have not yet done so to follow suit and recognise it as genocide.” This decision is explicitly topical, and the European Parliament has proposed multiple parallels between the Stalinist period and the current Russia led by Vladimir Putin. Through the “whitewashing and glorification of the totalitarian Soviet regime and the revival of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s cult” (press release), the country is said to have become a state sponsor of terrorism. Russia is accused of deliberately targeting civilian energy infrastructure during the winter, of wanting to eliminate Ukraine and Ukrainians as a nation state, identity and people, and of causing a global food crisis (Euractiv).

16/12/2022: European Union threatens Twitter with sanctions after several journalists’ accounts are suspended. -Etienne Mathieu-

Vera Jourova, vice president of the European Commission, condemned on 16 December in a tweet Twitter’s decision to suspend the accounts of several American journalists hostile to Elon Musk. The vice-president in charge of values and transparency threatened the platform owned by the billionaire with “sanctions” following the crossing of a “red line” constituted by the freedom of the press.

French newspaper Le Monde points out that the initiative to condemn Twitter’s actions in Europe belongs to Germany; in fact, on the morning of December 16, the Federal Chancellery declared that it had “a problem with Twitter” and recalled that “freedom of the press should not be turned on and off at will“. Several politicians in other European countries, and later at the EU level, agreed.

For his part, Elon Musk defended his decision in a tweet: “Criticizing me all day is totally acceptable, but revealing my position in real time and putting my family in danger is not.” However, as 20 Minutes points out, Twitter has not officially given any justification for the temporary seven-day suspensions.

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