The Brussels Brief

EU Leaders meeting in Slovenia

EU Leaders are expected in Slovenia this week for the Informal Leaders’ Summit of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council. The meeting was originally set to focus primarily on the EU’s relations with the Western Balkans, mainly Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. As these countries are either candidate countries or are negotiating their membership, this summit was seen as a timely opportunity for the EU to reaffirm its commitment in this region and discuss how the EU should engage with these countries. Yet, events in the last weeks will now take precedence, as leaders will also discuss the ramification of the Australia-UK-US deal, Afghanistan, China, and the EU’s role on the global stage. Defence will definitely be the elephant in the room as Council President Charles Michel has declared that 2022 should be the defence year for the EU…i.e., the EU should create its own defence capabilities. Such a scenario would place the EU at loggerheads with NATO and possibly create duplication of resources. Bottom line – France will get a huge say on defence matters considering that it is the only EU country with a sizeable defence industry.

More on this week’s meeting here.

Speaking of the Balkans, Albania expressed its disappointment over the lack of progress in its EU membership. Since the negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania are being tackled as one package, i.e. both countries have to start their negotiations together, Albania is stuck as Bulgaria has vetoed the negotiation process with the Republic of North Macedonia over the language and other historical issues!

Crisis averted…hopefully

Tensions on the Serbia-Kosovo border flared up during the past days over new regulations requiring drivers crossing into Kosovo from Serbia to purchase temporary number plates. Serbians living in Kosovo were angered by this move and blocked crossing points. Meanwhile, Serbia flew its fighter jets over the region while NATO scrambled to de-escalate tensions.

An agreement has been reached between the two-sides following EU mediation.

France and Greece tie the knot

Following the humiliation suffered by France when it was snubbed by Australia for the purchase of sub-marines, it now signed an agreement with Greece. The defence treaty is aimed at aligning their foreign policy objectives, and cooperation on defence equipment. News of the agreement has obviously angered Turkey which sees this pact as a bilateral alliance against other NATO allies. News of this pact surprised many in Brussels, as some EU members states do not want to relinquish their alliance with the US should the EU push for some sort of defence alliance. Indeed, French President Emmanuel Macron has already started pushing the narrative that the EU needs to have its own defence capabilities, particularly when it ends up abandoned by its allies- a direct reference to the U.S.

More on this here.

Trade and Tech Council goes ahead

One of the ramifications of the Australia-UK-US deal on nuclear sub-marines was the Trade and Tech Council between the EU and the United States. France desperately lobbied for its postponement, drawing the ire of many Member States, who feared a delay would somehow weaken the achievements the EU managed to secure on tech cooperation including data privacy. The meeting went ahead in Pittsburgh after the EU confirmed its participation at the eleventh hour.

Read more here.

What will a German government look like?

The answer is that nobody knows yet! All parties are exploring each other’s positions on a host of issues, but a new government might not emerge before December. The FPD and the Greens held discussions last week to explore if and how they can work together. Meanwhile, the CDU/CSU leader Armin Laschet is being seen as a sore loser after failing to acknowledge defeat. Meanwhile, internal calls for his resignation are growing and a challenge to his leadership has only been averted by a whisker.

More on this here.

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