European Union Geopolitical Watch – From 26 November to 02 December 2022

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team: Florent Guichard, Antoine Bézier, Yanis Kourrad, Etienne Mathieu

29/11/2022: French President Emmanuel Macron travels to the United States for a three-day official visit. -Florent Guichard-

On 29 November, President Emmanuel Macron traveled to the United States for a state visit. This visit is also the first that the Joe Biden administration has organized.

The official site of the Élysée informed us on 30 November that the first day of his visit, the president had gone to NASA to discuss the subject of space cooperation with the American vice-president Kamala Harris.

It was on the second day of this state visit that the president was received by his American counterpart Joe Biden. During a lunch with the latter, Emmanuel Macron addressed the issue of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a point of crystallization of economic tensions between the two countries.

This 30 November 2022, French newspaper Le Monde was telling us that the American president had pledged at a press conference that the Inflation Reduction Act would not be to the detriment of Europe. This press conference was also an opportunity for the two leaders to affirm their common position and their unity in the face of the situation in Ukraine. The American president, however, said he was “ready to discuss with Mr. Putin if he really wants to find a way to end the war”, somewhat qualifying his refusal so far to no longer exchange with his Russian counterpart.

30/11/2022 : Ukraine: The European Commission favours the creation of a special tribunal to judge Russian crimes. -Antoine Bézier-

On 30th November, the European Commission proposed to work towards the creation of a special tribunal to try “Russia’s crimes” (I24 News). “While continuing to support the International Criminal Court (ICC, based in The Hague), we propose to set up a special UN-backed tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crimes of aggression” against Ukraine, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video posted on Twitter on Wednesday. The ICC only has jurisdiction over war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, not Russia’s “crimes of aggression“, as Moscow is not a signatory to the Rome Statute establishing the court. The creation of such a special court has been repeatedly called for by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Baltic states (L’Orient-Le-Jour). “This is exactly what we have been proposing for a long time,” Andriy Iermak, chief of staff of the Ukrainian presidency, said on his Telegram account.

01/12/2022: The President of the European Council met with President Xi Jinping. -Florent Guichard-

While tensions between China and Taiwan are there and trade relations are sometimes stormy, this Thursday, December 1, the President of the European Council Charles Michel met President Xi Jinping in Beijing. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed us that this visit by Charles Michel as a representative of all the Member States of the European Union “demonstrated the good will of the EU to develop its relations with China“. In this context, the Chinese president also recalled in a context of war on European soil that China and Europe “are two major forces for world peace“.

A few days earlier, the European Council, via its website, had informed us that the purpose of this visit was to pursue a strategic debate on relations between the European Union and China.

Finally, the newspaper L’Echo media let us know that it was the situation in Ukraine that was at the heart of the discussions. The President of the European Council has indeed, in his own words, “urged Xi Jinping to use his influence on Russia so that it respects the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations“.

01/12/2022: The Council of the European Union adopts a general orientation for the defense industry. -Etienne Mathieu-

On 1st December, the Council of the European Union approved a general approach to strengthen the European defense industry through joint procurement (Council of the European Union press release). A general approach is an act of the Council affirming its agreement, paving the way for negotiation with the European Parliament.

Jana Černochová, Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic, welcomes the agreement. She emphasizes that “Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine proves that only a well-equipped and well-armed army can survive” (Council press release).

The general orientation of the Council of the Union approves the Commission’s proposal to allocate 500 million euros by 2024 to encourage joint procurement of military equipment.

01/12/2022: Dassault and Airbus sign an agreement for the Future Combat Aircraft. -Etienne Mathieu-

On 01 December, Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, announced to the French newspaper Le Figaro that he had reached an agreement with Airbus to implement the FCAS (Future Combat Aircraft System) project. The company chief said contracts should be signed “within a few days” and that an aircraft should be presented for a demonstration flight “around 2029.” Dassault is the prime contractor for the project.

The “New Generation Fighter” should replace both the French Rafale and the German and Spanish Eurofighter as early as 2040, as planned. Beyond this aircraft, the Future Combat Aircraft System includes the design of a new engine, a digital communication interface and drones designed by Airbus. However, Eric Trappier recalled that the Rafale would continue to be produced, notably for export (BFMTV).

Christian Cambon, president of the French Senate’s Defense Committee, welcomed this “real success for France” (Le Figaro). The SCAF places the French military industry at the heart of European defense and strengthens ties with Germany and Spain.

02/12/2022: European Commission approves the abolition of domestic short flights in France. -Yanis Kourrad-

On 2 December, the European Commission officially approved the measure aimed at abolishing domestic flights when it is possible to make the same journey by train in less than 2.5 hours. After a long contention between the French government and the European Commission, the latter has finally decided to apply this measure to connecting flights as well. Indeed, Paris wanted a derogation for connecting flights, but Brussels made its decision on the grounds that such a derogation would “distort competition between European airlines, in particular for those whose business model is not based on connecting passengers” according to a press release

The French government has just announced its decision and has shown its pride, as shown by a press release from the Minister for Transport, Clément Beaune, who welcomes this measure as a “major step forward in the policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions” and who is pleased to see France as a pioneer in this area. Nevertheless, this new measure implies the suppression of air links between Paris-Orly and Nantes, Lyon or Bordeaux, which is a source of discontent for the Union of French Airports (UAF) and the Airports Council International (ACI Europe), which see in this measure discrimination between carriers. 

The measure will be in force for three years, but Paris will be responsible for providing the European Commission with an evaluation of the experiment in two years’ time, and the measure will be reviewed in three years’ time. 

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