European Union Geopolitical Watch – From June 4 to June 10, 2022

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team: Sara Brouwers, Amandine Paillette, Léo Caget, Louis Harand, Antoine Bézier, Etienne Mathieu

06/06/2022: EU and Mauritania meet for a new fisheries partnership. -Sara Brouwers 

This Friday, MEPs from Mauritania and the European Union voted on the new EU-Mauritania fisheries agreement, the most important fisheries agreement ever concluded between Europe and a third country. Immediately after its independence at the end of November 1960, Mauritania turned to the exploitation of fisheries resources. This allowed it to have, under its jurisdiction, hotspots of biodiversity and an exceptional wealth of fisheries that could contribute significantly to its economic and social development. In 1987, when it was faced with major obstacles (lack of infrastructure and resources), the European Union signed its first fisheries agreement, providing for an annual financial contribution and sectoral support for the promotion of sustainable fishing. The current resolution was prepared by Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, former Member of the European Parliament. For the implementation of this agreement, MEPs called on Mauritania to “stop overfishing small pelagic stocks and processing them into raw material for the food industry”, and also urged the Mauritanian authorities to publish information on their agreements with other countries to ensure that the same conditions apply to all fleets fishing in its waters.

06/06/2022: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed by the Conservative Party. -Léo Caget-

On Monday, June 6th, British Conservative MPs voted to maintain their leader Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister, under heavy criticism related to the “partygate” scandal. These events concerned parties held at his residence in the midst of confinement period. A damning investigation report was published on this scandal two weeks before Monday’s vote.

It was his own party that set in motion the no-confidence vote on Monday morning. The committee of conservatives in charge of this procedure had then collected the minimum of 15% of letters from conservative deputies questioning the leader, a necessary step for an internal vote of no confidence in the party. If his close associates seemed to be banking on a victory, they did not expect the score of 211 votes for, 148 against. According to the newspaper Le Monde, the head of government was betting “at the beginning of the day, on a rebellion contained below the 100 votes of no confidence“.

The position of Boris Johnson would therefore be weakened according to several observers. According to Le Monde, he has “overcome the risk of sudden political death, but he is seriously weakened and perhaps even fatally injured.” According to Peter Walker, political correspondent for The Guardian: “It may be unlikely, but it is not impossible that at some point in the coming months, as the uproar of hostile MPs’ voices intensifies, he may simply decide to announce a departure date.”

06/06/2022: Members of the European Parliament call for a vote of no confidence against the President of the European Commission. -Léo Caget-

Three MEPs from the liberal group Renew have called for a vote of no confidence against the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. In order to be submitted to a vote in plenary, the proposed text must first receive the votes of 10% of the members of the European Parliament, or 70 MEPs.

This threat of a motion of censure emerged following the “green light” given by the Commission for the payment of European Union funding to Poland. These 35.4 billion euros had been blocked for a year, due to the highly criticized reform of the Polish judiciary branch, and a decision of December 2021, issued by the highest legal authority in Poland going against the primacy of European law over national law.

The MEPs behind the text point out that the measures taken by Poland are insufficient. Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian Prime Minister and member of Renew, comments: “The Commission is aware that the solutions announced by the Polish authorities are purely cosmetic“. Sophie in’t Veld, a Dutch member of parliament, denounced the fact that Poland “shows no intention (…) to fully restore the independence of the judiciary“. She also condemns the decision of the Commission accusing Ursula von der Leyen of creating “a major political problem” within the EU member states.

06/09/22: Six months after its formation, the ruling coalition in Bulgaria breaks up. -Louis Harand- 

The leader of “There is such a people” (ITP), Slavi Trifonov, declared on Wednesday 9 June that he was “withdrawing his ministers from the government“, that he was ending the current coalition “and this agony“, that his party was leaving the coalition because of the Prime Minister’s policy towards Northern Macedonia and the way the state budget is spent.

The tension between the Prime Minister’s party, “Let’s Pursue Change” (PLC), and ITP over the issue of North Macedonia is not new. Mr Trifonov accuses Kiril Petkov of having promised European leaders to lift the veto imposed by Bulgaria on negotiations for the accession of North Macedonia to the European Union and speaks of a “national betrayal“.

According to PLC, the points of rupture between ITP and its former coalition partners are: the distribution of billions of leva allocated by the state to the construction and repair of roads, the reform of the anti-corruption commission and the candidacy of the current Minister of the Interior Boïko Rachkov for its presidency, and the search for a settlement of disputes with the Republic of North Macedonia. This separation has been accompanied by a series of mutual accusations of dependencies, criminal acts and lack of political morality.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Assen Vassilev noted that the coalition government had been “difficult” from the start. “We have had and can have differences on economic issues, on social policy, on integration, but we agreed from the beginning on the following point: we must put an end to embezzlement and opaque spending. Our ‘red line’ that we must not cross is corruption,” he stressed.

Last night, the members of the coalition (PLC, BD and PSB) met to reaffirm their firm commitment to continue governing the country without ITP, with a minority government.

06/08/2022: Bulgarian authorities are looking for the pilot of a plane that flew over several European air spaces without permission and put the defense forces on alert. -Amandine Paillette- 

On the evening of June 8, a plane flew over several Eastern European countries without permission before finally landing on Bulgarian territory where the pilot abandoned the aircraft.  Despite the fact that the flight plan and transponders were deactivated, Bulgarian authorities concluded that the plane had probably taken off from Lithuania. It then flew over Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Serbia, according to information revealed by the Bulgarian Minister of the Interior, Boiko Rashkov. Flying without authorization and without responding to radio or audio messages, the defense forces were alerted and the pilot was chased by American, Hungarian and Romanian fighter planes. 

The aircraft was found at the airport in Buhovtsi, a village in northeastern Bulgaria, where the authorities were able to determine that it was an old Beechcraft closed by a cadena and with two seats. The prosecutor’s office in Varna, a port city on the Black Sea, opened an investigation. 

06/09/2022: European Parliament meets to agree resolutions on Nicaragua’s repression and instrumentalisation of justice. -Sara Brouwers

This June 6, in view of the instrumentalisation of justice in Nicaragua, the European Parliament gave its conclusions on resolutions taken for the protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in this country. Since 2018, the country of lakes has been plunged into repression. On 20 October 2020, the Human Rights Observatory and CENIDH published its report on “the new laws of repression” stating that they aimed to enact restrictive laws abusively controlling the activities of civil society organisations and questioning their international funding, claiming that they would be “instruments of foreign intervention or terrorist mechanisms”.

While on 16 December 2021, the European Parliament took resolutions regarding the sham electoral process orchestrated by the Ortega regime, which was in reality not free, anti-democratic, this Thursday the Parliament demanded that Nicaragua annul the legislation adopted since 2018 unjustly restricting the democratic and civic space. The European Parliament also called on Member States and the UN Security Council to open an investigation into Nicaragua and its dictator, Daniel Ortega, for crimes against humanity through the International Criminal Court. Finally, the last resolution called for the re-establishment of the rule of law, the separation of powers and “respect for the penal code and the presumption of innocence by the public authorities”.

06/09/22: Finland plans to build new fences on its border with Russia. – Antoine Bézier –

On Thursday 9th June in Finland, a draft amendment to strengthen the fences on parts of the almost 1,340 km long Russian-Finnish border was submitted. The Finnish government wants it to come into force “as quickly as possible“. Indeed, due to its recent application for NATO membership, which followed the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland fears so-called “hybrid” retaliation from Russia, such as cyber attacks or non-military destabilisation operations. “The aim of this bill is to improve the operational capacity of the border guards in response to hybrid threats,” Anne Ihannus, an adviser at the Ministry of the Interior, told AFP. According to her, “the war in Ukraine has contributed to the urgency of this issue“. Helsinki particularly fears Moscow will organise an influx of migrants for political pressure, a modus operandi that was notably used by Belarus against Poland in November 2021, allegedly with Russian complicity. At present, the only fences along the Russian-Finnish border are small wooden palisades to prevent livestock from crossing. “What we are looking to build now are sturdy fences that have the effect of real barriers,” said Sanna Palo, director of legal affairs at the border guard. “In all likelihood, the fence will not cover the entire eastern border, but will target the areas considered most important,” she added. In the event of an influx of migrants, the government’s proposal also aims to concentrate asylum seekers at specific points on the border. The Ministry of the Interior said the priority locations and the budget for the project would be defined later.

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