Europe & EU January-August 2022

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31 August
Russia deepens Europe’s energy squeeze with new gas halt
By Christoph Steitz and Nina Chestney
Outage for maintenance on Nord Stream 1 pipeline
No flows to Germany 0100 GMT, Aug. 31 – 0100 GMT, Sept. 3
European governments fear Moscow could extend the outage
(Reuters) – Russia halted gas supplies via Europe’s key supply route on Wednesday, intensifying an economic battle between Moscow and Brussels and raising the prospects of recession and energy rationing in some of the region’s richest countries.
European governments fear Moscow could extend the outage in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed after it invaded Ukraine and have accused Russia of using energy supplies as a “weapon of war”. Moscow denies doing this and has cited technical reasons for supply cuts.
Gazprom to shut down Nord Stream 1 pipeline for 72 hours
The path to peace in Europe also leads via Minsk
Without a free Belarus, there can be no secure Europe. European civil society and politics must set priorities accordingly

30 August
Biden could reduce inflation, mitigate a recession, and strengthen democracy with a new EU-US trade agreement
(Brookings) …unfortunately, neither policymakers in the U.S. nor in the EU have so far publicly considered an additional policy measure which could solve several problems at once: to revive and complete an EU-U.S. free trade agreement, building on the Obama administration’s efforts to establish the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). A TTIP successor would not only have the potential to significantly ease existing supply chain woes and reduce inflation in the medium-term but also increase economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic, thereby reducing the risk of a prolonged recession in the U.S. and the EU. While reviving an EU-U.S. free trade agreement will take some time,
central bankers now expect that inflation pressures might last longer than expected and that we might not be returning to the low-inflation environment we faced before the pandemic. This underscores the importance of finding other policy measures that curb inflation but do not reduce economic growth
29 August
European treaties ‘aren’t set in stone’, says Scholz
(Euractiv) Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a watershed moment likely to change the European Union in significant ways: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said he wants a more geopolitical Union, significant enlargement of the bloc and deep reforms of its institutions.
In an over 50-minute speech at Prague’s Charles University on Monday (29 August), almost five years after Emmanuel Macron’s Sorbonne speech that laid out his grand EU agenda, Scholz presented his ideas on how Europe and the EU should respond to the changing political environment following Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
The EU’s future according to Scholz: Job-sharing commissioners and majority votes
(Reuters) – The European Union was born as a peace project to ensure war never broke out again between its member states, and it will stand up to Russia’s attack on Ukraine with all due resolve, Scholz said – supporting Kyiv economically, financially, politically and with military aid.
Scholz underlined his commitment that the Western Balkans countries, Ukraine, Moldova and eventually Georgia should join the EU.
Scholz pushed for more majority voting in the EU, especially in foreign policy and tax issues, to make the bloc fit for enlargement and avoid deadlocks caused by individual states capitalizing on their veto power. “Where unanimity is required today, the risk of an individual country using its veto and preventing all the others from forging ahead increases with each additional member state. Anyone who believes anything else is in denial about the reality of Europe,” he warned. Majority voting could begin on issues such as sanctions and human rights.
… “If we don’t want the European Parliament to become bloated, then we need a new balance as far as its composition is concerned. And we need to do this while also respecting the democratic principle according to which each electoral vote carries roughly the same weight.”

26 August
What happens if right-wing Giorgia Meloni wins Italy’s elections?
(Brookings) Current polls give a high probability that a right-wing coalition will win Italy’s next elections on September 25. Giorgia Meloni, leader of Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia, or FdI), the right-wing party that is heading the polls, could become Italy’s first female prime minister — but if she wins, she will also be its first head of government whose political party has never fully renounced its fascist background.
… The Italian pattern is unique in scale, but protest parties have been common in most European countries for the last 20 to 30 years and not all have been shooting stars. Poland and Hungary offer important reference points. Their most popular parties — Law and Justice (PiS) and Fidesz — have managed to control positions of power over several years, and still do. According to the European Commission, governments in
Budapest and Warsaw have modified constitutional norms and other democratic functions of their political systems to strengthen their control over the country. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbàn defined the new political model as an “illiberal democracy”.

26 July
David Frum: Putin’s Big Chill in Europe
Putin is constraining [the natural gas] supply again, this time apparently intending to push European countries into outright shortages over the winter ahead. The European Union Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, warned last week that a total Russian cutoff was “likely,” and she urged member countries to plan to reduce their gas consumption by 15 percent (from their average level of use over the past five years). Last winter, Putin brandished Russia’s gas weapon. In the one ahead, he seems likely to launch it.
The balance of energy power between Europe and Russia is not all one-sided. Over the medium and long term, Europe can find new sources of gas more easily than Russia can find new customers. The most economic way for Russia to sell gas to China would require a vast pipeline-building project across Siberia. The distances and costs are mind-boggling and likely prohibitive, given the competition from liquid natural gas shipped across the Pacific from North America. Russia risks a post-Ukraine-war future as an isolated energy pariah—and its energy behavior this winter will determine whether that risk becomes an enduring reality.
The Western alliance has a gathering energy emergency on its hands; now is the time to talk and act accordingly.

22 July
Paul Krugman: What’s the Matter With Italy?
As president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi saved the euro. In my estimation, this makes him history’s greatest central banker, outranking even the former Fed chairs Paul Volcker, who brought inflation under control, and Ben Bernanke, who helped avert a second Great Depression.
In a way, then, it wasn’t surprising that last year Draghi was brought in to lead Italy’s new coalition government — often labeled “technocratic,” but actually more a government of national unity created to deal with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. In a properly functioning democracy, nobody should be indispensable; but Draghi arguably was, as the only person with the prestige to hold things together.
But even he couldn’t pull it off. Facing what amounted to sabotage by his coalition partners, Draghi simply resigned, creating fears that the coming election will put antidemocratic right-wing populists in power.

20 July
The World: The European Commission has called on European nations to cut their gas demands by 15% until March of next year. It’s an attempt to secure enough energy supplies for next winter, should Russia choose to completely cut off its natural gas exports to the 27-nation bloc amid its war in Ukraine. Energy ministers of the member states plan to discuss the proposed measures at an emergency meeting next week, and individual countries may even be required to yield their powers over their energy policies to Brussels.
Russia’s Putin warns Europe gas deliveries could keep dwindling
President says if a gas turbine sent to Canada for repairs is not returned soon, the daily volume delivered by Nord Stream 1 could drop significantly.

16 July
Roger Cohen: Italy’s Crisis Redoubles European Foreboding
The potential departure of Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, a symbol of European resolve and stability, has unnerved the continent
Europe is being tested, not only in its united front to Russia, but in the very resilience of its democracies, as nationalist forces sympathetic to Russia remain untamed.
An Italian government crisis, once so frequent as to be a near nonevent, has exposed the fragility of a Europe contending with rising energy prices, a plunging currency, faltering leadership, and a war in Ukraine where time appears to favor Russia’s autocratic resolve over the West’s democratic uncertainty.

16 June
European leaders assure Ukraine of support, but questions remain.
The leaders of France, Germany and Italy traveled to Ukraine’s capital to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky in their first such show of support since Russia’s invasion began.
(NYT) European leaders visiting Kyiv expressed support on Thursday for making Ukraine a candidate for membership in the European Union, a show of solidarity that comes amid questions over their backing of President Volodymyr Zelensky and his calls for heavier weapons to offset Moscow’s artillery advantage.
President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy follow a host of European leaders who have traveled overland to Ukraine’s capital.
Mr. Macron said that the three leaders and President Klaus Iohannis of Romania, who was also in Ukraine, supported granting Ukraine E.U. candidate status. The European Commission is to publicly make its official recommendation on Ukraine’s application on Friday, in another potential step toward bringing Ukraine into Western Europe’s sphere of influence.
In recent days, criticism had mounted within Ukraine over the perception that European officials — and Mr. Macron in particular — were seeking to pressure Mr. Zelensky into peace talks with Russia. But on Thursday, the visiting leaders insisted that any timeline for peace would be in Ukraine’s hands. And Mr. Scholz said he supported the idea, expressed by Mr. Macron, as well, that “Russia cannot impose a path to peace, it cannot get away with giving Ukraine conditions that cannot be accepted, neither by Ukraine nor by us.”

27 May
Azerbaijan Stands to Win Big in Europe’s Energy Crisis
(Foreign Policy) Now, as much of Europe plans to sanction energy exports from Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, Azerbaijan has set its sights on exporting more gas to the continent. For decades, the European Union has depended on Russia for cheap gas, even after its 2014 annexation of Crimea. Boasting colossal Caspian Sea gas fields, connected to Italy and Greece via the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline network, Baku is in a prime position to help fill the gap left by Moscow.
Last month, as residents of Stepanakert were thawing out from around a dozen days without heat, Azerbaijan’s state-owned oil company SOCAR announced that it planned to increase exports of natural gas to Europe by 30 percent this year and had already delivered 2.6 billion cubic meters in the first quarter alone.
…The energy arrangement may be mutually beneficial for both the EU and Azerbaijan, but it comes just two months after the European Parliament voted in favor of a resolution “strongly condemn[ing] Azerbaijan’s continued policy of erasing and denying the Armenian cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.” According to the motion, which passed in a 635-2 vote, this includes “historical revisionism and hatred towards Armenians promoted by the Azerbaijani authorities, including dehumanisation, the glorification of violence and territorial claims against the Republic of Armenia which threaten peace and security in the South Caucasus.”
Those condemnations, however, were shelved during the most recent round of high-level energy talks this month. In Nagorno-Karabakh—where accusations that Azerbaijan has been using its control over energy to push its political priorities and pressure its opponents have reached a fever pitch in recent months—the idea that Baku could strengthen its influence in the West is cause for consternation.

19 May
Kosovo prime minister: Europe can help defend this ‘democratic success story’ amid Russian aggression
(Atlantic Council) With NATO on the verge of a Nordic expansion and the European Union (EU) fast-tracking Ukraine’s application, Russia’s war in Ukraine has reignited discussions about how these institutions can bring about a safer and more secure Europe.
And Kosovo deserves its place in that conversation, says Prime Minister Albin Kurti, whose country is seeking swift membership in both NATO and the EU.
In a conversation with Damir Marusic, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center, Kurti made the case for the power of the EU, debunked Putin’s use of NATO’s 1999 intervention in Kosovo as justification for the Ukraine invasion, and addressed his country’s path forward with Serbia.

12-16 May
Sweden’s plans for NATO membership hit snag as Turkey says no
By Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson
(Reuters) – Sweden will formally apply for NATO membership in the next few days, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday, but its accession process, and that of Finland, hit a snag when NATO member Turkey’s president said he would not approve either bid.
Sweden and Finland need each of NATO’s 30 members to approve their applications. The ratification process had been expected to take up to a year, though Turkey’s objections have thrown that into doubt.
Why Finland and Sweden can join NATO with unprecedented speed
By now, it’s no secret: Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has triggered militarily non-aligned Finland and Sweden to reconsider their national security strategies. Thursday’s news that Finnish leaders want their country to join NATO “without delay” will likely be followed by a similar decision by Sweden.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said both are NATO’s “closest partners” and supports a fast-tracked accession—taking place over a matter of weeks, not months or years as for previous new members.
To that end, the two countries’ candidacies will look vastly different than anything since the end of the Cold War, thanks to the substance of their cases for membership and the context in which they will likely come about. This will probably happen on a much-expedited timeline.
The sixteen new members since the fall of the Berlin Wall all followed a predictable course: After signaling their intention to join NATO, the Alliance set up a Membership Action Plan (MAP) laying out the political, economic, and military reforms needed to meet NATO standards.
Finland and Sweden, however, have long been democracies with liberal market economies—with militaries much more compatible with Western philosophies (albeit developed to function nationally, not collectively with NATO).
Despite their non-aligned status, both began cooperating with NATO through the Partnership for Peace program after its launch in 1994. This afforded the two countries extensive opportunities to exercise, train, and apply NATO standards to their national militaries. As the Alliance began leading international missions in the Balkans, Libya, and Afghanistan, Sweden and Finland continuously contributed with troops and operated side-by-side with allies.
Kremlin threatens retaliation after Finland leaders say it must join Nato
Finland’s president and PM make call as support for joining trebles since Ukraine war
(The Guardian) Finland must apply to join Nato “without delay” in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, its president and prime minister have said, signalling a historic shift in the country’s security policy that drew a blunt warning of retaliation from the Kremlin.

Russian threats push Finland toward joining NATO alliance
(AP) — Finland’s leaders Thursday came out in favor of applying to join NATO, and Sweden could do the same within days, in a historic realignment on the continent 2 1/2 months after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine sent a shiver of fear through Moscow’s neighbors.
The Kremlin reacted by warning it will be forced to take retaliatory “military-technical” steps.

11 May
Bosnia crisis at worst since 1992-1995 war, says [Dayton] peace accord official
Christian Schmidt said leaders of the country’s Bosnian Serb-dominated entity have systematically challenged 1995 peace agreement provisions
The top international official in Bosnia called the escalating political crisis in the country the most serious since the 1992-1995 war that saw 100,000 people die and warned in a report circulated Tuesday that its potential to become a security crisis is very real.
Schmidt said in the report to the UN Security Council that the actions by the Bosnian Serb entity, known as Republika Srpska, not only erode the fundamentals of the agreement, but directly threaten to undo more than 25 years of progress in building up Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state firmly on the path towards European Union integration.

3 May
Scholz: Finland, Sweden can count on German support if they seek NATO access
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Berlin would back Finland and Sweden joining NATO if they apply. Neutral during the Cold War, the two countries are mulling membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

28 April
EU debates tapping sanctions-hit Russian assets to pay for rebuilding Ukraine
Seizing oligarchs’ property or central bank funds would be complex but Italian anti-mafia laws may offer model
(Financial Times) …the topic of asset seizures is gaining attention in Europe, where Poland is the most vocal advocate of an idea that is also being closely examined by the European Commission. In the US, senators including Sheldon Whitehouse of the Democrats and South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham are pushing legislation to broaden confiscation powers to fund Ukraine reconstruction. Brussels officials estimate that reconstruction will cost hundreds of billions of euros.

26 April
What are Europe’s options in case of Russian gas disruption?
By Nina Chestney
(Reuters) – Russian energy giant Gazprom told Poland’s PGNiG it will halt gas supplies along the Yamal pipeline from Wednesday morning, renewing supply concerns as Russia and the West remain at odds over Moscow’s demand for gas payments to be made in roubles. read more
Poland, whose gas deal with Russia expires at the end of this year, has repeatedly said it would not comply with Moscow’s scheme that would require opening an account with Gazprombank and have hard currency gas payments converted into roubles. It has also said it would not extend the contract.
Some countries have alternative supply options and Europe’s gas network is linked up so supplies can be shared, although the global gas market was tight even before the Ukraine crisis.
Germany, Europe’s biggest consumer of Russian gas which has halted certification of the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia because of the Ukraine crisis, could import gas from Britain, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands via pipelines.

25 April
Will EU’s new law clean up online hate speech and disinformation?
(CS Monitor) The European Union reached an agreement on the Digital Services Act – legislation dedicated to policing hate speech, disinformation, and other harmful content online. The law’s backers say it will make big tech firms more accountable for content created by users.
The Digital Services Act, one half of an overhaul for the 27-nation bloc’s digital rulebook, helps cement Europe’s reputation as the global leader in efforts to rein in the power of social media companies and other digital platforms.
The act is the EU’s third significant law targeting the tech industry, a notable contrast with the United States, where lobbyists representing Silicon Valley’s interests have largely succeeded in keeping federal lawmakers at bay.
The tentative agreement was reached between the EU parliament and the bloc’s member states. It still needs to be officially rubber-stamped by those institutions, which is expected after summer but should pose no political problem. The rules then won’t start applying until 15 months after that approval, or Jan. 1, 2024, whichever is later.
E.U. Takes Aim at Social Media’s Harms With Landmark New Law
The Digital Services Act would force Meta, Google and others to combat misinformation and restrict certain online ads.
(NYT) The law, called the Digital Services Act, is intended to address social media’s societal harms by requiring companies to more aggressively police their platforms for illicit content or risk billions of dollars in fines. Tech companies would be compelled to set up new policies and procedures to remove flagged hate speech, terrorist propaganda and other material defined as illegal by countries within the European Union.

24 April
While France’s Macron was reelected to the great relief of European allies, far less attention was paid to Sunday’s news that Opposition wins Slovenia vote, defeating right-wing populist
An opposition liberal party convincingly won Sunday’s parliamentary election in Slovenia, according to early official results, in a major defeat for populist Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who was accused of pushing the small European Union country to the right while in office.

21 April
Carl Bildt: What NATO’s Northern Expansion Means
Although the outcome of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine remains to be seen, it has already fundamentally changed the European security order. For the previously neutral Nordic countries, formal membership in NATO, long viewed as a strategic option for a later date, has become an urgent existential imperative.
(Project Syndicate) Putin’s invasion came as a profound shock to European governments. …most European governments still believed that diplomacy could produce a more stable relationship. That illusion was shattered on February 24, which has become Europe’s 9/11: a global and geopolitical wake-up call with two main consequences. First, military spending will increase across Europe. After years of foot-dragging, almost all European NATO members have suddenly aligned with the goal of spending at least 2% of GDP on defense. Europe’s largest economy, Germany, will add the equivalent of 0.5% of GDP to its defense spending in just one year. Second, NATO will be strengthened in several ways. In addition to increasing its military presence in member states adjacent to Russia, the alliance is poised to add Finland and Sweden to its ranks. Both have developed their relations with NATO since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursions into eastern Ukraine, but now they will take the critical step of applying for formal membership.
… Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO will alter the European security architecture in two important ways. First, northern Europe will acquire the capacity to coordinate substantial defense forces regionwide. Sweden and Finland will furnish NATO with important new capabilities, as already demonstrated by the regular air force training exercises that they hold with Norway. Moreover, NATO will have a greater capacity to control the Baltic Sea, and thus to support the defense of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Second, Swedish and Finnish membership will reinforce the European pillar within NATO.

18 April
German bosses, unions jointly oppose boycott of Russian gas
(AP) _ Germany’s employers and unions have joined together in opposing an immediate European Union ban on natural gas imports from Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying such a move would lead to factory shutdowns and the loss of jobs in the bloc’s largest economy.
“A rapid gas embargo would lead to loss of production, shutdowns, a further de-industrialization and the long-term loss of work positions in Germany,” said Rainer Dulger, chairman of the BDA employer’s group, and Reiner Hoffmann, chairman of the DGB trade union confederation, in a joint statement Monday on Germany’s dpa news agency.
The statement comes as European leaders are discussing possible new energy sanctions against Russian oil, following a decision April 7 to ban Russian coal imports beginning in August. Ukraine’s leaders say revenues from Russia’s energy exports are financing Moscow’s destructive war on Ukraine and must be ended.
That won’t be easy to do. The EU’s 27 nations get around 40% of their natural gas from Russia and around 25% of their oil. Natural gas would be the most difficult do without, energy analysts say, since most of it comes by pipeline from Russia and supplies of liquefied gas, which can be ordered by ship, are limited amid strong demand worldwide.

12 April
Barry Eichengreen: Europe’s Economy on a Knife Edge
(Project Syndicate) Before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, Europe’s recovery from the damage wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic was solidifying. Industrial production rose in January, and retail trade rebounded. Economic sentiment improved in the first half of February, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. But then the war dented consumer confidence by heightening uncertainty and raising energy and commodity prices. In mid-March, the European Commission’s consumer confidence indicator fell to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

8 April
Ursula von der Leyen offers speedy response to Ukraine’s bid to join EU
European Commission chief visits Bucha before meeting Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the civilian deaths in the Ukrainian town of Bucha showed the “cruel face” of Russia’s army and pledged to try to speed Ukraine’s bid to become a member of the European Union.
Saying the EU could never match the sacrifice of Ukraine, Von der Leyen offered it a speedier start to its bid for bloc membership.
Handing the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a questionnaire which will form a starting point for a decision on membership, she said: “It will not as usual be a matter of years to form this opinion but I think a matter of weeks.”

6 April
Finland May Finally Want In on NATO
Sweden is not far behind.
(Foreign Policy) Just over two months ago, the prospect of Finland joining NATO was virtually unthinkable to most in the northern European country. It had grown closer to the military alliance over the last three decades but resisted the idea of becoming a full-fledged member.
Now, top Finnish leaders are edging closer to joining NATO, buoyed by a drastic turnaround in Finnish public opinion that went from opposing the move to supporting it virtually overnight.
A similar debate over NATO membership is playing out in neighboring Sweden, another longtime partner of the alliance that had spurned full membership for decades—until Russia’s brazen invasion of Ukraine. Of the two countries, it is the Swedish public that has historically been more open to membership of the military alliance than their Finnish neighbors. That is no longer the case.

4 April
Peace in Europe Must Now Be Defended Against Putin’s Russia
An Editorial by Mathieu von Rohr, Head of Foreign Desk
The horrific crimes committed by Russian soldiers in Vladimir Putin’s war of extermination shows that a return to the old status quo will not be possible with this Russia. Germany should be doing everything in its power to back Ukraine.
(Spiegel) It is high time for those in Germany who still believe this war is only a temporary annoyance – after which, and hopefully soon, we can return to the status quo – to finally wake up. Some of the people who adhere to such ideas sit in editorial offices, others hold professorships or seats in parliament, and there may even be some in the government cabinet. Some of them actually hope that Ukraine will lose as quickly as possible or, even better: That the country will surrender so that everything can go back to the way it was before.
But there will be no return to the status quo that existed before the war. Not for Russia, not for Europe – and certainly not for Ukraine.

1-4 April
Orbán’s victory in Hungary adds to the darkness engulfing Europe
Timothy Garton Ash
If the Hungarian six-party opposition coalition led by Márki-Zay had won, Hungary would have become a staunch western ally in the face of Russian aggression, as other central European countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic are proving to be. … An opposition government would also have joined the European public prosecutor’s office, enabling the pursuit of well-documented corruption in the use of EU funds. It would have kicked out the International Investment Bank, which the opposition says is closely linked to the Putin regime. And it would have set about the difficult process of turning Hungary back into a proper liberal democracy.
…having spent lavishly on tax and welfare handouts to win the election, the Orbán government needs EU funds to fill a big hole in its finances. Unless the EU is prepared simply to accept that it now has an authoritarian member state, it should at long last impose rigorous conditionality on the flows of European money that have long been one of the main founts of Orbán’s power. This means continuing to withhold post-Covid recovery grants and loans, since transparency cannot be guaranteed by a regime that is actually built on the corrupt use of EU money. It also means finally triggering the rule-of-law conditionality mechanism that could hold back significant chunks of funding from the EU’s regular budget. (And not being fooled into giving Hungary lots of money for Ukrainian refugees who have in fact already moved on to other countries.)
Early vote count confirms win for Serbia’s populist leader Vucic
President Aleksandar Vucic receives nearly 60 percent of votes while his populist party secures 43 percent of ballots.
(Al Jazeera) Despite being so far behind nationally, the opposition groups appeared to be in a tight race with the populists in the capital, Belgrade, where ballots are still being counted.
Both the opposition groups and independent observers have listed a series of irregularities and incidents, including violent ones. The ruling party has denied vote manipulation or pressuring voters.
Serbians vote in election overshadowed by Russia’s war in Ukraine
Pollsters report irregularities including photographing of ballots as incumbent President Vucic is expected to win another term.
In Serbia, pro-Russia is seen as the winning election stance
(AP) — Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who has fostered close ties with Russia and refused to impose sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, is expected to extend his almost 10-year grip on power in the Balkan country when it holds national elections on Sunday.
Polls predict that Vucic, a populist who has boasted about his personal ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, will win another five-year term as president. His right-wing Serbian Progressive Party also is expected to continue to dominate the country’s parliament.
But polls indicated a close local government race in the capital, Belgrade. A loss for Vucic’s party there could undermine his increasingly autocratic rule.

30 March
Central Europe leads the way in backing Ukraine. Here’s its game plan for what’s next.
(Atlantic Council) As the West scrambles to maintain its united front against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union (EU) member states of Central and Eastern Europe have led the way as some of the continent’s loudest moral voices, sending arms and humanitarian aid to Ukraine while receiving streams of refugees.
But while neighboring Poland has perhaps been most visible—hosting both US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in recent weeks while absorbing more than two million refugees—geography isn’t the only factor that determines who is a frontline state.
Take the Czech Republic, for example: Though nestled in the heart of Europe and away from the EU’s eastern border, its new government—together with the three Baltic countries, Poland, and the United Kingdom—spearheaded weapons delivery for Ukrainians when most EU member states were still hesitating. It is also now home to around 200,000 Ukrainian refugees.
So when Prime Minister Petr Fiala—along with his Polish and Slovenian counterparts, Mateusz Morawiecki and Janez Janša, respectively—traveled to Kyiv earlier this month to visit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, it wasn’t just a powerful symbolic gesture. It was also a reflection of the region’s growing clout as a bridge between Brussels and Kyiv.

29 March
Europe needs a new energy option that isn’t Russia. It should turn to North Africa.
Amin Mohseni-Cheraghlou
When Europe and US reserves are about to be depleted, it leaves the EU highly vulnerable to Russia’s weaponization of oil and natural gas and the Persian Gulf’s relatively unstable political and security dynamics. Hence, Europe must get more aggressive and ambitious on increasing the share of renewables in the continent’s energy mix, which is also in sync with its 2050 net-zero greenhouse emission target. North Africa’s massive solar energy potential is a crucial component of this strategy.

25 March
EU leaders approve updated military plan
The strategy envisions the creation of an EU rapid deployment force of up to 5,000 soldiers.
EU leaders on Friday endorsed a significantly revised and more muscular military strategy during a summit meeting, according to European Council President Charles Michel.
The so-called Strategic Compass represents a notable shift in the EU’s collective military ambitions, which have historically been minuscule, with efforts channeled instead toward individual militaries and NATO capabilities. Still, the new plan’s ultimate ambitions are limited, envisioning — among other things — the creation of an EU rapid deployment force of up to 5,000 soldiers but not the establishment of a full EU army.
Leaders rebuff Zelenskyy’s latest pitch to join EU
The speech to the European Council was the latest in a series of pitches he has made for fast-track EU membership. But it was by far his most dramatic and personal.
(Politico) …Zelenskyy told the 26 heads of state and government in attendance that the war was also a clash of values — one in which Ukraine had proven itself to be worthy of membership in the EU. …
Despite the heartfelt plea, the heads of state and government simply issued written conclusions that repeated their previous statement at a similar summit in Versailles, France, earlier this month — inviting the European Commission to give its opinion on Ukraine’s membership application, just one step in a years-long and uncertain process.
In their conclusions, the leaders proclaimed a commitment to create a “Ukraine Solidarity Trust Fund” and to work with international partners to raise money “for the reconstruction of a democratic Ukraine” — a process that seems far off considering Russia’s continuing bombardment of cities and unrelenting attack.
US, EU announce plan to reduce European reliance on Russian gas
A new joint task force to work on slashing the bloc’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
The new plan will be overseen by a task force chaired by a representative from the White House and a representative of the president of the European Commission, and will work to “ensure energy security for Ukraine and the EU in preparation for next winter and the following one while supporting the EU’s goal to end its dependence on Russian fossil fuels”, according to a White House statement.
Ukraine war turns Poland into America’s ‘indispensable’ ally
“There has been a dramatic change in terms of relations with the United States,” said Katarzyna Pisarska, chair of the Casimir Pulaski Foundation, a Warsaw-based foreign policy think tank. “Poland has become ‘the’ strategic partner in the region for the United States.”
Biden will be in Warsaw on Friday to meet with Duda and other top officials; two weeks ago Vice President Kamala Harris was in town, and a week before that it was the turn of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Now Poland is seen as a key NATO ally in the confrontation with Russia. Historically shaped by hostilities with Russia, it has accepted more than 2 million refugees from Ukraine and has a military of over 120,000 beefed up with allied help.

4 March

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)

The West’s Green Delusions Empowered Putin
While we banned plastic straws, Russia drilled and doubled nuclear energy production.
By Michael Shellenberger
(Common Sense) The reason Europe didn’t have a muscular deterrent threat to prevent Russian aggression—and in fact prevented the U.S. from getting allies to do more—is that it needs Putin’s oil and gas.
How is it possible that European countries, Germany especially, allowed themselves to become so dependent on an authoritarian country over the 30 years since the end of the Cold War?
Here’s how: These countries are in the grips of a delusional ideology that makes them incapable of understanding the hard realities of energy production. Green ideology insists we don’t need nuclear and that we don’t need fracking. It insists that it’s just a matter of will and money to switch to all-renewables—and fast. It insists that we need “degrowth” of the economy, and that we face looming human “extinction.” (I would know. I myself was once a true believer.)
John Kerry, the United States’ climate envoy, perfectly captured the myopia of this view when he said, in the days before the war, that the Russian invasion of Ukraine “could have a profound negative impact on the climate, obviously. You have a war, and obviously you’re going to have massive emissions consequences to the war. But equally importantly, you’re going to lose people’s focus.”
But it was the West’s focus on healing the planet with “soft energy” renewables, and moving away from natural gas and nuclear, that allowed Putin to gain a stranglehold over Europe’s energy supply.
Europe awakens to the Russian threat
Eastern European countries — Poland and the Baltic states — rang the alarm bells on Russia for years. Now, western portions of the continent are not only listening — but leading on punishing sanctions against Putin and a regional defense rethink to rise to the Russian threat.
(WaPo) For decades, Russian money, energy and military strength held Europe in thrall. But as the rockets of Russian President Vladimir Putin rain down on Ukrainian cities, a clarion call is echoing through the halls of power, boardrooms and cultural spheres of a continent: No more.
Germany — which embraced pacifism in the wake of World War II — dropped its long resistance to sending arms to conflict zones and has dispatched weapons to Ukraine. More importantly, new Chancellor Olaf Scholz, once a word-parsing waffler on Moscow, announced a historic ramp up in military spending to meet the Russian threat. The nature of German “remilitarization” will require serious domestic debate and will be deeply opposed by some. But in a bracing recognition of the new Russian threat, a recent poll showed 78 percent of the Germans backed Scholz’s plan.

27-28 February
Presidents of 8 EU states call for immediate talks on Ukrainian membership
(Reuters) – The presidents of eight central and eastern European nations on Monday called on European Union member states to immediately grant Ukraine a EU candidate country status and open membership talks according to an open letter published on Monday.
“We, the Presidents of the EU member states: the Republic of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Poland, the Slovak Republic, and the Republic of Slovenia strongly believe that Ukraine deserves receiving an immediate EU accession perspective,” the letter said.
Ukraine belongs in EU, Commission chief von der Leyen says
‘They are one of us and we want them in,’ European Commission president says
EU agrees to give €50OM in arms, aid to Ukrainian military in ‘watershed’ move
Move marks a first for the 27-nation bloc, whose treaties bar normal budget funds from going toward military operations.
The EU’s treaties bar the bloc from using its normal budget to fund operations with military or defense implications. Under the plans announced Sunday, as first reported by POLITICO, the EU will use an off-budget so-called “European Peace Facility” financing instrument with a ceiling of €5 billion that can be used to provide military aid.
“For the first time ever, the EU will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a media appearance alongside the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. “This is a watershed moment,” she added.
How Putin made the EU great again
Continent has come together in the face of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian president’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has united Europe and the transatlantic sphere like nothing since the fall of the Berlin Wall, as even his erstwhile allies on the Continent abandoned him over the weekend.
From Sofia to Stockholm, Europe’s internal divisions over how to react to Putin’s aggression have melted away in recent days as the historic dimensions of the invasion — the greatest challenge to the West’s security architecture in decades — sank in.
Faced with the cold reality of what the invasion means not just for Ukraine, but also for the security architecture across Europe, parochial objections, whether Italy’s desire to keep selling luxury goods to Russians or Germany’s to maintain easy access to Russian gas, evaporated.
Even Putin’s staunchest allies abandoned him, from Czech President Miloš Zeman to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán to French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen.
As over 100,000 rally for Ukraine, Germany announces vast defense spending increase that may upend European security policy
European leaders have for years sought to forge from their fractious ranks a robust response to a rising Russian threat — without much success. But just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin suddenly faces a continent that has rarely appeared so united.
As Europe’s biggest economy, which had long been the key obstacle to more decisive action against Russia, Germany dramatically changed course this weekend as Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a vast increase in the country’s defense spending and greenlighted arms deliveries to Ukraine. Not long after, the European Union announced it will finance and deliver weapons, even fighter jets, to Ukraine — a “watershed” move for the bloc.

26 February
Finland, Sweden brush off Moscow’s warning on joining NATO
(AP) — Finland and Sweden have brushed off warnings from neighboring Russia that their possible joining of NATO would trigger “serious military-political consequences” from Moscow for the two countries.
A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry Friday voiced concern about what it described as efforts by the United States and some of its allies to “drag” Finland and Sweden into NATO and warned that Moscow would be forced to take retaliatory measures if they join the alliance.

21 February
Baltics call for swift EU sanctions on Russia after it recognizes Ukrainian breakaway republics
(Reuters) – The European Union must impose sanctions on Russia immediately after it recognised two Ukrainian breakaway regions as independent, the governments of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania said after Russia’s announcement.
The three Baltic states, unlike Ukraine, are all members of NATO and the European Union.

15-16 February
Editor’s Note: While German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his Social Democratic Party are hardening their stance toward the Kremlin, they have yet to fully grasp the extent of the challenge posed by Russia, argues Constanze Stelzenmüller
Scholz holds his ground in Putin’s den
(Brookings) At the post-meeting news conference, the tone was crisp — no smiles, no first names. Putin slipped in a falsehood about “genocide” in Ukraine’s breakaway Donbas region. But he indicated that he was open to talking about intermediate-range missiles and the scope of military exercises, provided the West was willing to discuss his grievances.
Scholz held his ground. It was their “damned duty and job” to “prevent a warlike escalation,” he remarked. He repeated the threat of dire consequences in case of Russian aggression; troop withdrawals were good, but more would have to follow. He listed Western concerns about human rights in Russia and the incarceration of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

The EU deserves never to recover from its shameful Ukraine failures
Brussels purports to be a global power, but recent events have shown that it’s a broken empire devoid of morality
(The Telegraph) The bloc emerges as fractured; unable to agree on military support or economic sanctions, divided between bilateral and multilateral modes of engagement. While Poland and the Baltic states offer Ukraine military equipment and France makes its own overtures to Vladimir Putin, Germany’s response has been a mixture of vacillation – in its “strategic ambiguity” on sanctions and the future of Nord Stream 2 – and outright conciliation, as exemplified by its embarrassing, and tellingly symbolic, offer to send Ukraine just 5,000 helmets instead of weapons last month.
Ukraine has highlighted other historic Achilles’ heels too; a deplorable lack of investment by EU members in their own defence capabilities; the distinct reluctance of Germany and other member states to end their reliance on Russia for energy; Italy’s cosy commercial ties with Moscow, and much more. As it turns out, there is nothing like a crisis on its external border to expose the EU’s internal dysfunctions.

14 February
How Europe should safeguard its security
(ECFR) To prevent catastrophic wars, European states should concentrate on stabilising the West’s accomplishments and defending them against the revisionist policies of Russia in Europe and China in Asia

9 February
The crisis of European security: What Europeans think about the war in Ukraine
(ECFR) The Russia-Ukraine crisis could dramatically change the way Europeans think about their security. There is widespread speculation about whether Russia will invade Ukraine again – and, if it does so, how Europeans will react.
Much of the public debate on the crisis has portrayed European governments as divided, weak, and absent. However, a pan-European poll conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations in late January 2022 shows that there is a surprising consensus on the crisis among European voters. Europeans in the north, south, east, and west agree that Russia is likely to invade Ukraine in 2022, that European countries have a duty to defend Ukraine, and that this is a European problem.
The war in Ukraine could mark a watershed for European security.
There has been much talk that European governments are divided over the conflict, but European citizens seem remarkably united around three key ideas.
Firstly, they believe it is likely that there will be another Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Secondly, they see this as a problem not only for Ukraine but for European security generally.
Thirdly, they want Europe to respond to the crisis, with majorities supporting a response from NATO and the EU in particular.

6-8 February
Europe ramps up Ukraine crisis diplomacy amid ‘extreme tension,’ as Kremlin calls on West to accept its demands
French President Emmanuel Macron met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Tuesday as he pushed a plan to de-escalate the “extreme tension” between Russia and NATO over potential Ukrainian membership in the alliance and pave the way for talks on a new security deal for Europe and Russia.
Macron said it would take time to find a diplomatic solution, but he expressed cautious optimism that a path toward de-escalation could be found.
“No one is naive,” he said in a joint news conference with Zelensky after the talks. “I don’t think we can settle this crisis with a few hours of discussion.” But he expressed his belief that there are “specific, practical solutions that will allow us to move forward,” although he offered no details.
As Russia rejects NATO’s expansion and amps up tensions with a massive military buildup on Ukraine’s borders, Macron is seeking an ambitious new path to meet the security needs of Europe, Russia, Ukraine and other states while trying to establish dialogue to build trust and find compromises.
Macron Tries to Avert a European War and Reshape European Security
The French president’s shuttle diplomacy this week in Moscow and Kyiv will be a delicate exercise, given European reservations and American resolve.
The Backstory: The Defense of Europe
(Foreign Affairs) The latest standoff between Russia and the West has confirmed NATO’s relevance, but the best path for maintaining peace in Europe is still contested. The expansion of the alliance “has helped stabilize the European continent for more than seven decades,” Eric Edelman and David Kramer argue. Minimizing NATO’s role “would demoralize Ukraine, make it more vulnerable to Putin’s designs, and split the alliance.” NATO is important, but any lasting settlement with Russia must address the broader collapse of the region’s security architecture, Daalder and Goldgeier write. The most pressing objective remains “to prevent the nightmare scenario of great-power war returning to Europe.”

31 January
George Soros: China’s Challenges
(Project Syndicate) The year 2022 will be a critical one in the history of the world. … We are at, or close to, important decisions that will determine the direction in which the world is going. A new German government was formed late last year, and the French presidential election is set for April. In the same month, Hungary’s voters may – against great odds – turn their authoritarian ruler out of power. Together with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision on whether to invade Ukraine, these developments will help determine the fate of Europe.

25 January
When Ukraine wants guns, Germany sends helmets
(The Times) The pickle in which Germany has found itself during the Ukraine crisis was neatly illustrated yesterday by an announcement from the defence ministry.
Kiev’s repeated appeals for defensive weaponry may continue to fall on deaf ears in Berlin, but it will at least get 5,000 German helmets. Much mockery ensued. “What kind of support will Germany send next — pillows?” asked Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kiev and former heavyweight boxing champion.
In recent days the German government has been hammered with criticism over its supposed timidity. Even some veteran German diplomats have their heads in their hands.

21 January
As Russia poses a grave threat to European security, our MPs sound ever more ridiculous
(The Telegraph) According to James Sherr, senior fellow of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, after Hitler’s unopposed occupation of Austria in March 1938, it was apparent to the Poles, Czechs and the Balkan countries that their time would soon come: “As with Austria’s annexation, the crushing of Ukraine’s independence by Russia would change the balance of power throughout Central and Eastern Europe.”
In the case of Putin, we have the evidence of Crimea in 2014: we cannot say we have not been warned, yet we tend to act as if all these nasty things are surprises. We don’t quite know what we want.
Demographically, economically, politically, Russia does not have a bright future, and Putin is approaching the end of his career. If he thinks he can shatter Ukrainian forces and expose Western divisions, he has good reason to act now. He might even pass it off as the sort of “minor incursion” which President Biden hamfistedly indicated this week the United States might tolerate.
Once you start arguing with yourself about what is major, your opponent knows how to twist the ratchet. Probably thousands of Russian troops will not soon march through Kyiv. But it does seem quite likely that Ukrainian soldiers will be murdered and perhaps civilians bombed, key sites attacked, systems assailed by cyber-attacks and disinformation, supplies cut off. Then the entire balance of power in Europe will have been altered, because the West has lost the strength to deter.

19 January
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.

14 January
Russia’s other European invasion
By Tom Tugendhat
(Atlantic Council) As Western policymakers focus on a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, they are turning a blind eye to another invasion: the capture of European elites. From London to Athens and far beyond, bankers, lawyers, lobbyists, and former officials have all been snapped up by the Kremlin and its allies. While Russian tanks mass on the Ukrainian border, interests linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s predatory regime are amassing influence in capital cities across the continent.

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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