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  • Author: Janka Oertel
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Since the onset of the covid-19 crisis, there has been a new convergence of EU member states’ assessment of the challenges China poses to Europe. The Sino-European economic relationship lacks reciprocity, and there are mounting concerns within the EU about China’s assertive approach abroad, as well as its breaches of international legal commitments and massive violations of human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Overall, there is growing scepticism about the future trajectory of the relationship, which provides an opportunity for a more robust and coherent EU policy on China. In its remaining months, the German Council presidency could use this momentum to create institutional structures to improve the EU’s capacity to act. In doing so, it will be crucial to ease concerns about Franco-German dominance of the China agenda – especially those of eastern and southern European countries – while enabling all member states to become more engaged in shaping the EU’s future approach to China.
  • Topic: International Relations, Human Rights, European Union, Economy, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Susi Dennison, Livia Franco
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Portugal’s plans for the EU presidency centre on European priorities for the pre-coronavirus world. These include the completion of the monetary union, the UK-EU relationship after Brexit, the EU’s relationships with Africa and India, climate change, digital transformation, and social inequality. The Portuguese EU presidency should handle these issues in line with European voters’ perceptions of the new reality created by the coronavirus. Many Europeans have lost confidence in the transatlantic relationship, fear for Europe’s place in a world dominated by US-China competition, and want the EU to provide global leadership and shape the international order. Portugal can help the EU develop a foreign policy strategy that takes account of these changes.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, European Union, Transatlantic Relations, Strategic Competition, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Portugal, United States of America
  • Author: Ivan Krastev, Mark Leonard
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: As covid-19 raged, speculation grew that the crisis would restrengthen public support for the state; faith in experts; and both pro- and anti-Europeanism. New research reveals these all to be illusions. Instead, the crisis has revolutionised citizens’ perceptions of global order – scrambling the distinctions between nationalism and globalism. One group – the DIYers – sees a nineteenth-century world of every nation for itself; the New Cold Warriors hear echoes of the twentieth century and look to Trump’s America to defend them from China; the Strategic Sovereigntists foresee a twenty-first-century world of blocs and regions. This last group are the largest and represent a new form of pro-European who believe Europe will need to support its own sovereignty through joint foreign policy, control of external borders, and relocalised production. This moment represents a new opportunity for European cooperation – but the continent’s leaders must make the case carefully to avoid provoking a backlash of reintensfied Euroscepticism. Rather than a ‘Hamilton moment’ of proto-federalisation, we are instead living through a ‘Milward moment’ of strong nation state identities searching for protection in a dangerous world.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Politics, Crisis Management, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Susi Dennison, Pawel Zerka
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: A new pan-European survey conducted by ECFR shows that, after the onset of the covid-19 crisis, there has been a rise in public support for unified EU action to tackle global threats. This is grounded in Europeans’ realisation that they are alone in the world – with their perceptions of the United States, China, and Russia worsening overall. The pandemic has made European voters keenly aware of the need to prepare for the next crisis. There is growing support for the fulfilment of climate change commitments in every surveyed country. Respondents still believe in the value of European cooperation, but generally feel that EU institutions have not helped them enough during the crisis. Policymakers need to elicit voters’ support for a strong European voice on the global stage by building coalitions and identifying areas in which there is either a consensus or a bridgeable divide.
  • Topic: International Relations, European Union, Economy, Alliance, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Jonathan Hackenbroich, Jeremy Shapiro, Tara Varma
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The coronavirus affected EU member states in different ways and to different extents, but almost all found that their public health relied, more than they understood, on goods or services from third countries. This reliance undermined Europe’s capacity to respond autonomously. The EU bodies coordinating the response and providing an early warning system were slow to act and requests for aid from EU member states went unheeded, creating feelings of abandonment among the worst-hit countries. Europe must improve its early warning systems, supply chain resilience, medical research and development, and cyber security and technology, to act decisively in future public health emergencies. Europe can build greater health security by creating common strategic stocks, diversifying and reshoring supply chains, strengthening investment protection in innovative companies, investing in R&D, and coordinating efforts in multilateral forums.
  • Topic: Sovereignty, European Union, Crisis Management, Pandemic, Resilience, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Pawel Zerka
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: ECFR research into how EU member states and institutions worked together – or failed to – at the height of covid-19 confirms Germany was the bloc’s undisputed crisis leader. Germany made a shaky start in showing solidarity on the pandemic, but regained other member states’ trust on the health and economy fronts. The Netherlands, however, paid a reputational price as the leading ‘frugal’ state opposing greater financial burden-sharing. EU institutions won few plaudits but policymakers still look to it for post-crisis economic leadership. France emerged at the head of a strengthened ‘southern’ grouping of member states, while the Visegrad platform was invisible during this crisis. It will fall to Germany and France to close the north-south divide, building coalitions on major policies. But they should not forget that closing the east-west divide remains an important goal.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Regional Cooperation, Health Care Policy, European Union, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Author: Carla Hobbs
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Covid-19 has revealed the critical importance of technology for economic and health resilience, making Europe’s digital transformation and sovereignty a question of existential importance. Rising US-China tensions are an additional incentive for Europe to develop its own digital capabilities; it risks becoming a battleground in their struggle for tech and industrial supremacy. Democratic governments – keen to preserve an open market in digital services while protecting the interests of citizens – find the European model an increasingly attractive alternative to the US and Chinese approaches. The EU cannot continue to rely on its regulatory power but must become a tech superpower in its own right. Referees do not win the game. Europe missed the first wave of technology but must take advantage of the next, in which it has competitive advantages such as in edge computing. EU member states lack a common position on tech issues or even a shared understanding of the strategic importance of digital technologies, such as on broadband rollout or application of AI.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Sovereignty, Power Politics, European Union, Artificial Intelligence, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Mark Leonard
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The shock of covid-19 in Britain may end the culture-wars politics set off by the Brexit referendum – which split the country between Leave and Remain, town and city, old and young. Many people had lent their votes to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives for cultural reasons, in spite of the fact that they were closer to the opposition Labour Party on economic issues. Covid-19 might cause a rethink, as voters expect competence from the government. Counterintuitively, both Leavers and Remainers are open to a leftist domestic agenda and greater cooperation with international partners – issues on which Labour is normally strong. Covid-19 has caused voters to take a dimmer view of previously touted post-Brexit trade partners like the US and China. They think more highly of countries such as Germany. The battleground will be ‘Red Wall defectors’ – voters who gave Johnson his 2019 general election landslide but who are reassessing what matters to them after Brexit. A politics divided along the lines of Leavers and Remainers could disappear as quickly as it appeared – but the Conservatives may nevertheless attempt to stoke the divisions of 2016 that secured them Brexit.
  • Topic: Politics, European Union, Brexit, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: United Kingdom, Europe
  • Author: Julien Barnes-Dacey
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: After nine years of conflict, the US is mounting a ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Syria, seeking the regime’s demise. But, with Assad having effectively won the war, he is unlikely to succumb to US economic pressure. Assad bears responsibility for the country’s freefall but this strategy will further accelerate societal collapse, especially as coronavirus looms, and will not deliver a transition. European governments should pivot to a longer-term strategy focused on protecting those societal forces that are still standing and that can help salvage a better future aligned with European interests. This should include increased – and cautious – support to them within government-controlled Syria. The unpredictability of the Trump administration means persuading the US down this track is not impossible – Europeans should seek to influence Washington to widen space for societal support.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Conflict, Syrian War, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Bashar al-Assad
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Josep Borrell
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The pandemic will likely magnify existing geopolitical dynamics and test the strength of Europe’s democratic systems. Europe needs a new kind of globalisation capable of striking a balance between the advantages of open markets and interdependence, and between the sovereignty and security of countries. Europe should work to prevent the US-China rivalry from having negative repercussions in certain regions of the world – particularly Africa. European leaders need to focus on meeting the immediate needs of healthcare systems, providing an income for people who cannot work, and giving businesses guarantees. The European model will only mean something in the eyes of the world if we can successfully promote solidarity among EU member states.
  • Topic: Globalization, Geopolitics, Coronavirus, Pandemic, COVID-19, Health Crisis
  • Political Geography: Africa, China, Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Andrew Small
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Beijing’s handling of the pandemic has changed long-standing European assumptions about its reliability as a crisis actor and its approach to the European project. Europe’s immediate medical-supply needs and dire economic situation will limit the scope of shifts in its China policy – for now. But, on issues ranging from supply chains to ideological competition, European governments have rebalanced their view of what dynamics with China should look like in the aftermath. The crisis is also intensifying demands from European parliaments, media outlets, and citizens for Europe to puts its China policy on a more open, accountable, and values-based footing. Governments’ pursuit of a “business as usual” approach to Beijing is growing harder to sustain.
  • Topic: Ideology, Strategic Competition, Pandemic, COVID-19, Rivalry
  • Political Geography: China, Europe