Covid-19: De geopolitieke gevolgen voor de EU

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 06/08/2020 - 13:31

Bij het aantreden van de Europese Commissie in november 2019 sprak voorzitster Ursula von der Leyen over de noodzaak van een geopolitiek optredende Europese Unie in een veranderende wereld. De uitbraak van de Covid-19 crisis in Europa, begin maart dit jaar, onderstreepte volgens Von der Leyen “the need for Europe to be stronger, more united and more strategic in the way it thinks, acts and speaks.” De veranderende wereld met de opkomst van China, een assertief Rusland en een minder betrokken en minder invloedrijke Verenigde Staten dwingt de EU om in de internationale arena van de machtspolitiek een eigen rol op te eisen. Minder duidelijk is hoe een geopolitiek optredende EU gestalte moet krijgen. Deze notitie beoogt hiertoe aanzetten te geven. Daarbij komen achtereenvolgens aan de orde: de mogelijke gevolgen van de Covid-19 crisis op geo-economisch gebied en het buitenlands-, veiligheids- en defensiebeleid van de EU. De notitie sluit af met een opsomming van de implicaties voor Nederland.

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De auteurs

Dick Zandee (Hoofd Security Unit, Instituut Clingendael)

Kimberley Kruijver (Junior Researcher - Security Unit, Instituut Clingendael)


Globalization Paradox and the Coronavirus pandemic

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 06/02/2020 - 13:33

The global scale of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and its response is unprecedented. This Clingendael Report applies Dani Rodrik’s framework of Globalization’s political trilemma to analyze the current response to the pandemic. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis he argued that any recovery measures would have to balance off state power with economic integration and democracy. Based on values of democratic governance and human dignity this report charts principles on how to move forward beyond the emergency phase into recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report makes a plea to Dutch and European policymakers for safeguarding and upholding democratic values in the response to and recovery of the Covid-19 emergency. The political trilemma indicates that a renewed primacy of state sovereignty, combined with hyper-globalization being on the defense, requires political resistance and bold choices to uphold democratic governance principles for the urgent and difficult policy actions required during the recovery.

The momentum is now to act and uphold a united European solidarity response and leadership. If the EU fails to do so, it risks disintegration and marginalization in a volatile multi-polar global order. Covid-19 is not merely a ‘crisis’ that will pass by. This is a new permanence that requires a redefinition of the European social contract while recognizing its interconnectedness with the rest of world.

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The author

Remco van de Pas (Senior Research Associate at the Clingendael Institute)

Graffiti / Unsplash

Presence before power

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 06/02/2020 - 13:27

When, in 2018, the People’s Republic of China published its first Arctic strategy, claiming that the Middle Kingdom is a ‘near-Arctic state’, many a snigger could be heard throughout the world of Arctic diplomacy. Yet, it is quickly becoming clear that China has built a geostrategic presence in the Arctic that is not to be sniggered at. It is already reshaping circumpolar politics in fundamental ways. Therefore, this Clingendael report aims to answer the following questions:

  • What are the long-term drivers behind China’s growing presence in the Arctic?
  • How is China currently shaping Arctic relations?
  • How should Europe and the Netherlands engage with China’s growing presence in the Arctic?

China’s Arctic strategy, in particular as it materialises in Iceland and Greenland, leads us to conclude that China’s growing presence in the Arctic is not a direct threat to European countries but rather a long-term strategic issue of great importance, but not great urgency.

Above all, China shows the power of presence by claiming a seat at the table in the Arctic Council and by investing in strategic sectors and diplomatic relations with Arctic states. Europe's challenge will be to re-engage with Iceland and Greenland, and China's presence there, in a similar multi-layered way, coordinating short-, medium- and long-term strategies.

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The author

Ties Dams (Research fellow at the Clingendael Institute)

Louise van Schaik (Head of Unit EU & Global Affairs/ Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute)

Adája Stoetman (Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute)


Pandora’s Box in Syria

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 06/02/2020 - 13:08

During 2019, the original Syrian conflict entered its closing phases, except for the battlefields of Idlib and in the north east. As a result, conflict dynamics have become somewhat easier to read, as the regime and its key allies have shifted towards a triumphalist ‘post-war’ narrative and corresponding governance styles, deal-making and decision making. These developments can be witnessed in three interlinked spheres: security, civil, and political economic practices. Together, they largely form the Assad regime’s political economy, which – although poorly understood due to limited access – is crucial to understand to assess the negative externalities likely to result from its wartime survival.

The current security, civil and political economic practices of the Syrian regime are not informed by any serious consideration of international law, diplomatic pressure from countries other than its close allies, or human rights norms. Instead, survival, securitisation and coercive operating styles dominate. Hard power remains the regime’s key currency. As a result, soft power – whether it be diplomatic, financial or economic – is largely ineffective in influencing the regime’s calculations, incentives or intensity preferences.

This paper analyses six negative externalities that are likely to result from the re-entrenchment of the Syrian regime:

1) risk of conflict relapse due to economic pressures;

2) the politics of refugees;

3) risks and instrumentalisation of terrorism;

4) regional instability;

5) humanitarian culpability; and

6) deterioration of the international legal order. These externalities are interconnected and emerge from the political economy of the regime – the accumulation of its security, civil and political economic practices.

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The author

Samar Batrawi (Research fellow Clingendael Conflict Research Unit)

Al Assad family


Submitted by Inge on Thu, 05/14/2020 - 14:47

Satellites, Space Exploration, and the Netherlands' National Security

The economic relevance of space is substantive and growing. Currently, space’s value is primarily derived from satellites orbiting Earth. A 2019 study found that 87.5% of the $277bn in revenues generated in space could be attributed to commercial satellite services. These services are of critical importance to the functioning of the (inter)national economy. Positioning, timing, and navigation (PNT), communications, and Earth observation services form the backbone of many essential processes, such as fleet management or bank transactions. They are also key to the Netherlands’ military capabilities. Several strategic processes, from the execution of beyond line of sight (BLOS) operations to nuclear deterrence, are dependent on satellites. In the long term, space is also likely to play a role in the global energy transition. For example, the rare earth elements (REEs) contained in celestial bodies are in increasingly limited supply on Earth and are required for many renewable technologies.

As interstate competition heats up, an increasing number of states – more than 80 in 2018, compared to 50 in 2008 – have launched satellites into orbit. This, along with reductions in the cost of launching payloads, intro- duces both threats and opportunities from the Dutch perspective. Well-managed, commercially proactive, and internationally regulated initiatives to unlock and safeguard the space domain’s huge potential could con- tribute to European strategic autonomy, to the energy transition, and to a continued economic growth. Badly managed initiatives could see an intensification of inter-state competition and the deterioration of public services.

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Hugo van Manen, Frank Bekkers (HCSS)


Zuzana Kupistikova, Tim Sweijs, Patrick Bolder (HCSS)


The case for digital official development assistance (ODA)

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 05/14/2020 - 13:55

Digital connectivity will feature prominently in the upcoming EU–Japan summit scheduled for May 2020, and in the EU–Africa summit of November 2020. On both occasions, digital Official Development Assistance (ODA) deserves a more prominent place on the agenda than seen so far. For Japan, this means implementing coordinated digital development initiatives and aiming for greater contributions to the e-economy and e-government, and for African governments, the European Union (EU) should identify real needs that inform targeted, request-based action on digital ODA.

While acting on long-term challenges, digital ODA addresses several key priorities identified by the European Commission. An updated EU digital ODA agenda also responds to global trends such as the impact of the fourth industrial revolution in Europe and its backyard, life in a post-COVID-19 world, international migration and climate change, as well as geostrategic challenges like the US–China technology conflict and China’s Digital Silk Road.

With an eye to practical implementation, this Clingendael Policy Brief adds conceptual clarity to what digital ODA is (or can be) and discusses where the EU stands today. It offers opportunities for best-practice learning from Asian players that have more experience in this field. Clearly, digital ODA is no longer just a technical but also a (geo)political issue.

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The author

Maaike Okano-Heijmans (Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute)


The case for EU-Japan connectivity and digital ODA 

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 04/28/2020 - 13:01

This publication was originally published by the Elcano Royal Institute on 25 March 2020.

The 2019 EU-Japan Connectivity Partnership paves the way for EU-Japan cooperation on all three practical elements of digital connectivity: telecommunications infrastructure, business and regulation. Cooperation should be implemented at both the practical and strategic levels, and beyond the bilateral agenda.

In implementing the EU-Japan Partnership on Sustainable Connectivity and Quality Infrastructure, the digital field offers practical opportunities for the two partners to further shared objectives. Set against the context of a hardening US-China trade-tech conflict, the EU and Japan should focus on the promotion of data security and trust in data flows at the global level, and on nurturing competitive digital businesses with a strong global presence. In addition, cooperation on the digital development agenda is crucial to ensure that third countries also benefit from the data revolution in their development and can contribute to a convergence of norms on data governance. A broader engagement between stakeholders with each other’s strategic thought on digital connectivity’s defensive strand is required for success in these fields. Taken together, this means pushing cooperation beyond the bilateral agenda, while also creating more lines of communication to compare notes on the notion of digital strategic autonomy.

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The author

Maaike Okano-Heijmans (Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute)


The future of Arctic security 

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:55

The Arctic environment is changing rapidly due to climate change. Despite continued cooperation between the Arctic states and other countries, the risk of the region becoming a playground for great power competition is increasing. Current trends point to a further geopolitisation of the area, multiplied by the melting of ice. Increasingly, Russia, China and the United States will compete in the Arctic in the context of the global power game. Moscow is stepping up its military activities and securitisation is increasingly characterising the American Arctic policy. Beijing is increasing its financial- economic investment in the region, which serves its long-term agenda of becoming a global superpower. The US administration has already started to respond, both by accusing Russia and China of their geopolitical activities as well as by stepping up its own involvement in the region. As a result, Arctic security is more prominently on the agenda than ever before.

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The authors

Dick Zandee (Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Security Unit at the Clingendael Institute).

Kimberley Kruijver (Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute)

Adája Stoetman (Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute)


Towards a realistic contingency approach to negotiations

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 04/16/2020 - 16:15

One of the most praised elements of the workings of the European Union (EU) is its ability to reach compromises between its Member States. Yet, evidently, the integration process of the EU is also characterised by protracted decision-making, resulting in poorly-functioning policies in domains that are highly politicised, like migration, enlargement and Eurozone policy. Even when difficult compromises could be stuck, compromising on salient political issues has proven to be problematic in several ways: policies are not functioning as intended because some of their actual consequences were unforeseen; policies are not functioning as well because they were poorly thought through; policy initiatives have suffered from questionable (ideological or overoptimistic) assumptions; policies suffer from poor substantiation; or policies stretch the interpretations of EU treaties (also known as creeping integration), for example in taxation policy. Difficulties related to enlargement, the functioning of the eurozone and border control can be related to the dynamics in the ways in which compromises were substantiated and agreed. One simple solution, often is to streamline EU decision making e.g. by abolishing unanimity voting in sensitive areas such as in economic governance. Before going down that road, this policy brief critically examines whether institutional short-cuts to pre-empt tough and protracted EU decision making should be supported.

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The authors

Adriaan Schout (Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute)

Adriaan Nunes (Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute)


Nederland zoekt nieuwe Europese ankers

Submitted by Inge on Fri, 12/20/2019 - 12:22

Het jaar 2019 was in twee opzichten een kanteljaar. Na de verkiezingen in mei is een nieuwe Europese Commissie aangetreden met opnieuw grote ambities. De grote ambities van Juncker zijn deels vastgelopen op de lidstaten en hetzelfde dreigt te gebeuren met de ambities van Von der Leyen. Ten tweede sluit 2019 een woelig decennium af. De lessen van de afgelopen periode zijn essentieel om het draagvlak in de jaren 2020 te bewaken. Kwaliteit van beleid en van het gezamenlijke Europese bestuur moeten voorop staan.


Adriaan Schout