Europe & EU January 2022

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Politico EU

5 reasons for the EU to be hopeful in 2022
New coalitions could help Europe make advancements on old problems.
A coalition for investment
After years of sterile battles over the EU’s much abused fiscal rules — which were suspended at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic — a consensus is emerging that in order to avoid strangling the recovery, budget discipline regulations must be changed before they return to force in 2023.
From the frugal north to the more spendthrift south, there is widespread recognition that public investment will be key to the success of the green and digital transformations of the European economy, and that outdated debt and deficit limits must not prevent this.
A Franco-German-Italian tiger in the tank
The centrist Macron’s prospects of winning a second term look strong, but even if his center-right opponent, Valérie Pécresse, were to score an upset victory, France would remain on a pro-European course. The main difference between the two French leaders would likely be their stance on migration, but even Macron has already pressed for tighter border controls and greater political control over the European Schengen zone of passport-free travel.
The three-party coalition in Berlin, with Green ministers in the key foreign affairs and economics and climate portfolios, has made deepening the EU a high priority, as has the Italian government. Whether Draghi becomes Italy’s president in 2022 and uses that role to guide a pro-European reformist government, or stays on as prime minister, Rome will be an active partner alongside Paris and Berlin in driving European economic and political integration…. (30 December 2021)

Macron’s Flawed Vision for Europe
Persistent Divisions Will Preclude His Dreams of Global Power
By Francis J. Gavin and Alina Polyakova
(Foreign Affairs) On January 19, 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron took a page from de Gaulle in a speech before the European Parliament, at the beginning of France’s six month presidency of the Council of the European Union, calling for Europe to make “its unique and strong voice heard” in the continent’s security. For Macron, strategic autonomy means a Europe with its own place in the world and its own ability to shape world events, even if it that means pursuing a security pact with Russia as the U.S. pushes for sanctions.
…although Macron is right to push Europeans to evaluate the continent’s place in the world, he has yet to lay out the priorities that should guide Europe, nor has he put forth a strategy for expanding the continent’s capacities so that it can act on them. Macron’s vision is more of a laundry list, addressing everything from increased multilateralism to counterterrorism strategies to talks about beefing up the continent’s security. Some proposals seem contradictory, such as the desire for a France that possesses “the ability to rank and have influence among other nations,” a country in which the French would be the “master of our own destiny,” yet also a country in which “our independent decision-making is fully compatible with our unwavering solidarity with our European partners.” Other ideas seem problematic and unlikely to find wide adherence, such as Macron’s suggestion that “there can be no defense and security project of European citizens without political vision seeking to advance gradual rebuilding of confidence with Russia.”
This vision assumes that a continent with a long history of divisions is now united on its defense and foreign policy. But a cursory look at the recent debates on Russia, China, and even the United States shows a lack of strategic coherence among European states. Macron’s vision, in short, could splinter Europe and dilute its capabilities and focus, all while playing into the United States’ worst instincts to disengage from the transatlantic alliance to focus on China.

13 January
Russia says Ukraine talks hit ‘dead end’, Poland warns of risk of war
(Reuters) – Poland’s foreign minister said on Thursday that Europe was at risk of plunging into war as Russia said it was not yet giving up on diplomacy but that military experts were preparing options in case tensions over Ukraine could not be defused.
In Washington, the White House said the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained high with some 100,000 Russian troops deployed and the United States would make public within 24 hours intelligence suggesting Russia might seek to invent a pretext to justify one.

11 January
Around the halls: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the European security order
Pavel K. Baev, Jessica Brandt, Vanda Felbab-Brown, Samantha Gross, Daniel S. Hamilton, Marvin Kalb, Patricia M. Kim, Kemal Kirişci, Michael E. O’Hanlon, Steven Pifer, Melanie W. Sisson, Constanze Stelzenmüller, and Angela Stent
(Brookings) With the United States and its European allies and partners embarking on a series of pivotal negotiations with Moscow beginning January 9 in Geneva, mass protests erupted in Kazakhstan in the first week of 2022 and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) intervened militarily at the request of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. What are Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions? How should the U.S. and its allies respond to Russia’s moves? What are the implications of the Kazakhstan uprising? Below, Brookings experts reflect on recent developments in the former Soviet Union and offer policy recommendations.

10 January
U.S., Russia still poles apart after Ukraine talks in Geneva
(Reuters/CBC) Washington and Kyiv say the 100,000 Russian troops moved to striking distance could be preparing a new invasion eight years after Russia seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
Russia denies any such plans and says it is responding to what it calls aggressive behaviour from NATO and Ukraine, which has tilted toward the West and aspires to join the alliance.
[Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei] Ryabkov repeated a set of sweeping demands including a ban on further NATO expansion and an end to the alliance’s activity in the central and eastern European countries that joined it after 1997.

All is not well in the transatlantic relationship
The most difficult hurdle in US-EU relations may prove to be the deterioration of American democracy.
(Politico Eu) Overall, significant achievements were indeed made in 2021 — resolving bilateral trade disputes, launching technological cooperation, coordinating relations with China. “This went about as positively as I hoped it would on the day of his inauguration,” said a former German ambassador to the United States.
“There were lofty expectations, especially among [American] Europhiles, that Europe would be more of a priority in overall Biden foreign policy,” remembered a foreign policy analyst at a Washington think tank. “There was this sense we would see a new day in the partnership.”
But 2021 was also a year marred by friction: Afghanistan, the AUKUS defense pact, the challenges posed by Russia and China, as well as political developments in the U.S. have all “fed a conclusion in Europe that the relationship with the U.S. will never go back to 2016,” said a former U.S. ambassador to NATO — whether former President Donald Trump returns or not. And now the challenge facing the Biden administration is to prove such concerns wrong. … “You have to know that you have no other friends than Europe,” warned a Polish foreign policy expert. “If you screw up talking with us, that undermines the U.S. system of alliances and that is not useful for the U.S.” And when it comes to the looming confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, Europeans worry the U.S. has not yet learned this lesson, and there is fear, especially among Poles, that a deal affecting their futures will be made over their heads.

8 January
The future of Europe hinges on the coming talks between the West and Russia
(WaPo editorial) The Munich analogy can be, and has been, overused and overstated. But given how closely the first paragraph of this editorial describes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s current bellicosity toward Ukraine, and given that the United States and its allies enter negotiations with Mr. Putin in the coming week, it’s worth reflecting on any and all relevant experience. The Biden administration and European allies must approach the talks with corresponding gravity: If Mr. Putin comes out ahead — either at the bargaining table or on the battlefield — the continent could be lastingly destabilized.

7 January
The not-so-fantastic 4: Central Europe’s divided Visegrad alliance
The Czech Republic and Slovakia look to fellow liberal democracies, while Hungary and Poland head in the opposite direction
(Politico Eu) It’s not that the four are scrapping Visegrad, founded in 1991 as the countries emerged from communism and sought to join NATO and the EU, it’s just that they are on different trajectories.
They still have common ground on issues like battling Mobility Package trucker reforms they see as undermining Central European logistics companies, pushing for the EU to expand the freedom of services and advocating for favorable treatment of nuclear power. Last month, the Czech and Polish delegations torpedoed an effort to find common language on energy issues by EU leaders after a failed bid to reform the bloc’s Emissions Trading System.
But there’s now a lot that divides them as well — from policies toward Russia and China to tying the disbursement of EU funds to the rule of law. Prague and Warsaw are also split over the Turów open-pit coal mine located near the Czech border that’s seen Poland hit with a daily fine of €500,000 for disobeying a ruling from the Court of Justice of the EU to shutter the mine while the court adjudicates the dispute.

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