New restrictions are coming to town!
Unfortunately, when everyone taught that the COVID–19 saga was behind us, we are ending up once again having to face restrictions. With the fourth wave of COVID–19 spreading like wildfire in Europe, EU Member States, are re-introducing restrictions. Austria has imposed new restrictions for the unvaccinated and has announced that it will be making vaccination mandatory from February 2022, while imposing a total lockdown of two of its regions. Belgium was not spared either, and new restrictions were announced this week and will take effect on Monday. Compulsory telework has been re-introduced along with the need to wear a mask.
Our advice is: Take the jab!
Poland: another step towards rule of law fines
This never-ending saga seems to have taken another turn for the worse as the European Commission announced that it will be sending letters to the Polish Government seeking clarifications on the judicial system which critics say is not independent from the Executive. The European Commission cannot legally trigger it, after EU leaders agreed on a wait and see approach until the Court has concluded its review of the case. The mechanism foresees cuts to funding allocated to Member States from the Next Generation EU funds, known as the Recovery Funds, should a Member State breach rule of law principles. The European Parliament had already launched legal proceedings against the European Commission over its failure to take action on this issue.
Common sense prevailed and this time it was close. The risk of a war between Poland and Belarus that would have dragged NATO on one side and Russia on the other was quite high. While it seems that Russia was allowing its ally Belarus to escalate tensions with its EU neighbours Poland and Lithuania, Europe was also scrambling to see what it could do next. Talks of Poland triggering the NATO mutual defence article made the rounds in town and on the major news outlets. Had this article been invoked, NATO allies would have had to intervene. Yet, in geopolitics the interests of the superpowers always take precedence and while Russia might have allowed its ally to fiddle with Poland, there was always a line that could not be crossed, and that line was gas. The moment Belarus threatened to limit gas supplies to Europe, effectively meaning that it would not allow Russian gas through its territory, that was the moment Russia intervened to ease tensions.
It seems now that President Lukashenko has retreated, and migrants are being bussed back to Minsk, with some of them being put onto repatriation flights.
However, work on the raft of EU sanctions against Belarus continues with around 28 individuals and companies being targeted.
Read more here.
White smoke in Berlin? Very soon!
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel was instrumental in deescalating tensions between Belarus and Poland after she intervened with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Her departure from politics will affect Europe and beyond and the effects of her absence will be felt for years to come.
Yet, the emergence of a government in Berlin is as good news for Europe as it is for the immediate European neighbourhood. Germany is the balancing act of European politics and a weak Germany will not bode well for European politics.