European Union Geopolitical Watch – From 25 February to 3 March, 2023

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team: Marie Corcelle, Antoine Bézier, Florent Guichard, Tristan Jarraud, Etienne Mathieu

The files we follow: Wagner’s actions in Africa and European reactions; Finland and Sweden’s application to NATO; Switzerland/NATO relations; EU/Morocco relations; Energy crisis; UK/Ireland/EU relations; EU international trade agreements; Germany/Russia relations.

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Wagner in Africa again sanctioned by the EU Marie Corcelle

The European Council announced in a press release that it had adopted new sanctions on 25 February against Wagner, the Russian private military company accused of human rights violations on the African continent. Brussels imposed an asset freeze and travel bans on several members of the paramilitary group and entities following the group’s activities in Sudan, the Central African Republic and Mali.  Sanctions had already been imposed by the European institution in December 2021 and December 2020.
If Wagner has indeed been present in Africa for several years now, the abuses committed by the group are causing international opprobrium: “acts of torture, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and murders, destabilization activities in some countries“, list the EU foreign ministers, quoted by the media Euractiv.  Moscow, however, does not see things in the same light: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement on 9 February that the presence of the group was contributing to “normalising the regional situation“. However, the countries where Wagner operates are far from being models of stability.

In the CAR, the group has been present since 2018 and is involved in the training of Central African soldiers and the president’s bodyguard, recalls French researcher Roland Marchal on TV5 Monde. For its part, the All Eyes on Wagner collective published an edifying report on 20 November 2022 entitled One Year of Wagner in Mali: a report of nearly sixty pages documenting the presence and activities of the paramilitaries on Malian soil and which mentions numerous human rights abuses, coupled with an influence campaign aimed at discrediting France in Mali. 
As for Sudan, the European sanctions are linked to the mining company Meroe Gold: the Russian company is allegedly run by Wagner, who exploits Sudan’s gold in exchange for military support to the regime, according to an investigation by the newspaper Le Monde based on documents revealed by the imprisoned human rights activist Hicham Ali.

This is not the first time the EU has taken action against Wagner; it has done so in other contexts, notably through sanctions against Russia in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Finland starts building its “wall” along the border with Russia Antoine Bézier

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