Paolo Grassi is an Assistant professor at the University of Milano Bicocca (Department of Human Sciences for Education “R.Massa”).
He has carried out ethnographic research in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Italy in the field of urban anthropology, focusing on the relationship between urban space and violence, gangs, youth cultures, and dynamics of socio-economic marginalization.
He was a research fellow at the Politecnico di Milano (2019-2022) and the University of Padua (2017-2019), visiting fellow at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (2019), the University of Utrecht (2018) and the Laboratoire Architecture Anthropologie (LAA) de l'École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Paris La Villette (2017).
He has collaborated with the European projects "TRANSGANG: Transnational gangs as agents of mediation", coordinated by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona and "Gangs, Gangsters, and Ganglands: Towards a Global Comparative Ethnography” coordinated by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
He is the author of articles published in national and international journals and four monographs (including “Terreur à Guatemala-ville: Conflits territoriaux, violence et gangs”, L’Harmattan 2018).
Interviewer: Giovanni Giacalone - South America Team
European border management practices have undergone an astonishing transformation in the last few decades, and this process is both co-constitutive of and constituted by technological advancement. New dynamics and effects are unfolding every day.
The objective of this article is to point out some of the complexities and controversies of the relationship between technological development and the securitisation of migration. This objective is achieved by analysing the functioning of one of the more important European border management instruments: the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR).
Eurosur can be viewed as a “system of systems” a digital infrastructure with several nodes dislocated around Europe. Each Member State, in fact, has a National Coordination Centre (NCC) that exchanges information with all authorities responsible for external border monitoring, as well as with other NCCs and Frontex.
The NCCs maintain national situational pictures, which aggregate in the European situational picture, that provides a nearly real time mapping of the relevant events occurring at the EU external border, and determines the type and amount of assets that need to be deployed, according to the impact and risk level associated to a border section (green means low, yellow means medium and red means high - as the reader can see in the picture below). A higher impact level means that a given border section is more likely to be subjected to strong migratory pressures, and therefore, more resources should be preventively deployed to that area in order to improve border stress capacities. This calculation occurs through the collection of historical data and the detection of patterns of events in order to evaluate possible future risk scenarios. EUROSUR hence both serves an archiving and anticipatory function.
By: Federica Montanaro, Maria Makurat, Giovanni Tricco
EUROSUR: Challenges and controversies
As stated by the dedicated regulation, EUROSUR is being used to achieve three major goals: increasing situational awareness; improving border authorities' reaction capability; and finally, saving the lives of immigrants at sea, particularly in cases of overloaded vessels, as Dirk Vande Ryse, Frontex's Director of Monitoring, Analysis, and Vulnerability, pointed out.
Human rights implications with EUROSUR
In general, political elites usually focus on saving lives at sea, the core priority of EUROSUR. For example, in the aftermath of the 2013 infamous shipwreck near Lampedusa, the EU commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom presented the incoming deployment of Eurosur as a strategic move aimed at improving the EU efficacy in search and rescue (SAR) operations. However, already during its launch, concerns were expressed whether refugees would truly benefit from this type of surveillance. Opinions were split on whether Frontex and EUROSUR actually had the goal to save refugees or if deterrence was the main concern. A harsh debate is still ongoing, but its openness and democratic nature is heavily contested; scholars and experts are struggling to find reliable information which allows the monitoring and evaluation of the functioning of such said system. This is mainly due to the classified or reserved nature attached to the work it performs. One improvement shows that the system is being scrutinized more closely and undergoing new regulations such as the Regulation (EU) 2021/581 introduced in April 2021 with the following goals: more secure information exchange, more effective reporting, better efficient rescue operations, better cooperation with third countries involved and setting up an independent Security Accreditation Board. This should bring about improvements to tackling the issues of transparency and secrecy, however questions remain such as whether the willingness to share data will take place and which criteria are in the end important to deem such a system effective in the long term run?
However, looking at the bigger picture, the virtually nonexistent impact of the Eurosur on the SAR capability of the EU and its member states can be easily demonstrated by considering 2013 (the year of the deployment of the apparatus) as a benchmark, and by considering the death rate in the Mediterranean Sea before and after this critical date. An International Organisation for Migration report shows that before and after 2013 there has been no significant change in the fluctuation of the death rate. On the contrary, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) denounced that in some instances the death toll was rising even in periods in which the number of arrivals was declining. This is even more astonishing if we consider the 2011 Frontex statement about the incredibly high number of boats (98%) that they were able to detect at sea even before their arrival to the European shores.
In conclusion, while technological progress is central to the management and surveillance of the Mediterranean, it is not clear whether it is also as important for the safety of migrants at sea. The numbers seem to prove that with or without EUROSUR people on the move continue to die at European shores, testifying that higher visibility does not automatically lead to a lower death rate. The objective of this article was to shed some light on the issue, while calling for further and in depth research.
The Russian tactic is that of a pincer encirclement of entire Ukraine – from Russian territory and occupied Crimea, Donbas, and Belarus - and inside they follow the same tactic as Kyiv's focus, methodically destroying civilian infrastructure and nuclear power plants. The attempt is to demoralize and coerce Ukrainians. Yet morale is rising and these same civilians are becoming soldiers. Such support somewhat offsets the quantitative advantage of the Russian army in manpower and equipment. Now, Russian troops make advances into Ukrainian territory only at the cost of hundreds of soldiers every day, failing for now to take control of any regional center.
Their qualitative advantage is very reduced, as can be inferred from the high level of losses, which seems to be well above 5%, in men and materials. Russia could take control of the territory, but only with long times and high destruction. Reservist and conscript call-ups, as well as the ongoing shipment of Syrian and Chechen militants to Russia and Belarus, will not be able to affect the balance of troops around Kyiv in the coming week, slowing down the Russian tactic as it is momentarily unable to conduct simultaneous attacks.
Russia is now deploying maneuverable Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, reported by Russian state news agencies as a “next-generation weapon”. While it is very unlikely that the deployment of Kh-47M2 missiles will have a major impact on the current stall of the invasion, It could likely point out a shortage of other weapons and a propagandistic effort to distort Russia’s military failure.
However, after an end of decades of deterrence orthodoxy, the danger of a possible escalation involving nuclear weapons is real. Indeed, Putin has used nuclear threats to create a wide perimeter in which he may pursue a conventional war in Europe. NATO countries are doing everything to avoid escalations, complying with a policy of non-intervention for avoiding direct contact with the Russian military.
While not directing intervening in Ukraine, NATO countries are deploying significant military aid to the country while drastically raising defense spending, reclaiming the alliance's historical role as a protective haven against Moscow's military activities. Germany in particular is now increasing its defense spending to more than 2% of its economic output: a historic departure from its postwar commitment not to transfer armaments to combat zones. Moreover, the European Union's recent investments (€500 million) in arms and other aid to the Ukrainian military mark a “watershed moment” in its history.
However, many countries are starting to be bitten by the economic effects of the war, especially those with currencies linked to the rubble. More sanctions implications are quite likely to emerge in the coming weeks, particularly in a case like the EU-Russia energy partnership, where dependency is significant. Indeed, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is now serving as a geopolitical catalyst on key strategic, economic, and societal issues and will certainly bring to consider re-alignments, particularly in Post-Soviet countries and the Middle East. NATO's deterrent posture must be strengthened as well as cooperation and dialogue with the various regional actors in order to figure out the next evolutions in the geopolitical chessboards.
For the first ITSS Verona - Hume Institute joint event, members Carlotta Rinaudo and Elena Bascone - along with the Political Economy, Development, and Energy Security Team - discuss energy security and its importance for Europe with Ms Vicky Pryce, one of Britain's top economists, and with Prof Mohammed Abdel-Haq.
The contest for supremacy between the United States and People’s Republic of China has increasingly intensified in the recent years. China has accelerated its efforts for supremacy not only in Asia but across the world under the leadership of President Xi Jinping. The 2021 G7 Summit held in Cornwall, United Kingdom was a stark reminder of how the West stands disputed on the China question. The United States wants to bring together its allies to adopt a hard-line approach towards China, but they remain wary. This ‘cautious’ approach of the West is also reflective of how President Xi is succeeding in making China a major player in the global arena.
China saw Iraq and Afghanistan quagmire, the 2008 financial crisis, the 2016 British vote to exit the European Union, the election of Donald Trump as the US President, and the January 6 riot at the Capitol as events accelerating the decline of the West. This, coupled with China’s efforts of land reclamation in the South China Sea, its launch of the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank reflected on China’s recent moves to counter the US influence in its neighbourhood and the global economy. In particular, China’s massive transnational infrastructure project known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) reflects on its dominating hand in its contest for supremacy against the United States.
During this year’s G7 Summit, President Biden reiterated the challenges China’s rise might pose for the West and tried to bring together the US allies to curb Chinese ambitions. The foremost step was to bring forth a rival plan to counter China’s rapidly expanding BRI Project. The West’s ‘Build Back Better World B3W’ initiative aims to provide the developing countries an alternative and transparent infrastructure partnership which is reflective of West’s values, standards, and way of doing business. The White House elaborated that the project would emphasize on environment-friendly policies, corruption-free and transparent financing terms to help developing countries avoid excessive debt. The United States and its allies aim to bring together the private sector to narrow the $40 trillion required by developing countries for their infrastructure development. The details of how exactly the plan would be executed, the timescale and the extent to which the West would contribute towards the plan remain unclear. Beyond the obvious tussle for power and influence over the developing countries, the B3W aims to supersede BRI to prove that Western values can prevail.
Previously, France much like Germany, were wary of banning Huawei and other Chinese-made networking equipment for fear of retaliation on their investments in China. Similarly, Italy’s inclusion in the Belt and Road Initiative back in 2019 further highlights how China has achieved some success to its efforts to build influence in Europe.
As China continues to expand its influence in the political and economic spheres of affairs throughout the continents, the western countries are forced to re-evaluate their policy towards China. On one hand, in the age of interconnectedness and globalization, the European countries are unwilling to risk hefty trade deals and investment opportunities with China’s emerging economy. On the other hand, however, United States feels its grip loosening over world affairs and fears a Chinese substitute to the Liberal Order it established in the recent decades. Therefore, it used the G7 Summit as an opportunity to bring together the West against China in a bid to uphold the Western democratic values. However, the Summit was nothing more than a reminder of the fact that there is no consensus on how the West should interact with China. Moving forward, it appears that the disconnect among western countries is likely to ease China’s way towards a steady rise.
The tensions between the European Union (EU) and Russia have considerably increased over the last years. In this context, Ukraine has become a crucial geopolitical flashpoint. Ever since the annexation of Crimea and Russian military intervention in Ukraine in 2014, the relations between Russia and the EU have deteriorated progressively with the adoption of severe sanctions by the latter.
In addition to the Ukrainian crisis, both the Russian intervention in the Syrian war and the attempted poisoning of the former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skipral and his daughter by Kremlin agents in 2018 are worth recollecting. Besides, the use of targeted actions to influence and to destabilise European countries such as disinformation, cyber-attacks and support for pro-Kremlin political parties and NGOs, and in the end, the attempted murder by poisoning of Alexei Navalny, one of the most fearsome opposition leaders of Vladimir Putin, have imposed EU to take further countermeasures.
The Russian threat can be subdivided into the following three categories:
Military threat: The high-risk level of Baltic States to be invaded by Russian troops in just a few days and short-range Iskander missiles stationed in “the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad” with high capacity to deliver nuclear warheads attack and to reach Poland and Eastern Germany in 2013. In this regard, it is worth highlighting that the repeated NATO airspace and sea space violations have often provoked several skirmishes between the Russian and NATO planes and warships in the Black and the Baltic Seas. In addition, more than 100,000 Russian troops have been deployed to the border between Russia and Ukraine and Russia’s navy presence around the whole Crimean Peninsula, including also the Sea of Azov, are not absolutely less alarming for Ukraine, NATO and European allies.
Hybrid threat: This is meant as financial and political support for pro-Kremlin parties and NGOs, also spreading disinformation. Furthermore, it is worth mentioning the cyber-attacks to influence and cause instability within European Countries and borders. For example, Moscow was able to build strong ties with populist and mostly far-right political parties such as Rassemblement National (RN) in France, Lega in Italy, Alternative für Deutschland(AfD) in Germany, Vlaams Belang (VB) in Belgium and Catalan independence movement in Spain. Among Russian hybrid tools, the state-owned RT news channel and Sputnik news agency, are considered propaganda instruments, which disseminate anti-establishment conspiracy theories, aim at creating divisions on sensitive issues such as migration and Islamic terrorism. At last, it is worth recalling the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the St. Petersburg-based “troll factory”, specialized in fake social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter.
Energy threat: Russia supplies a third or more of EU oil and gas demand and “a large share of this is delivered via pipelines crossing Ukraine, a country whose relations with Moscow are even more problematic than the EU's, raising the possibility that Europe's gas supplies could be held hostage to geopolitical tensions”. Indeed, the energy crisis in 2006 and 2009 created serious warnings for gas supplies.
Numerous countermeasures have been taken by EU countries to counter Russian disinformation. For example, media literacy training has been introduced in school curricula by several countries and “regulators have clamped down on pro-Kremlin outlets such as RT for failing to comply with media standards”. In 2015, EU created a special task force as East StratCom Task Force for a weekly publication of Disinformation Review identifying and unmasking disinformation from pro-Russia sources. Moreover, it has the purpose to cooperate with Eastern Partnership countries for building resilience to pro-Kremlin disinformation, for example explaining EU policies to audiences from the region by producing Russian-language materials and training journalists. In 2018, the disinformation Code of Practice and the Action Plan were both adopted by the European Union. Several media companies signed the Code of Practice, committing to remove fake profiles and allowing users to see who pays for online political adverts.
The EU has taken meaningful measures to mitigate energy shortage. For example, it has started to build new energy infrastructures - such as interconnecting pipelines enabling EU Member States to share gas, building terminals to import LNG from USA and Qatar and storage facilities to keep gas in reserve. In this context, NATO plays a fundamental role as well, establishing “three main priorities regarding energy security. The first is to enhance allies’ strategic awareness of the security implications of energy developments. The second goal is to support the protection of critical energy infrastructure, including tankers and offshore energy installations. Third, NATO has prioritized enhancing energy efficiency in the military”.
The EU will have to support Eastern European member countries politically, military and economically to counter Russian threats. It will have to promote major policies of economic development, social inclusions fighting inequalities created by pandemic, more cooperation and investments in counter-intelligence and cybersecurity technologies. Additionally, it will have to invest more financial resources to rebuild the economy based on renewable energies, being less hostage by the Russian oil and gas. In the end, it will need to be more independent from the American influence and speaking with a common and single voice. If Europe does not follow this path, it would put at risk the foundations of European democratic institutions, causing their disintegration, paving the way to antidemocratic and populist political parties and lastly it would continue to be subject to energy blackmail of the Kremlin.
What is sure for now is that Russia is still perceived as a real threat to the whole Western world, as also demonstrated by the UK and USA. Indeed, concerning this last one, in spite of the constructive U.S.-Russia Summit in Geneva on 16th June 2021, the deep underlying tension between the superpowers seems less than solved.
Dr Gonzalo Pozo-Martin from the Department of Academic History and International Relations at Stockholm University is answering the questions on the topic whether the balance of power between Russia and Europe has changed in recent years.
Currently, there exists no popular support to equip the Union with substantial military capabilities to defend itself against common threats. There is no consensus among leaders regarding European Strategic Autonomy, the key aspect of European defence planning. And if this decision is made, European leaders need to craft a common strategy. This query would entail questions such as what the risks are, who would join, or what are the next steps.
Unless the United States abruptly decided to abandon its commitment embodied in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European defence configuration is unlikely to vary. Since the beginning of the Cold War, the United States has always acted as the security guarantor of Europe. In particular, the long-standing American support for the Old Continent's defence and security has pivoted around NATO. As a full-fledged multilateral security alliance, NATO has provided an effective shield against the threats arising in Europe’s Eastern neighbourhood. The Organisation also represented the main framework through which Member States’ forces have engaged in military operations under American guidance.
Approaches to Security
Nonetheless, as positions concerning defence diverge, propelling European self-defence would put the unity of the block under pressure. Europe should not stand solely on its feet, as transatlantic support has and will prove crucial. However, it must undoubtedly increase its defence autonomy to a great extent. According to Chancellor Merkel, the ‘task of the future’ for Europe is to take destiny into its own hands.
After a rather unipolar age, the EU should use the global power rebalancing scenario to its benefit. New challenges are compelling the US to shift its focus and resources from Europe and the Middle East towards the Indo-Pacific. This rebalancing dynamic, which partially began with the so-called Pivot to Asia during the Obama Administration, culminated with the Indo-Pacific Strategy introduced by President Trump. The attention required by the US posture in the Pacific, combined with Trump’s proneness to threatening European allies to withdrawal the American troops, have somehow pushed Washington and Europe far from each other.
The Union beyond question needs a more autonomous security approach. This is certainly the viewpoint of President Macron, who advocates for ‘European autonomy’ in defence matters, based on the principle of interoperability. This approach evokes a Union capable of delivering both soft and hard power. The German approach is comparatively different. It is based on cooperation, support, and it emphasises the importance of strong transatlantic relations. A coordinated European approach is needed to secure the continent in an unprecedented environment marked by COVID-19 and a complex setting on the East wing.
Impact of European SecurityApproacheson Strategy
Given the ever-changing uncertain global outlook, observing strategic moves conducted by other global actors is paramount. After Brexit, the UK pivoting from Europe to a global strategy adds complexity to the EU’s defence strategy. In January 2021, the European Union officially lost an important partner for its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Other than holding one of the most powerful militaries in the world, the United Kingdom, together with France, has historically proved essential in nuclear deterrence and expeditionary capabilities for the European Union.
After leaving the EU, the UK aims to revive a more global dimension of its foreign policy. This would allow London to regain a leading role on the international stage. The Integrated Review 2021 offers a first glimpse of the new ‘Global Britain’, conveying that the UK will be the first European country to tilt to the Indo-Pacific region, thus inevitably shifting its focus away from a continental perspective.
Further crucial points need to be addressed in common security matters of the EU. The EU's internal and external security issues are becoming increasingly intertwined. An updated version of the 2016 EU Global Strategy and the implementation of tailored policies are required to counter potential security threats.
Initiatives such as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PeSCo) and the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) are turning points for a coordinated approach to security. The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) comprises both assets and capabilities of Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), dealing among others with crisis management. And yet, this task remains a vital milestone to secure Europe.
This is even more essential concerning the EU's southern and eastern neighbours. In this regard, Karrenbauer highlights the need to pay attention to the four cardinal points. The CFSP, in fact, is a model based on multilateralism that aims to demonstrate that this sort of international order functions. However, European multilateralism will not prove successful without coordination and agility. The unanimity factor implies that if member states do not arrive at a consensus other states might make a move to solely benefit themselves.
Member States should work together concerning security matters in the direction of strategic autonomy. The region should take on its hard power responsibility in an uncertain multipolar environment. There is an inevitable overlap between internal and external security threats. Exchanging information is crucial to achieve an effective defence strategy.
As Kramp-Karrenbauer, German Minister of Defence, wrote, Brexit exhibits the results of a European policy that feeds on sentiment instead of devising ideas for a common European future. Brexit has possibly fissured relations between the UK and the EU, as press biases indicate.
Europe needs to cooperate to bring forward a common defence framework that rises above politics. The way ahead should be a combination of more strategic autonomy and stronger transatlantic relations; while the former will be critical, the latter has proved crucial. The US rebalance of power, the pandemic and Brexit are increasing the temperature of the stove. European leaders should know that a watched pot never boils.
Here is an in-depth analysis of Russia’s motivation in the region.