• Peter Hefele China Digital Technology Trade Ukraine

    Thinking Talks Ep.6 with Ming-Yen Tsai, Ambassador, Taipei Representative Office in the EU & Belgium

    Multimedia - Thinking Talks

    27 Jul 2022

  • Don’t miss the answer given during the EPP Congress in Rotterdam by the following European leaders:

    – Seán Kelly, EPP Group MEP (Fine Gael)

    – Barry Ward, Fine Gael Senator (Ireland)

    – Vladimír Bilčík, EPP Group MEP (SPOLU – občianska demokracia)

    – Ivan Štefanec, EPP Group MEP (Kresťanskodemokratické hnutie, Slovakia)

    – Lukas Mandl, EPP Group MEP (Österreichische Volkspartei)

    – Alexander Stubb, former Primer Minister of Finland and Director of the School of Transnational Governance

    – David McAllister, EPP Group MEP (CDU Deutschlands)

    – Paulo Rangel, EPP VP and EPP Group MEP (PSD Portugal)

    European People's Party European Union Ukraine

    What would be your message to Ukraine?

    Multimedia - Other videos

    02 Jun 2022

  • With Aura Salla, Head of EU Affairs, Facebook (Meta) and hosted by Margherita Movarelli, Head of Communications and Marketing, Martens Centre

    Margherita Movarelli EU-Russia Ukraine

    The Disinformation Threat to Europe After the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

    Multimedia - Other videos

    01 Jun 2022

  • Moderator: Jarosław Pietras, Visiting Fellow, Martens Centre

    Discussants:

    – Željana Zovko, MEP, HDZ, Croatia

    – Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsandze, MP, European Solidarity, Ukraine, former Deputy PM for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration

    Jarosław Pietras Enlargment Ukraine

    Panel 4 Day 1 – EU Enlargement: A New Approach

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    31 May 2022

  • Click the image to download

    Welcome to the Migration Update May 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU Member States EU-Russia European Union Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update May 2022

    Migration Update

    31 May 2022

  • Europe’s immediate reaction to the invasion and attempted destruction of Ukraine was to impose harsh sanctions on Russia. However, the EU should also think about how to create mechanisms that, in the long term, will involve Russia in financing Ukraine’s recovery from the conflict.

    Stopping Russian energy imports so as to reduce the Kremlin’s capacity to finance the war in Ukraine is the most urgent political imperative. There can be no other political reaction to the heinous war atrocities in Ukraine. Reducing imports cannot be implemented simply by closing valves on pipelines. In parallel with strong actions on imports from Russia, Europe must strive to radically reorient the sources of its energy supply. Many additional steps will be needed, such as making use of existing EU energy assets and potentials, including those that were supposed to be abandoned or disposed of. Critical times will come with peak summer demand and preparation for winter, with the requirement to fill gas storage capacities in the autumn.

    A recent presentation by the International Energy Agency shows that it is possible to limit dependence on Russian gas, oil, and coal. This would require substantial measures to be taken to reorient the geographical sources of energy supply, as well as changes in the energy mix in each European country. It is unsurprising that there is obvious hesitation in some countries, including doubts as to how fast the EU could move in such a direction without substantially damaging its own situation. The same can even be said of the impact of high energy prices for Ukraine, which continues to import Russian gas.

    The daily value of energy imports from Russia this year is in the hundreds of millions of Euros. In other words, EU purchases of Russian gas are four times that of EU aid offered to Ukraine so far. Europe faces the multiple challenges of reducing its energy dependence on Russia, reducing energy bills, and, once the war is over, providing effective support to Ukrainians in rebuilding their country. We rely on political action to resolve this war immediately, but in order to reach long-term economic goals, we should also use market forces. This can be achieved only through several different actions aimed at reducing demand for all types of energy, applying efficient sanctions – or as Bruegel in its paper calls it, “smart sanctions” – and imposing a war-related charge on all remaining European energy imports from Russia.

    Another element to bear in mind is that although ceasing Russian energy imports aims to limit Putin’s financial capabilities, the impact of these measures will not be immediate. The reduction and eventual permanent cessation of energy imports will affect Russia with a delay. In the meantime, Europe’s search for new oil and gas suppliers is affecting world markets. Predictably, this drives prices up, and more importantly, it keeps gas prices well above oil, which is rather unusual. Paradoxically, such high prices allow Russia to compensate for the decline in export volumes. Russia benefits from high prices because everyone, not just the EU, is looking for additional supplies. But in the long run, markets deliver change. High prices encourage the global development of new capacities of worldwide supplies of coal, oil and gas, and electricity. Current high energy prices coincide with efforts to speed up the decarbonisation of the European economy. Coincidentally, this might make it easier to ensure a positive start to the green transition and the implementation of the European Green Deal.

    As noted earlier, high energy costs mitigate the impact of sanctions on Russia. Europe, together with its allies, should undertake efforts that affect global markets, global supply and demand, and, therefore, push down energy prices on the global market. Their decline will contribute to the effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on Russia.

    Already now, the cost of energy for EU countries is excessive, but it should be seen as a justified price to pay for solidarity. Soon, there will be another high bill to pay, as rebuilding Ukraine will require massive financial resources. How could Russia be involved in these reconstruction expenditures? Obviously, seized wealth through sanctions could be tapped for this purpose. But even billions in foreign exchange reserves might not be sufficient. As Russian energy exports continue to flow into Europe, albeit in reduced quantities, the EU could consider imposing a special levy on such remaining imports with the aim of creating a special fund for the reconstruction of Ukraine. A sanction-related charge on imports from Russia would have to be cleared as compatible with WTO rules, but due to the war, its conditions could be more easily defended than, say, US tariffs on steel imposed by the Trump administration. This would generate resources that could be directed to a dedicated fund and used as aid to Ukraine. Such a war-related levy on imported Russian energy would be at the expense of European importers and customers who cannot help but rely on Russian supplies. But over time, current high energy prices would lead to the expansion of other sources, and if global supplies increase, the motivation to import more expensive Russian oil or gas will diminish. Consequently, if Russia will want to continue exporting, it will have to offer energy products at a discount or stop deliveries. This levy on energy imports would eventually be passed on to Russia, indirectly forcing the country to contribute to the funds intended for rebuilding Ukraine.

    By increasing the cost of energy imported from Russia by, for example, 1/4 through such a special levy, large amounts could be generated to be used to help Ukraine. They would depend on the extent of residual imports from Russia to the EU. In the long term, Russia will suffer from reduced exports to Europe, sunk costs of infrastructure capacity, and lower energy prices on world markets. And the “Solidarity with Ukraine” levy on energy imports from Russia could continue for years, even after the war ends and until the amounts obtained sufficiently cover Ukraine’s reconstruction needs.

    Jarosław Pietras Energy EU-Russia Ukraine

    Jarosław Pietras

    Linking Russian Sanctions to Rebuilding Ukraine

    Blog

    09 May 2022

  • Tomi Huhtanen Antonis Klapsis Vít Novotný Anna Nalyvayko EU-Russia Extremism Ukraine

    Serving Russian Interests in the EU: From Far-Right Parties to GONGOs

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    03 May 2022

  • Roberta Metsola Tomi Huhtanen Democracy EU Institutions Leadership Ukraine

    Thinking Talks Ep.5 with Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament

    Multimedia - Thinking Talks

    30 Apr 2022

  • Click the image to download

    Welcome to the Migration Update April 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Thanks go to Davide Marcantoni for writing up the ECtHR court case for the judicial observatory.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný Crisis EU-Russia European Union Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update April 2022

    Migration Update

    30 Apr 2022

  • Defence EU-Russia Ukraine

    The changing realities of EU defence cooperation

    European View

    26 Apr 2022

  • As Russian forces regroup ahead of their imminent offensive in eastern Ukraine, now is the time for decisive action to force Moscow to re-evaluate the cost of its unprovoked war and any future attacks. Time is of the essence. Russia must be dealt such insurmountable losses, at home and on the battlefield, that it loses the ability to sustain this war.

    As a result of Ukraine’s relative success countering Russian attacks to date, it is estimated that more than 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in just seven weeks, surpassing the death toll of the entire, decade-long, Soviet-Afghan war. Meanwhile, as many as 680 Russian tanks, over 2,000 armoured vehicles, and 150 aircraft have reportedly been destroyed. These significant losses have led some analysists to conclude that Russia’s military is vastly overestimated. This is a misconception. Russian military superiority relies heavily on combined arms warfare, primarily via modernised battalion tactical groups. These formations are designed to take on similarly large battalions, namely those of NATO, combining speed, versatility, and firepower, to effectively steamroll opponents. But they have a major weakness: they lack infantry units to cover their flanks. As a result, hit-and-run guerrilla tactics have proven particularly effective and have played a key role in Ukraine’s ability to inflict heavy losses. This advantage, however, will not last forever.

    After failing to take Kyiv, Russian forces will now throw all their might at the already-war-torn eastern portion of Ukraine in a desperate attempt to declare some kind of success. Its military will learn from their mistakes, tighten supply lines and close ranks, with perhaps even more flagrant disregard for civilian lives.

    Meanwhile, since the start of Russia’s war, the EU has moved at warp speed, by EU standards, to improve its security and defence capabilities. It has approved the Strategic Compass, a process initiated in 2020, that sets out the EU’s strategic vision and security objectives over the next 5 to 10 years. Among them, its first-ever rapid deployment contingent, of up to 5,000 troops – a building block that should not be undervalued. At the national level, too, many EU members are granting additional attention to their defence policies at staggering levels. Germany, for example, who has remained almost painstakingly pacifist since joining NATO, announced a historic €100 billion defence budget.

    NATO has also made substantial progress as of late, developing its own defence capacity. Herein lies the largest of many miscalculations made by Putin in this war. In a matter of weeks, he has managed to succeed in what Donald Trump could not achieve in four years: he has made NATO great again. In a sign of the times, even the historically neutral Nordic countries of Finland and Sweden appear set to join as early as this summer.

    For all it’s worth, however, many of these developments, including NATO’s substantial troop increase on the EU’s eastern flank, now at 40,000, will only serve as a deterrent for Russia against EU and/or NATO members, and will not slow Russia’s war in Ukraine, or prevent more atrocities from being committed there.

    What Ukraine needs now, while Russia is regrouping, is more shipments of lethal aid ahead of the decisive battles that lie ahead. Crucial to Ukraine’s successful guerrilla tactics have been the man-portable air-defence systems supplied by Western allies, such as the Javelin, NLAW, and Stinger, which have denied Russia air superiority and stalled potential ground assaults. Additionally, the Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 drone – which will likely become the hottest-selling weapon system on the market following its demonstrated field success – has enabled Ukraine to destroy entire columns of vehicles from afar, coordinate effective artillery barrages and monitor Russian troop movements.

    But these weapons will not be enough for what could be the deciding chapter of this war. Ukraine desperately needs shipments of heavy weapons before Russia launches its next assault. Guerrilla tactics alone will not stall Russian forces in Ukraine’s eastern landscape, which is dominated by open fields. Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has echoed this call, indirectly clashing with Chancellor Olaf Scholz who has been accused of delaying deliveries of tanks to Ukraine. Czechia and Slovakia have already responded, along with pledges by Poland and the Baltic nations, and an additional $800 million in US support. Other EU members must follow suit while this equipment can still play a deciding factor.

    Finally, what Ukraine needs most is for the EU to stop financing this war for Russia, effectively enabling it to sustain the conflict. The impressive sum that the EU has already committed in military aid – €1 billion with possibly another €500 million in the works – is insufficient. Though this feat marks the first time that the EU has supplied lethal weaponry to a third country, that amount is dwarfed by the €35 billion that it has paid to Russia since the start of the war for its energy imports – nearly Russia’s entire annual defence budget.

    Ultimately, Ukraine’s fight is our fight, as Europeans and proponents of democracy. The window for the EU to have a meaningful impact in the battles to come is small. While Russia regroups, we must step up support for Ukraine, for the sake of their future and our own. As Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba put it, “Either you help us now, and I am speaking about days … or your help will come too late.”

    Gavin Synnott Defence Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Gavin Synnott

    The Clock is Ticking – Ukraine Needs Urgent Support Ahead of Russia’s Next Offensive

    Blog

    14 Apr 2022

  • The author is a WMCES Visiting Fellow and the former Polish Secretary of State in the Office of the Committee for European Integration, who was involved in Poland’s accession to the EU.

    On 11 March 2022, EU leaders met informally in Versailles to discuss the Russian war against Ukraine. The question of how to address Ukraine’s bid for EU membership remained unanswered. Heads of states simply noted that the Commission should prepare an opinion on this request, the so-called “Avis”, which is part of the formal procedure. It was not a visionary response, but a technocratic one. How can the Commission assess whether Ukraine is ready for membership while the country struggles against Russian invasion? There is a need for a considered approach that would guide the EU and Ukraine into a joint post-war era.

    In rather dramatic circumstances, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an application for Ukrainian membership of the European Union, a plea to determine his country’s future. No one would reasonably expect that membership could be granted immediately, but in such atrocious times, it is necessary to respond credibly. There were calls, also among EPP leaders, to grant Ukraine candidate status. As the summit approached, some diplomats felt such a move would be low-risk, as it is never clear whether a candidate will actually eventually become a member. But this argument can be reversed, too. It does not seem entirely honest to offer candidate status on the assumption that it may not necessarily lead to membership. After the unequivocal declaration of the European Commission and the clear position of the European Parliament, some countries expected that the Council would adopt a similar stance in Versailles. In this respect, the Versailles Declaration fell short of their expectations. It does not create a fast-track procedure or promise candidate status to Ukraine; however, it does include some new elements.

    EU leaders unanimously affirm that “Ukraine belongs to our European family”. This goes a few inches further than the wording of the EU-Ukraine summit last October. The Versailles Declaration notes that “the Council acted swiftly and invited the Commission to deliver its opinion on this request in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Treaties”. Now, any next step depends on a competent, but dry and technocratic analysis done by the Commission. Even without a clearer commitment on the candidate status, asking the Commission to prepare the Avis means that the discussion on Ukraine’s eligibility to become an EU member is thus over.

    However, the follow-up to the political response to Ukraine’s application should respect all the accession process’ requirements. Any decision must also be consistent with the approach taken by the EU towards other candidates such as those of the Western Balkans, or others countries, like Georgia or Moldova.

    The process of preparing a country for accession is complex and time-consuming. Simply asking the Commission to prepare an opinion on Ukraine’s application, the aforementioned Avis, is a bit confusing at this stage. How can the Commission reasonably assess whether Ukraine is capable of applying the acquis communautaire, while Russian bombs are dropping on the very institutions which would be applying EU regulations? Could one expect to receive quickly trustworthy answers to the thousands of questions in the typical questionnaire, which is soon going to be used by the Commission for this purpose? Is it possible to judge whether the Ukrainian administration is mature and can operate stably, as EU members expect? Drafting now an typical Avis on Ukraine’s membership application following standard methodology, through a detailed review of all the chapters of the acquis, would probably lead to unconvincing conclusions, as Ukraine is not currently in the position to deliver all the detailed information required.

    Therefore, I recommend a different approach, The preparation of the Avis should be divided into four distinct phases; namely, assessment whether Ukraine meets criteria to obtain candidate status, guidance towards reconstruction, assistance with implementation of the acquis, and final assessment.

    During the first phase, on the basis of relatively straightforward assessment of the Ukrainian economy, legal system and administration structures and intentions of the Ukrainian Government described in the answers to the first short questionnaire, the Commission should be able to propose to the EU Member States to decide, whether, under the condition that as they are, Ukraine can be granted candidate status for EU membership.

    Whenever the war ends, Ukraine will need major reconstruction. The EU should prepare to offer massive support, clearly linking this support to Ukrainian membership aspirations. It is necessary to focus on rebuilding Ukraine with the objective of integrating it with the EU. This part should therefore serve as a very solid guidance for any reconstruction effort focused on path towards the EU, indicating what should be done beyond the existing Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. For several years, there has been an intense dialogue between the EU and Ukraine to bring the Ukrainian legal framework closer to the acquis communautaire; since 2014, significant progress has been made in this respect. Thus, the Commission, and in particular DG NEAR (including the European Commission Support Group for Ukraine – SGUA – and the EU Advisory Mission for civilian security sector reform – EUAM) has a fairly good idea of ​​Ukrainian efforts so far. But since 24 February this year, the situation has changed dramatically. Gradual adaptations based on “best efforts” principles and soft obligations with no clear deadlines will no longer be sufficient. Therefore, this part of the fully fledged Avis should focus on the required transformation and improvement of economy and trade, services and labour markets, environmental and energy standards, as well as administrative capacities, an impartial judiciary, and the rule of law. These reconstruction programmes could be arranged – as typical Avis – according to the chapters of the acquis communautaire and the necessary adaptations, bringing the country closer to the EU.

    The next phase of the Avis should begin at a certain stage of the implementation of the reconstruction programme, when it will be possible to assess in detail the progress made towards adopting the EU’s legal framework. Financing reconstruction programmes can be converted to pre-accession facility with even clearer focus on integration process. In the meantime, the Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, could be significantly enhanced. Additional rights for Ukrainian entities and citizens could be given, in step with the obligations assumed by Ukraine. For example: a customs union between the EU and Ukraine could be established, or the inclusion of Ukraine within the Emissions Trading System to avoid that the country is negatively affected by the proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism – CBAM.

    Solid progress in implementing these programmes and transforming Ukraine’s economy and legal system would enable the writing of final conclusions of the Avis. Only then would it be possible to convincingly answer the question of whether Ukraine meets membership criteria, in general terms and in practical details. Such a conclusions would allow the EU to take a final decision on accession negotiations.

    Jarosław Pietras Enlargment European Union Ukraine

    Jarosław Pietras

    Ukraine’s Accession Cannot Happen Overnight, but it Deserves Due Consideration

    Blog

    12 Apr 2022

  • By Anne Blanksma Çeta, Principal Social Impact Strategy, Glocalities

    While opinion polls announced a narrow race in the Hungarian parliamentary elections of 3 April, Fidesz enjoyed a decisive victory. How did Viktor Orbán achieve this? And what does it mean for Fidesz’s public support in the coming months, now that the EU has decided to activate the rule-of-law conditionality mechanism? A unique survey into the future of Europe in 10 EU countries (including Hungary) might provide some answers. The survey was conducted in December 2021, and then again in March 2022 to assess the impact of the war in Ukraine. These two surveys, commissioned by the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and executed by the global research agency Glocalities, drew about 5000 respondents each, and will be published in a comprehensive report soon.

    2018: Fidesz and the Values Coalition of Traditionalists and Achievers

    Electoral victories by Fidesz in the past decade can be explained by the values coalition which Viktor Orbán put together in the last decade. It unites Traditionalists (status quo conservatives) and Achievers (entrepreneurial networkers), who together form a values majority in Hungarian society. This electoral coalition has been consistently mobilised by Fidesz with constant values-based messages and campaigns, emphasising traditional family values, national pride, and religious values. In contrast to these positive (in the eyes of the Fidesz electorate) values stand the values Fidesz vigorously opposes in all its forms: hedonism (by implication, the LGBT community), globalism (Soros, Brussels) and liberal pluralism. All indications for the 2022 elections were that Fidesz would again run a campaign based on this playbook. The referendum on Child Protection, scheduled on the same day as the national election, was specifically designed to reinforce this values-based framing, which worked so well for Fidesz in the past. Then, Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, throwing Fidesz’s electoral strategy in a shambles. The united opposition quickly grasped the weakness of the Fidesz campaign exploiting values cleavages in Hungarian society, while a war on Hungary’s border requires a unifying message. The opposition decided to brand Orbán as the divisive, pro-Putin and anti-EU candidate, which needed to be beaten by a united opposition. So, how come that campaign failed?

    Distinctive values profile of Fidesz supporters, based on the 2018 global values survey which Glocalities conducts annually on its own initiative

    2022: Rebranding of Fidesz as the Party of Peace and Stability

    It was not only the opposition who grasped that the war changed the electoral context; so did Fidesz. They decided to change the elections from a battle of national conservatives versus liberal progressives into a battle of war and instability (the opposition) versus peace and stability (continued rule by Fidesz). The results of our polling data from March 2022 show how Fidesz was able to read (and shape) the public mood:

    • In a list of foreign threat perceptions, ‘Russian foreign policy’ went up from 10% to 29% in Hungary, which is high, but in a completely different league than threat perceptions in Poland (where the perceived threat of Russia climbed from 35% to 57%).
    • Hungary was the only one of the 10 countries polled where willingness to provide security guarantees to other EU countries fell considerably (while in most other EU countries it went up or stayed the same). On the statement ‘Hungary should provide military support and assistance to another EU country if that country is under attack, even if that attack does not threaten Hungary directly’, agreement went down from 51% to 38%, showing the extent and effectiveness of Russian intimidation on the Hungarian public.
    • On a list of EU policy concerns, ‘cost of living’ was increasing in Hungary the most out of all 10 countries polled, making it uncontestably the principal concern of Hungarians during the election campaign. This clearly made Hungarians more inclined to follow Orbán’s appeasing attitude towards Russia.
    • On a list of values that people aspire for in Europe, ‘safety’ and ‘peace’ strongly gained in popularity in Hungary since the war in Ukraine, while the commitment to values of ‘equality’ and ‘human rights’ went down. This demonstrates how the war in Ukraine resulted in a trade-off between the values of safety and peace, which Fidesz made central to their campaign, versus equality and human rights, on which Fidesz has a bad track record in public opinion.        

    This polling data explains how the campaign message of Orbán being the candidate for peace and stability in times of war resonated with the country’s public mood. Concerns about peace and stability trumped concerns about rule of law and inequality, which became less important in contrast. The results also show the considerable difference in public sentiment between Hungary and Poland regarding their risk assessment of Russia and the impact of this threat on public opinion. In Poland, high threat perceptions about Russia and high solidarity with the Ukrainian people translated in an emboldened public opinion against Russia and public pressure to offer more support to Ukraine. Conversely, in Hungary, the war intimidated Hungarians to stay out of this conflict for fear of the consequences, both in terms of security and rising energy costs.

    Threats and Opportunities Regarding Fidesz’s Future Public Support

    How should the EU assess Fidesz’s public support moving forwards, with an EU-Hungarian conflict over the rule-of-law mechanism? Again, the survey data provides several clues:

    • Fidesz’s current legitimacy lies in the party’s ability to offer peace and stability. Further increases in energy prices (gas sanctions?) and a military escalation of the Ukraine war which could be blamed on Brussels are both elements that could further strengthen public support for Fidesz.
    • At the same time, the EU enjoys high trust in Hungary (much higher than the government does, which is widely seen as corrupt). Stability trumps rights at this moment in time. The rule-of-law mechanism should therefore, much more clearly and consistently, be communicated as a way to stop high-level corruption of EU funds (a concern that consistently polls highly in Hungary).
    • At the same time, the EU should be very careful in its interpretation of the rule of law. Especially in the domains of values and morality (e.g., abortion, family values, gay rights), Hungarian society remains strongly conservative and aligned with the government. The EU Commission should therefore tread very carefully, aim to enforce the more institutional aspects of the rule of law, and avoid conflating the rule of law with more politicised issues that activate profound values cleavages in Hungarian society.
    • The war in Ukraine shows how national pride and pro-EU attitudes can very well co-exist. Ukrainian nationalists aspire to European integration to escape from Russia’s imperialist ambitions. Across Central Europe, national and European aspirations are closely intertwined. The EU should seek to promote and nurture this sentiment of pro-European patriotism in Central Europe, including in Hungary, where Orbán might find himself increasingly isolated among Visegrád countries.

    This is only a tiny fraction of the rich insights that our data-driven study on the future of Europe can offer to clarify a variety of topical EU issues. A full report is upcoming.  

    Anne Blanksma Çeta Central and Eastern Europe Democracy Elections Ukraine Values

    Anne Blanksma Çeta

    Understanding Fidesz’s Landslide Victory in Hungary: Some New Data

    Blog

    08 Apr 2022

  • Popular sentiments are crucial in how societies respond to immigration.

    Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, the volume of refugee migration into the EU stagnated. The bloc’s share in hosting the world’s refugees had been declining since the peak of the bloc’s asylum and border crisis of 2015-16.

    There was also a general view that the bloc was closing itself off. This perception was more due to political rhetoric than reality. While refugee immigration constituted only a small part of overall EU immigration figures, the numbers of non-EU workers, students and family members of existing migrants reached the total of more than 20 million residence permits at the end of the pre-pandemic year 2019.

    The Kremlin’s assault against Ukraine has changed the perception of the EU as an insular entity, however incorrect that perception was.

    Ukraine’s desperate are now running for safety into the EU in the hundreds of thousands, creating the most intensive forced flight in human history when measured by the number of people crossing international borders in one month. The use of cars, buses and trains is making this flight possible, and so are the eastern members’ open borders.

    On 4 March 2022, the EU’s interior ministers voted to grant all Ukrainian refugees temporary protection in the bloc, providing a ‘blank check’ to an unlimited number of Ukrainians who might arrive in the EU before 4 March 2023. One’s presence in Ukraine on 24 February and having been displaced by conflict are the only conditions for the EU to provide legal protection.

    Absorption capacity, meaning the ability of a society to accept and accommodate people from another society, appears to have ballooned beyond all imagination. Whether Ukrainians will become well integrated in all the member states they are entering, remains to be seen.

    Absorption capacity and war

    In peacetime, the prospect of admitting 3.7 million people within a month would have caused unimaginable political conflicts between the EU’s members.

    Sentiments obviously play a decisive role in determining a society’s absorption capacity. War is turning out to evoke the strongest of sentiments.

    Before the war broke out, the EU’s eastern frontline states were often characterised in West European countries as inherently xenophobic. This characterisation was incorrect, but at least partly understandable due to the far-right rhetoric of a couple of the region’s leaders, as well as several members’ refusal to participate in the mandatory relocation scheme of 2015-17. This portrayal now seems out of time and out of touch.

    When Russian tanks began rolling into the previously unconquered areas of Ukraine, the Central and East Europeans’ response was instant, automatic and instinctive. ‘I want to help the victims of Russian aggression’ was a thought that galvanised the collective psyche without having to be communicated.

    The fact that Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Czechia and others are currently falling over themselves to welcome, accommodate, and assist refugees is impossible to miss. So is the abrupt transformation in rhetoric by the governments in question.

    How can we explain this change?

    Identification with the victims plays a major role. A comparison with the Syrian conflict can help us grasp this phenomenon. The Syrian conflict that began in 2011 was difficult to understand for the average European. Due to the conflict’s complexity and length, and due to the involvement of so many internal and external actors, it was difficult for Europeans, east Europeans including, to clearly identify the victims and develop compassion with them. In Ukraine, it is beyond doubt who the aggressor and the victim are. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees did not start arriving from Turkey until 2015, four years into the war. Ukrainian refugees started fleeing their country on the day that Russian rockets started landing.

    Also essential are the Central and East Europeans’ historical instincts. At different points in the twentieth century, people on today’s eastern flank of the EU, from Finland in the north to Romania in the south, became acquainted with Soviet tanks. With the important exception of defeating the Nazis in 1944-45, these tanks broke lives and crushed hopes. For four decades, these eastern countries were colonies of sorts of the Soviet Union, a Marxist-Leninist empire.

    So, when on 24 February Russian tanks began rolling into the previously unconquered areas of Ukraine, the Central and East Europeans’ response was instant, automatic and instinctive. ‘I want to help the victims of Russian aggression’ was a thought that galvanised the collective psyche without having to be communicated.

    Many Central and East Europeans also realise that in Putin’s messianic war, Ukraine represents freedom, prosperity and democracy and thus, Western civilisation. This is despite the many failings that Ukraine displayed as a state, including wide-spread corruption and cronyism. Along with feelings of helplessness and rage, Central and East Europeans are rationally acting in their own self-interest as they open their homes to Ukrainian families. They realise that Putin’s army poses a direct threat to the West and to their way of life.

    The fact that the vast majority of refugees are women and children also helps. Nobody could claim that a man is less worthy of protection than a woman is, and asylum law certainly contains no such clause. Still, it seems a trait of the human mind that people are readier to assist a mother with children than a man. The fact that most Ukrainian men are at home fighting the enemy only adds to the generally shared admiration of Ukraine and its people.

    Familiarity cannot be dismissed as a factor, either. Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians shared the same state with Ukrainians until 1990, the Soviet Union. Ukrainians have been the dominant immigrant group in Poland, Slovakia, and Czechia since the fall of communism began in 1989. The opening of visa-free access in 2017 only sped up the process of mutual familiarisation. Ukrainians have been among the fastest growing immigrant groups, not only in Central and Eastern Europe, but across the EU, for many years now. They tend to assimilate easily and are known to be hard workers. Linguistic, religious, and cultural proximity with the EU’s eastern flank is part of the equation.

    These factors are not exclusive to the EU’s eastern members and, with the exception of historical instincts, are present across the whole bloc. They are contributing to the steep increase in the EU’s absorption capacity, resulting in private homes being opened, public institutions mobilising their resources, and tens of thousands of volunteers helping on all possible fronts.

    The triggering of temporary protection allowed the EU to immediately respond to the influx, without the immediate need to debate intra-EU distribution. But given the mass of newcomers, problems with their reception and integration will, no doubt, occur at local, national, and European levels. The fact that some female Ukrainian refugees have already fallen victim to crime and abuse may be only a harbinger of things to come.  

    It is too early to draw conclusions on the implications of the Ukrainian influx for the EU immigration and asylum policy. What is clear is that the compassion of Europeans as well their self-interest in helping Ukraine to defeat Putin’s army has multiplied Europe’s absorption capacity to levels not seen for decades.

    Vít Novotný Central and Eastern Europe EU Member States Migration Ukraine

    Vít Novotný

    Ukrainian Refugees and the EU’s Absorption Capacity

    Blog

    06 Apr 2022

  • Mikuláš Dzurinda Andrius Kubilius Jamie Shea Niklas Nováky Defence NATO Security Ukraine

    Putin’s War Against Ukraine and the New Paradigms of European Defence Cooperation

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    31 Mar 2022

  • Click the image to download

    Welcome to the Migration Update March 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Thanks go to Davide Marcantoni for selecting and writing up a court case for the judicial observatory, and Sandra Pasarić for suggesting a news item for this issue.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU-Russia Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update March 2022

    Migration Update

    31 Mar 2022

  • After Euromajdan, the feeling of “Ukraine fatigue” slowly creeped across the EU over the years, as the plight of the Ukrainians became increasingly less newsworthy. Today, there is growing risk that a similar fatigue will re-emerge.

    That cannot happen; that must not be allowed to happen. Not now. Not after the daily sacrifices made by millions of Ukrainians in defense of fundamental European values.

    After Ukrainian citizens clearly chose a pro-European path in 2014, a major window of opportunity opened for Ukraine. Love of democracy was not enough, the country needed systemic reforms in nearly all areas, and the EU readily provided expertise and financial aid. However, one thing that Western leaders did overlook was Putin’s actions in Crimea.

    The illegal Russian occupation of the peninsula was the most serious breach of European sovereignty since the Second World War; unsurprisingly, more breaches were to follow. European leaders condemned Russian actions and imposed sanctions. However, this proved not to be a fundamental game-changer in EU-Russia relations. This led to the partial Russian occupation of Donbas.

    Again, Western reactions were rather mild. Quickly enough, the West began referring to the situation in Donbas as “frozen” and treating it as a civil conflict, instead of calling out Russia and uniting behind a strong response to this violation of international law.

    In a similar fashion, the initial support and excitement over reforms also gave place to annoyance and fatigue in the West – that felt Ukraine was not reforming fast enough. Despite these feelings, the number of reforms post-Majdan was unprecedented, with the Martens Centre offering its own contribution through the #UkraineReforms project. True, Ukraine’s reform path was still long, but only a few years after the Revolution of Dignity, the prospect of EU membership began to fade. This trend reached a point where there was no clear refence to it in the joint declarations which followed Eastern Partnership Summits. Ukraine started to be pushed down the EU’s list of priorities.

    Today, a month after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the same feeling of fatigue is creeping in. After the unity behind the first few rounds of sanctions, cracks are starting to appear.  While Eastern member states like Poland and Lithuania want the EU to maintain the pressure on Moscow by banning energy imports from Russia, others such as Germany are signaling their lack of willingness to go further, and instead review the effect of the sanctions imposed so far. This is exactly what Putin wants.

    Decisiveness cannot give place to hesitation. The EU’s dependance on Russian oil and gas could have been scaled back in 2014; instead, Russian gas kept flowing into Europe. This cannot continue to happen in light of Putin’s war on Ukraine.

    Energy is only one of the many aspects affected by the war, of course. The repercussions are multiple. From food supply, to trade, to finance, all parts of the global system are disrupted by war. In other words, by helping Ukraine, the West would be helping itself.

    Most see Russia’s attack on Ukraine as something that happened on 24 February. But for Ukrainians, the attack has been ongoing for 8 years. Besides brutal military action, Ukraine must also fight Russian propaganda, which permeates not only Russian society, but European society as well. Since 2014, Russian informational influences in the occupied territories have been primarily aimed at discrediting Ukraine as a state. Additionally, the Kremlin has been strengthening ties and financing many far-right parties in Europe, who have been promoting the Russian narrative among EU citizens.

    In less than four weeks of war, Russia has fired more than a thousand missiles at Ukraine and reduced entire Ukrainian cities to rubble. More than 10 million people left their homes, 3 million of which are refugees in the EU. If Western leaders maintain their current cautious approach towards Russian aggression, the world will witness a genocide of the Ukrainian people.

    There cannot be fatigue in the face of violence. There cannot be hesitation in punishing the perpetrator. The West should do all it can to stop Russia and hold it accountable. This includes providing military, financial, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, while continuing to impose stricter sanctions on Russia.

    It is equally important not to link sanctions to a peace agreement. Having failed in taking Kyiv, Russia might push for a peace agreement in the style of Minsk II to disengage the West and lift sanctions, but the West must not fall into that trap. A peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia with unrealistic demands will not save Ukraine, but only delay its disintegration. Prematurely lifting sanctions will not deter Putin, but will only encourage him to go further. This war cannot be normalised and dismissed as “frozen” in the near future.

    Ending this horrendous and unjustified war is the immediate priority, but once it is over, many other issues will need to be faced. At that moment, a serious and concrete membership perspective in the EU must be offered to Ukraine. 40 million people are currently making the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. It would be unacceptable to look them in the eyes and say, “Sorry, you are not Europeans now”.

    Anna Nalyvayko Democracy EU-Russia European Union Ukraine

    Anna Nalyvayko

    Normalising Ukraine’s Tragedy Would be Europe’s Gravest Mistake

    Blog

    24 Mar 2022

  • Loredana Teodorescu Defence Gender Equality Ukraine

    Women in Conflicts

    Her and EU - Multimedia

    18 Mar 2022

  • Brexit Ukraine

    Bridge the Channel March 2022

    Bridge the Channel - Multimedia

    17 Mar 2022

  • Dimitar Lilkov Digital EU-Russia Technology Ukraine

    Russian War Propaganda and Online Disinformation with Monika Richter

    Brussels Bytes - Multimedia

    16 Mar 2022

  • Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine has led to a turning point in Europe’s thinking on security and defence. The EU’s decision to finance the supply of lethal arms and equipment to Ukraine, along with Germany’s and other countries’ announcement to massively increase military spending, marks a remarkable reversal in Europe’s strategic culture.

    Defence Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Russia’s War Against Ukraine is Changing Europe’s Strategic Culture

    IN BRIEF

    08 Mar 2022

  • Anna Nalyvayko Defence Democracy EU-Russia Ukraine

    Voices from Ukraine: Frontline Stories

    Multimedia - Other videos

    08 Mar 2022

  • In a recent EU emergency summit concerning Russian aggression in Ukraine, the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, urged European leaders to re-think their Golden Passport schemes. She later tweeted:

    “The Kremlin has long thought it could buy its way into Europe. It is time to close any loopholes, end the dangerous phenomenon of golden passports that provide a backdoor to European citizenship and ensure that Russian money does not become as critical as Russian gas. At the end of the day, this is how we achieve our strategic autonomy.”

    There is much truth in this. The sale of “golden passports” has proven to be lucrative. Some EU member states have opted for similar “residence by investment” schemes – also known as “golden visa” programmes. Similar schemes are on offer in over 19 member states.

    These programmes do not come without their fair share of controversy. The European Parliament has frequently condemned such schemes for their apparent lack of transparency, which has “negative consequences in other member states, eroding mutual trust and undermining common values.”

    EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders also highlighted the grave risks of such schemes. He eloquently described them as a “fast-track entrance for criminals.”

    Member states operating such schemes argue that proper checks are made on all applicants, and successful individuals have injected much-needed expertise and talent into the economy. The truth is far less prosaic – these programmes provide a reliable and regular source of income. However, as various journalistic investigations have demonstrated, the downside to this scheme is that they often attract the wrong sort of people and the worst kind of easy money.

    Cyprus had to cancel its scheme after it was revealed that high-ranking government officials were aiding fictional Chinese executives with criminal records in getting a Cypriot passport. Probes into this scheme led to the revocation of citizenship of 23 nationals and six of their family members. The vast majority of the 6,779 new citizens were Russian.

    A joint investigation led by the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation also uncovered some dangerous loopholes in Malta’s IIP programme. It found that prospective citizens could spend a few days in Malta fulfilling basic requirements and getting their citizenship. A recent report in The Daily Telegraph revealed some concerns at the EU level. The Maltese Government vehemently denies that there is anything to be concerned about. Nonetheless, on 2 March 2022, the same government announced that it is suspending the scheme for Russian and Belarusian citizens, citing difficulties in conducting due diligence checks.

    The illegal Russian aggression in Ukraine should prompt us to look at such schemes more critically.

    Schemes in EU member states should not enable individuals who want to undermine the security of the Union to bypass regular channels to obtain easy entry into the EU. This Trojan horse of policies promises easy money but can prove damaging in many other respects.

    In addition, the EU must strongly reflect on how it interprets citizenship. The Treaty of Maastricht provides that all citizens of member states are automatically granted EU citizenship. The Treaty of Amsterdam confirms the compatibility of national citizenship with EU citizenship. The latter grants individuals the right of freedom of movement and residence throughout the EU and the ability to vote in European and local elections. In essence, citizenship implies an element of mutual trust, a sense of belonging and shared common interests. An understanding of rights and obligations underpins these.

    Given this, we must question whether the de facto sale of citizenship is compatible with the values that EU citizenship seeks to foster and promote.

    The war waged by Russia in Ukraine has demonstrated, once again, the brutality and cynicism of authoritarian regimes. That their close allies and cronies should be able to buy their way into the economic, political and social heart of Europe is something which the EU and its member states must resist rather than facilitate.

    André P. Debattista EU Member States EU-Russia European Union Ukraine

    André P. Debattista

    Scrapping Golden Passports

    Blog

    08 Mar 2022

  • Niklas Nováky Álvaro de la Cruz Defence EU-Russia NATO Security Ukraine

    Defence Dialogue Episode 15 – The impact of the Ukraine War on Europe’s Strategic Culture

    Defence Dialogues - Multimedia

    07 Mar 2022

  • Andrius Kubilius Peter Hefele Defence Democracy EU-Russia Ukraine

    Thinking Talks Ep.4 with Andrius Kubilius, MEP

    Multimedia - Thinking Talks

    05 Mar 2022

  • Vladimir Milov Anna Nalyvayko Defence EU-Russia NATO Security Ukraine

    Interview with Vladimir Milov, Russian Opposition leader and Research Associate, Martens Centre

    Multimedia - Other videos

    04 Mar 2022

  • Jolyon Howorth Anna Nalyvayko Defence EU-Russia NATO Security Ukraine

    #ComeTogether – EP. 6 with David McAllister and Jolyon Howorth

    Multimedia - Other videos

    04 Mar 2022

  • As the horrific shelling of Ukrainian cities continues and Putin’s war crimes escalate, the European Union is relentlessly trying to respond on different fronts. At the latest emergency Council session, energy ministers pledged to urgently link Ukraine’s electricity grid with European power systems. When it comes to the EU’s notorious dependence on Russian gas, the European Energy Commissioner has reportedly stated that long-term, ‘the best and only solution is the European Green Deal’. True, in the long-run we all hope that Europe will operate a sustainable low-carbon economy, independent from Russia’s hydrocarbons. However, as the spectre of John M. Keynes grimly reminds us, in the long-run we’re all dead. As the drums of war rumble increasingly closer, we need to act urgently and stop pretending that a fossil-free future is just around the corner.

    Brace for impact

    The EU depends on Russia for 40 % of its overall natural gas imports and 26 % of its imported crude oil. In the winter of 2021, Russia delivered less and less natural gas to Europe through the Ukrainian transitory network, while European gas storage capacity currently hovers around 30 %. The EU must prepare for severe limitations should the Kremlin decide to squeeze deliveries further. There could be severe energy shocks, especially in certain Central and Eastern European and Baltic countries, where the staggering dependence on Russian gas ranges between 70 to 100%. Diversification of supply is no longer merely a recurring think-tank recommendation. It has become an absolute necessity.   

    Limit our financial transfers to Putin’s war chest

    Even if Gazprom’s deliveries to Europe remain uninterrupted, the EU needs to seriously consider reducing import volumes. Oil and gas account for 60 % of Russia’s exports and more than a third of the country’s federal budget. With the benchmark Dutch front-month gas price at 185 euros per MWh and crude oil spiking above $100 per barrel, European member states are directly subsidising the Kremlin’s coffers with hundreds of millions of Euros daily. Even worse, our energy addiction led to the exemption of Sberbank and Gazprombank (!) from the SWIFT ban on Russia’s biggest banks. The two were exempted as they process nearly all exported oil and gas payments. This is a weak spot for our collective sanction strategy and softens the blow on their financial system.

    This would be extremely difficult, but the EU must collectively limit its energy imports from Gazprom. First, the EU needs to ramp up all potential Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) imports it can get its hands on. The LNG market is already strained, with Qatar and the US struggling to satisfy growing demand. All EU member states possessing LNG infrastructure need to ensure it is operational and consider investing in novel sites. The recent announcement that Germany will plan two novel LNG terminals is good news.

    Second, the EU needs to boost all available supply domestically (even if it is limited) and from partner countries such as Norway, Algeria, and Azerbaijan. European countries should seriously consider restoring partial operation of their coal-fired power plants and delay the decommissioning of their nuclear reactors (namely Germany and Belgium) so that we can boost our electricity supply.

    Third, the EU needs to coordinate in increasing gas storage capacities across the continent. This will be extremely costly, as there are risks of European partners outbidding other member states in order to pursue national interests. According to a recent analysis by Bruegel, the EU can overcome a winter with limited or no Russian gas deliveries if the costs are adequately redistributed and the Union collectively tackles the inevitable strain on its energy supply.

    Lastly, European households and industries must try to moderate their demand for natural gas for manufacturing, heating, and electricity generation. This is complex and potentially costly, but even a slight reduction in overall cross-continental demand can make a difference. Implementing energy efficiency measures and accelerating the operation (and reduced red tape) of large-scale renewable energy projects should also be parallel objectives. 

    Support Ukraine and work with global partners

    The announcement of the urgent linking of Ukraine’s electricity grid with European power systems is certainly good news. EU member states should also stand ready to supply Kyiv with natural gas, the same way Slovakia operated the reverse-flow to Ukraine during the 2014 crisis.

    On the international front, the US would be an important ally in guaranteeing expanded LNG deliveries in the future. Washington should also release as much oil as possible from its strategic reserve in order to calm energy markets. The International Energy Agency and its members have already agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil in order to guarantee supply. The Transatlantic alliance should put substantial effort to convince OPEC countries to do the same and increase the amount of oil available on the market.

    Revive the true European Energy Union blueprint

    Championed by President Juncker in the Commission and MEP Jerzy Buzek in the European Parliament, the Energy Union was one of the most ambitious attempts for novel supranational initiatives during the 2010s. The foundational principles aimed to ensure security of supply, and improve interconnection and member state cooperation on energy storage. Most of all, the goal was to complete an actual internal energy market with all of the necessary related legislation and infrastructure, and even ensure that the EU speaks with one voice on energy affairs. This is our true objective for establishing a position of power vis-à-vis Russia on the energy front. However, due to the complacency of certain member states, some of the most ambitious objectives of the Energy Union have been forgotten. In recent years, the initiative has mostly become a secondary extension to the European Green Deal.

    Given the current geopolitical situation, guaranteeing our security of supply and energy independence has become an essential aim. The European centre-right must return to the basics of the true Energy Union and become its spearhead so that the EU can safeguard the collective interests of its citizens. The recent proposal by MEP Radosław Sikorski on a ‘European Gas Union’ resonates in this exact direction.

    The upcoming EC proposal on European gas independence is extremely important, as it will be announced next week. Hopefully, it will address these issues and come forward with an ambitious supranational strategy, which will be followed by national capitals.

    Business as usual with a war criminal is simply not an option.

    Dimitar Lilkov Energy EU-Russia Ukraine

    Dimitar Lilkov

    The EU Must Limit Gazprom’s Grip and Slash Putin’s War Chest

    Blog

    03 Mar 2022

  • 1. What is Putin’s end-goal? His rhetoric hints at regime change, but he has stated he does not wish to occupy Ukraine. What to make of these mixed messages?

    José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain: President Vladimir Putin’s objectives in Ukraine have shifted, from trying to influence Ukraine and prevent its entry into the Transatlantic Alliance and its rapprochement with the West, to invading Ukraine. The aim of the illegal and unjustified Russian attack on Ukraine is to end Ukraine as an independent country, to make it politically, militarily, and economically unviable and marginalised, and to bring it back into Russia’s orbit of influence. For Russia, victory in Ukraine could take several forms. It does not have to result in a sustainable solution. It could involve the installation of an obedient government in Kiev. Alternatively, defeating the Ukrainian army and negotiating a Ukrainian surrender could effectively transform Ukraine into a failed state. Russia could also employ devastating cyberattacks and disinformation tools, backed by the threat of force, to paralyse the country and induce regime change. Whatever the form, Russia seeks to ensure Ukraine is effectively separated from the West. Russia’s other objective is to reconfigure the European security order, created after the end of the Cold War, at the expense of the United States and the Transatlantic Alliance.

    2. Despite their best efforts, Western diplomats were unsuccessful in deterring Russia’s invasion. What are the early lessons learned from this failure for the West?

    Aznar: The West’s credibility in its confrontation with Russia was reduced to conventional deterrence (deterrence by punishment), counter-deterrence, and “deterrence by disclosure”. The first was the claim that if Russia invades Ukraine, the West will respond with severe economic sanctions, “never seen before”. Also, some NATO member countries have sent tonnes of defensive weaponry to Ukraine. The counter-deterrence, which was one of the West’s biggest mistakes in this crisis, was the declaration that they will not engage Russia in an armed conflict to defend Ukraine. Ruling out the option of presenting Russia with an enemy that could defeat it (the USA), gave wings to the Kremlin’s plans. One of the novelties of this war and of the American strategy has been “deterrence by disclosure”. Since the beginning of the tensions on the Ukrainian border, the USA was releasing intelligence information almost daily. In all previous wars, intelligence services presented the American government with “elements of judgment”, in order to make an appropriate decision in a conflict. This new strategy has not deterred Russia, but it has demonstrated that the West lacks a conventional war strategy vis-à-vis Russia. It has also shown that responding to a revanchist Russia with sanctions and rhetorical proclamations of a rules-based international order is not enough.

    3. How should the EU respond to this aggression in your view?

    Aznar: The EU has responded with all the instruments at its disposal: it has condemned the Russian aggression, has partially expelled Russia from the SWIFT system, and frozen the foreign currency reserves of the Russian Central Bank abroad, in order to deprive it of the capacity to cushion the shock of Western sanctions. However, these measures do not affect the energy sector, given that 41% of the gas imported by the EU comes from Russia. The effects of economic and financial sanctions will be seen in the long term, and will undoubtedly damage Russia’s economy. This war has shown that European defence depends on NATO and the Transatlantic relationship, so EU countries must increase military spending and ensure their defence within NATO and in coordination with the United States.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Vital Questions on the Ukraine Invasion Episode 2

    Other News

    01 Mar 2022

  • A little over a century ago, hundreds of thousands of young (much too young) men died in one of the cruellest battles in human history at la Somme in France. Even though the Allies eventually won the battle and the war, many orphans, widows, and mothers asked themselves for the next few decades whether the deaths of ‘The Great Fallen’ were at all worth it. That is probably the worst feeling one can have after losing a loved one: was it all for nothing?

    I will not pretend to ignore, nor will I begin to discuss, the numerous and radical differences between the First World War and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. I will simply focus on a potentially catastrophic situation that could create hundreds of thousands of new orphans, widows, and greaving mothers without changing the current war’s outcome. If the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian army and its people lasts for a few more days, weeks, or months – which today seems far from impossible, and I pray they continue to resist – they will eventually fall one way or another. The military equipment and capabilities are far too superior on the Russian side. And then, what difference would President Zelensky and thousands of others have made? I hope that, at the very least, they will have managed to change the consciences, mindsets, and even ideologies of young people in the West. Our grandparents already understand the sacrifices one needs to make for a greater purpose; some of our parents do too; but this matters little today, as it is our responsibility to navigate the #FutureOfEurope.

    It is true that, step by step, little by little, most of the EU member states and other Western democracies are offering real assistance to the Ukrainian government and have approved measures to critically weaken Russia’s capabilities. Nevertheless, there are still many, even a majority, that oppose putting boots on the ground and risking EU lives. Some even still oppose sending weapons, like some members of the Spanish government, where a pro-Putin party in the governing coalition controls several Ministries. In addition, I’m willing to bet that many Europeans showing resolve today will change their attitudes after a few months of sustained rising prices, a lack of certain products and eventually, energy shortages. Then what? No more Russian sanctions and expensive aid to Ukraine? Our temporary effort and their permanent sacrifice, for what? Let’s surrender and kneel down now, Ukrainians!

    In reality, it’s the complete opposite. We must assist them all the way, with all our capabilities, and for as long as needed. Because this is a just cause, because there is so much at risk – for us too – and because one day we will need help, as it has been the case in the past, and it would set a very dangerous precedent that superpowers do as they wish, breaking international law without strong repercussions.

    The oft-cited reason to not support clear intervention or the adaption of certain measures to help Ukraine is that they are not part of the EU, nor are they NATO members; also, they’re not really a democracy, more of a corrupt state. I ask myself how many would think differently if the invaded were (or will be?) Finland, or Poland, or Estonia. How many EU governments and their citizens, would be in favour of directly confronting a military aggression on the Union’s territory? Would we be ready to send our own troops then? We are legally obligated to do so, but would we? Where does our comfortable cowardice end?

    I was once told that if you’re not willing to die and kill for your country or your system, either your country/system is not good enough, or you’re not. I think it is obvious that European freedom, democracy, and values are worth fighting for, now more than ever. So, I guess the not-so-wealthy, not-so-democratic, and so-corrupt Ukrainian citizens demonstrated a much higher form of humanity than we did.

    I pray that a Celtic folk band will not find itself writing a song like ‘The Green Fields of France’ about 19-year old Ukrainians buried in massive cemeteries, many in anonymous graves. But most of all, I pray that their mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, widows and widowers will have the certainty that these men and women didn’t die in vain. This certainty is something we can provide, if we dare to. 

    Álvaro de la Cruz EU-Russia Ukraine

    Álvaro de la Cruz

    The Green Fields of Ukraine

    Blog

    01 Mar 2022

  • Click the image to download

    Welcome to the Migration Update February 2022. This curated news selection brings together many of the most important developments in the migration policy area over the last month, including recent ones tied to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

    The purpose of these news summaries is to provide a factual base for migration debates within the European centre-right. Vít Novotný is responsible for the selection of information items from the media, governments, and social media. The value of these summaries is in the categorisation of information items and in listing those items that readers might have missed. Facts and opinions are conveyed as they are reported. Original comments are kept to a minimum. Thanks go to George Pepios for writing up the judicial observatory and to Wolfgang Pusztai for suggesting a news item for this issue.

    These news summaries are not subject to a formal editorial process. Should you have any questions or comments, please contact Vít Novotný at vn@martenscentre.eu

    Vít Novotný EU Member States EU-Russia Migration Ukraine

    Migration Update February 2022

    Migration Update

    28 Feb 2022

  • While Ukrainians fight for the defence of Kyiv, for the country and for their independence, it is clear that the year 2022 will define Europe’s history in a way comparable only to 1989. Europe’s history after the Second World War, the development of the European community and later the European Union was largely about rectifying the Second World War’s legacy, and culminated in the fall of communism in 1989 and hopes of a better future. Conversely, the war in Ukraine will permanently challenge the optimism of Europeans and change the way they view the future of the continent.

    Many hope that after the Ukraine war is resolved, Europe can return to normality, albeit with a new balance with Putin’s Russia. The initial rejection of excluding Russia from the international payment system SWIFT and targeted sanctions tacitly express a thinking among Western nations that the Ukraine war’s negative impact can be conventionally mitigated. But the Ukraine war has implications that go well beyond its national borders – and that includes the war’s costs.

    Europe has now entered into a conflict that will last as long as Putin is in power. He has now crossed several red lines that very few in Russia or in Ukraine thought he would. For him, there is no turning back.

    Putin’s rule has become progressively less dependent on legitimacy and authority; but now it is clear it is based on power and violence. His speeches in recent days clearly state that the war in Ukraine is not about Ukraine, but about him challenging the West, Europe’s post-war order, and the continent’s security architecture. Putin has made an indirect reference to the use of nuclear power and has repeated that should Finland and Sweden join NATO, there would be grave political and military consequences. The war in Ukraine has already expanded beyond the country’s borders.

    The full impact of the war on the EU’s internal dynamics remains to be seen. Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and Northern Europe now have urgent security concerns. The way in which the rest of the EU can relate to this may become a uniting or a dividing factor within the EU. Dynamics between EU member states are changing, while the situation in Ukraine has shown that Germany’s leading position in the EU has substantially weakened since Angela Merkel is no longer Chancellor.

    The end-game of the war in Ukraine has wider implications, as US President Biden has stated. Pandora’s box has been opened, total war is no longer taboo and this will reduce the threshold for the use of military force. Depending on the West’s resolve, China will re-assess the potential Western reaction in case it attempts to seize Taiwan through military means. In Europe, Russia is involved in the Balkans and conflict-seeking actors may become emboldened. Shadowed by the Ukrainian situation, the much-neglected but very worrying domestic developments in Turkey have recently been paired with statements challenging Greek territorial sovereignty; these could take a sudden and ugly turn.

    Ukrainians today are examples of courage and commitment, an inspiration to the rest of Europe. President Zelensky is showing devotion and sacrifice all European leaders can admire. European citizens are spontaneously rising for Ukrainians; everyday Polish citizens at the Ukrainian border, for instance. But the war in Ukraine is far from over.

    In the streets of Ukraine, it is not just the future of Ukraine being fought over, but Europe’s as a whole. Europe is most likely in a conflict which will be long and costly. Putin has started a war against the  West and will not stop. Should he successfully take over Ukraine and manage to negotiate a new security arrangement, the West will be permanently weakened. Ukrainians need all the possible support. The EU has to isolate the Kremlin and Putin’s Russia, knowing that this effort will be long and costly. Europe’s history is being decided, and the Europe of the free needs to ensure that they are the makers of that history.

    Tomi Huhtanen Crisis EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Tomi Huhtanen

    The Fight for Europe’s Future is Being Fought in the Streets of Ukraine

    Blog

    27 Feb 2022

  • 1. What is Putin’s end-goal? His rhetoric hints at regime change, but he has stated he does not wish to occupy Ukraine. What to make of these mixed messages?

    John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland: The Russian end goal is to force Ukraine into a Russian-dominated economic union that would be incompatible with a trade agreement with the EU. This would require a new government in Kyiv and a new Ukrainian constitution. The Ukrainian armed forces would be reduced, but border adjustments may not be crucial for Russia. This outcome would threaten the integrity and effective sovereignty of several EU and NATO states. It is hard to say what the next Russian goal will be and how firm NATO guarantees would be in practice, given the state of US public opinion and pacifism in some EU countries.

    Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, former Prime Minister of Poland: Putin’s end game was clear from day one. He cannot accept any liberal democratic transformation in the countries of the former Soviet Union. Particularly in Ukraine, the largest and strategically most important ex-Soviet state. Successful transformation in Ukraine means the end of Putin’s dictatorship. It would also be proof to Russians that such a transition is possible, and can brings liberties and improve standards of living for all citizens. Putin believes, like some far-right leaders in Europe do, that the West is immoral and in political decline. They think the future is in authoritarian regimes built on military power; and the Tsarist empire is back. What Gorbachev destroyed, Putin resurrects. He will establish a neo-East Germany in parts of conquered Ukraine, which will take place in the next few weeks, if not days.

    Ivan Mikloš, former Minister of Finance of Slovakia: Nobody knows what Putin’s end-goal is. Everything he’s done over the last few days was so irrational that it’s complicated to make any prognosis of the possible outcomes. Another factor is the unreliability of what Putin says. Last week, he promised not to invade to Ukraine, telling this to Macron, Scholz, and other Western leaders, and then did it anyways.

    2. Despite their best efforts, Western diplomats were unsuccessful in deterring Russia’s invasion. What are the early lessons learned from this failure for the West?

    Bruton: There has been a visible lack of coordination in the West. The idea of keeping Russia in the international payment system SWIFT, while excluding Iran, is incoherent. But to be fair, this is a shock, so some confusion is understandable, but it should end now.

    Bielecki: The West was deaf and blind to a long list of Russian so-called operations. Just remember Chechnya, Transnistria, Georgia, Syria, Ukraine. That includes Maidan and Donetsk, Crimea, the downing of flight MH17.  Operations in Londongrad are also important to mention, beginning with the financing of local politics (the British are starting to speak about it!). There were assassinations, the acquisition of thousands of properties, massive sales of resident visas for cash in the UK, Cyprus, Malta, Luxembourg, etc. Then, the separate case of Germany, with a long history of support for Russia and hostility towards Ukraine.

    Mikloš: The early lesson is that these kind of irresponsible dictators only understand and respect power and strength.

    3. How should the EU respond to this aggression in your view?

    Bruton: The EU should agree to exclude Russia from SWIFT. It makes no sense for individual heads of government to talk to Russia while others refuse to do so; there should be a single messenger and a single message.

    Bielecki: I wish to be crystal clear about this final question; I have signed many publications and appeals, including one from our GLOBSEC, so I will end with a basic question. With Putin openly speaking about Clausewitz’s famous dictum, how long can the West continue magical thinking? “Unless you are ultimately prepared to resort to force, dialogue or negotiations are only a postponement of the other side’s aggression.”

    Mikloš: By imposing the strongest possible sanctions, including excluding Russia from SWIFT, freezing the accounts and assets of Russian companies and citizens in NATO and EU member states, freezing the foreign currency reserves of the Russian Central Bank deposited in Western Central Banks and imposing personal sanctions against Putin personally.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Vital Questions on the Ukraine Invasion

    Other News

    25 Feb 2022

  • 1. The Russian violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty has been described as a turning point in European history; war has returned to our continent. How do you view the long-term implications of Russia’s aggression?

    Vladimir Milov, Russian Opposition Leader and Martens Centre Research Associate: Much depends on further developments of the situation – will Putin stop at the current line of conflict or further the military invasion of Ukraine, and how the West will react. However, one thing is clear and very concerning: Putin has developed an appetite for permanent destabilisation and the escalation of tensions – which is not only limited to Ukraine – and his regime, in its present shape, remains a fundamental threat to European and global security. Putin’s recent speeches and historic rants, and Monday’s broadcast of the meeting of Sovbez (the National Security Council, the highest authority which currently de facto rules Russia), demonstrate that the entire Russian leadership is not inclined to adhere to the international rules-based order, and is ready and willing to act in a disruptive manner, not just with regard to Ukraine. In order to contain Putin’s permanent destabilisation policy, a strong deterrence strategy is required.

    Michael Benhamou, Martens Centre Research Associate: Russian troops entering Eastern Ukraine marks the return of a high-intensity military scenario not witnessed since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Sadly for us Europeans, there are two important differences: [1] the United States will not come to the rescue this time, with President Biden having confirmed the power shift to Asia launched by Presidents Obama and Trump.

    [2] European Armies cannot cope with such a conventional war scenario on their own continent (i.e. infantry vs infantry). This is firstly due to military budgets, especially in Central and Northern Europe, having decreased considerably over the past decades; secondly because post-9/11 wars have driven our soldiers towards urban combat and counter-terrorism – a long shot from classic warfare.

    To put it differently, polls show the citizens of Sweden and Germany to be most opposed to Russia’s behaviour (ECFR); but they also vote for politicians who, for the most part, disdain the purpose of the military. This contradiction is being exploited right now.

    2. As a follow-up, do you think this situation fundamentally imperils the liberal international order (also taking into the positions of countries such as China and Turkey)?

    Milov: Of course, Putin’s moves show deep disregard to the international rules-based order, and disrespect even to his own commitments – he recently praised the Minsk agreements as “the only possible solution” to the Donbas conflict, only to throw them into the dustbin just a few days later. Putin is a dangerous player with total disregard for international rules and Russia’s international commitments, as his record over the years and the very recent development prove.

    Benhamou: On that topic, the entourage of Vladimir Putin has indeed developed a sophisticated anti-liberal critique since the end of the 1990s. A few years ago, I remember reading about Putin’s top adviser Alexandre Dugin’s interpretation of German jurist Carl Schmitt for instance. Schmitt was a former Nazi party member who famously wrote in The Concept of the Political (1932) that “a nation who does have the force or the will to engage in wars does not mean the end of the political order; it simply means the end of a weak nation.”

    This Russian mindset is underpinned by the rise of conflict in Europe’s periphery and beyond. And yes it is opposed to the victorious post-World War II model – that of America’s open markets competition and of the sense that cooperation is more beneficial than systemic mistrust – with the European Union being the best example of this choice. Putin wants to take us back to inter-state zero-sum games that are easier to play (for them), unreasonably passionate, but also more unpredictable.

    To face this challenge, citizens of democracies need to get rid of their apathy. French philosopher Tocqueville wrote beautifully about the egoism of property-obsessed democrats in times of peace, followed by their awakening and cohesion when the threat approaches. Will his prediction prove to be right again?

    3. Putin’s televised address on Monday evening was a rambling attempt to negate Ukraine’s right to exist and justify Russian aggression. Has Putin recently become disconnected from certain geopolitical realities, or has this always been the case and is only now more apparent?

    Milov: Putin is not disconnected from reality, he deliberately tries to wittingly construct a parallel propaganda reality to justify his actions, and he doesn’t care about the truth and facts. I’m sure he’s aware that his interpretation of history has little basis in reality – for instance, he says that “Khrushchev had for some reasons taken Crimea from Russia and handed it to Ukraine”, but he must be fully aware that things have in a totally different manner and it was not Khrushchev, there are plenty of official Soviet documents actually explaining the long discussion about the need to transfer Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR for objective reasons. Putin cannot not know that – but he’s obviously lying to the public, consciously and deliberately, following the Goebbels playbook step-by-step.

    Benhamou: Yes, as February 2022 ends, there seems to be a lack of logic in Russia’s short-term goals: annexing Ukrainian provinces that it already de facto controls – provinces with limited strategic value – and all these theatrics at the cost of renewed sanctions, economic difficulties, increased support for NATO amongst Ukrainians…

    But we don’t have the whole game plan. And Moscow has some serious cards in their hands too: time, geography, overwhelming force, gas, increased wheat production enabled by climate change. Yet all these cards would be pointless if China ends up swallowing the whole. In business terms, we’d say that Russia’s alliance with Europe would bear more “complementary advantages” than going East – with each side possessing skills the other does not.

    4. Western sanctions are on the way, Germany has just announced the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and Russian stocks and the ruble have already crumbled. Will economic pressure be the undoing of Russia’s military endeavour?

    Milov: Yes, the Russian economy will suffer greatly from another round of Putin’s aggressive foreign policies. Russia is still heavily dependent on consumer imports, and the depreciation of the ruble further hits the consumer purchasing power of ordinary Russians (which had reduced by about 10-15% since the beginning of the aggression against Ukraine in 2014). Even the import substitution efforts backfire, as they only lead to the monopolisation of industries and price growth, further reducing Russians’ real incomes, as proved by the experience of import substitution in food and agricultural sectors since 2014. Russia’s large corporations and its banks, the lifeblood of Putin’s economic system, will be further disconnected from the global markets and the financial system, pushing Russia from a globally-oriented player towards an Iranian-style semi-autarky. Public opinion polling for Putin is already not so bright, because Russians are tired of economic woes caused by his geopolitical adventures, and of living in a ‘besieged fortress’ mode. New economic sanctions caused by the occupation of Donbas mean serious costs for Putin – in case Western sanctions will be serious enough to meet expectations.

    Benhamou: I am not a Russia expert, and I have never been to Russia myself. But the resilience of Russia’s population is multi-secular, as is their acceptance of authority. As for Nord Stream 2, it is not a cancellation but a suspension as far as I understand. The infrastructure in the Baltics will not be destroyed and can be reactivated at any time!

    Political winds only need to blow a little for that to happen – just look at rising oil prices, rising electricity prices impacting all families, America’s rapid exit, potential wars in the Middle East that Europeans will not be able to handle on their own… “Patience”, Putin will tell his audience. Patience.

    We owe it to the Ukrainians to tell them the truth: they are alone right now. No Europeans will die for them. And we need to rethink the balance between our liberal values and the return of violence in order to be ready for that next time.

    Vladimir Milov Michael Benhamou Defence EU-Russia Foreign Policy Ukraine

    Vital Questions on the Ukraine Crisis

    Other News

    23 Feb 2022

  • The European Union has accomplished many of its energy policy goals. Energy efficiency has improved, the share of renewable energy has increased, and emissions have decreased; the latter two have progressed even faster than expected. In 2020, a milestone was reached when renewables overtook fossil fuels in the EU’s electricity mix.

    On the other hand, the Energy Union’s stated objective of a reduction of import dependence has not been achieved; quite the opposite. Although the start of the crisis in Ukraine shifted the dynamic in this domain, the overall direction is not convincing. In 2020, energy imports into the EU rose to their highest level in 30 years, topping 60%. This is a major failure and is currently reflected by sharply rising energy prices.

    The European Union is far too dependent on imported fossil energy, especially Russian natural gas. During the colder months of the year, this provides Russia with a very strong bargaining chip that it will not shy away from using when needed. From both an energy policy and a geopolitical perspective, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is a historic investment failure that will only exacerbate European dependence on Russian gas.

    At a time when the European Union’s industrial policy calls for greater strategic autonomy, resilience, and security of supply on all fronts, the foundations of energy policy have been left unaddressed. As such, EU countries have rightly reduced their own fossil fuel consumption and abandoned coal in particular, but have not been able to sufficiently replace it with new low-emission alternatives. It has therefore become necessary to increase imports of fossil fuels.

    Only now are EU countries beginning to wake up to the fact that, without significant additional investment in nuclear power, it will be very difficult for them to increase their use of carbon-neutral electricity, for example in heating, industry, and transport, and thus meet their climate targets. Many countries are reversing their decisions to close their nuclear power plants, and the new Dutch government, among others, has just announced a complete turnaround and the construction of two new nuclear power plants. Although the Netherlands has the image of an environmentally-conscious nation, it is highly dependent on fossil energy and one of the laggard EU nations, with its energy mix being comprised of less than 10% renewable energy.

    After a winding process, the European Commission also agreed to include nuclear power, albeit on interpretative terms, in the scope of a sustainable financial classification system, the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities. This move was absolutely essential. It has been calculated that meeting the 2030 climate targets will now require an additional €350 billion investment in the EU each year compared to the previous decade.

    The Commission’s decision reflects a simple reality: nuclear power must be strongly involved in the energy mix of tomorrow. Wind, solar and hydro power alone are not enough to secure the viability of our societies. It is also noteworthy that currently, 60% of the European Union’s renewable energy comes from biomass. Their use should not be severely restricted by legislation either, or it will once again result in an increasing dependence on fossil fuels.

    Additional investment to counter the sharp rise in energy prices will not bring rapid relief. In the long-term, however, increasing Europe’s own low-emission energy production is key to building a sustainable energy model; this means investing in renewable energy, nuclear power, good transmission connections, and energy storage.

    At present, each member state must do all it can through local means to alleviate the difficulties caused by the energy price crisis. In recent weeks, most EU countries have channelled various targeted subsidies to households, businesses or agriculture, including through reductions in energy taxes, vouchers or direct financial assistance for gas bills. However, in the long run, we must address our energy deficit. Europe can no longer be so dependent on imported energy, and it is very difficult to imagine how this dependency might be effectively reduced without nuclear energy. Solutions to Europe’s dependence on imported energy are still being sought at a European scale, and will be for the foreseeable future.

    Henna Virkkunen Energy EU-Russia Ukraine

    Henna Virkkunen

    The EU is too Dependent on Imported Energy

    Blog

    15 Feb 2022

  • In light of the European gas price crisis of 2021, questions are mounting whether Gazprom—a Russian majority state-owned energy corporation and an important supplier of energy to Europe—had contributed to record-breaking European gas price hikes by manipulating the market and withholding the supply of gas from Europe. Most recently, the Russian gas giant was accused of market manipulation by such a respected heavyweight of the energy world as Fatih Birol, Director of the International Energy Agency.

    There’s growing evidence that Gazprom was, in fact, involved in deliberate withholding of significant volumes of gas from the European market, despite the fact that there were plentiful supplies of natural gas in Russia, ready to significantly reduce pressure on European consumers. Currently, some Martens Centre colleagues and I are working on a more detailed report on these facts, which will be published in the Spring 2022 issue of the European View – but here are some highlights.

    First, Gazprom had surprisingly reduced gas supplies to Europe in 2021. According to Gazprom’s own data, it had supplied only 185.1 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas to the so-called “far abroad” (i.e., countries beyond the former Soviet space), which is notably lower than the annual exports of 2017-2019, and only 3.2% or 5.8 bcm higher than in COVID-struck 2020. But this growth of exports was mostly enjoyed by two countries; China and Turkey. Supplies to Turkey surged in 2021 by 63%, or 10.3 bcm. Full figures of yearly gas supplies to China in 2021 are not known, but based on the 10-month gas exports figure of 8 bcm, the total annual gas supply from Russia to China will likely be around 10 bcm in 2021 – up from 4.1 bcm in 2020.

    If the 16 additional bcm of Chinese and Turkish supply are subtracted from the total 2021 statistics, we find that the remainder of the co-salled “far abroad” – which essentially means the European Union – received 10 bcm of Russian gas less in 2021 than in 2020, for a total of 169.1 bcm.

    This situation underlines the need to further investigate long-term contractual relations between Gazprom and its major European counterparts.

    Second, the decline of gas supplies to Europe in the second half of 2021 is actually supported by day-to-day EU gas supply statistics provided by Gazprom on its website. According to this data, Gazprom had reduced supplies to the EU in September-December 2021 alone by 13.6 bcm, and gas supplies running via the Ukrainian gas transit network and via the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline running through Belarus and Poland were reduced by 58% and 51% respectively during that period.

    Third, Gazprom has significant excess upstream gas production capacity. During a speech in September, Gazprom’s CEO Alexey Miller admitted the existence of excess production capacities in the amount of “150 bcm of gas”. Mr. Miller further explained that Gazprom’s gas output in 2021 was the “best figure in the last 13 years”.

    Fourth, Gazprom also reported a record-breaking injection of gas into Russia-based storage facilities for the 2021-2022 winter season – around 73 bcm. That’s a 13 bcm increase, or nearly 22%, compared to the level of 2020-2021. If these 13 bcm had been to Europe instead, they would have significantly eased the pressure on the European gas market, reducing the late-December European underground gas storage deficit (which was around 20 bcm) by two-thirds.

    Maybe Russia needed some extra gas stocks due to extreme temperatures? Not to the extent that Russia might need to pump 22% more storage gas than it did last year: as admitted by Mr. Miller during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, by late December, Russia’s underground storage facilities were at 83% capacity, meaning only 17% of these record-breaking reserves were drawn out in November and December.

    Fifth, Gazprom owns about 10% of total European underground gas storage capacity. Gazprom has been filling its own European underground gas storage capacities ahead of the 2021-2022 winter season at a much slower pace than other European storage capacity owners.

    Gazprom says it hadn’t been receiving any additional gas supply requests from European consumers. That brings us back to the non-transparency of contractual relations between Gazprom and its main European counterparts. When asked whether they had sent requests to Gazprom asking for increased fuel supplies, most of Gazprom’s European counterparts refused to provide a straightforward answer: “When asked by Reuters, European energy firms Wingas and Engie said they had not asked for extra gas, while Eni, Uniper, OMV and RWE did not elaborate apart from saying Gazprom had met contracted commitments”.

    This situation underlines the need to further investigate long-term contractual relations between Gazprom and its major European counterparts. In the era of a sizeable gas deficit in Europe, European gas companies should provide clear answers as to whether they actually demanded extra gas supplies from Gazprom; if not, why, and if so, what the response was.

    All these facts are sufficiently significant evidence to demand the launch of a full-scale investigation into Gazprom’s alleged manipulation of the European natural gas market ahead of the 2021/2022 winter season. Fundamentally, a Russian state actor harming consumers by forcing gas prices to surge should trigger alarms for all European policymakers.

    Vladimir Milov Energy EU-Russia Ukraine

    Vladimir Milov

    How Gazprom Manipulated the EU Gas Market

    Blog

    03 Feb 2022

  • The United States and Russia initiated a discussion on 10 January on European security and the Ukraine conflict, after Moscow demanded NATO commit to halting its expansion. Putin has already achieved an important goal: Russia has a principal seat at the negotiating table as Europe’s security architecture is being negotiated, without any other Europeans.

    For the average Ukrainian, the most concerning question nevertheless remains possible Russian aggression in the coming weeks. Despite the fact that after years of speculation and concern, Ukrainians have become somewhat numb to the daily speculations of war, the current situation is very worrying. Member states on the Eastern flank of the EU are following the situation with grave concern, especially those countries bordering Russia.

    In an interview with the Martens Centre, Russian opposition politician and former Deputy Minister of Energy and Martens Centre Research Associate Vladimir Milov gave an in-depth analysis on Russia’s intentions concerning Ukraine. In his view, Putin’s main goal is to ensure he plays a role in international fora when it comes to geopolitics, rather than truly search for conflict.

    According to Milov, the idea of a major war is hugely unpopular and would have a significant impact on Putin’s approval ratings, which Putin knows all too well. One recent poll shows that two thirds of Russians prioritise personal economic well-being and higher living standards over geopolitical greatness – among Russians aged 40 or below, this figure jumps to 70%. 

    Importantly, the Russian people do not really expect a war with Ukraine – the majority says it is unlikely. Thus, should there be a full-scale military confrontation between Ukraine and Russia, the war would come as a surprise and contradict Russian popular aspirations.

    A rapidly-rising concern is the increasing concentration of Russian troops in Ukraine’s neighbourhood.  However, these  ‘troops near the Ukraine border’, which we have heard so much about are not stationed in the field – they are amassed at permanent stationery bases like Pogonovo near Voronezh, which is geographically near the Ukrainian border, but in reality, is just a large stationery military base in Central Russia.

    As Milov points out, it is a relatively easy exercise for Putin to bring even a hundred thousand troops to military bases of that scale, because he can keep them there for an indefinite period without incurring major costs, playing with the West’s nerves and raising fears of an invasion, as a near no-cost exercise.

    The West should remain vigilant nevertheless. Russia is accumulating its combat-ready forces, and is conducting military drills with these units, which are effectively rehearsals of a hypothetical invasion. In such an environment, there are real risks of dangerous, war-triggering incidents, such as warplanes violating Ukrainian airspace during military exercises and Ukraine reacting to it. Should there be any mistake or sign of weakness from the West, Putin will use it.

    Italy’s President Mario Draghi was stating the obvious in December 2021. When it comes to resisting Russia in its pressure campaign on Ukraine, Europe has little leverage.

    However, the fundamental European problem is not the lack of common security structures with EU member states, there are plenty of those. The core challenge is not institutional but political. European countries do not have the political will nor culture to even think of engaging militarily outside their own borders, let alone in some cases taking full responsibility of their own security, even within the NATO structure.

    Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö, in his widely quoted New Year’s speech, referred to Henry Kissinger’s wisdom; Kissinger pointed out that whenever avoidance of war has been the primary objective of a group of powers, the international system has been at the mercy of its most ruthless member.

    Motivated by Putin’s latest actions, European leaders and the public need to ask if their strategy of complacency has come to an end and if their avoidance of war, well-meaning as it may be, might be detrimental to the peaceful European continent.

    Tomi Huhtanen EU-Russia Foreign Policy NATO Ukraine

    Tomi Huhtanen

    Putin is Unlikely to Attack Ukraine – but Europe’s Complacency Would be Detrimental

    Blog

    10 Jan 2022

  • Tomi Huhtanen Vladimir Milov Defence EU-Russia NATO Ukraine

    Thinking Talks Ep.3 with Vladimir Milov

    Multimedia - Thinking Talks

    10 Dec 2021