Posts Tagged ‘EU’

A brief reaction piece for Newsweek after Salah Abdeslam’s arrest in Molenbeek on Friday. The broader story of ISIS in Europe is going to continue to be an issue and undoubtedly more on this to sadly come.

Paris Attacks: Arrest of Salah Abdeslam Does Not Reduce ISIS Threat

By On 3/19/16 at 1:56 PM

cops in Molenbeek

The arrest of Salah Abdeslam is undoubtedly a success for Belgian and French security authorities. His live capture will provide intelligence agencies with a wealth of information, while his eventual trial will go some way to providing the victims of the Paris attacks with justice and closure. However, his arrest in a district of Brussels only a few hours from the scene of the attack almost four months later will undoubtedly raise questions about how one of Europe’s most wanted men could evade capture for so long. For Belgian and French authorities, success has to be tempered by the reality of the threat they are facing that continues to clearly have deep roots into their communities pointing to a long war in which Abdeslam’s arrest is a battlefield victory.

Since the Paris attacks last November, Belgian and French authorities have been in an aggressive arrest and disrupt mode. Hundreds of arrests and raids have been carried out as authorities in both countries sought to roll up the networks around the Paris attackers as well as ISIS sympathetic communities. The numbers of arrests, weapons found and individuals detained point to a negative picture in the two countries. This was brought vividly to life last month in a BBC interview with German convert and former ISIS video star Harry Sarfo from prison. He reported how his ISIS interlocutors told him: “they have people in France and Belgium. They’ve said that France is easy for them, cause they have enough people who live in France undercover with clean records.”

The interview highlights the size of the networks that French and Belgian authorities are facing. Within this context, it is therefore somewhat unsurprising that Abdeslam would choose to go to ground in this environment. One that he knows well, and one that clearly has a web of supportive figures and locations that he can call on to help him evade one of Europe’s largest manhunts. Molenbeek in particular is a longstanding location of concern, with terrorist plots emanating from the district from before September 11, 2001.

There are further questions about why Abdeslam did not die in the Paris attacks. This likely failure may point to why he did not immediately flee to the Levant. Aside from the difficulties in getting across the continent with the intense intelligence attention in the wake of the Paris attacks, it is also possible that he was not meant to survive and his possible joining of ISIS in Syria would have raised questions with the group. Was he a spy sent by Western intelligence? Had he been meant to survive, the group would likely have had a plan for his arrival to trumpet his evasion from authorities as another example of the group’s strength and power.

Instead, he has now been captured by Belgian authorities in an investigation that has highlighted the depth of the problem that is faced in the country. The raids in Forest outside Brussels in the week prior to Adbeslam’s arrest uncovered a further cell of individuals armed with an AK-47 and ample ammunition who went down fighting with authorities rather than timidly handing themselves in. Alongside these raids, the discovery of a cell of four in Paris allegedly plotting an attack earlier in the week points to how active continental terrorist networks are.

In the face of this threat, France and Belgium (and other European partners) have mobilized a massive response. In the wake of the Paris attacks, a number of high-profile scares in Germany showed the level of concern of a possible attack there, while British authorities continue to warn of the possibility of an attack at home. Most recently, Mark Rowley, the British Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner and head of counter-terrorism command in London, talking about the threat from ISIS, stated: “you see a terrorist group which has big ambitions for enormous and spectacular attacks, not just the types that we’ve seen foiled to date.”

It is unlikely that the arrest of Abdeslam will generate a reactive plot. The issues around whether he was meant to survive the plot will mean it is uncertain the group would want to champion him in such a fashion. The fact he was arrested hiding with a network that included Mohammed Belkaid, a 35 year-old Algerian whose details had appeared as an aspirant suicide bomber in the ISIS files that were leaked a few weeks ago, nevertheless suggests that the networks in Belgium had not completely disassociated themselves from him. But it would be out of sorts for them to launch a reactive attack in such a fashion.

This does not, however, diminish the threat from the group in Europe. The live arrest and subsequent interrogation of Abdeslam is likely to generate numerous leads for authorities that will concern others in Europe’s ISIS networks. This may lead to an acceleration of plots currently being formulated to get under way prior to their possible disruption. It may also lead to an exodus of people who fear detention and decide to head back to the relative safety of ISIS territory in the Levant.

Given the intense attention that the network around the Paris attackers had faced in the past few months, however, it is not necessarily likely that any of this is particularly new. And while there is undoubtedly some concern about who it is that Abdeslam might now compromise, the reality is that ISIS had already been seeking other ways to launch attacks in Europe. While European agencies will undoubtedly bask somewhat in the successful live detention of one of the Paris attackers, the reality is most are bracing themselves for the next possible attack.

Raffaello Pantucci is director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and the author of We Love Death As You Love Life: Britain’s Suburban Terrorists. Follow him @raffpantucci.

 

And final catch up post, this time for a think tank I worked for a while ago, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), with whom I am still doing some things. This is a post for their site which focused on some of the issues of the ‘Belt and Road’ strategy and what they need to do to get greater European cooperation on it. This is a topic that is very rich and has lots of work in the pipeline around it.

This aside, to catch up on some media conversations, spoke to The Times, Reuters and La Liberation about the leak of ISIS documents, to Newsweek about al Shabaab targeting aviation and training Boko Haram fighters, to Buzzfeed about Brexit and national security questions, to The Independent about Prevent issues in the UK, to the Press Agency about the attacks in Ivory Coast, to the Associated Press about the latest round of talks in Afghanistan the Chinese are helping with, and a presentation I did recently in Washington on China-Russia in Central Asia got a write up in the Diplomat.

Building Support for the Belt and Road

Xi Jinping has laid out what is going to be the defining foreign policy vision of his leadership in the form of the Belt and Road. An all-encompassing initiative, it is something that repeated Chinese leaders have said they want to engage with foreign partners on, in particular with European capitals given the vision is one that starts in China and ends in Europe. Yet, there is still a lack of clarity around exactly what this initiative actually looks like and how it is that foreigners can engage with China on this project. Beijing needs to lay out more clearly what it needs and wants from the world to implement this vision.

Seen from the outside, the Belt and Road initiative is one that appears to in essence be about building economic and trade corridors emanating out from China. Through the development of transport links – be they rail, road, ports or airports – and the construction and rehabilitation of pipelines, markets, economic zones and more, China aims to open Eurasia while reconnecting China to Europe across the wide landmass they share. The potential impact is a game-changing effect on a wide swathe of Eurasia, something that has not gone unnoticed in Europe where policymakers spend lots of time thinking about how to develop their continent. Yet, connecting on the initiative has so far proven difficult. If China genuinely wants greater cooperation on this strategy, then a number of key things need to happen.

First, Beijing needs to clarify where the routes of the Belt and Road will actually go. At the moment, all of the maps that have been produced are ones that are done by enterprising journalists interpreting official statements. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the body responsible for the vision, has so far not expressed a view or produced a map. This is problematic as it means people are unable to know exactly which Beijing’s priorities are and what specific routes Europe should focus on developing to support and work with China’s plan. For example, generally it is clear that the Silk Road Economic Belt will pass through Central Asia, but which specific road or rail projects is China going to focus on first?

Second, China needs to understand that if they want to maximise external support on the vision, then Chinese led funding initiatives need to be open to foreign contractors. European investment structures like the EBRD or EIB (as well as international ones like the ADB) are very keen to work with China on this vision, but need to ensure that the subsequent project contracts to emerge from investments are put out to open tender. This ensures that the best possible contractors will undertake the projects and ensures that the vision gets carried through in the most effective way possible. This is something that extends beyond simple financing terms and contract procedures: it needs to be made clearer that there is a role for others in Chinese led projects. The key point here is that China needs to be open to working with others in very practical terms to try to advance this vision.

Third, China needs to find ways to discuss sensitive security questions with outsiders. Through the Belt and Road, China is going to increasingly find itself becoming one of the most consequential players on the ground in large parts of Eurasia. With such power will increasingly come a greater regional role, including on sensitive security questions where Beijing will find itself having to try to broker negotiations and agreements between sides in open conflict with each other. This is already happening in Afghanistan, and as time goes on Beijing will find itself ever more involved in such discussions across the continent. Europeans have some experience and understanding of some of these questions and would be willing to share their intelligence and experience with China if Beijing showed an equal level of openness in discussions. Genuine cooperation and deeper understanding come from a full and frank exchange.

There are clearly a great deal more detailed issues that need to be discussed, but these three overarching points need to be addressed before greater detail can be gone in to. China needs to understand that many in Europe are keen to cooperate on this vision, but they need some greater clarity to able to find practical ideas for what cooperation can look like in practice. By offering a more detailed outline of what this initiative physically looks like and what projects Beijing is prioritising, opening up to the idea of making joint investments, and being willing to participate in more frank and open security discussions, Beijing will find receptive doors across Europe. All of which will be essential to ensure President Xi’s vision turns into a long-standing foreign policy legacy reconnecting the Eurasian landmass along the old Silk Roads.

Raffaello Pantucci is Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)

A short piece I wrote a little while ago for the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN), focusing on the EU and China’s diplomatic links. For more about ECRAN, please go here, while to know about this specific project, please go here. More on this topic for ECRAN to come in the next few days as we gear up for the EU-China Summit.

 

Diplomatic Links

Raffaello Pantucci

Current Status

There is no shortage of diplomatic relations between the EU and China. According to the EEAS count there are over 50 dialogues current running under three major pillars (strategic, economic and sectoral, and people-to-people), with the annual EU-China Summit at its apex. Additional high level conferences include senior business dialogues, a recently established minister-level energy dialogue, a party political forum between European Parliamentary parties and the Chinese Communist Party, as well as lower level interactions across the board through executive branch interactions, Track II meetings (often including think tanks), and a whole array of other forms of contact. In addition, EU- level interactions with China are further repeated at the national level as Member States maintain their bilateral relationships with China. And sitting atop this, there is the diplomatic interaction between the EU, EU Member States and China in international institutions like the United Nations, G20, or the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). This high level and regular interaction at so many levels is testament to not only a close relationship, but also to the preference both sides show for multilateralism in international affairs.

The stated EU goal of this wide array of interactions is to provide an ‘effective tool for further widening and deepening EU relations with China.’ However, it is not always clear exactly how effective they have been. European diplomats involved in this process have highlight successes in getting Chinese movement on particular issues during specific economic or trade dialogues – something independently confirmed in the statements issued after meetings. But in other exchanges, for example the human rights dialogue, it is unclear whether the Chinese side is very cooperative. There have, for example, been reports that some European NGO participants due to engage in a human rights legal seminar did not have their visas approved to enter the country. Given the depth and complexity of the relationship, issues like this are perhaps unsurprising, but there is a need to focus and move beyond this wide-ranging discussion towards a practical relationship that enables the EU and China to advance their interests in international affairs through deeper interaction.

Part of the problem with moving the relationship in this direction lies on the Chinese side where the preference is for gradual progress and rumination. China and the EU interact a great deal at a diplomatic level, but the results do not appear publicly as fruitful as the China-US relationship where the annual strategic and economic dialogue is often welcomed with international fanfare and every senior Sino-American interaction becomes a global spectacle. However, despite appearances, the reality is that neither the US nor the EU are able to get much movement out of China when it does not wish to move. While relations at a working level between the US and their Chinese counterparts may be more in-depth than those with Europe, it is rare to get China to change its ways on an issue due only to diplomatic pressure or interaction.

Why diplomatic links matter

Diplomatic relations between the China and EU – two of the largest human and trading bodies on the planet – are clearly central to international affairs. A strong and proactive bilateral EU-China relationship is something that will be central in helping the world lift itself out of the current economic crisis and handling future problems that may arise.

The thrust behind much of the EU’s diplomatic interaction with China is to advance self-interest, but also partly to buy into Robert Zoellick’s notion of China becoming a more ‘responsible stakeholder’ in global affairs. However, China is only just beginning to accept this notion and generally remains beset with domestic issues that its leadership says should take precedence over international affairs. China will only become engaged when its direct interests are affected and it feels that it can justify its actions before the Chinese public. These are not criteria that necessarily coincide with European diplomatic aims. For example, Europe is very concerned and active diplomatically with regard to the ongoing unrest in Syria and the Iranian nuclear programme. These are both issues in which China has a stake although it is not moving at the speed or in the direction that Europe would necessarily like. And when there is evidence of movement on the Chinese side, it is not at all clear whether it is European diplomacy that has directly achieved these shifts.

There is nevertheless quite a clear confluence in preferred methods of dealing with issues between the EU and China, both of whom prefer non-confrontational methods of dispute resolution and are focused on conflict prevention. While some Member States have in recent years focused on the hard end of diplomacy in international affairs, at an EU level the emphasis remains diplomacy and dialogue – something that generally accords with China’s approach.

Diplomatic relations are a key tool of statecraft, allowing states to interact at a formal level in defined ways that allow for grievances to be aired, agreements reached and positions clarified. Given the crucial importance of the bilateral EU-China economic relationship, it is vital that diplomatic interaction between these two parties continue on the right path. The specific EU-China diplomatic relationship (as opposed to individual Member State bilateral relationships) is particularly important as it provides European states with the gravitas to speak to China as a peer. A nation of Denmark’s size (5.5 million) is better able to guarantee that it will be heard if it speaks within a body representative of more than 500 million citizens (i.e. through the EU). Formal discussions in which the EU is seen as the lead actor are elevated in importance and encourage the Chinese side to be more willing to engage in a practical manner. Currently, this coherence seems insufficient, meaning that it has proved difficult to advance relations into a more practical phase.

This report has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of ECRAN and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

An article for another new outlet, the Global Times, the more nationalist of the English language newspapers published in China. We are going to see if it comes out in the Chinese edition. While not a subject I have written much about of late, it is one I remain engaged in (EU-China relations) and this specific piece was inspired in reaction to this piece Global Times published  a couple of weeks ago that seems to suggest that Asia is solely the remit of the United States. The broader theme of a need to widen the discussion on Asian affairs is one that features in some of my China-Central Asia research and is something I will return to. Also, look to see some more writing on this topic appear around the upcoming EU-China Summit in September.

Europe’s soft power gives it significant role in Asia

by Raffaello Pantucci

Global Times | August 27, 2012 20:40

Illustration: Sun Ying
Illustration: Sun Ying from here

In the article “European powers no longer have role across Pacific” published on August 15 in the Global Times, Robert M. Farley argues that Europe and NATO are not Pacific powers. But this is predicated on a number of false assumptions. First, that trade and economics are irrelevant, second, that hard power is the only effective way of expressing yourself in the region, and third that in our globalized and increasingly multipolar world, there can be spheres of influence where others should not meddle.

The EU is China’s largest trading partner, with annual trade in 2011 of $567.2 billion, an 18.3 percent increase year-on-year. And while the US may do more trade with the two next largest East Asian powers, Japan and South Korea, the EU’s figures are not insignificant. According to American and European data, in 2011 the US did $194.6 billion in trade with Japan and $100.1 billion in trade with South Korea versus respectively $143.6 billion and $84.4 billion for Europe.
This economic power not only demonstrates why Europe has a keen interest in the region, but also highlights how hard power is not the only way to stay relevant in East Asian and Pacific affairs.
And anyway, the EU does have hard power capacity. Admittedly, the EU lacks the military clout of the US, but it is not a weakling either.
Recent conflicts in North Africa have demonstrated Europe’s capacity and willingness to project military power, and these build on a growing European tendency toward consolidation of hard power. The UK and France have put aside historical enmities to develop an ever-closer defense relationship, and over time this tendency will only increase.
That having this muscular power present in East Asia is the only way to be heard seems a very dangerous assumption to make, one that plays into the hands of hawks who see looming conflict at every turn.
The security situation in the region is tense, but surely the solution to this is to find ways to calm things down rather than ratchet them up. That Europe lacks the baggage of hard power in the region could aid in acting the role of honest broker that might be able to help soothe tensions.
This leads to a final point about the current global order. The whole point of globalization is not only that we can now get everywhere easily and talk to people on the other side of the globe without any difficulty, but it also means that the concept of spheres of influence where single powers have total domination has also passed. No longer can powers say, this is my turf and no one else has a stake.
Similarly in East Asia. While much of what happens in the region seems to be fundamentally a tussle between the US and China, the reality is that European trade will be badly affected if things in the region take a turn for the worst. We end up having an order that is confused and unclear and to speak of strictly defined spheres of interest seems antiquated.
None of this is to advocate an aggressive European return to Asia, but rather to highlight that to simply dismiss Europe as an Asian power on the basis that it does not have as many soldiers or aircraft carriers in the region is to be too hasty. The EU is looked up to by ASEAN members who see a model to emulate, European soft power is hard to miss among the floods of Asian tourists enjoying European capitals and, as illustrated, Europe has a very strong economic interest in regional stability.
To presume that the US is the only power to listen to or that matters when focusing on Asian affairs is to play into the hands of those who only see hard power and tensions.
Europe has always been fundamentally an economic power and as the globe’s economic focus shifts eastward, we will see this power and influence increase, something that will benefit everyone.
Europe has a keen interest in Asia and it is one that will only grow as the world moves beyond the current economic crisis.

The author is a visiting scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

A post for Whose World Order? offering some thoughts to have emerged from a recent conference that I helped organize in Shanghai around the EU-China Year of Youth. Should be some more bits coming out from this soon.

Shanghai View: Generation gaps in China & Europe

Date: 21st June 2011  |  Author: Raffaello Pantucci,

Categories: China,
Tags: , EuWelfareYouthChinaCultural Revolution

We were lucky this week to be able to help organise a conference in Shanghai around theEU-China Year of Youth, supported by the EU STF Programme and co-hosted by theShanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS). The one-day event was entitled “What World Have They Left Us? A discussion about generations between Chinese and European Youth,” and brought together a group of young Chinese and Europeans to talk about generation gaps, and what they would advise their leaders to do to address the problems these gaps create.

One major point of discussion was the expanding welfare burden that both China and Europe face, thanks to ever-growing aging populations. In both, current younger generations are paying for welfare and pension benefits that they are unlikely to be able to enjoy themselves. But in China, these problems are exacerbated by the fact that there is estimated shortfall of 30-70 million girls, due to the combination of the one child policy and a preference for male children over females. This is going to lead either to a lot of frustrated men in the future or a large influx of foreign brides (or maybe both). The one child policy was continuously raised as an issue, but no-one could offer a solution to it. Most of the Chinese participants said that they felt that the government was right to introduce it, given the over-population in China.

From a European perspective, the aging question is not a new one. It was noted, however, that while in Europe the young used to be seen as a problem and a threat, aging populations suddenly mean that they are now seen as a potential resource that must be exploited more effectively.

The other big focus of discussion was the question of values between generations. The difference in life experience between old and young in China is huge: one generation has lived through the ardors of the cultural revolution, while the younger one is enjoying an Apple-designed and Starbucks-fuelled lifestyle, and being told that China is the new superpower. As one European characterised it, China has gone from a “no culture” generation to a “Chinese culture is the best in the world” generation.

A young Chinese recalled being in Australia when the patriotic film The Founding of a Republic was screened. She described sitting in a cinema full of Chinese students, who got up when the flag appeared at the end and sang their national anthem – much to the surprise of the Australians in the theatre. The intriguing thing was that the young woman who raised this story used it in the context of being quite concerned about the extreme nationalism she noticed among her age group. Another young Chinese later launched into a rather angry diatribe about the utter loss of values amongst younger generations – his particular anger focused on the sexual amorality he saw around himself.

From a European perspective, it seemed as though the generational dislocation was less dramatic – one European participant said that he felt that his values were probably quite similar to those of his parents. Perhaps the bigger gap in Europe’s case is one generation further back – it was his grandparents’ generation that experienced the earth-shattering events of World War Two, and which often has very different values and experiences to those of their children, our parents.

In the end, one of the key conclusions was the fact that there was a homogenisation of views on the problems that younger generations face in China and Europe. Younger generations are going to be dealing with problems that are remarkably similar, and what is striking is the fact that both seem to be responding in similar ways. A bland conclusion maybe, but at the same time one that perhaps bodes well for the broader EU-China relationship, pointing towards an increasing confluence of opinion that might help the two overcome the current tensions that dominate the bilateral relationship.

Another podcast for ECFR, again looking at China and recent events in North Africa. This time focused on Libya, but in a slightly less coherent way than my last one. No matter – enjoy!