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  • Author: Andrew Lebovich
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: France, Germany, and Sahel countries launched the Sahel Alliance in 2017 with the aim of bringing together major international donors to better coordinate development assistance and other financing efforts for the region. The Alliance aimed to integrate security, development, and governance perspectives but has struggled to find coherence and effectiveness – although it has adopted some novel approaches. The worsening security situation in the Sahel led international actors to then set up new initiatives, including the Partnership for Security and Stability in the Sahel and, more recently, the Coalition for the Sahel. However, the relationship between these initiatives remains largely theoretical, with the practicalities of cooperation and burden sharing yet to be fully defined. These new initiatives risk privileging security solutions to complex problems, meaning that necessary governance reforms may fall by the wayside. This is despite widespread acknowledgement, including from senior French officials, that there is no purely military solution to the varied conflicts and challenges in the Sahel.
  • Topic: Security, Development, Diplomacy, Political stability
  • Political Geography: Europe, France, Germany, North Africa, Sahel
  • 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: Jonathan Hackenbroich
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: European countries are increasingly coming under threat of economic coercion from great powers. The European Union and member states have few tools with which to combat the economic coercion waged against them. The EU’s vulnerability threatens its sovereignty and its openness. The EU should move quickly to consider and adopt a suite of tools to protect and enhance European sovereignty in the geo-economic sphere. The mere acquisition of such powers will have a deterrent effect. Such tools are thus necessary to preserve the EU’s economic openness as well as to defend and preserve the rules-based international order. This collection outlines ten such tools that the EU could adopt.
  • Topic: International Relations, Sovereignty, European Union, Economy, Soft Power
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Andrew Wilson
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The European Union was largely on the sidelines when the Belarusian regime rigged the 2020 presidential election, but upcoming votes in Georgia and Moldova pose a different challenge. The EU should make use of its significant leverage in Georgia and Moldova to counter their ruling parties’ extensive repertoire of electoral dirty tricks. The bloc will need to account for the obstacles created by the coronavirus crisis, not least the difficulty of conducting large-scale monitoring missions. The EU will also need to adjust to the ruling parties’ use of pandemic assistance for political gain, and their efforts to prevent citizens abroad from voting.
  • Topic: International Relations, Corruption, Elections, European Union, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: Europe, Moldova, Georgia, Belarus
  • Author: Raiman Al-Hamdani, Helen Lackner
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Early Houthi promises to Yemenis of fairer and more transparent government have come to nothing, and the group exerts a rule of brutal suppression. The Houthis now govern over most of Yemen’s population and should be included in efforts to end the conflict and restore peace to the country. The Houthis seek international recognition, face growing internal challenges, and may no longer want to extend their control over southern Yemen. This provides some negotiating space. While the Houthis benefit from Iranian support, they are driven by their own interests and will wage war regardless of Tehran’s position. European states should now increase conditional engagement with the Houthis, looking to widen political and humanitarian space on the ground, while pushing all sides to the negotiating table.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Negotiation, Peace, Houthis
  • Political Geography: Europe, Iran, Yemen, Gulf Nations
  • 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: Gustav Gressel, Nicu Popescu
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The European Union and its member states have yet to start upgrading EU policies to their declared ambitions of a more geopolitical and strategically sovereign EU. The EU spends more on support for Eastern Partnership countries than the United States does, but Washington has long taken care of security sector reform and capacity building there. If the EU is to be more geopolitically influential in its own neighbourhood, it needs to start developing strategic security partnerships with key neighbours to the east and the south. The bloc should do so by creating a security compact for the Eastern Partnership, comprising targeted support for intelligence services, cyber security institutions, and armed forces. In exchange, Eastern Partnership countries should conduct anticorruption and rule of law reforms in the security sector. The EU should treat this compact as a pilot project that it will implement with important partners in the Middle East and Africa.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Regional Cooperation, European Union, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Amandine Gnanguênon
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Regional organisations have proliferated in Africa in recent decades, with many organisations attempting to address similar issues in similar parts of the continent. International donors have helped create this situation by funding new and existing African regional organisations without questioning the downsides of doing so. In recent years, African regional organisations have increasingly sought to concentrate on security issues, contributing to a rise in the use of ‘hard security’ solutions at the expense of ‘people-centred’ approaches. This proliferation comes with further costs, such as wasted resources, and ‘forum shopping’ by state leaders. Europeans and other international donors should take stock of the situation they have helped create. As a first step, they should agree a tacit ‘non-proliferation agreement’ before considering other options.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Regional Cooperation, Peace, Development Aid
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Majda Ruge
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: A quarter of a century after the Dayton agreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina enjoys peace. But, in the last 15 years, the EU and US have failed to press for reform in the country, a neglect that has enabled ethno-political leaders to capture the state. Reformist political actors have carved out space for economic and governance reforms in scattered municipalities. For such initiatives to expand, however, change in the governing modus operandi is needed at higher levels of government. Restoring independence to the judiciary and strengthening the rule of law are key to the country’s future stability and success, including boosting its economy and stemming emigration. Organised crime and corruption are already worries for EU capitals – and the new Biden administration appears to share this concern. Concerted EU-US action and judicious use of sanctions can jumpstart reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • Topic: Corruption, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Sanctions, European Union, Peace
  • Political Geography: Bosnia, Eastern Europe
  • 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: Thierry Brésillon, Hamza Meddeb
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Tunisia’s 2019 elections produced a vote against the establishment and a fragmented political landscape in which it was challenging to form a government. Parliament is deeply divided and lacks a clear foundation for stable and efficient policymaking, while the new president has neither political experience nor a party to implement his agenda. The 2019 elections may have finally ended the transactional power-sharing agreement forged by Ennahda and representatives of the old regime, which long ignored major socio-economic challenges. The government must build on its successful response to the covid-19 pandemic to create a compromise that shares the burden of economic reform between major political actors and interest groups. If it fails to do so, the resulting rise in economic and social tension could empower anti-democratic forces and destabilise Tunisia. The European Union should actively help the Tunisian government take the path of reform by launching a strategic dialogue to rethink their priorities and identify their common interests.
  • Topic: Politics, Reform, Elections, European Union, Economy, Crisis Management, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: North Africa, Tunisia
  • 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: Anthony Dworkin
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: North African countries, each for their own reasons, are increasingly turning their attention towards sub-Saharan Africa. Morocco is pursuing a comprehensive campaign to increase its influence and win support with regard to Western Sahara. Algeria may be showing new flexibility in its response to security threats to its south. Tunisia is beginning to look for new economic opportunities in Africa. Egypt is responding to a series of strategic concerns, particularly over the waters of the Nile. Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia are also all dealing with increased migration flows, with migrants seeking to work on their territories or pass through it to reach Europe. This North African turn to sub-Saharan Africa offers opportunities for European cooperation. But the EU should be aware of the distinctive agendas of North African countries and the reservations that their initiatives engender in some countries.
  • Topic: International Relations, Migration, Regional Cooperation, Foreign Direct Investment
  • Political Geography: Africa, Algeria, North Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia
  • 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: 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: Amel Boubekeur
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Hirak protest movement has revealed flaws in Algeria’s ruling system, which lacks the tools to reinvent itself or negotiate a new social contract with the people. The army has been unable to restore the “civilian president” narrative it used for two decades, while the current president has been unable to disguise his dependence on the military leadership. The regime can no longer use rigged elections as a substitute for negotiations with citizens. The regime is trying to promote a narrative on the removal of mafias connected with the former president as a guarantee of a new era. The Hirak has created a political culture of popular empowerment, but it still has to agree on a road map for a political transition.
  • Topic: Corruption, Politics, Social Movement, Elections, Protests, Demonstrations
  • Political Geography: Algeria, North Africa
  • Author: Chris Raggett
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: European governments have failed to prevent corrupt actors from laundering hundreds of billions of dollars through the international financial system and their own economies. This breakdown in the rule of law empowers kleptocratic regimes across the globe, which capitalise on the political culture underpinning Europe’s approach to globalisation. Western governments create a negative feedback loop that hinders their foreign policy initiatives when they treat corruption in other countries as an inherent part of the local culture. European policymakers should aim to catch up with, and overtake, their US counterparts on anti-money laundering regulation and enforcement. European countries should create national institutions – and an international coalition of Western states – that are dedicated to countering kleptocrats.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Corruption, European Union, Rule of Law, Financial Crimes, Impunity
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Manuel Langendorf
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The growth of the digital economy in the Middle East and North Africa could become one of the key solutions to the region’s youth unemployment crisis. Governments in the region have taken steps to create an environment in which technology startups can thrive. However, they need to overcome challenges such as flaws in their education systems, bureaucratic inefficiency, and a lack of funding for new businesses. Digitisation not only creates new opportunities for employment and political participation but also enables digital authoritarianism in the region. Europeans must help construct the region’s digital infrastructure, to prevent China from popularising its internet governance model there. The European Union should support the digitisation drive in the Middle East and North Africa through regulation, capacity-building, and funding.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Digital Economy, Political stability, Digital Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, North Africa
  • 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: Dumitru Minzarari, Vadim Pistrinciuc
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The EU’s Eastern Partnership policy is set to receive an update rather than an upgrade consummate with current geopolitical pressures. The Eastern Partnership’s central flaw is its design, which allows local political elites to build ‘facade democracy’. Core to democratic transformation are genuine rule of law reform and strong security against external threats. Adopting a new ‘shared sovereignty’ model would allow the EU into Eastern Partnership states to push through reform, guarantee the rule of law, and expose evasive local elites. Failure to strengthen Eastern Partnership states in this way could strengthen Russia and allow authoritarianism to diffuse westward into the EU. The EU should make shared sovereignty the basis for future Eastern Partnership relations, building on the momentum of the new accession process secured by France.
  • Topic: Sovereignty, European Union, Partnerships, Democracy, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe
  • 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
  • Author: Asli Aydıntaşbaş
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Turkey now controls a long stretch of Syrian territory along its southern border that hosts nearly four million people, most of them Sunni Arabs. The challenges for Turkey there include a difficult balancing act with Russia, the huge financial costs of direct rule, the presence of radical Islamist factions, and the lack of a modus vivendi with the Kurds. Turkey faces the risk of the “Gazafication” of the area – the emergence of a militarily controlled territory that is perennially poverty-stricken and unstable. EU member states can find ways to cooperate with Turkey to support stabilisation in parts of the safe zone, without violating their interests and core principles. They should single out the Euphrates Shield Zone for stabilisation work, on the understanding that other areas captured from the Kurds are politically sensitive for European governments and voters alike. Europe should aim to strike a grand bargain with Turkey: in return for targeted European reconstruction aid to the safe zone, the country would lift its veto on stabilisation in Kurdish-controlled areas, allow trade between these zones, or agree to Kurdish participation in the UN-led political process on Syria.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Treaties and Agreements, Border Control, Geopolitics, Syrian War
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, Gaza, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Jean-Baptiste Gallopin
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Sudan’s transition to constitutional rule is failing: the reform of political institutions has not begun, while the country faces an intensifying economic crisis, a dramatic decline in living conditions, and a flare-up in localised violence. The civilian wing of the Sudanese state is bankrupt but unwilling to confront powerful generals, who control a sprawling network of companies and keep the central bank and the Ministry of Finance on life support to gain political power. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia appear to be positioning a paramilitary leader known as Hemedti as Sudan’s next ruler, but the military is fiercely hostile towards him. Western countries and international institutions have let the civilian wing of the government down: they failed to provide the financial and political support that would allow Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to hold his own against the generals. The transition will only succeed if the government stabilises the economy and civilians work hard to tilt the balance of power away from the military and towards themselves. Europeans should use their relationships with Hamdok, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia to establish civilian control of the generals’ networks of companies.
  • Topic: Corruption, Government, Reform, Finance, Transition
  • Political Geography: Sudan, North Africa
  • Author: Ellie Geranmayeh
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Europeans wish to persuade Iran to compromise on strategic issues – but, unless they understand the dynamics of domestic Iranian politics, they will not get far. Three main power blocs compete to influence Iran’s supreme leader, including the ‘modernisers’, who were instrumental in building the case internally for the nuclear deal. The US ‘maximum pressure’ campaign has placed them on the back foot. Improving the economy remains the most pressing issue in Iran. Without a Western economic offer, the other two power blocs – the conservative ‘Principlists’ and IRGC-linked ‘securocrats’ – will continue their recent ascendancy and press for a confrontational ‘maximum resistance’ response. Immediately after the US presidential election, Europeans should embark on shuttle diplomacy with Washington and Tehran to agree an interim deal on the nuclear issue. This could also strengthen modernisers ahead of Iran’s own presidential race in 2021.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Elections, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Beáta Huszka
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Aspiring EU members must resolve outstanding disputes as part of the membership process. This has proved a powerful tool over the years. Resolving bilateral problems, including border disputes, is especially crucial in the Western Balkans, where they are numerous. France’s October 2019 veto of accession talks for North Macedonia and Albania has already weakened Western Balkans publics’ trust in the EU. Should the EU’s influence wane, nationalist leaders will exacerbate tensions with neighbouring countries. The future of North Macedonia’s Prespa Agreement with Greece is under threat, and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Montenegro could also prove a potential flashpoint. The EU should demonstrate its commitment to the Western Balkans by encouraging countries there to resolve their outstanding disputes, both to make them better candidates and to strengthen security in the region.
  • Topic: Security, Bilateral Relations, Territorial Disputes, European Union
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Balkans
  • Author: Raiman Al-Hamdani, Helen Lackner
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Since the 2010s, a wide range of separatist movements have represented the main political demands in southern Yemen. These groups are motivated by their geographical and historical origins, backed by various foreign powers, and divided by their demands for independence or autonomy. The Southern Transitional Council, the most prominent separatist group, claims to represent the south as a whole but it has limited control over parts of western governorates. The 2019 clash between the council and the internationally recognised government poses the most serious threat to the anti-Houthi coalition since the start of the Yemen conflict. The implementation of the Riyadh Agreement is far behind schedule and it is unclear whether Saudi Arabia will be able to enforce the deal, given the UAE’s withdrawal from Yemen. The European Union should continue to support development and state-building in Yemen, increase its efforts to mediate between Yemenis, and develop institutional and democratic platforms on which southerners can achieve self-determination.
  • Topic: Development, Conflict, Separatism, Houthis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Yemen
  • Author: Cinzia Bianco
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Since 2011, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have become increasingly assertive players across the Middle East and north Africa, particularly given the shifting US role in the region. European countries, long used to working under a US umbrella in the Gulf, have struggled to recalibrate their relationships with Gulf states and have been increasingly marginalised as relevant actors. Europeans urgently need to strengthen their geopolitical role in the Gulf, overcoming competition between one another to shape a more autonomous, strategic, and forceful role in defence of their key interests. Europeans can shift the balance of power in the Gulf in their favour and help address key crises by approaching the Gulf through flexible new frameworks based on core coalitions that address specific issues.
  • Topic: International Relations, Regional Cooperation, Geopolitics, Gulf Cooperation Council
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, North Africa, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Jasmine El-Gamal
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: European governments must decide when and how to protect Syrian refugees who are voluntarily returning home They should do so using their remaining levers of influence in Syria, in line with European interests and UNHCR protection parameters. European engagement on voluntary refugee returns should be limited, cautious, and conditional. Europe must work with Middle Eastern host countries to prevent forced refugee returns. European governments must talk to all relevant stakeholders in the Syrian conflict, particularly Russia.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, International Affairs, Refugee Crisis
  • Political Geography: Syria
  • Author: Asli Aydıntaşbaş
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: European fears of Turkish expansionism in the Western Balkans have no basis in reality. Turkey spots opportunity in the region – yet it actually wants the Western Balkans inside the EU and NATO.The AKP’s approach once deserved a ‘neo-Ottoman’ tag, but Erdogan has since refocused on personalised diplomacy and pragmatic relations. Western Balkans governments remain reluctant to act on Turkey’s behalf by pursuing Gulenists, despite overall warm ties. Europeans should cease questioning Ankara’s motives and work on shared goals instead – hugging Turkey close and keeping it out of Russia’s embrace
  • Topic: Civil War, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Balkans
  • Author: Susi Dennison, Shoshana Fine, Richard Gowan
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: European policymakers have developed a strong interest in tackling the root causes of migration through development aid cooperation. Yet there is no evidence to support their premise that tackling poverty abroad will reduce the incentive to migrate. By increasing people’s skills and aspirations, development aid is likely to encourage migration. European donors can have a greater impact by using aid to shape migration for the mutual benefit of Europe and countries of origin and transit. The root causes approach has helped maintain relatively high levels of European development aid. But this approach may prompt governments to use reduced migration rather than poverty alleviation as an indicator of success. Europe should not confuse development aid’s role in reducing forced migration with that of reducing migration more broadly. European development aid should support migration as a choice, not a necessity.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, Migration, Development Aid
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Shoshana Fine
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The European Union’s approach to migration has created a crisis of solidarity. While migrant arrivals in Europe have declined, so has cooperation and responsibility sharing within the EU. Member states’ reluctance to take sustained responsibility for search and rescue operations has exacerbated voters’ sense that the EU has lost control of the situation. The bloc seems to favour informal, ad hoc initiatives on migration governance that have little transparency, as seen in its disembarkation arrangements and the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. The EU threatens to undermine its credibility in driving reform in north Africa when it cherry-picks its commitments to international obligations, and when it legitimises and funds counterproductive migration practices. The bloc requires bold leadership in telling a story about migration as a normal and necessary phenomenon, and in promoting inclusive, sustainable policies among member states and with third countries.
  • Topic: Migration, Foreign Aid, Border Control, European Union
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Camille Lons, Jonathan Fulton, Degang Sun, Naser Al-Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: China has significantly increased its economic, political, and – to a lesser extent – security footprint in the Middle East in the past decade, becoming the biggest trade partner and external investor for many countries in the region. China still has a limited appetite for challenging the US-led security architecture in the Middle East or playing a significant role in regional politics. Yet the country’s growing economic presence is likely to pull it into wider engagement with the region in ways that could significantly affect European interests. Europeans should monitor China’s growing influence on regional stability and political dynamics, especially in relation to sensitive issues such as surveillance technology and arms sales. Europeans should increase their engagement with China in the Middle East, aiming to refocus its economic role on constructive initiatives.
  • Topic: Security, Power Politics, Geopolitics, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Anthony Dworkin
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Hundreds of EU citizens who joined ISIS abroad are in detention in northern Syria, a territory whose future is deeply uncertain. EU governments remain extremely reluctant to bring these detainees back home and have instead sought to have them tried in the region. Sending suspects to Iraqi courts or an international tribunal also appear to be non-starters given the risk of unfair trials and questionable legal footing available. Returning European ISIS supporters to Europe is the best way to ensure they remain under control and can be prosecuted, interrogated, and helped with re-engagement as necessary. Repatriation would also help the plight of European children in detention camps, who are now at risk of illness and further radicalisation.
  • Topic: European Union, Islamic State, Justice, Foreign Fighters
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Europe
  • Author: Andrew Lebovich
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Religious issues and leadership play an increasingly important role in the lives of many Malians, but international actors are ill-equipped to understand and analyse this. Mali’s religious leaders are heterogeneous and defy easy characterisation, often collaborating with one another on important issues, such as public morality and religion’s role in society, even when their practices diverge. European policymakers should not view religious activism in Mali purely through the lens of counter-terrorism, extremism, and radicalisation. Instead, they should perceive such activism as related to the demands Malians make of religious leaders, religious movements, and the government. Malian religious leaders are active on political issues and often interact with the government, but their most effective forms of engagement often come from their independence from the authorities. There is currently little chance of large-scale representation of Muslim leaders in elected office in Mali – although this could change in the future.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics, Religion, Leadership
  • Political Geography: Africa, Mali
  • Author: Kadri Liik
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Russia’s new generation of foreign policy professionals bring with them a shift in attitudes that challenges the centrality of “the West” in Russian foreign policy. Today’s young professionals are often bitterly affected by “disillusionment” with the West, but the youngest of them – people in their 20s – are free of such emotion, harbouring an outlook that is sharply realist and pragmatic. Russia’s young foreign policy professionals are neither Putin loyalists nor Western-style liberals: they are wary of ready-made ideologies, and prefer to attend to their own consciences. Young diplomats’ ability to shape policy will depend on the balance of power between ‘civilian’ and ‘power’ ministries in Russia (such as, respectively, the foreign and defence ministries), with the former in retreat lately. These shifts mean the West should not hold out hope for the optimism of the 1990s to return once Putin departs.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Power Politics, Ideology
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia
  • Author: Ulrike Franke
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: There is currently too little European thinking about what artificial intelligence means for the military. AI experts tend to overlook Europe, focusing on the US and China. But AI will play an important role for Europe’s defence capabilities, and its funding and development decisions will influence the future of military AI. France and Germany stand at opposite ends of the AI spectrum in Europe: France considers AI a part of geopolitical competition and shows clear interest in military AI, while Germany sees AI only as an economic and societal issue. The new European Commission’s stated goal of achieving “European technological sovereignty” should lead it to include engagement on the topic of military AI, and help EU member states harmonise their approaches. Failing to coordinate properly in this area could threaten future European defence cooperation, including PESCO and the European Defence Fund.
  • Topic: Development, Military Affairs, Artificial Intelligence
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, France, Germany, United States of America
  • Author: Nour Samaha
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: As Syria transitions into a post-conflict phase, its government is trying to survive in much the same way it has over the last eight years. This involves a series of short-term fixes, heavy reliance on foreign allies, and a process of endurance it calls the “long breath”. Damascus wants to create a functional system that serves its ambitions, particularly its desire to re-establish strong central control rather than succumb to external demands. Crippling Western sanctions have led to increasingly drastic shortages of fuel and electricity, disrupting the supply – and increasing the price – of essential goods such as food. As a result, the state is increasingly relying on an array of racketeers, oligarchs and war profiteers to circumvent the sanctions, further entrenching Syria’s corruption networks. The West’s expectation that an economic war will eventually force the regime to acquiesce to its demands is short-sighted and counterproductive.
  • Topic: Corruption, Sanctions, Conflict, Syrian War, Bashar al-Assad
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Kadri Liik
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Orthodox Church in Ukraine this year became ‘autocephalous’ – meaning it is no longer answerable to the Moscow Patriarchate Church. Autocephaly is of huge symbolic importance: for Ukraine, as a sign of political independence; for Russia, as a sign of political loss. The Kremlin and Russian Orthodox Church enjoy a close relationship, but both are biding their time and deciding what to do next. The uncertain course of events means that issues arising from autocephaly may not be settled for many years. The domestic consolidation and international recognition of the new church will not be easy or quick, but this is an irreversible change – Moscow is unable to overturn it.
  • Topic: Religion, Ideology, Christianity
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Ukraine
  • Author: Eman Alhussein
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia is embracing a new nationalism that is transforming domestic politics and the country’s foreign policy. The state is actively nurturing this nationalism, and has radically reduced the influence of the long-dominant religious establishment. A core purpose of the new nationalism is to speed the rise of the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and back his reform agenda. Social media and traditional outlets have swung forcefully in behind this, spreading ‘lines to take’ and exalting the state and its leadership above all else. But the leadership may have created a Trojan horse: already nationalists appear to be training their ferocity back on the state that created them.
  • Topic: Nationalism, Religion, Leadership, Ideology
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Anthony Dworkin, Richard Gowan
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Multilateralism is core to Europe’s approach to foreign policy, but in recent years this has weakened as EU countries disagree among themselves. The US, China, and Russia have each sought to challenge or disrupt the existing, post-1945 world order; and each seeks to divide Europeans from one another. The turmoil in the current system represents an opportunity for Europeans to shape a new order that meets their strategic needs. In addition to the fight against climate change, European interests include: increasing stability on its troubled periphery; managing migration more effectively; and defending the open world trading system. European countries will need to transform EU foreign policy decision-making processes, deepen their cooperation in multilateral settings, and set multilateral standards for emerging technologies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Climate Change, Migration, Political stability, Multilateralism
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe
  • Author: Ellie Geranmayeh, Manuel Lafont Rapnouil
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Secondary sanctions have become a critical challenge for Europe, due to the Trump administration’s maximalist policy on Iran and its aggressive economic statecraft. Europe’s vulnerabilities mostly result from asymmetric interdependence with the US economy, due to the size of US markets and the global role of the US dollar. In future, states will likely weaponise economic interdependence with the EU to target countries that are more important to the European economy than Iran, such as China and Russia. European countries should demonstrate that, despite their economic interdependence with the US, they control EU foreign policy. The EU and its member states should strengthen their sanctions policy, begin to build up their deterrence and resilience against secondary sanctions, and prepare to adopt asymmetric countermeasures against any country that harms European interests through secondary sanctions. They should also attempt to bolster the global role of the euro and lead a robust international dialogue on the role of sanctions.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Sanctions, European Union, Economy, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, Iran, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ulrike Franke
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Artificial intelligence is impossible to disregard – it is set to transform society, the economy, and politics. Europe has not yet taken all the steps it needs to benefit from these advances or to protect itself from AI’s potentially dangerous aspects. The US, China, and Russia are alert to AI’s power to change modern warfare: they grasp the geopolitics of AI and may pursue techno-nationalist agendas in recognition of this. Europe can develop sovereignty in AI by beefing up the talent, data, and hardware it draws on; and as a “regulatory superpower” it can set standards the rest of the world will have to follow. If Europe does not address these difficult questions soon it will find itself surrounded by more powerful rivals deploying AI against it.
  • Topic: Politics, Geopolitics, Economy, Artificial Intelligence
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Tarek Megerisi
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Foreign actors have long been an underappreciated driver of conflict in Libya, to the detriment of European and UN policymaking in support of a political solution there. These actors facilitate their Libyan client groups’ belligerence and escalate the conflict through financial, media, and military support. Europe must understand the role of other foreign actors in Libya if it is to prevent the conflict from devolving into an intractable proxy war akin to that in Syria or Yemen. Such a war would destabilise Libya’s neighbours, directly threatening European security interests and global energy markets. Major powers such as the United States and Russia are unwilling or unable to play a constructive or unifying role in Libya, putting the onus on Europeans to lead the effort to reach a solution. This will require European countries to neutralise or co-opt other foreign actors’ partisan support for Libyan groups. It will also require them to establish an inclusive international working group on Libya, using a mixture of incentives and disincentives designed to prevent escalation.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil War, United Nations, Geopolitics, Conflict, Proxy War
  • Political Geography: Europe, Libya, North Africa
  • Author: Carl Bildt, Eric K. Leonard
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The EU’s foreign policy is inadequate to the task of keeping Europe safe in today’s world of great power politics and uncertainty. Over the last five years, trust between Brussels and member states dwindled, and policy came to reflect the lowest common denominator of popular opinion. The coming five years herald acute pressure on Europe, particularly as Russia, China, and the US undermine multilateral institutions and treat trade, finance data, and security guarantees as instruments of power rather than global public goods. The new high representative should move quickly to rewire European foreign policymaking to exercise strategic sovereignty. The high representative needs more support on this strategy – from deputies, special representatives, and foreign ministers tasked with specific roles. The new leadership team in Brussels needs to reoperationalise European defence, build Europe’s self-sufficiency through a strong European pillar in NATO, and consider innovations such as a European Security Council. Europe will only build greater unity by tackling controversial issues head on in the European Council and the Foreign Affairs Council. The high representative needs to play a much more active role in these debates.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, European Union, Multilateralism
  • Political Geography: Russia, China, Europe, United States of America
  • Author: Richard Giragosian
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Armenia’s 2018 Velvet Revolution swept old elites out of power, but, unlike Ukraine’s Maidan revolution, had no broad effect on relations between Russia and the West. Armenia lacks friendly neighbours in its immediate region, and it remains heavily reliant on Russia. Russia is a dominant presence in the country but finds itself in a ‘paradox of power’: it wishes to avoid turning Armenian opinion against it, especially since 2016 revelations about Russian arms sales to Azerbaijan. The government and public wish to loosen ties with Russia, strengthen them with Europe, and improve relations with neighbouring countries, including Iran. Europe should break out of its self-imposed ‘ring of restraint’ with Armenia by increasing its technical support, something it can do without provoking Russia.
  • Topic: International Relations, History, Geopolitics, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Armenia
  • Author: Gustav Gressel
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Despite Ukrainians’ deep unhappiness with the corruption and inefficiency of the judiciary and security bodies, the Poroshenko administration failed to reform these services. Political interference and personal enrichment have long been part of the practice of these services, overshadowing the strong work they are often capable of and holding back reformist elements. The office of the prosecutor general and the Ukrainian Security Service need particular attention, but merely passing new laws will not be enough: replacing incumbent high-level officials should be an early step. The EU, US, and NATO have worked effectively together on encouraging reform in Ukraine, but they must now ensure that these services remain high in the minds of the Zelensky administration and of Rada members.
  • Topic: Security, Corruption, Government, Reform, Judiciary
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ukraine
  • Author: Shoshana Fine, José I. Torreblanca
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Spain, and Europe, need a new story about migration – there is some recognition of this in Spain but it remains to be seen how the country will put this into practice. Spaniards are relatively open towards migration, but the policy challenge for their government should be to allay, and not provoke, fears of migrant invasion. The Spanish government has called for reform of the EU asylum system, favouring solidarity and shared responsibility as opposed to simply stopping ‘secondary movements’. Spain’s migration diplomacy aspires to work with origin and transit countries rather than acting in a coercive way towards them. The Spanish experience should inform EU member states’ efforts to seek to answers to the populist challenge: they should enact comprehensive, planned, and proactive policies that see migration as normal and necessary.
  • Topic: Government, Migration, Border Control, European Union, Asylum
  • Political Geography: Europe, Spain
  • Author: Susi Dennison, Livia Franco
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: European Council On Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Portuguese people believe that their country’s fate is inextricably tied to that of the European Union. A survey carried out ahead of the Portuguese national election suggests that the Portuguese bounced back quickly from a surge in Euroscepticism linked to the strict conditions of Portugal’s 2011 bailout package. Portugal values the economic benefits of EU membership primarily, but its people believe in the EU as more than just an economic project. The Portuguese are instinctive multilateralists, and hope that the bloc can help them tackle the challenges of globalisation: from climate change to cooperation on the impact of freedom of movement on Europe.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Globalization, International Cooperation, Public Opinion, European Union, Multilateralism
  • Political Geography: Europe, Portugal