European Union Geopolitical Watch – From 3 December to 9 December 2022

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team: Tristan Jarraud, Audrey Moisan, Florent Guichard, Yanis Kourrad, Etienne Mathieu

06/12/2022: The Tirana Summit: an opportunity to strengthen Balkan ties. -Tristan Jarraud-

On December 6, the 27 organized in the Albanian capital a summit called EU-Western Balkans. The aim was to reassure the candidates for accession to the European Union. Indeed, a certain slowness has created exasperation among the leaders. Two countries are in the lead to enter: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. This summit was also intended to counteract the influence that Russia has long played in this region. For example, Serbia has not applied any sanctions and maintains an air link with its traditional ally.

This summit resulted in a declaration. In this declaration, the European Union condemns Russia in the first point: “The increasingly aggressive war waged by Russia against Ukraine endangers European and global peace and security and underlines the importance of the strategic partnership between the EU and the Western Balkans region. In the same sense, later in the statement, the regional association gives Russia as “solely responsible for the current energy and economic crises.”  On several occasions, it encourages the countries to reform in order to enter the Union more quickly and particularly congratulates Albania and Northern Macedonia.

07/12/2022: Norway signs agreement with EU on Ukraine. -Audrey Moisan-

On 7 December, the European Union and Norway signed an administrative agreement allowing Norway to contribute financially to a European aid programme for Ukraine in 2023 (European Commission, Newspress).

This programme, EUMAM Ukraine for European Union Assistance Mission Ukraine (EU diplomatic service), aims to help the Ukrainian armed forces in the medical, logistical, communication, demining, maintenance, etc. It was launched on 15 November 2022, with a start-up budget of 16 million euros from the European Peace Fund for a total estimated cost of 106 million euros. The programme was declared operational on 2 December.

Because of the high estimated cost, Norway’s participation, to the tune of approximately 14.5 million euros (press release of the Council of the European Union) as announced on 31 October by the Norwegian government, appears to be a welcome aid to the implementation of this European programme.

Finally, it should be noted that according to Newspress, this is the first time that a non-EU country has participated in a European Peace Fund programme, thus demonstrating the importance of the stakes involved in this conflict, but also of the relations between Norway and the European Union.

08/12/2022: The Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHAC) of the European Union is deciding on December 8 on the accession of Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia to the Schengen area. -Florent Guichard-

While the last enlargement of the Schengen area dates from 2008, when nine countries joined the free movement area; this December 8, 2022, the JHAC of the European Union decides on the accession this time of Croatia, Bulgaria, and Romania.

The European Commission has been asking for this enlargement for some time, for which these countries have been applying for more than ten years.

This request for enlargement gave rise to heated debates under the background of the question of border control with the fear that this enlargement would lead to a wave of migration, in particular through the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. It is in this climate that on this day, AFP informed us that Austria had vetoed the entry of Romania and Bulgaria.

The unanimity of the Member States being the rule, the Austrian decision has therefore postponed the deadlines for accession to the Schengen area for the two countries.

Regarding Croatia, at midday, no decision seemed to have been taken yet, although given its geographical and political situation, the yes to membership should prevail among the member countries.

09/12/2022: Council of the European Union and European Parliament reach agreement on creating a sustainable battery life cycle. -Yanis Kourrad-

This 9 December marks an important step forward for the battery sector in the European Union. The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament have reached a provisional political agreement on sustainability rules for batteries. Presented in December 2020 by the European Commission, this legislation aims to regulate the entire life cycle of a battery, from production to recycling.

This new legislation, which will replace the current battery directive, in force since 2006, has several objectives. Firstly, the new regulation aims to create a circular economy for the whole battery sector with a focus on the design, reuse and recycling of batteries as well as waste treatment. Among other things, the agreement requires producers to collect portable batteries as waste. With a view to improving the functioning of the internal market for batteries and regulating competition in the sector, the legislation will incorporate safety, performance and durability criteria as well as restrictions on certain substances classified as hazardous, such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Readability and transparency are at the heart of the agreement, which includes labeling requirements on battery components and recycled content. Finally, this regulation is also based on environmental concerns, as it aims to reduce the environmental impact of a battery’s life cycle by laying down firm rules on the raw materials to be used for the production of batteries on the European market. Indeed, “batteries are a key element in the EU’s transition to zero-emission transport modes”, according to Czech Environment Minister Marian Jurečka in a Council of the European Union press release.

However, a final step is still needed before the regulation can enter into force: the formal approval and adoption of the regulation by the two institutions, the Council and the Parliament.

09/12/2022: European Parliament officials face corruption probe involving Qatar. -Etienne Mathieu-

On December 9, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office announced a corruption investigation targeting several senior officials of the European Parliament. The French newspaper Le Monde reported on 15 searches in several municipalities in and around the Belgian region of Brussels-Capital. The Belgian capital is home to one of the three seats of the European Parliament (along with Strasbourg, the main seat, and Luxembourg), including the buildings where the parliamentary committees work.

Eva Kaili, one of the 14 vice-presidents of the European Parliament, was arrested for questioning by the police (Le Monde, AFP), as well as her companion and several other dignitaries such as Luca Visentini, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation.

These high-profile arrests were made as part of an ongoing investigation that began in July 2022. The investigation is based on suspicions of corruption at the instigation of an unnamed Gulf country, but Le Monde reported that a joint investigation by the German newspaper Knack and the French newspaper Le Soir identified Qatar. The latter would be accused of wanting to “influence the economic and political decisions of the European Parliament, by paying substantial sums of money or by offering important gifts” according to the terms of the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office (Le Monde, TV5 Monde).

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