European Union Geopolitical Watch – From 25 March to 31 March, 2023

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team: Audrey MoisanEmma ChlebowskiMarie Corcelle, Gaëtan Guiliani, Yanis KourradTristan Jarraud, Florent GuichardAntoine BézierEtienne Mathieu

The files we follow: NATO/EU relations and neutral and ex-neutral countries; Energy policies and energy dependencies of the EU and Member States; EU/UK/Ireland relations; Environmental policies and issues of the EU and Member States; EU trade policies; Franco-German axis and intra-European relations with frugal countries, Germany/Eastern Europe relations, Nordic countries; Poland/Hungary/Romania foreign policies and relations with the EU; Various EU and Member States.

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– NATO/EU relations and neutral and ex-neutral countries – Etienne Mathieu –

Finland’s membership in NATO is finally validated by the Ankara agreement, formalized on 30 March by a vote of the Turkish Parliament (France 24). Finnish President Sauli Niinistö welcomed the agreement and promised that “Finland [would be] a strong and capable ally“. France 24 recalls that this country, historically neutral until now, shares a 1,340-kilometre long border with the Russian Federation; the latter’s aggression towards Ukraine for more than a year has triggered a change in Helsinki’s policy.

Vladimir Putin has not explicitly considered NATO’s eastward expansion a casus belli, as Finland was never part of the Soviet Union. However, the Russian embassy in Stockholm has threatened “retaliatory measures” against countries that join NATO, which is considered a “hostile bloc” to Russia (Euractiv).

Sweden is still facing the double veto of Turkey and Hungary; Stockholm maintains its optimism and its ambition to obtain its membership before July (RTL). The Turkish veto is justified by the absence of a criminal condemnation by Sweden of the self-da-fé of a Koran in January (La Voix du Nord); Sweden still refuses to modify its laws on freedom of expression and conscience. Turkey also criticizes Stockholm for welcoming Kurdish separatists, described as “terrorists” by Ankara (Le Figaro).

As for Hungary, the reasons for its persistent veto of Swedish membership in NATO are less explicit. However, on 29 March, the Budapest government spoke of “numerous grievances” with Stockholm, and reproaches it in particular with “denigration“, referring to the criticism of several countries, including Sweden, about the respect of human rights in Hungary (Le Figaro). Zoltan Kovacs, spokesman for the Hungarian government, denounced “an openly hostile attitude” of Sweden. Le Figaro underlines the fear that Budapest will use its veto of Swedish membership in NATO as a bargaining chip in its arm wrestling with Brussels, which is freezing billions of euros in aid pending reforms against corruption.

Energy policies and energy dependencies of the EU and Member States – Yanis Kourrad –

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