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Monday Morning Meeting on Analysing the EU Security Dialogue in Brussels: Implications of the Ukraine War for Europe, the World, and for India

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  • April 03, 2023
    Monday Morning Meeting

    Dr. Swasti Rao, Associate Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, spoke on "Analysing the EU Security Dialogue in Brussels: Implications of the Ukraine War for Europe, the World, and for Indiaat the Monday Morning Meeting held on 3 April 2023. The session was moderated by Cmde. Abhay Singh, Research Fellow, MP-IDSA. Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.), Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA, Senior, and scholars of the Institute were in attendance.

    Executive Summary

    Dr. Swasti Rao participated in the first edition of the Schuman Security and Defence Forum in Brussels between 20-21 March 2023. The Presentation gave an overview of the discussion at the dialogue and analysed the capabilities of the European Union in strengthening its Security.

    Detailed Report

    Cmde. Abhay Singh commenced the session by briefing everyone about the previous years' gas imports from Russia to European Union (EU) markets. He talked about the approaches of different countries within Europe to assist Ukraine in the war.

    Dr. Swasti Rao stated that her presentation would briefly explain the discussion at the Schuman Security and Defence Forum, where she had participated. She started by underscoring the EU’s awareness of a more comprehensive understanding of security and putting efforts into deepening the relationship, not only with NATO and US but also across the globe, as they see the importance of like-minded partnerships in the current period. The bloc aspires to become more autonomous and to focus on strategic autonomy to become a global security provider through building key defense partnerships. Cooperation with partners is the fundamental pillar of the EU security and defense agenda. The motto for the Schuman Security and Defence Forum 2023 was 'stronger together in an unstable world’. The EU is focused on strengthening its cooperation with regional organizations and also on crisis management and stabilization worldwide. Dr. Rao also briefed about the European Peace Facility and Security and Defence dialogues which are the key instruments of the EU to strengthen their Partnership capabilities.

    Diplomatic relations between the European Union and China seem more stable today than last year. Although Beijing was not invited to the dialogue, the EU is becoming more and more aware of the requirement to form a uniform rule of engagement with Beijing. She mentioned the speech of the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen about EU-China Relations and their new strategy to converge on “de-risking” ties with China. The de-risking would essentially limit the EU’s vulnerability to a broader range of stress factors and possible disruptions caused by Beijing and China-related geopolitical tensions.

    The speaker discussed the high impact of events taking place in Europe like the Russia-Ukraine War, energy security crises, climate change, green transition, and an escalation over Taiwan, etc. She said that the key takeaways from ‘day 1’ of the dialogue were deliberations on the EU’s transactional diplomacy in Africa and Russia's presence in the Middle East via the Wagner group. She also mentioned conversations on maritime space, cyber capabilities and artificial intelligence warfare, security and politics of space, Brexit, etc. And finally, she emphasized the role of joint exercises for the EU.

    Further, she talked about EU relations with India. India is a crucial partner for the EU, and the West, and the geopolitical situation has opened a more comprehensive array of foreign policy pathways for India to engage with the EU and vice versa. There have been strategic talks with India for the security of the Indo-Pacific region. Noted factors in their relationship were the Free Trade Agreement negotiations, Defence Cooperation with Europe, India's neutrality on Ukraine, and India’s relations and oil purchases with Russia.

    Dr. Rao then discussed the Maritime Domain Cooperation. The EU's coordinated maritime presence is focused on the western Indian Ocean Region (IOR), with India as a critical partner. There have been talks on enhancing the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the potential of a trilateral partnership. Other themes discussed were the global gateway, green hydrogen production, and space cooperation.

    The speaker highlighted the remarks by the Swedish Minister of Defence on threats to the EU in today’s complex environment. The minister said there is unprecedented cooperation between the EU and NATO with reference to the joint declaration between the two on various points in January 2023, further adding to their plans for the division of labour for collective defense across the globe.

    In the concluding remarks, Dr. Rao said that as the challenges to global security grow, the EU needs to work together with partners and allies.

    Q&A Session

    Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy complimented the speaker on her presentation. He commented on the change in concerns of the EU on its security, be it national, international, or energy. He said that we should do a very careful analysis of the EU's desire to expand in the security space of the Indo-Pacific. The EU should change its way of looking at India and the Global South for better partnerships in the region. He suggested a deeper study of sensitive issues to strengthen our ties with the EU but on our own terms.

    Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.) questioned the focus of the EU on strategic autonomy and their capabilities to operate in the Indo-Pacific region. He also pointed out NATO pivoting to Asia. He further added that we see a regional division as the EU goes for the western IOR and AUKUS, mainly on the Western Pacific. He further asked whether the EU believes they can defeat Russia with the recent internal disturbance within Europe.

    With regard to the Director General’s remarks, Dr. Rao agreed with his comments and talked about the oil purchases in Japan. She also emphasized the massive trade between the EU and China and mentioned the EU hybrid threat toolbox. In response to the Deputy Director General’s comment, Dr. Rao pointed out that the deepening ties with the US and NATO are key, but the EU’s aspiration to achieve strategic autonomy should be looked upon as a complementarity. Further, she highlighted the EU’s ways of achieving strategic autonomy and stated that they needed a balance between NATO and strategic autonomy after the war to achieve their goal. She then briefly mentioned the EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific.

    Mr. Abhishek Verma, Research Analyst, asked if there was any discussion about nuclear strategy and planning and how Germany looked for a collective security framework that Europe is coming up with, like European peace facilities. Dr. Rao said there was no discussion on nuclear strategy and planning, but it was mentioned in passing. In reply to another question, she said that Germany does not want to be seen as a country that is going alone like Poland but instead wants to be seen as going along with its allies.

    Mr. Niranjan Oak, Research Analyst, questioned about providing lethal aid to some African countries through European Peace Facilities. In reply to this question, the speaker stated that EU sentiments are evident in Europe and that if they want to ensure peace, they must have the capabilities to do that. She further added that the first aid would go to Niger and Mali, and after that, they are going to Africa as they are worried about the Wagner group.

    Dr. Deepika Saraswat, Associate Fellow in West Asia Centre, pointed out the absentees of the Schuman Security and Defence Forum and the EU’s outlook towards Central Asian countries, ignoring the importance of connectivity. In reply to this, Dr. Rao stated there had been a lot of talk on connectivity. Still, the purpose of this forum was only focused on Security and Defence partnerships leaving out economic aspects for the moment.

    The report was prepared by Mr. Karan Phular, Intern, Centre of Europe and Eurasia, MP-IDSA.