Consortium Leader: Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
Consortium Member: The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS)

Unravelling Turkish involvement in the Sahel

Submitted by Inge on Fri, 07/28/2023 - 15:51

In the past decade, Turkey has significantly expanded its engagement in Africa, leading to concerns within the European Union (EU) that this influence might be used to undermine EU policy and member states. This policy brief analyses the strategic motives and evolution of Turkish involvement in the Sahel region, focusing specifically on Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. Drawing from interviews conducted with Sahelian and Turkish political, business, diplomatic and educational stakeholders between October and December 2022, the authors contend that Turkey’s foreign policy in the Sahel demonstrates a multifaceted approach that aims to strengthen its presence across economic, cultural, defence and development spheres. However, it is also emphasised that Turkey’s engagement in the Sahel remains relatively limited when compared to its activities in other African countries, for example Libya, Somalia and Algeria. In light of these findings, this policy brief recommends that the EU adopt a pragmatic approach, drawing lessons from Turkey’s strategy while trying to manage, and where possible benefit from, the impact of Turkish security assistance and to foster opportunities for Sahelian populations in Europe through scholarships and employment initiatives.

As a disclaimer, this research was carried out shortly before political unrest rose in Niger in late July 2023, including the conducting of all interviews. Therefore, the information related to Niger in this work is based on the previous period.


The authors

Andrew Lebovich, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute

Nienke van Heukelingen, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute


Strategic tech cooperation between the EU and India

Submitted by Inge on Tue, 01/10/2023 - 17:13

How strategic tech cooperation can reinvigorate relations between the EU and India

In an era of multipolarity, India – expected to become the world’s most populous nation soon – will be a significant geopolitical player. This necessitates European Union (EU) member states to shift their policies to engage one of the world’s largest consumer and industrial markets.

Strategic clarity and a shared narrative

In the current international and geopolitical context, there is ample reason for the two sides to deepen their ties further. Strategic clarity about the objectives and benefits of closer ties will help build a clear narrative that will steer policymakers and other stakeholders in the desired direction, towards implementation.

The EU and its member states are investing in economic resilience and open strategic autonomy. A key question is therefore: can India help the EU move closer towards strategic autonomy – more specifically, reduce EU dependence on China?
India is seeking to promote its own manufacturing and production capabilities through its ‘Make in India’ campaign, which seeks to diversify existing value and supply chains that currently often rely on China. A key question for India is: can the EU help India to move closer towards strategic autonomy – more specifically, reducing Indian reliance on Russia?

Military technologies and critical technologies

Set against this context, this Clingendael Report investigates the role that technology can play in deepening and broadening the relationship between India and the EU – and the Netherlands in particular. Particular attention is paid to (1) military technologies; and (2) critical technologies and supply-chain restructuring (semiconductors, batteries, data, etc).

Opportunities to enhance EU–India ties are analysed along three courses of action: 1) ‘protect’: keeping out unwanted influence; 2) ‘promote’: using innovation and commercialisation; and 3) ‘regulate and shape’: using regulatory frameworks (and standards, for example). In each of these three areas, joint action with India is possible. The EU-India Trade and Technology Council (TTC) will be the natural venue to pursue these opportunities.

The insights of Indian and European experts in the field are given in six stand-alone chapters, preceded by an introduction and followed by concluding analysis by the Clingendael editors.

Download report.



Vera Kranenburg, Research Fellow at the Clingendael's EU & Global Affairs Unit and the Clingendael China Centre

Maaike Okano-Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow and Lead of ‘Geopolitics of Technology and Digitalisation’ programme at the Clingendael Institute

This report is edited by Vera Kranenburg and Maaike Okano-Heijmans of the Clingendael Institute, with contributions by Indian and European experts.


Open strategic autonomy: the digital dimension

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 01/09/2023 - 17:20

Towards a European Digital Technology Stack

In recent years the European Union (EU) and its member states hesitantly embarked on a new and ambitious path towards what came to be called ‘digital and technological autonomy’. This paradigm shift involves a turn away from the market-based, open economy thinking that has dominated in European policy circles in recent decades. The new direction is towards a geostrategic, more closed economy thinking, with a shift from a focus on trade to technology.

Tech capability defines world leadership

Policies and instruments are being devised to secure public interests in the digital domain and to be resilient in an interconnected world wherein technological capability defines world leadership. This ranges from investing in telecommunications security and trusted connections, to preventing Big Tech from becoming too powerful and taking responsibility for misinformation online; and from ensuring a secure supply of the natural resources needed for microchips and batteries, to investing in digitally skilled citizens and clean and green technologies for a sustainable future. Europe’s aim is to cooperate with partners, but to act based on own insights and choices.

Clarifying interests and concerns

This report introduces the Digital Technology Stack (DTS) as an analytical framework to analyse the interests and concerns that inform Europe’s quest for digital and technological sovereignty . It considers instruments and policies in the eleven layers of the stack. The DTS is a combination of hardware and software technologies, as well as services, that are ‘stacked’ on top of each other to make a device or service work. Digital sovereignty is about having a choice at each layer of the Stack.

Ultimately, the EU and its member states need to develop a balanced approach to digital and technological sovereignty that incorporates both ‘promote’ and ‘protect’ actions, and that is agreed and supported by all government institutions. While the EU and its member states have in recent years invested in defensive action – implementing more stringent investment screening, export controls and an economic coercion instrument – policies to strengthen Europe’s own technological superiority and economic competitiveness in the digital economy are still lagging.

Digital sovereignty concerns us all

Better understanding among policymakers in all ministries/institutions is needed of the interconnections and the trade-offs among the many issues involved – ranging from stable and secure supply chains and semiconductors to competitiveness in the digital economy and internet governance.

In this age of rapid technological developments, digitalisation and global power shifts, digital sovereignty concerns us all. Improved understanding of this will contribute to improved policymaking and, ultimately, to greater EU unity, strength and resilience – all prerequisites for digital and technological sovereignty and, ultimately, for European strategic autonomy

Read report.


Maaike Okano-Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow and Lead of ‘Geopolitics of Technology and Digitalisation’ programme at the Clingendael Institute


Europe cannot wait for unity

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 06/13/2022 - 14:22

Teaming up to improve EU foreign policy effectiveness – and what the Netherlands could contribute to it

The EU is not always united and visible in foreign policy. This policy brief argues it could make more use of leading groups of member states under the coordination of the High Representative and European External Action Service (EEAS), the type of strategic thinking that guided the development of the Strategic Compass, and a Team Europe approach to a wider range of international activities, going beyond development cooperation. One idea would be to formulate a European Council Forum on Economic Security and Sanction policy. The Netherlands could contribute proactively, for instance by advocating for a strategic conversation on the topic of economic power at the level of the European Council.

Download policy brief


The authors

Ties Dams, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute

Giulia Cretti, Junior Research Fellow at at the Clingendael Institute

Louise van Schaik, Head of Unit EU & Global Affairs at the Clingendael Institute

Source: European Union

Forging European Unity on China: The Case of Hungarian Dissent

Submitted by Inge on Mon, 04/04/2022 - 14:33

EU Member states can be divided on China, even on issues such as human rights. Often singled out as an agent of division is the Hungarian government of prime minister Viktor Orbán. Hungarian dissent begs the question: how can the EU move forward on China given Hungary’s strategy of obstructive dissent? European cooperation ought not wait for unanimity, nor should it rely on value-politics: member states should play the power game to circumvent or break lingering impasses. Member States should support setting up a 27+1 Forum as the main platform for European China-policy, form a leading group tackling strategic corruption and corrosive capital, and initiative a track 1.5 dialogue on China with Germany and the Visegrád Countries.

Read policy brief


Ties Dams, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute


The geopolitics of digital financial technologies

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 02/17/2022 - 15:14

A chance for Europe?

Geopolitical tensions are permeating the digital domain. During the 1990s, the emergence of the internet still involved optimism and high hopes for digital technology as a force for openness, connectedness and freedom for all. Yet contrary to these promises, a trend of centralization, is prevalent in the digital economy.

This trend of centralization, with the subsequent problems of gatekeeping, ecosystem lock-in, disproportional rent-seeking and monopolists that set market rules, is now also evident in the financial industry.  Whereas smaller financial technology (fintech) companies, including many European firms, revolutionized the financial sector in the 2000s – disrupting traditional banks and their vested interests – we now witness a concentration of power and data in this sector, either in incumbent firms or within Big Tech companies.

In response, governments in China, the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) are devising regulations, while at the same time technology innovators are building a radically new infrastructure to underpin our financial sector: Decentralized Finance (DeFi). The geopolitical implications of this disruptive transformation of the financial sector – through both fintech and DeFi – require forward-looking government responses that protect and promote European interests in the long term.

This Clingendael Report first reflects on these trends of centralization in digital finance and decentralization in ‘traditional finance’. The paper examines the relationship between geopolitics and finance and looks at the position of the EU and its member states. The analysis considers the medium to longer-term implications in the following three domains:

  • economic competitiveness and innovation;
  • financial–economic and social stability; and
  • inclusivity and equality.

Data governance, data protection and data portability between financial services are key concepts in each of these areas.

Building on these insights, the report argues for a push towards greater awareness among European policymakers on the potentials of DeFi to counter Big Tech’s rising influence in the European financial system with a decentralized, human-centred and value-based system. At the same time, the regulatory and security risks of DeFi – and the trend of decentralization in general – must be addressed.

The report also highlights the need to help people to develop digital skills and become responsible and resilient digital citizens, and calls for enhanced dialogues with officials and technology company executives in like-minded countries on current developments. New approaches, such as multi-stakeholder consultations and increased rapprochement with the open-source and crypto-communities, are needed to facilitate knowledge exchange and best practices that will improve (regulatory) responses.


Maaike Okano Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Brigitte Dekker, Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute


Global Gateway's proof of concept

Submitted by Inge on Wed, 12/15/2021 - 16:51

EU digital connectivity in Africa

Global Gateway constitutes the EU’s third attempt to reconfigure its strategy and tactics in a world of clashing capitalisms and geopolitical power shifts. Complementing the new industrial policy that protects the EU’s interests at home, Global Gateway is Europe’s international agenda to promote individual freedom, political liberty and economic openness globally, together with partners that share its interests. The proof of concept is in the EU–Africa context and in the digital domain, where key EU interests and niches lie in terms of development, norms and standards, and stability.

Global Gateway action here can draw on lessons from earlier experiences in the Indo-Pacific. A Team Europe approach that creates ownership by EU institutions, member states and the private sector is needed to kick-start flagship projects that respond to real needs. Much is at stake. A positive narrative that highlights alternative opportunities – to growing Chinese influence, in particular – is the most effective way of positioning the EU in a region where growth, security and stability are key interests of both the EU and its member states.


Maaike Okano Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Brigitte Dekker, Junior Researcher at the Clingendael Institute


Europe's Indo-Pacific embrace

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 09/23/2021 - 14:25

Global partnerships for regional resilience

This report has previously been published by Perth USAsia Centre and Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Senior Research Fellow Maaike Okano-Heijmans has contributed chapter 4 on the Dutch approach to the Indo-Pacific. 

The Indo-Pacific’s centrality to 21st century geopolitics has long been recognised by those in the region. However, as the Indo-Pacific evolves economically and strategically, its importance is increasingly recognised by those outside the region, whose desires for global prosperity and security demand closer engagement with Indo-Pacific dynamics. Foremost amongst these are European governments.

Understanding how European and Indo-Pacific actors will interact with the region is vital to all concerned. There is a need for increased knowledge of where European and Indo-Pacific interests are best-placed to cooperate with one another, on which issues, and through which channels.

This report seeks to locate Europe within the 21st Century Indo-Pacific, analysing how European governments can most effectively engage with Indo-Pacific partners. It highlights the Indo-Pacific approaches of five European powers: the EU, France, Germany, Netherlands and the UK, and how these approaches intersect with those of Japan, Australia, India, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the United States.

Download report.


Maaike Okano-Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute


Promoting open and inclusive connectivity

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 09/16/2021 - 18:03

The case for digital development cooperation

This paper has previously been published by Elsevier.

A focus on digital development cooperation as a cornerstone in Europe’s digital connectivity agenda offers opportunities to act on long-term challenges and addresses several key priorities identified by the European Commission in third countries. This article develops an argument for strengthening Europe’s agenda on digital development cooperation, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region. After first conceptualizing digital development cooperation, we argue that the key reasons for the EU to step up its digital development efforts in the Indo-Pacific region are the societal impact of disruptive technologies; the power shift towards the Indo-Pacific; the expanding clout of the Chinese Digital Silk Road; and the implications of the US-China tech conflict. The EU’s 2030 Digital Compass provides an ideal framework to envision the digital development cooperation initiatives of European and Asian players. The EU can benefit from cooperation and coordination with like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific.

Read full article here.


Maaike Okano-Heijmans, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute


Will the European hero please stand up?

Submitted by Inge on Thu, 03/25/2021 - 14:49

An essay on European global narrative strategy

A more strategic European narrative is called for. That is, European leaders should more actively engage with the stories they tell and are being told about Europe’s place in the world. This essay problematises the EU global narrative in order to define ways it can be made more competitive in today’s geopolitical discursive arena. It juxtaposes aspects of the European narrative with the discursive moves of China, in order to synthesise elements of a new global narrative for Europe that provides a common sense of purpose with third countries, and that is both competitive and timely. It answers three distinct questions:

  • How does the European global narrative currently function?
  • Which aspects of the European global narrative are put under pressure by its discursive competition with China?
  • And how can EU institutions and European member states contribute to a stronger global narrative strategy?

This essay argues that European leaders should embrace the language of particularism, letting go of universalist value narratives. The European Way of Life is a potentially powerful but underused narrative, through which European leaders can more forcefully explain the existential worth of human rights, democracy and rule of law to Europe. It must dare to speak the language of history, using the ancient civilisational roots of European society as a treasured resource for projecting powerful stories. This means casting as our hero ‘Europe’ the ancient civilisation, rather than the EU as a young political project. The costs of strategic autonomy ought to be explained as the collective sacrifices needed to protect European values. It would be wise to recognise that European society itself is a hero forged out of hegemonic struggle in order to overcome it. It has little need of enemies, but must emphasise time and again the costs of giving in to our own vices.

Read the full essay (longread). 


Ties Dams (Research Fellow, the Clingendael Institute)

Monika Sie Dhian Ho (General Director, the Clingendael Institute)