European Council on Foreign Relations

Putin in Hannover: a changing German Ostpolitik?

This week Vladimir Putin met with Angela Merkel in Hannover to open the world’s largest industry fair – the “Hannover Messe”.  But the political honeymoon between Germany and Russia – a cornerstone of German foreign policy since the 1990s - seems to be coming to an end. Relations between both countries can be described as “frosty” after their “strategic partnership” resulted in mutual irritations and disappointments. Putin’s return to the Kremlin, the persecution of the opposition and the Pussy Riot trial were a severe blow to German elites’ beliefs that the Russian state and society would be on a slow but steady path towards modernization.

Despite all German efforts (Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s “partnership for modernisation”) a ‘Russian spring’ never happened – a fact which led to frustration and anger in Berlin. After Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik and Steinmeier’s “new Ostpolitik”,

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Hollande seeks strong ties with Rabat

Breaking with a decades-long tradition of having Morocco as the first destination for a French President’s first official visit to North Africa, Francois Hollande’s two-day (April 3-4) stop in Morocco came three months after his historic trip to its rival Algeria in December.

The French President’s trip to Casablanca, the economic capital of Morocco, which was carefully planned by French and Moroccan business circles, and during which he was accompanied by nine ministers and more than fifty business leaders, signaled that France is aiming to consolidate relations with its main ally in the Maghreb. Hollande seeks to reclaim the Republic’s status as Morocco’s first commercial partner after losing that title to Spain last year.

Despite the fact that his trip took place amid a political storm in France around the indictment of the former Minister, Jerome Cahuzac, Hollande’s agenda

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Germany and the UN: still fighting over Libya

The Libyan war is not over for Germany. That was my main conclusion after speaking at two events on Europe and the United Nations in Berlin this week.The discussions, organized by the Green Party in the Bundestag and ECFR’s Berlin office, ranged from Syria to Mali. But they kept returning to Germany’s decision to abstain on the UN resolution authorizing the military intervention in Libya in March 2011.  

At UN headquarters in New York, the Libya vote now feels like a rather distant memory. At the time, it appeared like a turning-point in the history of the Security Council. The fact that China and Russia chose not to veto a humanitarian intervention seemed to be a victory for the Responsibility to Protect. The German abstention was certainly perplexing, but it ultimately looked more like a curiosity than a crisis. It soon became clear that the Libyan episode was not as

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Sweden’s foreign policy: Is it a good thing to be a leader?

The European Foreign Policy Scorecard  portrayed Sweden as a leader when it comes to formulating a common European foreign policy. For the second year running, Sweden is ranked 4th just behind the big three (France, Germany, UK) and thus places itself ahead of a range of large and medium-size EU member states (such as Spain, Poland and the Netherlands). Once again, this makes us think about the reasons behind this phenomenon. After all, isn’t it peculiar that a small country in the northern periphery of Europe manages to do so well in in European foreign policy?

Last year my colleague at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Björn Fägersten, commented on the role of Sweden in the ECFR Scorecard by saying that this is perhaps not that surprising: Sweden does not have that many other places to go to except the EU (Sweden is not a member of NATO, not on the UN Security

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The end of French foreign policy as we know it?

Mere weeks after France saw its icon Gérard Depardieu defect to Russia to a steady chorus of jingoistic booing, another monument is in peril. The fear today is that Charles de Gaulle might follow suit – and cause an equally protracted period of national soul-searching.

Initial budget projections for France’s defence effort started leaking yesterday. The talk is not of freezing expenditure to adapt to the new financial context. It is not of a sensible ‘dip’ in resources, to ensure the French MoD pulls its shift in the war on deficits. With significant rounds of cuts planned across the board domestically, the military cannot expect to escape wholly unscathed on the count of its current foreign engagements. Neither is the talk is of scaling down – that is, of maintaining the same army, but less of it. Nor even is it of scrapping this or that specific capability – like the Dutch did

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