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European Union Geopolitical Watch – From May 21 to May 27, 2022

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team: Audrey Moisan, Sara Brouwers, Léo Caget, Antoine Bézier, Etienne Mathieu

05/23/2022: Towards an energy-independent Europe? The RePowerEU plan presented this week. -Audrey Moisan-

On May 23, 2022, the European Commission presented its RePowerEu energy plan, envisaged in response to the Russian situation, which is disrupting the global energy market.

Two major objectives are underlying this approach: the first is to be independent from the import of fossil fuels from Russia, in the context of the economic sanctions taken against Putin, while the second is anchored in the fight against climate change, as part of the “Green Deal”.

Acting as the European Union appeared important in order to achieve these goals set by the commission, and desired by 85% of Europeans who expressed their desire to free themselves from Russian gas imports. In this sense, the establishment of a common plan seems crucial.

Through this plan, the Commission would first like to make certain changes to the FRR regulation concerning the resilience of certain member states. It would also like to raise the common target for energy efficiency from 9% to 13%, in order to reduce the demand for gas and oil, as well as to increase the targets related to renewable energies, and the use of biogas and biomethane in transport. The dimension of the international partnership was also emphasized for the issue of supply.

05/24/2022: End of African tour of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz/ -Léo Caget-

On Tuesday May 24th, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ended his African tour, which took him to Senegal, Niger, and South Africa. According to the Guinean news site Ledjely, this initiative was “a continuation of the German president’s interrupted visit last February”. Despite the main reasons given for economic and security cooperation, there were other motivations in the background, related to the Ukrainian conflict.

The German chancellor’s visit to Senegal was essentially about energy interests. Senegal shares a large gas field with its neighbor Mauritania. The West African country could become an important partner for Germany and the European Union, which are pursuing the objective of freeing themselves from Russian gas supplies. According to the Burkina Faso daily L’Observateur Paalga, “President Macky Sall reassured his host of Senegal’s commitment to supply the European market”.

In Niger, the dialogue with President Mohammed Bazoum focused on the security issue. Mali’s recent withdrawal from the G5 Sahel, following Bamako’s request to stop the Barkhane and Takuba operations on its soil, requires a recomposition of the forces present in the region. Niger could also serve as a platform for European countries to fight against the presence of Wagner militias in Mali. Germany’s Operation Gazelle, which was supposed to end at the end of 2022, has been extended to train Nigerien troops.

In a final stage that brought the German chancellor to South Africa, energy interests were also put on the table. We can note the development of a green kerosene industry for the aviation sector. However, this visit was also an opportunity to clarify the position of the two states vis-à-vis the Ukrainian conflict, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reaffirming a position of non-alignment and dialogue with the parties.

05/24/2022: The European Commission presents the 2022 report on the situation in Schengen area. -Léo Caget-

The European Commission announced in a press release on Tuesday, May 24th, the presentation of the 2022 report on the situation in the Schengen area. This report is the first to be presented and follows the Schengen strategy published in June 2021. It precedes the Schengen Forum on June 2nd and the Schengen Council on June 10th. The objective of this report is to strengthen the governance of the area by setting priorities for the coming year and by taking note of the past year. The priorities addressed in this report for the period 2022/2023 are essentially to improve the tools for border management and cross-border cooperation, to strengthen the controls at the external borders of the EU and the capacities of Frontex, and finally, to remove all barriers for the internal borders of the area. The report also calls for the necessary decisions to be taken on the accession of Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria, as well as Cyprus, once its evaluation process is completed. These same evaluation procedures are also pointed out in the report, to lead to further efforts in return policy and the Schengen Information System. The report published Tuesday was also accompanied by a policy paper on the future of integrated European border management, as well as a report on systematic controls at the EU’s external borders. 

05/25/2022 : The Council is doing its utmost to preserve evidence and expose war crimes committed in Ukraine by the Russian army. -Sara Brouwers-

On 19 May, MEPs approved an urgent amendment to the mandate of the European Union Agency for Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters. The modification was confirmed on Wednesday 25 May by the Agency, the Council wished to adopt new rules to allow the Agency to preserve evidence of war crimes. This decision was taken following reports of crimes committed and documented in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and, in particular, the atrocities committed in the cities of Boutcha and Marioupol.  Indeed, to date, Ukraine accuses the Russian military of having committed almost 12,000 war crimes since the beginning of the invasion. The question of amendment has indeed arisen in view of the abstention of Russia and Ukraine from ratifying the treaties defining the acts considered as war crimes. This amendment to Eurojust’s mandate will enable the European Judicial Cooperation Agency to store and analyze evidence of war crimes. This data collection can be handed over to the competent national and international authorities such as the International Criminal Court, which can then punish the perpetrators of the crimes committed in Ukraine. 

05/25/2022: Application for NATO membership: Finnish and Swedish delegations arrived in Ankara. -Antoine Bézier-

On Wednesday 25th May, Finnish and Swedish delegations arrived in Ankara to negotiate with Turkish officials. This follows the reluctance of Turkey, a member of the Atlantic Alliance since 1951, to allow the two Nordic countries to join NATO.

In reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, Sweden and Finland had formalized their application for membership in the Atlantic Alliance on 18th May 2022, thus abandoning their tradition of neutrality. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had immediately threatened to veto the entry of the two countries, which requires the unanimity of the organisation’s member states.

The Turkish President accused the two Nordic countries, in particular Sweden, of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organisation by many states and entities, such as the European Union and Sweden and Finland. He notably criticised the two states for refusing to extradite Kurdish PKK militants, Turkish citizens or not, present on their soil. He also pointed to restrictions on arms exports to Turkey. Indeed, following a Turkish offensive in northern Syria in October 2019, several European countries, including Finland and Sweden, had banned arms exports to Ankara.

Before the arrival of the two delegations, the Turkish state sent a list of demands to Stockholm and Helsinki. This list refers to members of the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the People’s Defense Units (YPG), as well as supporters of Fethullah Gülen (who is allegedly responsible for the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt), who are reportedly protected by the two Nordic states. Some demands are directly adressed to Washington, and Ankara is demanding concessions on the export and modernisation of US F-16 fighter planes. In 2019, Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles led to its exclusion from the US F-35 programme and restrictions on sales of the previous generation of F-16 fighters. 

For Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it is allegedly a matter of putting pressure on NATO and the United States both over the Kurdish question and arms sales, as well as preparing for the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections, at a time when the Turkish president is facing strong criticism over the country’s economic situation and the migration pact signed with the EU. The US continues to cooperate with the YPG in Syria. Turkey is reportedly considering a new military operation against the Kurds in northern Syria, which may cause new tensions within NATO

On Tuesday 23th May, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said he understood Ankara’s security concerns about terrorism.

In a telephone conversation on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron urged the Turkish president to “respect the sovereign choice of these two countries, resulting from a democratic process and in response to the evolution of their security environment. “He hoped that discussions would continue in order to find a rapid solution,” the Élysée added. The aim is to resolve the problem ahead of the next NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June.

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