Lithuania-Taiwan and the EU’s hesitation in supporting its Member States

Marius Buga

On July 20th, 2021, the Representative of the Taipei Mission in Latvia, Eric Huang, together with Lithuanian MP and Chairman of the Lithuanian Parliamentary Group for Relations with Taiwan, Matas Maldeikis, announced that a new representative office will open in Lithuania. Crucially, the office in Vilnius would be named ‘Taiwanese Representative Office’, a sharp departure from the traditionally used ‘Taipei Mission’. This deepening of ties between Lithuania and Taiwan was met with widespread support in Washington, but Brussels’ reaction has been more timid. Foreign analysts were reasonably concerned that the People’s Republic of China would retaliate, yet Lithuanian officials were cautiously optimistic. According to an analysis by the Bank of Lithuania, as Lithuania has not developed significant economic ties with China, cutting off trade with China would not be particularly harmful and only reduce GDP by 0.3% over three years. Hence, the government of Lithuania has continued to deepen its ties with Taiwan, despite warnings from Beijing.

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The EU should take away the knife from Russia: salami tactics and Nord Stream 2

Claudia Iris Comandini

Imagine February 2023 Ukraine is surrounded by four battalions of troops. Gusts of wind are blowing so fiercely that even the heavy tactical gears worn by Russian soldiers seem like rice paper umbrellas. One could count 175.000 heads deployed on ground and sea, if there was any other than a civilian out there to actually give testimony. The war had been announced and more than ever Ukraine was on the verge of witnessing how the European Union had not kept its promises of being a beacon of democracy. 

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China in Africa: A Force for Good?

Joshua Mathew

Introduction

The rather low-profile Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, concluded recently, saw a reaffirmation of China’s commitment to the region. Africa provides a smorgasbord of economic benefits to China: it is a source of raw materials and agricultural produce, and is an external market for Chinese construction firms. With the demographics of Africa consisting of mostly young consumers, there are lucrative opportunities for Chinese private capital to conduct business in the region. In addition, in terms of political value, Africa is a key partner – as a crucial voting bloc in the United Nations, there is a strategic dimension to the relationship.

One aspect that deserves further attention is the development of telecommunications platforms in Africa. The main focus will be on the Chinese involvement in this area as well as its potential security implications. Some mitigating strategies to deal with the risks will also be provided. 

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How the “Energy Crisis” could hinder European economic recovery

Europe is undergoing an energy crisis as a result of supply-side issues and a dependence on unreliable imports. The key commodity in question is natural gas, heavily utilised by many European countries as they work to reduce their reliance on coal and thus reduce their carbon emissions. However, prices for gas in the UK have increased four-fold over the past year and continue to break record trading prices. Many stakeholders in the UK and continental Europe stand to face significant losses in during the post-pandemic recovery as a result of this energy crisis. Households could face unprecedented gas bills as winter approaches, firms could see an enormous rise in operating costs while governments risk large budgetary strains as they seek to assist at-risk individuals and households while maintaining the operational integrity of their economies. All this, while the post-pandemic recovery continues to flounder around the world.  

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Weaponisation of Refugees: A New Low for Europe

In retaliation for ongoing sanctions imposed by the European Union on Belarus after its disputed presidential election in 2020, President Lukashenko vowed earlier this year to allow migrants to cross Belarus’ borders into EU member states. In a widely publicized move, Belarus is granting easily accessible tourist visas to migrants, many of whom are Syrian refugees residing in Iraq. Supposed travel agents operating in Iraq organize these special tourist visas and flights to Belarus, promoted by the Belarusian government, for desperate refugees. This loophole enables refugees to bypass treacherous boat trips across the Mediterranean and instead travel to Belarus, drive to its border, and walk into one of its three EU neighbour states: Poland, Lithuania or Latvia. Belarusian soldiers are even enabling refugees to cross their border. Consequently, the EU has accused Belarus of purposefully trafficking in migrants hoping to enter the EU in order to destabilize the region as part of a coordinated attack.

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ASEAN and the South China Sea: Southeast Asian Regionalism in Peril?

On 21st March 2021, Sino-Philippines tensions escalated as 200 Chinese militia boats were spotted along a disputed reef in the South China Sea (SCS). For decades, similar escalations between Southeast Asian claimants, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, and China have been prevalent.

The SCS is a vital trade passage, accounting for $3.37 trillion of trade including oil and natural gas. As protecting these essential trade passages becomes more critical as China’s aggressiveness heightens, Freedom of Navigation (FON) missions,alongside technical and military assistance to various Southeast Asian countries, are increasingly undertaken by the US and its allies to counter China to uphold the “rules-based order” and safeguard critical sea lines of communication (SLOCs). Beyond the SCS being an integral economic passage, it forms an avenue for the US to balance China in Asia, heightening the SCS’ strategic importance to extra-regional actors like the US. 

As China grows more ambitious, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10-member bloc to promote stability, progress and cooperation in Southeast Asia, is failing to demonstrate tangible resolve in warding off China’s presence in their backyard. 

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Volt Europa: A New Path to The European Dream?

Back in November, the Policy Centre for European Affairs ran a Hackathon on “European cohesion in the age of populism: How should the EU strengthen European identity to counterbalance Eurosceptic forces?”. Euroscepticism and populism aren’t the only forces causing division in Europe and threatening the European project, but the motivation behind this event was to try and understand in what ways the European Union (EU) could strengthen its internal ties in order to secure its future. This is a hard question, because the EU is not in the best position to fight these forces. The EU is clearly more than a conventional international organization, but it has not yet become part of policy discussions at a state level. Even if it wished to increase its influence and assert its leadership position, there would always be strong opposition to giving EU institutions the kind of powers it would need to do so. Perhaps the solution for the future of the European project may not exist via top-down approaches championed by EU institutions. Instead, a bottom-up political movement may be needed.

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Crisis in the Near Abroad: Russia’s military build-up, and its place in the post-Soviet story

The West must accept that Russia will continue to speak for its own people in a world it considers unfair.

Russia’s relationship with Europe appears to be falling apart at a worrying pace. Events seem to be moving so quickly that it seems inevitable that the contents of this article will be incomplete by the time anybody reads it. In recent weeks, Joe Biden has ordered new sanctions on Russia, hunger-striking opposition leader Alexei Navalny is reportedly close to death, Russia has increased its military presence on its border with Ukraine, and revelations have shown that the perpetrators of the 2018 Salisbury Poisoning were also linked to a bomb blast in the Czech Republic in 2014. 

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Neither local nor global communities can afford the carelessness of Britain’s High Speed 2 Project

The 31-day tunnel protests beside Euston station have come to a close, after activists excavated and occupied underground networks to hinder the construction of an interim taxi rank – which will be built to adapt the Euston area for High Speed 2 (HS2) railway construction. Reports of the tunnel occupation are the newest of dotted media coverage that reminds us of the relentless opposition this controversial project has faced. The site the activists defended for a month is the only forested haven along the Euston Road – a place where ‘breathing is a risk’, having been frequently awarded the title of ‘one of the most polluted roads in Britain’ for exceeding legal pollution levels staggeringly for years. HS2 threatens this small park and patch of time-worn London planes trees, who will have witnessed the unfolding of this area of the city’s cultural and social history. They have been decorated symbolically with colourful scarfs for years, tied around their sturdy trunks to show visual opposition to the felling they have been threatened with – like preemptive bandages to coming, indelible wounds.  

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European waters and migration during the pandemic

As a French citizen studying in the UK, encounters with migrants while traveling across the English Channel have become a regular experience. Whether you take the Eurostar from Calais to Dover or the boat from Ouistreham to Portsmouth, you cannot ignore the reality of their situation, especially during the pandemic. One memory will always remain with me: I arrived by car at the harbour of Ouistreham when suddenly a group of migrants started chasing after the lorry ahead of us. They tried to jump on it and, unsuccessfully, attempted to open the back door of the lorry. This shocked me and at that moment I felt privileged. I had a passport and the right to legally cross the border. Meanwhile, they were illegal immigrants attempting something incredibly dangerous to be able to lead a better life. I was unable to help them and felt embarrassed that this was happening in a European country like France. But this is the reality of the lives of many migrants attempting to cross the borders to European countries.

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