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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Weaponising History: Putin’s Strategy for Domestic and Foreign Policy Success

Ariel Koh

On 28 December 2021, Memorial International, Russia’s oldest human rights group, whose aim was to preserve memories of Soviet-era totalitarianism to educate the populace, promote democracy and ‘restor[e] historical truth’, was ordered shut by the Russian Supreme Court. In a year that witnessed the arrest of Putin’s most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny  – who was also tried for the defamation of a war veteran – crackdowns on a specific historical narrative that complements Putin’s domestic and foreign objectives point towards his increased ambition to restore Russia’s former greatness.

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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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Alexander Lukashenko: A Threat to EU Security.

Pasha Wilson

Since August 2020, the EU has imposed sanctions on Belarus in response to the ‘neither free, nor fair’ presidential election of Alexander Lukashenko, as well as his military’s violent suppression of peaceful protestors and journalists opposing the party in power. In retaliation, Lukashenko’s regime has aimed to destabilise the EU through fuelling illegal movement of migrants into the EU. Lukashenko is exploiting the desperation of migrants travelling from war-torn countries in the Middle East and using them as pawns in his political warfare with the EU. Belarusian soldiers are actively encouraging migrants to travel freely through Belarus, with the false promise of open borders into the EU bloc via Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. Free travel is advertised through the ‘tourist’ packages being sold to migrants, which reportedly cost between $3,000 and $4,000 and include a Belarusian visa and flight tickets to Minsk.

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History Repeating Itself: The Consequences of Poland’s De Facto Abortion Ban

The consequences of Poland’s recent near-total abortion ban are becoming increasingly clear after a 30-year-old pregnant woman, named Izabela, died in a hospital in Pszczyna in southern Poland after being denied a possibly life-saving abortion. In October 2020, Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that abortions will only be legal in cases of rape, incest, and when a mother’s life is endangered, while terminating a pregnancy with fetal defects is against the Polish Constitution. Izabela’s is the first death publicly linked to the ban. Although Izabela died in September 2021, the story was only made public in early November.

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People or Pawns? The case of refugees at the crux of Greece-Turkey relations

The narrative regarding refugees and migrants has often been couched in negative terms, which has led in turn to the isolation of such individuals. This is partly a cause of the criminalisation of migrants perpetuated in the media, leading to xenophobia and racism, or top-down policies that do not take into account lived realities. This is clearly evident in the case of the EU-Turkey deal of 2016 – an agreement to discourage refugees from seeking asylum in Europe. It allowed Greece to send incoming ‘irregular migrants’ to Turkey instead – the latter would increase measures to stop illegal migration and would in exchange receive €6 billion in aid from the EU for its migrant communities; the agreement also included the possibility of resettling of one Syrian refugee in the EU for every one that Turkey let in. It is clear that this agreement is a political strategy benefiting EU countries at the expense of refugees’ rights, and despite being heavily criticised as such, it was still pushed forward. 

Turkey had essentially taken on the heavy burden of becoming Europe’s new buffer zone. The toll of this was not fully realised until February 2020 when Turkish authorities announced the reopening of the border shared with Greece amid accusations that the EU had not provided Turkey with the promised funding to support 3.6 million refugees within its borders. Following this, hundreds of refugee communities in the country rushed towards the border with the hopes of gaining entry into Europe, and according to interviews conducted on the ground by Amnesty International representatives, there were free buses ready to transport them to the border region. This political move to pressure the EU into more cooperation once again came at the expense of these migrants flooding the border, where they were pushed back violently by the Greek border security. 

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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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Germany’s New Government: hope or old concerns for Eastern Europe?

The 2021 Federal Election brings substantial political changes for Germany. After 15 years, Angela Merkel will no longer be the chancellor, as her party, the center-right Christian Democrat Union (CDU), has suffered their worst ever result, with just 24.1% of the vote. The Voters favoured the center-left Social Democratic Party for Germany (SPD), which received their best result since 2005, the even further left Green party, and the classical liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). These three winners of the election are forecast to constitute the most likely ruling coalition, aptly dubbed the “traffic light” coalition after their party colours. While negotiations are ongoing and an alternative party arrangement remains possible, if unlikely, Eastern European (EE) states are already able to anticipate their strategies for interaction with Berlin.

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Seeking to become a leader in the electric battery industry: what is the EU’s strategy?

Introduction 

The international system is in the midst of a large-scale energy and technological transition to shift away from fossil fuels and move towards carbon neutrality. The electric battery industry is on the rise with major actors like Japan (major producer of electric vehicles) and China (with a battery cell production in 2017 of twenty-two times that of Europe) clearly displaying their ambitions. In this global race for green industrial leadership, how does the European Union (EU) seek to play its card right? 

Answering this question requires acknowledging two premises regarding EU characteristics that shape and condition its role in the future energy transition. On the one hand, the EU is first and foremost an economic power as the strength of its voice in international politics resides in its “material existence”, being the “largest advanced industrialized market in the world”. The energy transition is, therefore, an outstanding opportunity for the EU to foster long-term growth and create millions of jobs on the Old Continent. 

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