European Union Geopolitical Watch – From June 25 to July 1st, 2022

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team : Amandine Paillette, Léo Caget, Antoine Bézier, Etienne Mathieu

06/26/2022: Demonstration of opposition to NATO in Madrid, Spain. -Leo Caget-

Several thousand demonstrators have gathered in Madrid in a procession to show their opposition to the war and to NATO, in view of the summit of the transatlantic alliance to be held on June 29th and 30th in the Spanish capital. The demonstration brought together several parties, activists and left-wing movements, but no member of the radical left government was seen supporting it. Only Enrique Santiago, Secretary of State for Agenda 2030, was present among the members of the ruling government coalition, and he refrained from making any official statements. One of the main criticisms was the increase in spending on the arms sector, which was seen as a priority over increased social spending. The organizers estimated the number of participants at 30,000, while the Madrid prefecture counted only 2,200.

06/27/2022 : Athens and Ankara accuse each other on the issue of immigration, as Greek authorities turned back nearly 1,000 migrants from Türkiye in the space of three days. -Amandine Paillette-

On June 27, Greece accused Türkiye of trying to send nearly 1,130 migrants to the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea over three days. Yannis Plakiotakis, Greek Minister of Merchant Marine and Island Policy, said the boats “were spotted and repelled in time by the Greek port authorities” before adding that they had “located and repelled the smuggling boats in 24 separate incidents”. According to the coastguard, the boats had approached several Greek islands including Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Rhodes.

This episode is not the first, since last May Athens announced that it had turned back nearly 600 migrants from Türkiye in just one day. According to official data, Greece has seen a 30% increase in the number of migrants coming from Türkiye during the first four months of the year compared to the previous year. Yannis Plakiotakis accused Ankara of favoring the smuggling networks, saying “Türkiye continues to behave like a pirate state violating international law and endangering the lives of unfortunate people”. Also last month, Athens had “solemnly called on Türkiye to stop questioning its sovereignty over the Aegean islands” through a letter sent to UN Secretary General António Guterres.

These accusations follow the decision taken by the Turkish authorities in March 2020 to open the “doors” of the country to Europe. This was followed by an exodus of thousands of Turkish migrants trying to cross the Greek-Turkish border by land. The Greek authorities pushed them back with the help of Frontex, the European border control agency.

In a context of territorial claims, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently announced that he no longer wanted to take part in the meetings with Greek leaders that had been held annually for the past ten years following an agreement between the two countries. Ankara had also accused Athens of violating the peace treaties signed after the first two world wars by positioning troops on the Aegean islands.

06/28/2022 : Türkiye lifts its veto on Finland and Sweden’s entry into NATO. -Amandine Paillette-

On June 28, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lifted his veto against two European Union countries, Finland and Sweden, which wanted to join NATO. This is a historic decision for these two states, blocked until then by Ankara, which accused them of hosting militants of the Kurdish organization “PKK”; the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, formed in 1978. This armed political organization is considered by the Turkish authorities as “terrorist” but also the United States and the European Union. Türkiye also demanded the lifting of Stockholm’s decision to block arms exports to the country, taken following the Turkish military intervention of October 2019 in northern Syria.  

On the occasion of the NATO summit held on Tuesday in Madrid, a meeting was held between the Turkish president, the Finnish president and the Swedish prime minister. After several hours of discussions, Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally lifted his veto in exchange for, among other things, “full cooperation” against the Kurdish supporters of the PKK from Finland and Sweden. Finnish authorities commented on the meeting saying that a memorandum of understanding was signed between the countries to formalize the new agreement. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö announced that this commitment “confirms that Türkiye will, at the summit this week, support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to join Nato”.

Thus, Jens Stotenberg, Secretary General of the Alliance and mediator of the summit said “I am delighted to announce that we have an agreement that paves the way for the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO” before adding that this agreement also responds to “Türkiye’s concerns about arms exports and the fight against terrorism”. On June 29, the alliance countries officially invited Finland and Sweden to join NATO in a joint statement announcing “We have decided today to invite Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO and have decided to sign the accession protocols”. From now on, the parliaments of the 30 NATO member states must ratify the formal entry of the two candidate countries for membership to be recognized.

06/29-30/2022: The leaders of NATO member states meet for a summit in Madrid. -Leo Caget-

On June Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th, the leaders of NATO member states met in Madrid for an important summit on the future strategic orientations of the Alliance and on security issues in Europe, particularly in the context of war in Ukraine. Various topics were discussed, focusing on the reaffirmation, and strengthening of support for Ukraine, the strengthening of its defense posture – especially on its eastern flank in Europe – the accession of Finland and Sweden thanks to the lifting of the Turkish veto, and the adoption of a new Strategic Concept, a key text of the transatlantic Alliance, which recognizes the importance of complementarity between the NATO and EU mechanisms.

During a press conference given by French President Emmanuel Macron in the occasion of this summit, the latter made a point of qualifying NATO’s position in the face of the Ukraine war: “If the European continent is no longer at peace, the Atlantic Alliance is not at war. Russia alone bears responsibility for this war, and for the serious consequences it imposes on the whole world, especially for energy and food security.”  The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also wished to recall the diversity of the challenges taken into account by these new guidelines: “We have included a significant mention of the South, especially the area of sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel. This is one of the greatest concerns for Europe and in particular for our country because of the instability and the risks that arise in terms of illegal flows of migrants, terrorism, food crisis, energy crisis and also the climate emergency.” While NATO’s new strategic plan identifies Russia as the “most significant and direct threat“, the summit also included potential partners in the Asia-Pacific region – Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia – in the dialogue, while mentioning China for the first time in its strategic concept, underlining “the serious challenges it represents“, according to NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg. 

07/01/2022 : The Czech Republic takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union from France.  -Antoine Bézier-

From Friday 1st July until 31st December 2022, the Czech Republic will hold the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the second time in its history (after a first experience in 2009), succeeding France, which held the rotating presidency for the first six months of the year 2022. Prague has defined five main priorities for its presidency: the war in Ukraine and its consequences, energy security, strengthening defence and cyber security, the resilience of the European economy and democratic values. The country wishes to make the Ukrainian issue the main focus of its action, and the aim is to keep Ukraine at the forefront of the concerns of EU decision-makers and institutions despite public opinion fatigue, as well as to work towards the reconstruction of the country. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala has floated the idea of a “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine, which could be launched at a summit in Prague dedicated to the reconstruction of Ukraine. By choosing as its presidency slogan the title of a collection of speeches by former Czech president Vaclav Havel (“Europe as a task“), in which he was a fervent supporter of European federalism, the Czech Republic is making an act of goodwill and sending a message to its Hungarian and Polish partners in the Visegrád group, who are known for their eurosceptic positions. Prague will also have to take a stand on the projects initiated by Emmanuel Macron during the French Presidency, in particular the European Political Community (EPC). The first meeting of the EPC is to be held under the Czech Presidency at the Prague Summit on 6-7th October. At this stage, the Czech government does not envisage anything more than an informal meeting of the EU-27 to discuss the situation in Ukraine and developments in the Western Balkans. Prague has reservations about the initiative launched by Emmanuel Macron. In Central and Eastern Europe, the EPC revives the bad memories of the “European Confederation” wanted by François Mitterrand in 1989, supposedly to prevent or delay the accession of the former communist bloc countries to the European Economic Community. The Czech Republic strongly supports EU enlargement, and is hostile to any structure that would replace the European Union and delay the accession of new states in the East.

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