European Union Geopolitical Watch – From October the 1st to October 7, 2022

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

10/02/2022: Elections in Bulgaria; towards a government that faces up to differences. -Audrey Moisan-

This Sunday, October 2, 2022, were held in Bulgaria parliamentary elections, the fourth in a year and a half. They were called because of the fall of the former government last June.

The elections were won by former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and his party, GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria), winning 24 of Bulgaria’s 31 constituencies. However, the results must be qualified, because according to data from the French Embassy in Bulgaria, GERB appears to be in difficulty with the opposition forces regarding its ability to form a stable government. Several of them, such as PLC, PSB and “Democratic Bulgaria”, have effectively stated that they refuse to enter into negotiations with the parties that came out on top in the polls.

Moreover, as pointed out by Le Monde and Euractiv, the country’s current political crisis is partly due to the successive corruption scandals of the former Prime Minister, who was in office from 2009 to 2021 and was re-elected this Sunday.

It should also be noted that the candidate Kiril Petkov, who came second in Sunday’s election with 20.2% of the vote, has also lost part of his electorate and has registered a drop of 5 points compared to the previous election (French Embassy in Bulgaria) following the failure of his quadripartite alliance and the divisions over the attitude to adopt towards Putin’s Russia.

10/05/2022: EU adopts 8th package of sanctions against Russia. -Léo Caget-

On the night of October 4th to 5th, the European Union (EU) adopted an 8th package of sanctions, a further step in the Common Foreign and Security Policy it is conducting to weaken the Russian economy in the context of the war in Ukraine. These new measures are a response to Russia’s recent annexation of four regions in southern and eastern Ukraine – Kherson, Zaporizhia, Lugansk and Donetsk – voted in referendums not recognized by Kiev and Western states, including the EU.

These sanctions aim to cap the price of Russian oil. An embargo on Russian oil transported by pipeline had already been adopted in May by the EU in its 6th sanctions package. According to Euractiv, this new agreement, which initially aroused reservations on the part of maritime member states – Cyprus, Malta, Greece – would make it possible to prohibit the transit of Russian oil by sea to insurance and shipping companies above a certain price. According to Euronews, Greece, Cyprus and Malta have been able to review their position because of the promise of significant guarantees allowing them to compensate for the loss of revenue for their respective fleets. The Belgian newspaper L’Echo stated that surveillance measures were envisaged to avoid possible abuses.

This new package of sanctions would also include new provisions to ban exports of technology used by the Russian military sector, as well as a strengthening of restrictive measures on certain imports from Russia, including steel and plastics, again according to Euronews. L’Echo, already quoted earlier, indicated that the European Commission has estimated the cost to the Russian economy at 7 billion euros. A package of sanctions that the President of the European executive Ursula von der Leyen hastened to support with a tweet: “I welcome the agreement reached today by the Member States on the 8th package of sanctions against Russia. We have acted quickly & decisively. We are determined to continue to make the Kremlin pay the price for its war”. The measures will enter into force on October 6th, once they have been published in the Official Journal of the EU.

10/06/2022: First meeting of the European Political Community in Prague. -Antoine Bézier-

On 6th October 2022, 44 European heads of state met in Prague in the Czech Republic, within the framework of the new European Political Community (EPC) launched on 23th June after an idea of Emmanuel Macron. This structure is intended to bring together all the states of the European continent, so 17 countries were invited in addition to the 27 Member States of the European Union. The head of European diplomacy Josep Borell justified the absence of Russia, traditionally considered a European country, if not partially European: “This must be done without Russia, not because we do not want Russia to be part of Europe, but because Putin’s Russia has put itself outside the European community” (France 24). The family photo in Prague’s imposing castle overlooking the old town was intended to show Europe’s unity and solidarity in the face of Vladimir Putin and the unprecedented energy crisis facing Europe as winter approaches. Working groups and a dinner punctuated this first summit, but there was no final declaration. The event was characterised by the presence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who called in his speech, reported by Euractiv, for the punishment of “the aggressor” and to prevent “Russian tanks from going to Warsaw or Prague“. With the presence of British Prime Minister Liz Truss, the question of the UK’s relations with EU countries, and in particular France, was an issue at the summit. After refusing to decide whether Emmanuel Macron was a “friend or foe” at a Conservative Party election meeting at the end of August, the British politician finally called him a “friend” (Euractiv). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also attended the event, so, as RFI points out, the question of Turkey’s place in the European whole was at the centre of the debate, while the country’s EU candidacy has been stalled for more than ten years.  The question of the exact nature and future of the EPC finally arose. It is a question of knowing whether it will last or, like the European Confederation proposed by François Mitterrand in 1989, will be without a future. Paris insisted that the organisation was a “complement” and not an “alternative” (France 24) to the EU accession process, and that the EPC would not become an antechamber in which the candidate countries would wait forever, but, according to an iconoclastic formula used by Emmanuel Macron and repeated by France 24, to build and consecrate a “strategic intimacy” between the countries of the European continent.

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