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European Union Geopolitical Watch – from April 9 to April 15, 2022

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team : Sara Brouwers, Victor Martin, Madara Lange, Audrey Moisan, Teodora Subotic, Louis Harand, Leo Caget, Etienne Mathieu

08/04/2022: Europe adopts the DGA. -Audrey Moisan-

This Friday, April 8, 2022 the “Data Governance Act” had been voted on by the European Parliament, following its negotiation last November in the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

This law is intended as a framework agreement for open data policies, and focuses on 3 measures.

The first concerns access to health data, and would allow European citizens to have access to a minimum of primary data, such as vaccines or electronic prescriptions.

The second concerns public bodies, which should be prohibited from creating exclusive rights for the re-use of certain data, in a logic of Open Data, as well as the limitation to 12 months of exclusive contracts that can be maintained.

Finally, the third measure concerns the companies that will be able to use a “Data Intermediation Service Provider“. In other words, a digital platform facilitating the exchange of data between companies, without fear of misuse.

This law should still be formally adopted by the Council soon before it can enter into force.

04/08/2022: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on a visit to Ukraine paves the way for the country to join the European Union. -Madara Lange-

On 8 April, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell visited Head of Ukrainian State Volodymyr Zelensky to hand over a questionnaire that would pave the way for a decision on Ukraine’s accession to the European Union. According to Ursula von der Leyen, it would only be “a matter of weeks“. The Ukrainian President welcomed the event, stressing that “Ukraine will finally be one of the equals in the common European house“.

During the visit, both representatives visited the town of Boutcha, which was particularly affected by the occupation by Russian forces. In view of the consequences of the occupation, they stated that “Russian war crimes must be investigated and prosecuted“. Josep Borrell promised to allocate 7.5 million euros to collect data on missing persons.

On 11 April, the EU will discuss a sixth package of sanctions against Russia. EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell stressed that a unanimous decision would be needed to adopt sanctions to ban Russian gas.

04/09/2022: The “Stand up for Ukraine” World Donors’ Conference in Warsaw in support of Ukrainian nationals from the Russian invasion. -Sara Brouwers-

On 09 April, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, and Polish President Andrzej Duda organised the “Stand up for Ukraine” Global Donors’ Conference in recognition of Poland’s leading role in supporting refugees fleeing the Russian invasion. Indeed, Poland, considered as a “humanitarian platform“, had hosted more than 2.5 million refugees. The conference raised “€9.1 billion for people fleeing the Russian invasion, in Ukraine and abroad, including €1 billion from the European Commission“. Businesses and governments contributed €4.1 billion, which will be distributed by the UN and Ukrainian authorities, while the remaining €5 billion will be allocated in the form of “loans and grants by European institutions – including €4 billion for a programme of accommodation, education and medical assistance for Ukrainians” supported in EU countries.

04/09/2022: The Polisario Front announces a cut of its relations with Spanish Governement. -Léo Caget-

The Sahrawi independence fighters of the Polisario Front declared on Saturday 9 April in a communiqué: “The Polisario Front decides to break off its contacts with the current Spanish government”. They pointed in particular to the recent change of posture of Madrid vis-à-vis Rabat, which now supports the autonomy plan for Western Sahara proposed by Morocco in 2007. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced this change of heart publicly on 18 March, a decision that contrasts with the neutrality displayed by the former colonial power since the beginning of the conflict that began several decades earlier. He had sealed this rapprochement by meeting his Moroccan counterpart two days before, on Thursday 7 April, with a view to normalizing bilateral relationships between the two countries.

The Polisario Front denounces a blackmail by the Moroccan authorities, to which Spain would have agreed to submit in order to strengthen the controls of irregular migration flows at its borders with Morocco. Under fire from critics, notably from Algiers, Spain’s main gas supplier, the country’s government declared that it was taking an “additional step” towards a lasting resolution of the conflict.

10/04/2022: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen qualify for the second round of the French presidential election. -Etienne Mathieu-

The first round of the French presidential election took place on Sunday, April 10. It allowed the outgoing president Emmanuel Macron to qualify for the second round, which will take place on April 24. As in 2017, Emmanuel Macron will then face Marine Le Pen, who also qualified. But if the polls predicted this first-round result and overwhelmingly predict a re-election of the incumbent in the second round, the gap between the two candidates could be smaller. The Ipsos & Sopra-Steria barometer gives the president of the National Rally 44%, almost ten points more than five years ago.

The presidential campaign was marked by the geopolitical context, primarily by the war in Ukraine. Marine Le Pen but also Eric Zemmour were questioned for their proximity to the Russian Federation, the first because of financing by Russian banks close to the Kremlin, the second because of praising Vladimir Putin. Conversely, Emmanuel Macron has benefited from the position of referee that he has worked to give France by speaking regularly with the Russian president and with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodomyr Zelensky.

04/10/2022 : The possibility of sending military aid to Ukraine is still controversial. -Louis Harand-

In an interview with BNT, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Industry Kornelia Ninova said that if the National Assembly decides to send arms to Ukraine, she would resign rather than sign such an authorisation. The statement comes a day after a meeting of the national council of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), held to mark the first 100 days of government, at which the socialists reaffirmed their opposition to the delivery of military aid to Ukraine. According to Kornelia Ninova, neither the Ministers nor the Socialist MPs will support such a decision. She also expressed her opposition to the possible expulsion of the Russian ambassador as a measure of last resort, which would be tantamount to breaking off bilateral diplomatic relations. Finally, she announced that the PSB is against the purchase of eight new F-16 fighter jets since the Bulgarian state does not have the necessary financial resources and has other priorities at the moment.

When asked by the media about several issues, the President of the Republic, Roumen Radev, stressed that “the behaviour of the Russian ambassador has long exceeded the acceptable norms of diplomatic activity“. However, he warned against her expulsion, calling for consideration of the possible consequences for the rescue of Bulgarian sailors stranded in the combat zones in Ukraine, as well as for energy supplies to Bulgaria.

04/11/2022: The European Union announces the end of its defense training in Mali. -Léo Caget-

The head of European diplomacy Josep Borell announced on Monday 11 April, the decision taken by the EU to put an end to the European training missions EUCAP and EUCM for the Malian armed forces and national guard. Following the withdrawal of French forces from the Barkhane operation and the EU’s Takuba mission, which began in February 2022, Josep Borell said: “Events are forcing us to this decision. We have not obtained the guarantees requested. But we are not abandoning the Sahel. We are going to deploy in the neighboring countries“, adding: “We are stopping the training missions and the training of the armed forces and the national guard, but we are going to continue with the training on the laws of war, because the military must know that war has laws and rules“. One of the main problems for the Europeans would be the possible collaboration between the Russian private security company Wagner and the Malian forces trained by the EU, against the background of the war in Ukraine. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Mali earlier this week to meet with her Malian counterpart and junta leader Assimi Goïta to assess the security situation and the conditions for keeping German troops in the Sahel country. In a written statement prior to her visit, she said: “The government in Bamako has lost the confidence of the international community in recent months, especially by delaying the democratic transition and intensifying military cooperation with Moscow”. After her meeting with Colonel Assimi Goïta, she expressed her concern about possible abuses perpetrated on the civilian population following a “pattern” similar to that of Russian forces in Syria or Ukraine. She then announced: “We cannot continue cooperation without demarcation from the Russian forces“. The head of Mali’s diplomacy responded by invoking Mali’s willingness to cooperate with all its partners and dismissing accusations of the presence of Wagner mercenaries with the words: “Mali does not have a private security company as is alleged here and there. Mali has a state-to-state cooperation with Russia and a long-term cooperation”.

04/11/2022: Austrian Chancellor meets Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. -Victor Martin-

On April 11, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer traveled to Moscow to meet with the Russian president. He is the first European leader to meet Vladimir Putin since the war in Ukraine began.

The Austrian chancellor affirmed the need for dialogue with Russia to discuss humanitarian corridors, a potential ceasefire, but also the “war crimes” that Russia is accused of by Ukraine. Moreover, Karl Nehammer believes that Austria, as a constitutionally neutral country, can act as a mediator between the West and Russia. The Austrian chancellor nevertheless insisted that Austria is not “morally neutral” and that it strongly condemns the atrocities committed in Boutcha, a city northeast of Kiev.

Karl Nehammer did not wish to hold a joint press conference but spoke from the Austrian embassy in Russia. He explained that from his point of view a “face-to-face meeting” with Vladimir Putin was necessary and that it is very important to keep contact with the Kremlin despite the situation in Ukraine so that “there is no ambiguity about the consequences of the war. The Austrian chancellor said, however, that he was “rather pessimistic” because he considers that the Russian president is now in a “logic of war“.

04/11/2022: France expels 6 Russian spies. -Victor Martin-

On April 11, the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs announced that “six Russian agents operating under diplomatic cover and whose activities were found to be contrary to our national interests have been declared persona non grata.

This decision was taken after a long investigation of several months by the DGSI (General Directorate for External Directorate, the French counter-intelligence service) which revealed “a clandestine operation conducted by Russian intelligence services on French territory. This investigation was completed on April 10, which led to the decision to expel him the next day.

This decision comes in the context of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and while several European countries, including Germany, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Austria, Poland, Greece, Croatia and France have already expelled dozens of Russian diplomats accused of espionage in the last two weeks.

04/13/2022: The presidents of Poland and the three Baltic states visiting Kyiv meet with Volodymir Zelensky and call for increased military support for Ukraine. -Madara Lange-

On 13 April, the four Presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia met with Ukrainian Head of State Volodymyr Zelensky. During their visit, they visited the suburbs of Kyiv, which were particularly affected by the massacres of civilians. Polish President Andrzej Duda stressed that this was not a “war” but “terrorism“.

The four European heads of state stressed the need to condemn the Russian officials responsible for these acts, which were denied in Russia. They also affirmed that increased military support from the international community would be negotiated to counter the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.

For Latvian President Egils Levits, “this is a duty“. Estonian President Alar Karlis in turn supported these words saying that “President Putin must lose this war, otherwise Europe will not have peace“. Ukrainian Head of State Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude for European support.

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