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European Union Geopolitical Watch – From January 29 to February 4, 2022

29/01/2022: Towards better European coordination of cyber incidents

The European Systemic Risk Board (ESRB), the EU’s financial system oversight body, has proposed a new cyber incident coordination framework that would allow the EU’s competent authorities and Member States to better coordinate a common response to major cyber-attacks that could impact the European financial sector.

This new framework will support an effective and coordinated response at the EU level in the event of a major cyber incident that could have a systemic impact on the EU’s financial sector. In a statement, the Committee recommends that European supervisory authorities examine possible operational and legal obstacles that could hinder the development of the European coordination framework.

This recommendation comes in a context of increased risk for the financial stability of the Union linked to a growing number of cyber threats in constant evolution. Indeed, multiple incidents have occurred exposing networks belonging to European organizations. In January, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) reported the theft and online disclosure of data on Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The European Banking Authority (EBA), in March 2021, had been forced to take down its email systems after a massive hack of its Microsoft Exchange servers. The European Commission had also been hit by a cyber-attack in the same month, blaming the hacking campaign on China.

01/30/2022: Bloody Sunday: 50 years after the massacre, renewed tensions in Ireland

Fifty years after the Bloody Sunday massacre, several hundred people joined together to march in memory of the 13 victims of the peaceful civil rights demonstration in the streets of Derry, Northern Ireland, which was quelled by British paratroopers. Michael Martin, Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, became the first Irish leader to attend the ceremony accompanied by his foreign minister, Simon Coveney.

As a reminder, on January 22, 1972, eight days before the events of Bloody Sunday, the Irish and British Prime Ministers met in Brussels to sign the joint entry of the two states into the European Economic Community, which allowed the Republic of Ireland to assert its independence from the British, with the European Union playing a mediating role to enable collaboration between the two states. While since 2011 relations between the two states have been cordial and neighbourly, with the Queen being the first monarch to visit Ireland since George V in 1911, the consequences of Brexit have highlighted the fragility of the balance of the peace agreement signed in 1998. The threat of a re-establishment of a land border with Ireland is currently a hot topic of negotiation between London and Brussels. This event reignited community tensions in the spring when the gates of the “Peace Wall” separating Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods were set on fire.

31/01/2022: Legislative elections in Portugal: the overwhelming victory of Antonio Costa

Portugal’s Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, a member of the Socialist Party, won an absolute majority in the legislative elections with almost 42 per cent of the vote (about 117 of the 230 seats in the Assembly of the Republic). This result allows Antonio Costa and his government to freely pursue its agenda without the support of the other left-wing parties, the Bloco and the Portuguese Communist Party, which helped him become Prime Minister and which had refused to approve the 2022 budget bill because of what they saw as a lack of ambition in public investment and social measures. Following the final constitution of the Assembly, Antonio Costa is expected to put his finance bill to a vote, which is necessary to release European stimulus funds.

01/02/2022 : Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán visits Vladimir Putin

At a time when the leaders of the European Union member states are trying to define a coordinated position in the face of Russian military maneuvers on the borders of Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán went to Moscow on February the 1st for a visit that drew criticism from the Hungarian opposition and is being closely observed by his European counterparts.

In this tense situation, it is simply treacherous to go to Moscow” say the representatives of the opposition parties in a statement published and signed on January 29.

Péter Szijjártó, the Hungarian foreign minister, said last week that the agenda of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s visit would include Hungarian gas purchases from Russia, the production of the Russian vaccine Sputnik in Hungary and discussions on a nuclear power plant that Russia has long been building in the country.

For his part, Viktor Orbán has remained discreet about the Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders, saying he is “in favor of peace and de-escalation.”

On the European Union side, Nathalie Loiseau, chairwoman of the European Parliament’s subcommittee on security and defense, said “I sincerely hope that Viktor Orbán is aware of what is at stake and that he sticks to the EU’s message of unity.”

02/02/2022 : European Commission admits green label for nuclear and gas

As part of its goal of making the European Union carbon neutral by 2050, the European Commission has endorsed the creation of a green label for nuclear power and gas.

Obtaining this green label is conditional on a list of sustainable criteria allowing investments in nuclear or gas power plants, thus reducing financing costs.

This initiative divides the twenty-seven countries, with France, the leader in European nuclear energy, as well as Poland and the Czech Republic supporting the project to label such energy sources. Germany, having abandoned nuclear power, and Luxembourg are opposed to the labeling of nuclear energy, while Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, and Sweden are contesting the inclusion of gas.

03/02/2022 : Polish president proposes bill to end rule of law dispute with EU

Polish President Andrzej Duda has introduced a bill to dismantle a controversial disciplinary chamber for judges, hoping it will allow the government to end a dispute with Brussels over the rule of law and unlock European Union funds.

He said his bill would mean that the chamber would be abolished, and its judges could either retire or be transferred to other chambers of the Supreme Court. Disciplinary cases would be heard by a new panel of 11 Supreme Court justices chosen by lot. It is important to note that last October, the Court of Justice of the European Union had ordered Poland to pay a million euro fine per day related to political appointments of judges under the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

04/02/2022 : European Union imposes restrictive measures against Malian Prime Minister Choguel Maïga

The European Union has decided to adopt restrictive measures against Prime Minister Choguel Maïga and four other members of the junta, accused of preventing a political transition in Mali since the May 2021 coup. In addition to the Prime Minister, several members close to Colonel Assimi Goïta as well as ministers considered to have played a decisive role in the coup that overthrew the regime of President Keita are concerned. These sanctions, in accordance with Article 215 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, consist of a ban on entry into the territory of the Union and a freeze on their assets.

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