Weekly News Review - European Union Security Watch spot

15.03.2021 – 21.03.2021

Besides the civil emergency and public health crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic causes, its geo-economic and geopolitical implications will accelerate the rebalancing of power away from the Euro-Atlantic community. This could threaten the ability of NATO and the E.U. Member States to shape and defend the rules-based international order. 

On his upcoming visit to Brussels, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken aspires to restore his country’s closer ties with its allies in Europe and NATO. According to State Department, Blinken will focus on essential issues concerning climate change, cybersecurity, terrorism, energy security, but also China, Iran, Russia, and Afghanistan. A virtual forum took place on the 16th of March 2021 which was attended by Lieutenant General Hans-Werner Wiermann, Director General of the NATO International Military staff, his E.U. counterpart, Vice Admiral Hervé Bléjean, and their staff. They evaluated current joint ventures and discussed the need for better cooperation between NATO and the E.U. on issues related to training and operations, medical crises, and military mobility.

Facing threats from Jihadist terrorist attacks and right-wing extremism forced the E.U. to take active measures and update its Counterterrorism Policy. This includes adopting new common legal regulations, enhancing the collaboration between Member States, and revitalizing transatlantic relations. Since the E.U.’s 2020 Cybersecurity Strategy acknowledged cybersecurity as one of the most prominent non-traditional security issues, the Union could integrate it into a European approach to the Indo-Pacific through strengthening cooperation with E.U. partners in the region, such as like-minded Japan.

According to a report by the Agence France Presse (AFP), the E.U. is expected to decide on extending Operation “IRINI” for two more years, until March 2023. The Operation is of great significance since it observes  the implementation of the United Nations arms embargo on Libya through vessel inspections and surveillance.

Concerning the Union’s relations with Turkey, talks were held between E.U. leaders and the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the importance of sustained de-escalation was underlined, alongside strengthening confidence and a positive agenda for all countries. According to analysts, conflicts between Turkey and other Mediterranean countries, caused by the vast amount of natural gas resources present in the region, could be eased by converting energy into a tool for cooperation. Amongst other important factors, the European Green Deal could be an opportunity for collaboration.

China is profoundly concerned over the E.U.’s likely imposition of sanctions on Chinese officials due to violations of Uyghur rights in Xinjiang and reform of the electoral system in Hong Kong. Sanctions are also expected to be imposed on officials in other countries under the E.U. Magnitsky Act, intended to punish serious human rights violations around the world.