March 25, 2024No Comments

Prof. Thijs van Dooremalen on Climate Crisis and Strategies of Western Nations

In this session, Professor Thijs van Dooremalen delves into the strategies of the European Union and Western nations. We dissect how each region tackles the climate crisis through policy frameworks, focusing on how they communicate the urgency and navigate political challenges. While also exploring the human cost of climate change and how extreme weather events impact human security.

Thijs van Dooremalen is an Assistant Professor within the Governance of Crises research group at Universiteit Leiden. He researches how and why events can cause transformations within national public spheres (media, politics, and policy-making). In his PhD thesis, he analyzed this for the case of 9/11 in the United States, France, and the Netherlands. He is currently particularly interested in the impact of extreme weather events on climate crisis politics.

Interviewer: Kelly Mikelatou - Human Security Team

May 29, 2023No Comments

Mali: the next stage for power competition? 

Counterterrorism in the wake of EU’s withdrawal and Wagner Group’s operations in the country

Authors: Camilla Cormegna and Liz Morán - Crime, Extremism, and Terrorism Team

The Sahel: the epicenter of terrorism

The emergence of extremism in the Sahel did not take place in a vacuum. Poverty, unemployment, and weak social infrastructures have fostered local support for extremism groups, as supported by the latest UNDP report. More importantly, two events have also been cited as contributors to the Sahel’s instability and insecurity: first, the disintegration of the Libyan state in 2011, which flooded the Sahel with cheap arms and attracted and stirred up violent religious extremism; and second, the Malian civil war of 2012.[1] A decade forward from these events, the Global Terrorism Index warns that the Sahel has become the epicenter of terrorism, with Mali recording its highest number of terrorist attacks and deaths since 2011. Indeed, home to the world’s fastest growing and most-deadly terrorist groups, the region now accounts for 35% terrorism-related deaths of the global total of terrorism deaths in 2021, compared with just 1% in 2007. 

Unsurprisingly, such a security challenge has caught the attention of global leaders. In May 2023, Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Africa, warned, in a UNSC and G5 Sahel meeting, that the devastating effects of the persistent destabilization of the Sahel will be felt far beyond the region. Such an understanding also reigns in the minds of European leaders and policymakers, with the Sahel being framed as a security matter to the EU as irregular migration to Europe and violent extremism rose. In this vein, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stated that “instability and terrorism in the Sahel directly threaten our security. It is therefore our duty of solidarity, and also in our interest, to stand by the people and countries of the Sahel.” Moreover, key EU foreign policy documents (Global Strategy, 2016, i.e.) have reinforced the “internal-external security nexus”.

Thus far, efforts to curb extremism and terrorism have largely failed, prompting the entrance of new security actors into the region and the departure of French troops from Mali. The entrance of these new “(in)security providers”, however, have not been eagerly welcomed by all actors involved in the region. In such a scenario, the Sahel, and especially Mali, may become an important arena for power competition, as a result of the balancing between Europe, the United States, and Russia. 

Voices have highlighted the importance to rethink the international community’s approaches to supporting regional security mechanisms. Precisely, this article will reflect both on the EU and Wagner groups’ counterterrorism efforts, assessing their impact in the region.

A failed ‘patchwork of counterterrorism’  

Instability in Mali has been shaped by the socio-political crisis that fed the expansion of terrorist groups. The main movements in the region are the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS), active since 2015, and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), an al-Qaeda-affiliated umbrella group that appeared in 2017. The conflict, however, has been wrongly framed internationally: these groups are not proxies of the global jihad but have sought to exploit the weaknesses of the region and aim at solving local problems through violence. State absence, the fragility of the rule of law, poverty, poor access to justice and basic services are some of the drivers of extremism in Mali, and terrorist groups have successfully recruited from marginalized communities. 

Since 2012, Mali has been defined as a ‘laboratory’ for counterterrorism (CT) interventions, leading to undesired effects on the overall security of the country. The interventions were divided between UN-led peacekeeping operations and France-led military operations based on capacity-building and international and regional cooperation. However, state CT interventions were obscured by human rights abuses. The Malian army adopted Western CT concepts to address the local insurgency issue, pursuing a military-only stance overlooking the root causes of said insurgency, further fueling extremism. National forces have also carried out extra-judicial killings towards the ethnic communities that supported the terrorist groups that offered them protection, fostering grievances against the Malian government and reinforcing the support for insurgency groups.

France’s CT operations in Mali started after the 2012 coup d’état. France, thus, developed Opération Serval in 2013 alongside the Malian army, succeeding in ousting Islamic militants from Mali. Then, in 2014, Opération Serval was transformed into Opération Barkhane to permanently eliminate the jihadi threat and train Malian armies. Barkhane was successful in neutralizing several operational leaders of JNIM and ISGS, crippling their capabilities and leading to an overall reduction of large-scale attacks. Still, Barkhane has been accused of strategic ineffectiveness, as France would seem to have made several mistakes that hindered the operation. Indeed, France’s indiscriminate attacks on groups’ leaders made the Malian community distrustful of them. French and Malian authorities overlooked the role played by economic and political factors that allowed jihadists to acquire a secure position within the region and recruit from marginalized communities. It also failed to evolve its responsiveness towards insurrection’s escalation, which turned into a turf war. The coup de grace was France’s disagreement towards Mali’s decision to negotiate with the terrorist groups. This increased the suspicion towards France’s motives, as the Metropole allowed negotiations for the release of European hostages while negating cooperation when it came to Malian security. 

Source: wikicommons-Opération Barkhane


Overall, the potential role of European peacekeeping and CT operations did not bear the anticipated fruit. More CT did not equal more security in Mali, which experienced a surge in internal displacement and humanitarian crisis. Purely military responses have proven to be ineffective at reducing terrorism and have had the opposite result, pushing local populations towards jihadists. European CT strategies have further empowered the Malian junta, accused of human rights abuses as well as corruption, and the local community may perceive European help as complicity. Moreover, CT operations can be fruitful in the short-term but ineffective in the long run if not paired with strategies that target the drivers of extremism, such as socio-economic issues and state absence. Indeed, the “war on religious terrorism” mentality has diverted attention from governance problems, while the paradigm based on the “terrorist” label is problematic because it does not exist in vernacular dialects. For local communities, insurgents are not the main security challenge but armed robbers, cattle thieves, and ethnic tensions. 

France’s unwillingness to negotiate with terrorists was the last straw, leading to a deterioration of French-Malian diplomatic and political relationship. The military junta, in power since the 2021 coup, hampered France’s operations while anti-Western sentiments exploded in the region and the Wagner Group increased its presence. In 2022, France and the EU halted all capacity-building programmes, with Barkhane coming to an end. They also relocated their military resources to neighboring countries and ISGS took advantage of France’s withdrawal. 

The Wagner Group in Africa 

The Wagner Group, a private military contractor, has been expanding its footprint into various African countries, with Mali its most recent conquest, by leveraging “Western policy missteps, anti-European sentiment, and the long-standing failures of international and local actors to address the root causes of regional instability”. Russia’s interests in Africa, however, precede the recent involvement of the Wagner Group: since 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to rebuild Russia's presence and influence in Africa. Some argue that it is precisely to achieve such an end that Russia has used mercenary groups to advance Moscow's interests in the region. 

Since its involvement, the Group has been engaging in activities such as leading training exercises, fighting anti-government forces, and suppressing protests. Now, while the Wagner Group often aligns with Russia’s foreign policy interests, its status as an independent contractor allows it to maintain a level of unpredictability and gives Russia plausible deniability for its actions. This, thus, seems to make the Group a valuable tool in the hands of Russian policymakers to balance Western presence in the region and test new military cooperation environments –without appearing overly involved. 

Some commentators have argued that the partnership between Russian proxies and African governments is not solely the result of major regional disinformation campaigns. Instead, it stems from a conscious decision by African leaders and civil society actors who actively seek cooperation with Russia. In this sense, African states seek greater agency in managing their own affairs, resisting Western imposition and being receptive to narratives against Western colonialism. Russia, thus, has identified a window opportunity and adapted its foreign policy discourse: Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergei Lavrov, remarked that Moscow remains supportive of Africans’ efforts to push back against the West and works with partners in Africa to counter “European colonialism”. 

Certainly, the Group’s involvement in the region is not exempt from criticism. Some argue that Russian forces tend to use Malian soldiers as “cannon fodder”, exposing them to greater risks. Others have stated that the group's objective is not to stabilize the countries where it operates, but rather to provide security to several regimes in exchange for access to valuable natural resources. Likewise, it has been said that the Group's presence in Africa is likely to further destabilize the countries where it operates. First, because its transactional relationships with Sahelian governments undermine their legitimacy in the eyes of the population. Second, because the Group’s approach focuses primarily on providing security through kinetic means, neglecting critical aspects of counterinsurgency, such as strengthening the rule of law and promoting good governance. Indeed, experts have argued that the Wagner Group's approach may have yielded isolated short-term results but has ultimately failed to address the underlying challenges. Moreover, the absence of French airstrikes, which Islamists feared, has emboldened insurgents, leading to a significant increase of violence in Mali. Finally, the Group's human rights abuses contribute to grievances among the population, creating a fertile ground for terrorist groups to recruit new members. Studies have, in fact, shown that the Group engages in high levels of civilian targeting in Central African Republic and Mali, with it accounting for a significant portion of Wagner's involvement in political violence. 


The Malian situation has revealed the insufficient effectiveness of European-led CT to combat local insurgencies. A securitized and purely military approach has shown tactical success and has aggravated the situation by contributing to pushing local marginalized communities into the arms of jihadists. Moreover, the various strategies have been hindered by the unwillingness of local authorities to change their clientele-based political systems. This has opened new opportunities for other international actors such as Russia, which has fueled already existing anti-Western grievances. 

Wagner’s presence in the region has caused more insecurity but the belief that their aid is contributing to the fight against terrorism is emboldening the current junta. However, it is unlikely that Wagner’s assistance to the Malian army will be successful in leading a fruitful CT strategy. There is concern that the departure of EU allies could accelere the reconstruction of supply routes and fundings for terrorist groups in the region. Security experts are also concerned about the risk of terrorism spreading over neighboring countries in the Gulf of Guinea which have already been subjected to terrorist attacks attributed to JNIM and other al Qaeda-affiliated groups. The Sahel can be the next arena of competition for power, therefore future CT strategies should address the capacity of Sahelian states through a governance-focused approach and address the drivers of extremism. 

[1] Since the year 2015, Mali has experienced a continued upward trend in terrorist attacks and deaths related to it. This trend began with the 2015 declaration of a state of emergency in the wake of the Radisson Blu Hotel attack in Bamako.

April 3, 2023No Comments

Mapping the European Defense Research landscape

Author: Iris Raith - Defense & Procurement Team


The war in Ukraine has forced the European Union (EU) fundamentally to rethink its stance on defence policies. While the EU is still, first and foremost, a peace project, it can simply no longer keep defence cooperation and innovation in the background considering its borders are actively threatened by increasingly undemocratic regimes. The EU has the means and the knowledge to become an autarkic defence power which will rely less on the protective umbrella of the United States, which has been in place since the end of World War II. A newly drafted agreement allowing for easier US-EU defence project collaboration already explicitly excludes joint research cooperation. The first steps towards more independent EU defence can be noticed, such as introducing the Directorate General for Defence industry and Space (DG DEFIS) in 2021 or creating the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in 2017. 

It is interesting to note the various developments that can be observed regarding research and development (R&D) in European defence, especially since most EU Member States have not invested in defence R&D until now. As such, this article will outline the steps taken in recent years to promote increased collaboration and cooperation to establish a leading EU-focused R&D related to defence. 

The European Defense Agency (EDA)

The EDA was created in 2004 to promote collaboration among the Member States' militaries. Nevertheless, the Agency has become quite active over the last few years. It supports joint projects to ensure the diversification of military assets within the EU. Moreover, it manages and coordinates over 140 joint development and research projects among Member States. Notably, the EDA serves as the joint Hub for the coming together of research institutions, universities, start-ups and established industry actors to encourage defence innovation. 

The EDA has a specialised Research, Technology & Innovation Directorate (RTI), which coordinates, develops and manages research activities as well as the implementation of the European Defence Fund presented further down. In addition, the EDA hosts a crucial activity in order to heighten preparedness for what the future might bring: it regularly conducts technology foresight exercises. The study of ‘futures’ has become an essential tool for researchers and policymakers despite being often neglected by the latter. However, the activity of foresight allows for educated scenario buildings, presenting a long-term vision of where technological innovation might bring the defence sector and security more generally. As a result, foresight enables policymakers and states, in general, to effectively prepare for possible ‘futures’. In the specific case of technology foresight, developing scenarios around future technological defence capabilities for the next 20 to 30 years provides defence actors with concrete, educated guesses to develop strategies and agendas. 


Institutes and Fora 

The emergence of an array of think tanks and research institutes specialised in European security and defence research has enormously contributed to multiple EU researchers collaborating and setting up policy recommendations and analysing possible future defence cooperation. It is also interesting to note that the 2005-established European Security and Defence College (ESDC), targeted primarily towards military personnel, encourages research cooperation by offering a Doctoral programme on CSDP and publishing an academic journal. This encourages experienced military personnel from Member States to have academic exchanges regarding best practices and their thought on CSDP. Moreover, renowned think-tanks such as RAND Europe and the Dutch Clingendael Institute have also established research teams dedicated to European defence and security research. 

One of the well-established think tanks already in place since 2002 is the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS). It was set up as an autonomous EU Agency tasked with supporting CFSP/CSDP implementation and knowledge production. It regularly produces insightful publications on timely matters, such as examining existing EU cyber defence policy and related suggestions for its development or the important discussion on the EU’s defence partnerships with recommendations for a more effective way forward.

Moreover, the EUISS is notably always present at an ever-increasing number of conferences and fora organised around EU defence cooperation. The first-ever ‘Schuman Security and Defence Forum’ was organised this year in March 2023. This has been designed as an event which will happen every two years and is aimed at providing grounds for discussion among politicians, decision-makers, military representatives and civil society representatives, all engaged in security and defence. This initiative represents a significant opportunity for a plethora of actors to come together, effectively establishing tighter cooperation to promote more autonomous and empowering EU security and defence mechanisms. 

Funding military independence 

A notable increase has slowly joined the above-outlined increased research regarding EU Defence cooperation in EU funding dedicated to this field. This is particularly important given that according to the latest EDA report for 2020-2021, only two Member States invest 20% of their defence budget into R&D, and the other 24 states remain well under 10%. However, a significant increase could be observed regarding Research and Technology (R&T) investment, reaching an aggregate of €3.6 billion in 2021 compared to around €1.7 billion in 2019. Nevertheless, the agreed-upon 2% benchmark has not yet been reached. However, the investment surge shows that Member States have acknowledged the increased role of technology in defence, recognising that investing in researching technology will ultimately improve the EU’s defence capabilities in a future of omnipresent technology. 

The European Defence Fund (EDF) has recently been inaugurated for a project period of 2021-2027 with a current budget of €8 billion to promote EU cooperation regarding defence technology. Incentives to participate in a joint collaboration between member states include the involvement of SMEs with a funding bonus awarded in such cases. It is important to highlight that EDF grants are solely awarded to projects in collaboration with at least three EU member states. This effectively encourages companies, state agencies and general defence actors to cooperate on a cross-border level, enabling them to lead more extensive projects. 


In conclusion, this article laid out the multitude of actors and initiatives engaged in enhanced research cooperation in European defence—these range from state-level collaboration on the EU level to research institutes and multi-actor fora of discussion. As can be noticed, a lot has been done in recent years, but the war in Ukraine has served as a decisive push towards a truly independent European defence sector. This does not mean that the road towards a unified EU army is now wide open. However, the efforts mentioned above show that EU Member States and the EU institutions have recognised that the EU’s security relies on ever-closer cooperation in the various defence sectors. Intensive research cooperation has the advantages of cost benefits, EU-wide standardised capabilities and increased innovation opportunities bringing together European minds. 

January 23, 2023No Comments

Liberté, fraternité ou renvoyer: France -Italy feud highlights EU’s incompetence in harmonizing shared responsibility

Author: Isabel Dekker and Federico Alistair D'Alessio.

Between the 22nd and 26th of October 2022, 234 migrants (including over 40 minors) were rescued by the Ocean Viking, a rescue boat managed by SOS Méditerranée, a humanitarian organization that rescues people in distress at sea. Before being allowed to dock in Toulon (France) on the 11th of November, the boat was stranded at sea for almost three weeks leading to a rapid decline in the passengers’ health. The vessel landed in France after Italy refused to allow the ship to dock on their shores, intensifying their bitter dispute over migration. Since 2015, the EU has forwarded numerous initiatives to improve the coordination and handling of the arrival of migrants. Nevertheless, EU’s migration policies are often executed in an ad hoc fashion resulting in diplomatic tensions across the European continent.


The French government condemned Italy’s refusal to welcome the vessel carrying over 200 migrants: the French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin referred to Italy’s actions as ’incomprehensible’ and ’unacceptable’, in addition to emphasizing on ‘strong consequences’ for the relations between the two countries. 

France has also adjourned its collaboration in the relocation mechanism which was proposed last June. This plan concerned a dozen European Union member states, including France, The Netherlands and Germany, which voluntarily decided to welcome 8,000 migrants arriving in countries of first entry to Europe, such as Italy. The Interior Ministry announced that the planned relocation of 3,500 people to France in support of Italy between the summer of 2022 and 2023 is suspended, while also inviting other EU member states to do so. Moreover, France has also strengthened its border controls with Italy. 

‘’It’s the Italian government that’s losing out’’ – Mr. Darmanin (Minister of Interior)

Nevertheless, France has had its own political rows over accepting the ship, as far-right opposition leader Marine Le Pen called Macron ‘dramatically’ soft on migration and justified and praised the decisions taken by the Italian government. 


By denying the Ocean Viking to dock in Catania, the Italian government has reiterated a message often emphasized by the countries most affected by migration: the responsibility of receiving and integrating migrants must be shared equally by all EU member states. Italian PM Giorgia Meloni strongly criticizes the Dublin III Regulation, according to which each asylum application must be examined only by the first country where the migrants disembark in. This represents a significant disadvantage for Mediterranean countries as they are always considered the nearest place of safety when dealing with boats coming from Africa. 

Criticism also concerns the lack of a clear and effective European framework regarding the relocation of migrants. The most recent plan was arranged last summer, but it did not lead to the expected outcome. A voluntary redistribution of 8000 migrants was agreed, but just 117 of them have been resettled so far, of which only 38 to France. As a result of this perceived failure, a joint statement issued in November by Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta laments the little support shown by other member states to share the burden of asylum applications, as well as the absence of a common strategy to adequately support frontline countries. 

Meloni criticizes what she referred to as an ‘incomprehensible and unjustified’ reaction of the French government, which decided to freeze the abovementioned plan and suggested the rest of the EU to act accordingly. France also chose to strengthen its control over borders with Italy, even though similar measures in the past have brought to light to questionable tactics used by French authorities to pushback migrants.

Moreover, the Italian government underlines that the country has dealt with more than 100 thousand arrivals by sea in 2022, which represents a sharp increase in comparison to previous years. Considering this evidence and given that the Italian government allowed three ships out of four to disembark, the Ministry of Interior deemed reasonable for France to accommodate the last migrant rescue boat. 


Picture via Wikimedia Commons

The Vice President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, criticized Italy for its ambiguous approach: the government requested more European solidarity, but at the same time did not allow the docking of the Ocean Viking ship, which was carrying people in deteriorating sanitary conditions. Schinas claims that migrants must be first allowed to disembark in the closest location before any resettlement operations can be carried out. In fact, a 2002 annex to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea states that people rescued at sea must be promptly taken to the nearest place of safety.

On the 25th of November, EU officials met at an extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting and reiterated the immediate necessity of a common resolution that would increase the support to all countries and organizations most involved in searching and rescuing migrants, in such a way as to avoid further deaths in the Mediterranean. In addition, home affairs ministers stressed the need to focus on human smuggling and the roots of migration in order to prevent departures. The meeting also highlighted the urgency to reinforce the existing migration pact, which allows frontline countries to either relocate a share of the migrants in other states or request funds from those EU members that reject any sort of responsibility.


A French-Italian dispute has the potential to become a full-blown European issue: this bilateral crisis reflects the state of the EU on the management of migration flows, which has not been successfully addressed since the refugee crisis of 2015-16. The union has not been able to unanimously reform its rules of asylum which currently put the burden of applications solely on the arrival country. Moreover, the state deemed competent to examine the application often ends up being also the place in which refugees remain once protection has been obtained. It could be thus discussed that this mechanism undermines the concept of shared responsibility among EU members. Arguably, it also does not take into account the aspirations of displaced people, nor their concrete prospects of finding a job in other European countries.

As a result, aside from a revision of the Dublin accords, there is the necessity to make the resettlement scheme compulsory because of its inefficiency when dealing with governments who have a harder stance against migration and thus refuse to comply with voluntary accords. A comprehensive agreement that would deal with the migrant flux on an ongoing basis is also needed, rather than relying on ad-hoc resolutions: for instance, the EU may benefit from a pact in which each member state is assigned a specific set of responsibilities and a quota of migrants according to its economic and demographic availability.

Furthermore, the European Union requires alternative solutions for migrants that are not eligible for international protection (e.g. economic migrants), who currently represent the majority of people reaching Europe through the central Mediterranean route – as stated by Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs. Focus should also be put on the Balkan situation, as it is the second most used route by migrants in order to reach Europe.

In conclusion, these are some of the challenges that the EU must face as whole, although the reality shows several obstacles when trying to reach collective decisions that would benefit all the parties involved. 

*Featured image: via Flickr

December 5, 2022No Comments

Rule of Law and European Arrest Warrants

How persistent violations of the Rule of Law can influence the execution of European Arrest Warrants?

Author: Vittoria Brunazzo.

Recently, the European Union (EU) has been facing one of the biggest challenges of its system: the disrespect of the rule of law by Poland and Hungry. Those countries have advanced antidemocratic changes in their juridical system, going against the core principles of the EU. Due to the interconnection between European Member-States, actions taken by Hungary and Poland can be affecting all the European System of Justice, and if not fixed could even jeopardize the functioning of the area of freedom, security and justice of the European Union. The discussions surrounding the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) are one example on how the actions of Poland and Hungary are affecting the functioning of the European judiciary cooperation. 

What is the EAW and the principle of mutual recognition?

The EAW is a cross-border judicial surrender procedure for prosecution or execution of a custodial sentence or detention order in all the EU territory. It is one of many juridical mechanisms, introduced after the implementation of the area of freedom, security and justice by the EU, to further develop cooperation among States on criminal matters. In the absence of border control, the EAW aim to ensure a safe environment in all Union and prevent the use of the right of free movement to evade justice. The EAW is based on the principle of mutual recognition among member States, and it presumes that Members will trust each other’s juridical decisions and execute an arrest warrant without questioning the validity of it. 

The mutual recognition principle has its foundation on the respect of the rule of law, meaning that sovereign powers are bound by the States’ law and cannot act unlawfully. In this principle it is also included the respect of the separation of power and the right of an equal trial. Nevertheless, we can only speak about the rule of law if the law-making process is considered democratic, accountable, transparent and pluralistic. The rule of law is considered a fundamental principle of the European Union, as stated in Art.2 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, […] the rule of law and respect for human rights […]. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

Image Source:

The consequences of the disrespect of the rule of law 

In the EAW Framework Decision there is no direct mention to the rule of law, however, the text bounds the warrant to the rule of law indirectly. Recital n.10 of the Framework Decision indicates that the implementation of the EAW shall be “suspended only in the event of a serious and persistent breach by one of the Member States of the principles of the European Union”, which are found in art.2 TEU. Thus, for the suspension of the EAW mechanism, it is not sufficient the risk of violation of art.2, but a serious and persistent breach of those principles asserted unanimously by the European Council.

The issue relies exactly in this situation: a unanimous decision by the European Council, under the procedure of art.7 TEU to contrast actions of Member States from advancing policies that threaten their democratic system, rarely happens. Since its implementation, with the Treaty of Amsterdam, the procedure was invoked just twice, in 2017 against Poland and in 2018 against Hungary. Still, the Council never determined the existence of a serious and persistent breach of art.2 by those States.

In April 2021, two EAW issued by the Polish courts requesting the arrest of a Polish citizen were not executed by the authorities in the Netherlands. According to the Rechtbank Amsterdam Court (Dutch District Court) it was not possible to execute the warrant since there were serious doubts on the effectiveness of the Polish judiciary system which could affect the right of a fair trial of the individual. The case was taken to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to confirm if the denial was possible based on the allegations of the Dutch Court.

The judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union 

According to the ”Judgment in Joined Cases C-562/22 PPU and C-563/21 PPU Openbaar Ministerie” of the CJEU the evidence presented in the case by the Rechtbank Amsterdam Court was not sufficient to refuse the execution of the EAW. The Court analysis was made based on a two-step examination of the EAW. Firstly the CJEU declared that the ongoing procedure under art.7 against Poland in the European Council, the decision on the case of the Polish Supreme Court (Sąd Najwyższy) and other relevant documents against the reforms adopted by the Polish government cannot be considered sufficient material to deny the execution of an EAW. Secondly, the Court did not find reasonable evidence that the judges involved in the case could not be considered impartial, therefore there is no evidence that fundamental rights of the concerned individual could be violated.


The judgment of those two cases opened a precedent for future non-executions of EAWs. In cases where the concerned individual can provide information demonstrating a lack of impartiality by the judges involved in his case, or in cases where the procedure under art.7 succeeds in asserting the violation of the rule of law, the execution of EAW could be suspended by concerning authorities. Furthermore, the disrespect of the rule of law could challenge the EAW entire system. Hypothetically speaking cases of systematic discrimination of a specific group, persistent deficiencies regarding the right of defence and lack of judicial capacities, and corruption in the judiciary system, could justify the suspension of the States’ right to request the execution of EAWs.

In conclusion one could argue that the violation of the rule of law by Hungary and Poland could be influencing not only the judicial procedure within their territory, but influencing all the European system of security, by putting in discussion tools such as the EAW and other judiciary procedures which were created to improve European cooperation and integration and avoid a lack of justice within the European Union. 

November 7, 2022No Comments

Critical Raw Materials and EU’s Open Strategic Autonomy

Authors: Riccardo Bosticco, Miguel Jimenez and Michele Mignogna.


As the energy transition is one of our age's greatest challenges, developments in this direction are likely to exert notable impacts on broader international political and economic processes. In the European Union (EU) case, Russia’s war on Ukraine has taught the importance of avoiding dangerous dependencies and adapting to an increasingly conflictive world. The EU wants to achieve Open Strategic Autonomy (OSA) for this purpose. Moreover, this is of particular significance to understanding the EU’s policy on Critical Raw Materials (CRMs). Thus, this article explains the EU’s approach to CRMs and its connection to the concept of OSA.

The CRMs Landscape 

CRMs are crucial materials for the construction of wind turbines and solar panels, batteries for electric storage and cars and the development of technologies for digitalisation. The energy transition cannot be achieved without their availability. Among them, some of the most familiar are lithium, cobalt, platinum, and tungsten, yet the latest Act by the European Commission identifies around 30. A distinctive feature of CRMs is their limited and concentrated supply. According to the forecasts of the International Energy Agency, the net-zero equation will be solved with renewables such as wind and solar, predicted to account for 70% of power generation by 2050. Those countries where these materials are abundant would become green-commodity superpowers. Indeed, by 2040, those nations could pocket an estimated annual revenue of $1.2trn. CRMs share some features with fossil fuels. They are unevenly distributed. For instance, one-half of the world’s cobalt supply is located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone, South Africa possesses around 40% of the world’s manganese, while lithium is heavily concentrated in Chile, Argentina and Australia. Secondly, this endowment is mostly located in recognised autocracies, making them uncertain suppliers considering the instability of this type of governments. If there is one country which is way ahead in the race, not only in terms of being the major source to many of them but also by controlling 80% of the processing capacity, that is China. The current arm-wrestling with Russia has made EU countries aware of the vulnerabilities of relying on external sources for indispensable materials in the future. Thus, they have deployed measures to decrease dependency on China for these materials, which currently satisfies 98% of the demand for rare earth permanent magnets, a subcategory of rare earths

The EU’s Approach to CRMs

After the experience of the European Battery Alliance (EBA), in September 2020, European Commission Vice President Šefčovič and Commissioner Breton launched the European Raw Materials Alliance (ERMA) as part of theAction Plan on Critical Raw Materials. The alliance aims to secure access to CRMs, advanced materials, and processing know-how for EU industrial ecosystems. Equally to the EBA, the ERMA involves relevant industries along the CRMs value chain, Member States and regions, trade unions, research and technology organisations, investors, and NGOs. To better understand the EU’s approach to CRMs, it is helpful to look at previous policy inputs by the EU in this field. In 2008, the European Parliament (EP) resolution on trade in raw materials and commodities made the point that access to raw materials is vital for the EU economy and highlighted the minor involvement of European industries in the exploration of such materials in third countries. The same year, the Raw Materials Initiative proposed an integrated strategy based on ensuring access, proper framework conditions to guarantee supplies, and resource efficiency to reduce consumption and dependencies. Later resolutions extended the actors involved, including the European External Action Service and other relevant stakeholders, to engage in resource diplomacy. In February 2012, a European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials proposal was published. It expressed the need to create a “critical mass towards the single objective of ensuring sustainable access to raw materials” by stimulating synergies between different policy instruments and Member States. Moreover, the Communication on CRMs Resilience stressed the strategic priority of securing CRMs and acknowledged their relevance to achieving open strategic autonomy. Hence, ERMA was given birth to create synergies among European CRMs stakeholders to address concentrated global markets, overcome technical barriers to investments and innovations, and ensure public awareness and policy acceptance, thus making the EU autonomous and strategic in this sector. While designing the ERMA’s role, the Commission Staff Working Document on Strategic Dependencies and Capacities indicated its purposes to create resilient value chains and investment pipelines, identify mining and investment projects and facilitate contacts with investors to compete on global markets. Yet, such developments have to be analysed in the cadre of overall EU policy directions, and for this purpose, the concept of OSA needs further discussion.  

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Expanding Horizons: the EU Open Strategic Autonomy

The debate on the EU’s strategic autonomy has been central in the agenda of the EU’s institutions since the 2010s. As the 2016 Council defined it, strategic autonomy is “the capacity to act autonomously when and where necessary and with partners wherever possible”. In 2022, the EP has been more specific by stating that “the EU strategic autonomy refers to the capacity of the EU to act autonomously – that is, without being dependent on other countries – in strategically important policy areas [which] range from defence policy to the economy, and the capacity to uphold democratic values.” Notably, strategic autonomy expands well beyond the military and defence, with an increasing number of strategic sectors identified, and it has now evolved into the concept of Open Strategic Autonomy. As Josep Borrell has observed, after Covid-19, “strategic autonomy has been widened to new subjects of an economic and technological nature". In a recent study by the EP, OSA is defined as “the ability to act autonomously, to rely on one’s own resources in key strategic areas and to cooperate with partners whenever needed”. Specifically, the new concept deals with emerging challenges and future chances, encompassing five dimensions and looking at them holistically: geopolitics, technology, economy, environment, and society. OSA drives the EU to be economically and geopolitically stronger by reinforcing its economic assets and industries. It strengthens the international role of the Euro to sustain the economy, finance the recovery from the crisis, and stay competitive and connected to the rest of the world. It makes the EU sustainable and responsible by solidifying existing alliances, cooperating with like-minded partners, and increasing its internal political cohesion to lead the construction of a greener and more equitable society. It aspires to act assertively against unfair trade practices, keeping its liberal soul by favouring global cooperation and multilateralism to address complex issues. In this view, the trade dimension of OSA focuses on supply chain resilience and sustainability. For instance, it might encompass the repatriation of strategic industries back to the EU or reshoring. Yet, this should not mean that international trade or partnerships would be jeopardised. It gives the opportunity to act more assertively by choosing trade partners more selectively without losing normative ambitions to fight for a healthier society and environment. Moreover, it requires the EU to avoid past misunderstandings, for instance, by reducing its vulnerability to external sources of supply. As argued by Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič at the Raw Materials Security of Europe Conference, this is exactly the case with CMRs.


Global economic developments challenge the ambitions of the EU. Indeed, the prior balance between interdependence and autonomy is being rearranged as a result of structural shifts in the global economy and world order. Some have identified such developments as a geoeconomic turn, namely a shift away from the liberal international order. With a particular focus on a crucial sector at the heart of the green transition, this article has outlined how the EU is trying to adapt to the challenge of a changing environment. As it has demonstrated, the EU looks like it cannot rely on market forces anymore. If this is the case, as the flourishing literature on geoeconomics suggests, then the next challenge for the EU will be to act cohesively and effectively on the global ground without losing its market competitiveness. 

May 30, 2022No Comments

The Geopolitics of the Energy Transition’s Momentum

Authors: Riccardo Bosticco and Michele Mignogna.


The main result that Putin has achieved until now with the aggression of Ukraine is a solid stance from the European Member States to halt gas imports from Russia. This and other green commitments have pushed the EU and the whole world to give renewed impetus to renewable energy. Moreover, the relation between climate and industry policies is increasingly evident. In a broader context of power competition trade, investment policies in the energy and climate sectors play an ambivalent role: energy dependencies have been conceptualized as mutually benefitting; yet, the current war unveils their risky nature. After a brief description of the renewables’ geopolitical dimensions, this article outlines what is at stake for the EU’s primary areas of energy cooperation. 

The Impact of Renewable Energy on Geopolitics

Renewable energies have the potential to transform interstate energy relations. Renewables have fundamentally distinct geographic and technological properties than coal, oil, and natural gas. Sources are plentiful but intermittent; their production is increasingly decentralized and utilizes rare earth resources in clean tech equipment and, lastly, their distribution is predominantly electric and entails tight management standards and long-distance losses. This contrasts sharply with fossil fuel resources’ geographically fixed and finite character, their reliance on massive centralized production and processing facilities, and their ease of storage and transit as solids, liquids, or gases worldwide.

The energy transition provides a chance to rethink and revise long-standing trading relationships. It also allows countries to engage in previously closed energy value chains. Significantly, the future of the energy world will likely redefine the concept of energy security. However, in this society, the impulse to produce things domestically will collide with the logic of size and global supply networks. The energy transition will rewire the planet, but how much of it will transcend international borders is still unclear. A crucial element will be the commerce of minerals, distinct from that of oil, gas, and coal in terms of location. Nonetheless, such business will follow a familiar pattern: resources will be harvested in one region of the world, transported to refineries and processing centers, and then transformed into final goods. Diversification, bottlenecks, extraction disputes, and rent-seeking dynamics will all be present, although with different details.

Such developments will require a significant shift in energy strategies, indicating that areas pursuing industrial policies rather than decarbonization may reap climatic advantages. The previous energy map established a link between natural resources and markets. Yet, the new energy map will be much more complex.

The Geopolitics of the Energy Transition and the EU

Bringing together the words ’geopolitics’ and ‘renewables’ leads to the study of renewables and related security risks, the effects of the energy transition on traditional energy relations, possibilities of mutually beneficial ties, and windows of opportunity for countries to move up in the global power hierarchy. The energy transition is indeed a process where the industrial advantage is likely to bring with itself political benefits and leadership status. In the context of the current war in Ukraine, this is becoming clearer every day. Yet, the energy transition is expected to become part of power competition as the most impellent challenge – posed by the war as well as climate change and the security risks with it – of our times and will likely create amities and enmities.

Take the example of Russia. In the past decade, Russia has perceived the EU’s energy transition problematically. The EU-Russia energy relationship was primarily based on gas, oil, and coal. Nonetheless, the association is characterized by different conceptions of energy and energy security, although both actors recognize the potential of energy interdependence. While the EU and European countries are more enthusiastic concerning the transition, Russia’s discourses are more conservative yet try to defend the role of natural gas in the energy transition.

While it is difficult to predict an essential role played by Russia nowadays, given the progressive isolation it is forced to, the energy wire will see China having high stakes in renewable developments and geopolitics. Concerning relations with the EU, some have argued that the energy transition is likely to be the determinant of the future of EU-China relations. Energy in EU-China relations does not play the same role as relations with Russia. While the renewable sector has encouraged interdependence between the two powers in the past, more recently, nationally oriented policies have hindered the precedent path.

Still, the energy transition will significantly shape relations between the EU and the Arab states. While Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are challenged by balancing relating with the US and China, managing regional crises, the pandemic, and containing Iran as the primary regional rival, the last point precisely is preventing some of the Arab states in the Gulf region to act assertively against Russia. Nonetheless, looking ahead to the 2020s, how those countries manage the energy transition will have consequences on internal and external political and economic environments. Especially Gulf countries envision a sustainable future, thus setting the stage for redrawing energy investments. In this context, the EU will play a crucial role, opening to the Gulf’s market interests and advancing regional security interests.


Overall, the current war is not only highlighting the strategic value of energy resources and energy ties but also how the transition to new energy systems is likely to rewire the world. In a context where the main political divide on the global stage is between liberal and illiberal forces and strong energy dependences revealed security threats, future systems of alliances will have to account for this. For the EU, the energy transition will have to deal with Russia, act as cohesively as possible, and strengthen its strategic thinking concerning big partners such as China and the Gulf States. The transitions’ stakes entail a strategic opportunity to avoid past errors.

May 26, 2022No Comments

Will the new Transatlantic Data Framework withstand a ‘Schrems III’ in European Courts?

Authors: Beatrice Gori, Giovanni Tricco and Giorgia Zaghi.

On March 25, amid a week of summits in Brussels overshadowed by the Ukrainian war, Joe Biden and Ursula Von Der Leyen in a joint meeting unexpectedly announced a new transatlantic data privacy agreement in principle, clearly showing  the political status nearby the issue. Since the fall of the previous privacy shield in 2020 the data flows between the two transatlantic actors have been surrounded by uncertainty, making it difficult for companies, particularly SMEs, to conduct business. Transatlantic data and information flows between the United States and the European Union are estimated to be valued at over $7.1 trillion dollars with over 5300 companies participating, including technology behemoths such as Google, Meta and Microsoft. Therefore, a new agreement is well expected by both sides of the Atlantic since the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decision in Schrems II which called for the unproportionate capability of US surveillance capabilities and the lack of an effective redress body for European data owners.

The new Transatlantic data pact is expected to heal such gridlocks and foster the data economy in the near future. However, a text has not been published, raising serious doubts among privacy experts. Max Schrems, the Austrian privacy activist who has torn down the two previous agreements, welcomed the new pact as “a lipstick on a pig” calling for future challenges in front of the European judicial system. The line between whether such a new agreement will fulfill the CJEU criteria or pave the way for a Schrems III is exceedingly thin. Nonetheless, the question is surrounded by different controversies, indeed The CJEU highly criticized US practices without taking into account the national capabilities of its Member States. Several reports, including one from theEuropean Fundamental Right Agency (FRA) and from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, outlined how surveillance programs conducted by European intelligence services allegedly vary from collecting traffic metadata from diverse sources to monitoring web forums and intercepting cable-bound transmissions.

Indeed, in Europe surveillance activities fall under the scope of national security, which is a matter of national competence according to the Treaty of the European union (TEU), therefore European courts cannot legislate or address changes to its Member States. The EU courts’ approach has provoked anger and disbelief among US national security experts: “mix of judicial imperialism and Eurocentric hypocrisy”, as pointed out by Steven Baker a partner in the law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP and former general counsel of the National Security Agency (NSA). Therefore, while the CJEU’s Schrems II decision emphasized how the current laws inadequately protect the right of non-nationals to judicial redress in the United States, additional surveillance and intelligence reform should be addressed even in the EU to create a political momentum for legislative intervention in the American congress. Until that moment as underlined by Peter Swire it is “unrealistic for the EU to demand changes to U.S. national security legislation when European countries themselves are not averse to similar practices.”

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Swire's forecast appears to have come true, in the fact sheet released by the US government no legislative amendments are mentioned; instead, it calls for the establishment of a new redress mechanism and other safeguards to satisfy the CJEU’s request via a Presidential Executive Order (EO). Such a process would raise doubts regarding the capacity of the new mechanism to be independent and able to investigate wrongdoings by the American Intelligence Communities (IC). Theoretically, this would represent the same issues of the Ombudsman of the old-fashioned Privacy Shield. However, an intriguing solution t has been envisaged by experts. They call for the creation of an independent redress authority via a regulation of the Department of Justice (DOJ) which will be independent by the executive, in conjunction with EOs from the President that would confer to the newly redress authority concrete capability to effectively investigating redress requests and for issuing decisions that are binding on the entire American IC. A non-statutory solution according to them that would – theoretically – satisfy the request of the European courts in Schrems II.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) made the point clear in its statement saying that it will direct “special attention to how this political agreement is translated into concrete legal proposals.” Therefore, until a text is missing just speculation can be made. Indeed, at the moment the political agreement made on 25 March 2022 is just the latest step on the ‘intense negotiations’ on a Privacy Shield replacement, as stated by the European Commissioner of Justice Didier Reynders, who announced that the works for a final text is undergoing in order to have the final agreement for late 2022. He pointed out that: "It is difficult to give a precise timeline at this stage, but we expect that this process could be finalized by the end of this year. On the European side there is trust in the work and commitment of American officials. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Services Christopher Hoff said to IAPP that the United States made unparalleled commitments to significantly increase privacy and civil liberties safeguards through the establishment of the new multi-layered redress mechanism, assuring that it will be independent and binding in its safeguards on how the court is set up, as well as the protections for the judges' selection and removal. In addition, he pointed out that he strongly believes that the agreement will be durable and that all the features surrounding the new agreement will be much clearer at the appropriate time.

The stakes are high, indeed, in case the agreement will not survive the scrutiny of the CJEU legal uncertainty will persist and future economic losses for the digital economy of the EU and the US will increase. Accordingly, to forecasts of DIGITALEUROPE by 2030 if a stable agreement that enables lawful and consistent data transfer is not assured the European Union economy could lose €1.3 trillion in cumulative economic growth by 2030, €116 billion in annual exports and 1.3 million job losses, primarily high-skilled professions. On the other hand, if a stable mechanism of data transfer will be assured the EU economy would gain €720 billion in cumulative extra growth by 2030, equivalent to an increase of 0.6% in GDP on a yearly basis, €60 billion in annual exports, of which half coming from the manufacturing sector, boosting the position of European SMEs and 700 thousand new jobs will be created. Therefore, it is critical that the text of the new agreement will include proper safeguards as requested by the CJEU in Schrems II in order to ensure a long-standing Transatlantic Data Flow Agreement, on which the European data economy may foster, as well as, the protection of the rights of europeans being guaranteed in the years ahead. 

April 5, 2022No Comments

Putin’s War and the Shaping of a New Global Energy Map

By: Riccardo Bosticco, Lorenzo Caruti, Sofia Dal Santo, Miguel Jiménez, Michele Mignogna.


The Russian invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, is already showing significant effects on a global scale. As most States and international organizations have officially condemned the war - from West to East between America, Europe, and Africa - openly criticizing Putin's behavior and deciding to sanction Moscow heavily, the biggest problem concerns the aspect inherent to energy supplies. "Europe depends on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas, with most of it transported by pipeline", explains Reuters. Luckily for them, most European countries have cut reliance on Russian gas in recent years. Yet dependency is still weighty, and the most recent sanctions on Moscow caused a further growth of gas prices. European states and companies have acknowledged the danger of relying too heavily on Russian energy, and also those countries that had a commercial, yet controversial, understanding of energy relations with Russia, like Germany, decided to act firmly.

The United States proposes solutions to Europe, while oil and gas producers in the MENA act controversially, and China remains cautiously in the background, carefully observing the evolution of the situation without intervening directly or taking a clear position. Where will the current energy decisions drive us?

The European Union 

The EU is a substantial energy importer, largely reliant on Russia's supply. Accordingly, due to sanctions imposed to punish Russia, the EU has set about to make a significant course correction. The European Commission has proposed an outline of a plan to make Europe independent from Russian gas before 2030: REPowerEU. The main goal of this ambitious plan is to diversify to the greatest extent possible the gas suppliers of the EU by increasing LNG Imports and constructing alternative pipelines. To do so, a strong political will by the Member States to follow the correct route and avoid uncoordinated actions is needed.

Currently, there are not sufficient LNG terminals in the Eastern EU, although growing investments have been undertaken in recent years by the Union; it is, therefore, crucial that such countries have access to regional gas hubs. In addition, even the construction of alternative pipelines prompts some issues. Unsurprisingly, European customers are unwilling to commit financially to long-term gas purchase contracts, which would be necessary to sustain pipeline development, due to EU green obligations. Furthermore, authoritarian governments like Azerbaijan's, Turkey's, and the Gulf monarchies' influence on the gas trade would remain, leaving the door open for political exploits of energy flows. Besides, the existing alternative sources of natural gas to the EU appear to be already at the highest production level. Therefore, the most likely option seems to import from the Caspian Sea. 

Overall, an emphasis is placed by the Commission on boosting energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewables. This is essential since it contributes to terminating the EU's overdependence on a single supplier, even though it does not provide a suitable solution in the short term. Last but not least, the Commission has even undertaken initiatives to mitigate high energy prices

The United States 

Since the energy sector is the primary source of Russia's revenues, this was a primary target for Western sanctions. Yet, while the EU depends heavily on Russian energy, the US is a net energy exporter. Biden recognized this fact. When asked about Italy's carefulness at sanctioning energy, he answered that "this is an alliance of nations that each have their priorities and their […] concerns". Yet, on March 8, the US sanctioned all of Russia's energy exports in the US. The United States is now trying to convince the European allies to do the same by offering additional LNG supplies. On March 25, while in Brussels, Joe Biden announced that the US would send another 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas to Europe. The United States' primary objective is to disentangle European energy dependency on Russia. The challenges at stake are significant, and the following lines highlight them.

While the strategy to realize such an objective is to rely on scale capacity, what matters in a crisis like this is spare capacity, a factor that might complicate things for the US. Further, the opacity around the technical aspects surrounding the March 25 deal seems indeed mirror the difficulties of disentangling the EU from Russian gas. Moreover, LNG infrastructural capacities in Europe need funds. Turning to oil, the US has demanded an increase in oil output to avoid prices spiking. However, national frackers and OPEC+ countries show little interest in ramping up output. The dilemma is over the first-mover's disadvantage. There has been a phone call between Biden and King Salman of Saudi Arabia concerning additional output; yet, Riyadh answered that it does not want to politicize oil, preferring to observe the other producers' moves and the outcome of the Iranian sanctions lift issue. So, what is next for the US energy strategy?

MENA Region 

While the war is taking place in Europe, it will have long-term effects in the Middle East, too. The leaders found themselves at a crossroads: they condemned Russia but did not agree to impose such severe punitive sanctions. Russia is an essential economic and strategic ally, necessary to maintain control over the Iranian nuclear threat. Moreover, it is the main supplier of wheat, on which many countries in the North African area depend. However, the United States is a fundamental player, too, especially for the political stability achieved in recent years by some countries. In the war context, the oil-producing countries in the Gulf have seen increased revenues. However, beyond the economy, the outcome of this conflict could have significant geopolitical implications for the region, including reshuffling alliances and redefining pipeline routes.
The geopolitical consequences of the war also affected the oil market. Leading OPEC Plus member countries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have stressed that cutting Russia out of the oil market would have severe consequences for both the European Union and the United States. Both Ryad and Abu Dhabi are moving closer and closer to Asia, also considering accepting the Yuan instead of the dollar as the oil currency, distancing themselves from Washington, which has been indifferent to the recent missile attacks they suffered. Another debate on energy matters is underway in the Mediterranean area. For example, Turkey is trying to maintain neutrality in the conflict in Europe: with the new energy alternatives that Europe could have at its disposal in order not to be dependent on Russian gas, Turkey could act as a bridge to bring gas to Europe via the Turkstream project, a possible option if Nordstream is not activated, and also for the East-med Pipeline, currently stalled due to the recent withdrawal of the US from the project.


The eventual termination of European energy contracts would put Vladimir Putin under strain since these cash flows are helping the president sustain an already longer than expected invasion. That is where China comes into play. Even though the "red dragon's" stand on Russia's invasion has been somewhat ambiguous, the country has got many reasons for stepping up and taking over the gas imports that Europe will, in time, refrain from. Energy has fueled the extraordinary growth of the "workshop of the world". The country began to aggressively pursue energy sources beyond its borders after 1993, when it became a net energy importer. This deficit was accentuated by the surge of bilateral and multilateral deals after joining the WTO in 2001. The prospects which visualize the country undergoing a structural transformation and moving towards less energy-intensive sectors might alleviate these increased energy needs. However, guaranteeing energy security is a top priority for the one-party state until then. 

Surprisingly, oil meets a tiny fraction of China's domestic total energy demand, and much of it gets to China through the South Sea, a heavily disputed route among Asian countries. This supply uncertainty prevents China from reducing its coal consumption, representing 60% of energy consumption. Nevertheless, China's commitments to be carbon neutral by 2060 do inevitably accelerate the phasing out of coal. Besides having long-term plans for heavily investing in nuclear energy and hydrogen, natural gas supplied by Russia has become increasingly more relevant. The first steps towards this alliance materialized in 2019, with Siberia's pipeline pumping liquefied natural gas to northeastern China. This association was scaled up on February 4, when a 30-year contract was settled which secured the construction of a pipeline connecting with the northeast of the country. Yet, this alliance may even go beyond natural gas. Recent news of the departure of oil giants such as BP, Shell, and Exxon from their joint ventures with Russian companies have spurred speculations of China's state-owned companies stepping in.  

As soon as the shock of the Ukrainian war arrived, the West discovered a hard truth: even in a globally interdependent world, it is not safe to be heavily dependent on a single country. As mentioned above, Europe is moving towards making plans to become energetically independent. Nevertheless, West leaders are conscious that the road to independence will be long and winding, indeed taking years to make it. However, the problem is not only a European matter: as previously said, even a solid Russian ally like China is facing the effect of the energetic crisis. On the other hand, Beijing will probably be seen as the only winner at the war's end, mainly for its ambiguous position. At the same time, the United States is dealing with a different situation: even though it does not depend on energy imported from Moscow, its role as a leader is put to the test. Washington needs to help its allies and, simultaneously, avoid the MENA Region ending up in the hands of China. Therefore, what is at stake is not only the energy question: the current world order could become very different at the end of the day.

January 7, 2022No Comments

Gonzalo Pozo Martin on the Nord Stream 2

In this ITSS Verona Member Series Video Podcast by the Political Economy, Development, and Energy Security Team, Gonzalo Pozo Martin talks about Nord Stream 2 and its consequences on EU-Russia relations, touching upon the Ukrainian crisis, the European sanctions, the EU taxonomy, and the context following German elections. Gonzalo Pozo Martin is Lecturer in International Relations, with a specialization in International Political Economy at Stockholm University, Sweden.

Interviewer: Elena Bascone