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Charting a course through stormy waters: The EU as a maritime security actor

25-02-2021

The European Union (EU) is a one-of-a-kind maritime actor, which brings both opportunities and responsibilities. It is argued that if the EU-27 were to combine the capacities and capabilities of their navies, they would form one of the world's largest maritime powers. There is therefore space for better integration of capabilities and for greater coherence among the EU's tools to promote its multi-dimensional strategic maritime interests. As around 90 % of global goods are traded via maritime routes ...

The European Union (EU) is a one-of-a-kind maritime actor, which brings both opportunities and responsibilities. It is argued that if the EU-27 were to combine the capacities and capabilities of their navies, they would form one of the world's largest maritime powers. There is therefore space for better integration of capabilities and for greater coherence among the EU's tools to promote its multi-dimensional strategic maritime interests. As around 90 % of global goods are traded via maritime routes, freedom of navigation, security, sustainability and respect for international law are crucial for the EU. These routes are however becoming increasingly contested and restricted, reflecting new patterns of global power distribution. In the security and defence field, the EU's common security and defence policy instruments, particularly its missions and operations abroad, are the most visible manifestation of its maritime actorness. The maritime dimension of the EU's security and defence policy has been put in the spotlight by Portugal, the holder of the EU Council presidency in the first half of 2021. Two of the 17 EU missions and operations are naval military operations: EUNAVFOR Somalia Atalanta in the western part of the Indian Ocean, and EUNAVFOR MED Irini in the central part of the Mediterranean Sea. EU Member States also participate in multinational maritime coalitions as well as in NATO's own maritime operation, Sea Guardian, patrolling the entire Mediterranean Sea. In following the orientations provided by its maritime and global strategies, the EU is aiming to increase its capacity and reliability as a maritime security actor. One example is its coordinated maritime presences, launched in January 2021 with a pilot case in the Gulf of Guinea to boost the EU's maritime capacity and global outreach. Another is the EU's action to boost its maritime defence capabilities through the various post-2016 initiatives that aim to incentivise collaborative projects. Finally, the EU has also enhanced its cooperation with NATO in ensuring maritime security in the transatlantic space, although political obstacles remain.

International Agreements in Progress - After Cotonou: Towards a new agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacific states

20-01-2021

The Cotonou partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states was due to expire in February 2020. The then ACP Group of States – which later became the Organisation of the ACP States (OACPS) – and the EU started negotiations for a 'post-Cotonou' agreement in September 2018. This time around, the main challenge for the EU is to maintain its cooperation with the three OACPS sub-regions and to continue to promote the values enshrined in the EU ...

The Cotonou partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states was due to expire in February 2020. The then ACP Group of States – which later became the Organisation of the ACP States (OACPS) – and the EU started negotiations for a 'post-Cotonou' agreement in September 2018. This time around, the main challenge for the EU is to maintain its cooperation with the three OACPS sub-regions and to continue to promote the values enshrined in the EU Treaties. At the same time, the new partnership should take into account the United Nations' sustainable development goals, the redefinition of the EU's strategies for the regions concerned, the ACP states' new ambitions and the changing balance of power at the global level. Both the EU and the OACPS have agreed on the principle of a common foundation complemented by three regional protocols. These multi-level negotiations, the coronavirus crisis and difficulties in reaching agreement on sensitive issues, such as migration management and sexual and reproductive health and rights, prevented the new agreement from being finalised by the initial expiry date set in the Cotonou Agreement. Thus, to avoid a legal vacuum in relations, the provisions of this agreement were extended until the end of 2021. After two years of negotiations, a political deal was reached in December 2020, including on the most complex issues. The European Parliament insisted on maintaining the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly and was successful in this endeavour; in addition, three regional parliamentary assemblies will be created in the future institutional set-up of the partnership.

Human Rights report

13-01-2021

During the January 2021 plenary session, the European Parliament is due to debate the annual EU report on human rights and democracy in the world. The latest annual report, adopted by the Council in June 2020, highlights the EU's leading role in promoting human rights and democracy in 2019, against the backdrop of negative trends globally. The report of Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs takes into account more recent developments, such as the impact of coronavirus. It points out that the ...

During the January 2021 plenary session, the European Parliament is due to debate the annual EU report on human rights and democracy in the world. The latest annual report, adopted by the Council in June 2020, highlights the EU's leading role in promoting human rights and democracy in 2019, against the backdrop of negative trends globally. The report of Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs takes into account more recent developments, such as the impact of coronavirus. It points out that the response to the pandemic has caused a decline in the respect of democratic and human rights standards in some countries. Based on this report, Parliament is expected to formulate recommendations for future EU action in favour of human rights and democracy.

Sudan: A transition under pressure

18-12-2020

One year after its inception, the transitional government of Sudan, born out of the protests that brought down the 30-year regime of Omar al-Bashir in 2019, continues to face grave challenges at domestic and international level. The hybrid government, composed of civilians and members of the security forces, declared that peace negotiations and tackling the economic crisis would be its priorities during a 39-month transitional period leading up to elections in 2022. On 3 October 2020, the government ...

One year after its inception, the transitional government of Sudan, born out of the protests that brought down the 30-year regime of Omar al-Bashir in 2019, continues to face grave challenges at domestic and international level. The hybrid government, composed of civilians and members of the security forces, declared that peace negotiations and tackling the economic crisis would be its priorities during a 39-month transitional period leading up to elections in 2022. On 3 October 2020, the government concluded a peace deal with several armed groups. Although spurned by the main armed group in Darfur, peace negotiations made headway towards addressing persistent inequalities between the centre and the peripheries, amending originally agreed power-sharing arrangements and securing a commitment from the new cabinet to hand over the suspects wanted by the International Criminal Court. Funding constraints could however threaten the implementation of a peace deal, as long-standing structural issues, unsustainable levels of debt and crippling inflation already beset Sudan's economy, further damaged by the impact of the lockdown imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Economic concerns have spilled over onto the diplomatic sphere: under US pressure, Sudan has agreed to a rapprochement with Israel in order to secure its removal from the US terror list, a prerequisite for obtaining debt relief. This has further tested the coalition's coherence, and public support for government policies. The EU has been supporting the transition towards a civilian government and has pledged a massive rise in development and humanitarian funding.

New Ethiopian dam sparks controversy among Nile states

15-12-2020

Successive negotiation rounds between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt about the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) have ended in stalemate. This new dam, built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile (the Nile's main tributary), will bring into operation Africa's largest hydropower plant. It is expected to secure access to electricity for the majority of Ethiopians, to foster economic development and to provide revenues from the sale of surplus electricity abroad. For its part, Sudan ...

Successive negotiation rounds between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt about the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) have ended in stalemate. This new dam, built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile (the Nile's main tributary), will bring into operation Africa's largest hydropower plant. It is expected to secure access to electricity for the majority of Ethiopians, to foster economic development and to provide revenues from the sale of surplus electricity abroad. For its part, Sudan expects the new dam will not only help regulate the flow of the Nile and prevent devastating floods but also provide access to cheap energy; still, it fears the new dam will hinder the yield of its own dam – Roseires – situated within a short distance downstream. Egypt too is worried about the potential impact of the new dam on its own Aswan High Dam, and that it will give Ethiopia control over the flow of the Nile and reduce the fresh water available for Egyptians. Yet again, the GERD has reignited a long rivalry about the sharing of waters among the Nile basin countries. Most – including Ethiopia – have signed a comprehensive framework agreement on the water management of the Nile and its tributaries. However, Sudan and Egypt have refused to take part in the Nile basin comprehensive framework agreement, unless it recognises their right to oversee the use of most of the Nile waters, which a bilateral treaty of 1959 accorded to them, but which is contested by other basin countries. The EU supports the African Union in the quest for a negotiated solution on the GERD, which risks further setbacks due to the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region.

Amending the European Fund for Sustainable Development

19-10-2020

The EU is in the process of adapting its budgetary instruments to respond to the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, in particular in raising the established ceilings for some financial instruments. The proposed adjustments include, among other things, measures aimed at helping the most fragile third countries recover from the consequences of the pandemic. In particular, on 28 May 2020, the European Commission put forward a proposal concerning the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD ...

The EU is in the process of adapting its budgetary instruments to respond to the consequences of the coronavirus crisis, in particular in raising the established ceilings for some financial instruments. The proposed adjustments include, among other things, measures aimed at helping the most fragile third countries recover from the consequences of the pandemic. In particular, on 28 May 2020, the European Commission put forward a proposal concerning the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) in order to expand its coverage and raise the funds dedicated to leverage private investment for sustainable development and the guarantees to de-risk such investment. On 21 July 2020, the European Council rejected the draft amending budget that would have provided increased EFSD funding for the current year.

World Food Programme: Food for peace

15-10-2020

On 9 October 2020, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) 'for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict'. Adding to a worrying rise in food insecurity, the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have pushed millions more people to the brink of famine. The WFP's ...

On 9 October 2020, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) 'for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict'. Adding to a worrying rise in food insecurity, the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have pushed millions more people to the brink of famine. The WFP's expertise on emergencies, often in conflict areas, has provided relief to the most fragile populations. The EU supports the WFP through funding, knowledge-sharing, and protecting its vessels from piracy in certain waters.

International Agreements in Progress - After Cotonou: Towards a new agreement with the African, Caribbean and Pacific states

12-10-2020

The Cotonou partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states is due to expire at the end of 2020. The then ACP Group of States – which later became the Organisation of the ACP States (OACPS) – and the EU adopted their negotiating mandates in May and June 2018 respectively, thus starting negotiations for a 'post-Cotonou' agreement in September 2018. The main challenge for the EU is to maintain its cooperation with the three OACPS sub-regions ...

The Cotonou partnership agreement between the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states is due to expire at the end of 2020. The then ACP Group of States – which later became the Organisation of the ACP States (OACPS) – and the EU adopted their negotiating mandates in May and June 2018 respectively, thus starting negotiations for a 'post-Cotonou' agreement in September 2018. The main challenge for the EU is to maintain its cooperation with the three OACPS sub-regions and to continue to promote the values enshrined in the EU Treaties. At the same time, the new partnership should take into account the United Nations' sustainable development goals, the redefinition of European strategies in the concerned regions, the new ambitions of the ACP states and the changing balance of power at the global level. Both the EU and the OACPS have agreed on the principle of a common foundation complemented by three regional protocols. These multi-level negotiations and the ongoing discussions on the next EU multiannual budget prevented the new agreement from being finalised by February 2020, the initial expiry date set in the Cotonou Agreement. Thus, in order to avoid a legal vacuum in relations, the provisions of the latter have been extended until the end of 2020. Negotiations are now in their final stages, however some complex issues remain to be solved, among which the institutional setting of the partnership, including the future of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. Fifth edition. The ‘International Agreements in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the process, from initial discussions through to ratification. To view earlier editions of this briefing (in French), please see the EPRS blog, https://epthinktank.eu/2018/07/09/le-futur-partenariat-de-lunion-europeenne-avec-les-pays-dafrique-des-caraibes-et-du-pacifique-international-agreements-in-progress/.

The G5 Sahel and the European Union: The challenges of security cooperation with a regional grouping

15-09-2020

The August 2020 coup in Mali recalls the coup the country witnessed in 2012 and highlights the growing instability and insecurity the Sahel region has been facing for a decade now. The combined effect of population growth, poverty, climate change, unsustainable land tenure and marginalisation of peripheral populations has been fuelling community-based tensions and anger towards governments in the region. Weak state power and porous borders have enabled the proliferation of jihadist and other armed ...

The August 2020 coup in Mali recalls the coup the country witnessed in 2012 and highlights the growing instability and insecurity the Sahel region has been facing for a decade now. The combined effect of population growth, poverty, climate change, unsustainable land tenure and marginalisation of peripheral populations has been fuelling community-based tensions and anger towards governments in the region. Weak state power and porous borders have enabled the proliferation of jihadist and other armed groups and the intensification of violence. In 2014, as a collective answer to the growing security threat, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger created the G5 Sahel, an intergovernmental cooperation framework seeking to coordinate the security and development policies of its member states. In 2017, the G5 Sahel Joint Force was launched with the aim of fighting terrorism and organised crime in the region. In addition to its own security and development strategy in the region, the EU has developed close links with the G5 Sahel in support of its work towards sustainable peace and development, including regular political dialogues and three CSDP missions to train and advise the G5 Sahel national armies and Joint Force. The recent coup in Mali has led to the suspension of some forms of cooperation between the EU and the G5 Sahel. However, while efforts to find common ground for action and to build a lasting partnership with unstable countries remains a challenge, the EU is not ready to leave this strategic field to other players.

Understanding the EU Strategy for the Sahel

07-09-2020

The August 2020 coup in Mali has once again demonstrated the instability of the Sahel. The region is affected by climate change and rapid population growth. Rivalries over access to livelihoods exacerbate grievances against states. Struggling to provide basic services throughout their territory and security at their borders, governments are competing with armed groups that have emerged from the failed regimes of Central Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. The instability in this region has ...

The August 2020 coup in Mali has once again demonstrated the instability of the Sahel. The region is affected by climate change and rapid population growth. Rivalries over access to livelihoods exacerbate grievances against states. Struggling to provide basic services throughout their territory and security at their borders, governments are competing with armed groups that have emerged from the failed regimes of Central Africa, North Africa and the Middle East. The instability in this region has direct consequences for the security of the European Union's neighbours and for the EU itself. In 2011, to respond to the multiple factors of this instability, the EU adopted the Sahel security and development strategy: the first comprehensive approach aimed at ensuring various external policy programmes and instruments converge towards common objectives. Despite the revamping of the strategy in 2015 based on the lessons learnt, its implementation, which involves the coordination of multiple stakeholders, has been difficult. While it has contributed to notable progress towards integration and regionalisation, security challenges have impeded tangible achievements in preventing radicalisation and fostering inclusive development. The Sahel action plan, adopted in 2015 to provide an overall framework for the implementation of the strategy, comes to an end in 2020; its revision (or replacement) will need to take the EU's and Africa's new geopolitical interests on board. As the EU endeavours to reconnect with Africa in a regional and full-fledged partnership, the successes and failures of the EU Strategy for the Sahel could inspire the whole EU development and security policy on the continent. This briefing is a translated and revised version of Le Sahel: un enjeu stratégique pour l'Union européenne, of November 2017.

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EPRS online Book Talk with Vivien Schmidt: Legitimacy and power in the EU
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Hearing on Responsibilities of transport operators and other private stakeholders
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