European Union Geopolitical Watch – From September 10 to September 16, 2022

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

09/11/2022: Right-wing and center-right bloc wins Sweden’s parliamentary elections. -Léo Caget-

Swedish voters went to the ballot box on Sunday, September 11th, to elect their deputies for the next four years. The vote count, which was particularly tight, finally gave the right-wing and centre-right bloc the win on Wednesday, September 14th, giving it 176 of the 349 seats at the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament. The left-wing bloc led by outgoing Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson won 173 seats. She conceded defeat the same day and submitted her resignation to the Riksdag the next day. She also indicated her desire to work with the right to keep the far right out of power: “If the Moderates change their minds and want to work with me rather than the Sweden Democrats, my door is open“.

This new political configuration is characterized by the historic breakthrough of the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), which has become the country’s second largest political force with 20.6 % of the vote. However, even though the SD became the leading party of the right, the other three parties of the traditional right (Moderates, Liberals, Christian Democrats) were not in favour of its participation in the formation of a new government. Ulf Kristersson of the Moderate party is being considered for the post of Prime Minister.

In the European Parliament, which was meeting in plenary session this week, reactions were not long to come. Some of the institution’s elected representatives have expressed strong criticism of members of the European People’s Party (EPP), some of them coming from the Moderate party, which is accused of having collaborated with the SD to get the right to win the elections. MEP Ska Keller of the Green group was outraged by these words: “I want to tell our EPP colleagues, and in particular Mr. Weber, to be careful with whom you form partnerships! If we look at Italy, you are compromising democracy and our common values for power“.

09/14/2022 : Ursula von der Leyen delivers her traditional State of the Union speech. -Yanis Kourrad-

Every year in September, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, delivers her State of the Union speech to all MEPs gathered in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. On this occasion, on 14 September, Ursula, dressed in blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, did not fail to renew her solidarity with Ukraine by beginning her speech with this sentence: “Never before has the Parliament deliberated on the State of the Union while a war is raging on European soil”

Moreover, it was an opportunity for Von der Leyen to return to the energy crisis by recalling the major projects to come such as the energy reform on electricity or the creation of a European Hydrogen Bank. Finally, this speech was an opportunity to present the economic governance envisaged by the EU for the coming year and which promises to be more flexible with regard to the path of debt reduction for the Member States, victims of simultaneous crises since March 2020.

Nevertheless, this speech of more than an hour will not have been enough to convince everyone, as some regret the lack of attention paid to certain subjects such as agriculture, which has been absent from the State of the Union speech for more than three years, even though the CAP budget is the EU’s main policy. 

09/15/2022 : The European Parliament has ruled: Hungary is no longer a complete democracy. -Audrey Moisan-

On September 15th, 2022, during the last plenary session of the European Parliament, MEPs debated the human rights situation in Viktor Orban’s Hungary. Following its breaching on rights against women, migrants, minorities and general liberties Hungary is no longer considered as a full democratic state for the UE. For the parliament, it is now a “hybrid regime of electoral autocracy“.

Following a vote with 433 in favor, 123 against and 28 abstentions, a report was adopted that follows the triggering of Article 7 of the Treaty on the Union against Hungary in 2018, and draws up a “balance sheet of a disturbing situation in 12 areas” (European Parliament). It also denounces “deliberate and systematic efforts of the Hungarian government” against the Union, without denying that the inaction of the European Union since 2018 also seems to play a role in these excesses.

In addition, MEPs call on the Commission to act on three aspects of the Hungarian situation:

  • postponing the approval of Hungary’s recovery plan;
  • excluding cohesion programs that violate the rule of law or misuse EU funds from funding;
  • applying the regulations more strictly in order to avoid political use of EU funds.

09/15/2022: On a visit to Kiev, Ursula von der Leyen reiterates the EU’s support for Ukraine. -Antoine Bézier-

On Thursday 15th September 2022, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Kiev and assured that the EU will support Ukraine “for as long as it takes” against Russia, as the Ukrainian army continues to score successes in its counter-offensive launched in early September. The visit is allegedly a response to the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a regional summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), touted as an alternative to a unipolar Western vision. The German politician, who met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, praised the “bravery” of Ukrainian forces on the frontline, and confirmed a €5 billion financial package for Ukraine proposed by the Commission in early September. It was Ursula von der Leyen’s first visit since the country became an EU candidate state in June. Prior to her trip, the European Commission President had announced that discussions would focus on how to “bring our economies and our people closer together as Ukraine moves towards (EU) accession“.

09/16/2022: Olaf Scholz wants to make Germany “the best equipped armed force in Europe. -Etienne Mathieu-

On Friday 16 September, Olaf Scholz gave a speech to the main leaders of the Bundeswehr, the German federal armed forces. This speech was highlighted because of the formula used by the Federal Chancellor, calling for Germany to become “the best equipped armed force in Europe“. The head of government challenged years of the Federal Republic’s rather pacifist policy, which has resulted in successive cuts in the Bundeswehr’s budgets, personnel and missions.

Olaf Scholz deplored the fact that, contrary to the belief of “a former defense minister” who is not explicitly named, Germany is not “surrounded [only] by friends”. The Federal Republic, Europe’s leading economic and demographic power, is now keen to assume a leading role in the defense of the continent. This change of heart follows the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began almost seven months ago, and the Scholz government has been criticized for its military support for Kiev, which is sometimes considered insufficient.

Olaf Scholz has also called for the formation of a “European headquarters” to oversee joint European military missions, “such as in Iraq, Mali or Niger”. In citing these last two countries, the German chancellor alluded to conflicts where the French army provides the largest European contingents. The head of the federal government therefore announced a greater involvement of Germany in the defensive sphere of European policy, but in a more integrated framework.

In concrete terms, a 100 billion euro fund has been created to upgrade the equipment of the German army and update its strategy.

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