The European Union (EU) has unveiled its biggest defense funding and research plan in more than a decade in a bid to reverse billions in cuts and in turn to send a message to US President-elect Donald Trump that it wants to pay for its own security.
The main proposal is an investment fund for defense that would allow EU governments that pay in to also borrow from it. In a move to revitalize defense cooperation, the European Commission has proposed a 5 billion euro (US $5.3 billion) fund in order to let governments club together to purchase new helicopters and planes to lower costs. EU officials have disclosed that another plan is to let the EU’s common budget and its development bank invest in military research. This move would open the door to new drones, cyber warfare systems and other hi-tech gear. Some EU officials have conceded that bigger EU countries, like Germany which has one of the world’s largest defense industries, stand to gain most from the Commission’s proposals with smaller nations being at a greater risk of losing business.
European Commission Vice President Jyri Katainen has disclosed “this is not about an EU army, this is not about spending on the military instead of social security…We face multiplying threats and we must act,” stressing that all assets developed would belong to national governments.
Currently no details on how the bloc plans to persuade member states to move away from the current system, where many pursue their own defense projects favouring local manufactures and duplicating efforts, have been released. Accoridng to European Commission data, the bloc has nineteen types of armoured infantry fighting vehicle, compared with one in the United States. Wasted funds amount to 25 billion euros a year.
On 23 November 2016, NATO announced that it has ended Operation Ocean Shield after a sharp decline in attacks by Somali pirates. While there has been no vessel hijacked off Somalia since May 2012, the threat of piracy remains high despite no major incidents reported. This is due to the fact that pirate action group’s (PAGs) operating in the region continue to maintain the capability and drive to launch attacks in a bid to successfully hijack a merchant vessel.
MS Risk advises all vessels transiting this region to remain aware that while NATO has ended its operations in the area, the threat remains high and continued vigilance and compliance with BMP4 procedures is necessary. The threat remains high in waters off the southern Red Sea/Bab el Mandeb, Gulf of Aden – including Yemen and the northern Somali Coast – Arabian Sea/Off Oman, the Gulf of Oman and off the eastern and southern Somali coast. In the past, incidents of vessels being attacked have been recorded in waters off Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, the Seychelles and Tanzania, as well as in the Indian Ocean and off the western and southern coasts of India and western Maldives. We advise that all vessels continue to maintain a 24-hour visual and radar watch. We further remind all Masters that fishermen operating in this region may try to protect their nets by attempting to aggressively approach merchant ships. Some fishermen may be armed and should no be confused with pirates.
MS Risk further advise merchant vessels transiting the Red Sea, Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden to also operate under a heightened state of alert due to increasing tensions in the region, which can escalate the potential for direct or collateral damage to ships transiting this area. We advise that all vessels transiting this region should report any incidents or suspicious activity immediately. The threat may come from a number of different sources including missiles, projectiles or waterborne improvised explosive devices. Houthi rebels have claimed responsibly for the 1 October 2016 attack on a UAE vessel.
All ships and patrol aircraft under NATO Operation Ocean Shield have now left the area off the Horn of Africa. The Royal Danish Air Force carried out the last Indian Ocean surveillance missions for NATO, with the commander of the Danish air force detachment disclosing that NATO can resume its anti-piracy efforts at any time – whether in the Somali basin or the Atlantic Ocean.
Ships and patrol aircraft operating under the mission had been patrolling waters in this region since 2009 as part of a broader international effort to crackdown on Somali-based pirates who were impacting world shipping. The Ocean Shield operation, as well as European Union (EU) counter-piracy mission, have significantly reduced attacks, with the last reported vessel hijacking off Somalia occurring in May 2012 – down from more than thirty ships at the peak in 2010 – 2011.
NATO is now shifting its resources towards deterring Russia in the Black Sea and people smugglers in the Mediterranean. Earlier this month, NATO broadened its operations in the Mediterranean Sea in a bid to help the EU stop criminals trafficking refugees from North Africa.
Downing Street has reported that it is “very likely” that MPs will be able to vote on the final Brexit agreement, which will be reached between the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU).
During the High Court hearing, government lawyer James Eadie QC moved on to what was likely to happen at the end of the negotiations in 2019, stating: “The government view at the moment is it is very likely that any such agreement will be subject to ratification.” When asked about this, Downing Street stated that “it is the government view that is being represented.” Norman Smith has indicated that the latest government comments have raised the possibility that any deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May could be rejected by Parliament. The three-day High Court hearing is due to end on 19 October.
Sources however have disclosed that the government’s move to allow a vote after an agreement has been negotiated with the EU was unlikely to satisfy critics of Prime Minister May’s approach to Brexit. Many are pressing for a parliamentary vote before the prime minister begins negotiations next spring, however Mrs May opposes this, stating that ministers should decide when to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which officials begin the two years of talks. The government is currently fighting a legal case over whether parliament should have a vote before Article 50 is triggered.
The UK is expected to leave the EU in 2019 and the agreement reached is expected to deal with migration controls and whether the UK remains in the single market. In a referendum held in June, UK voters opted in favor of leaving the EU by 51.9% to 48.1%.
Senior parties allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel are increasingly indicating that they expect her to run for a fourth term in office in 2017, even through her popularity has declined under the impact of the migrant crisis.
Merkel, 62, has been Germany’s chancellor since 2005, however she has repeatedly declined to comment whetehr she will run again in 2017, stating only that she will make her intentions clear in due course. In September, she disclosed that she was still motivated, however a senior ally of Merkel’s recently indicated that he did not see any other realistic alternative for the post of chairwoman of the Christian Democrats (CDU) – a role which is likely to be filled by the party’s top candidate for chancellor. When asked whether he expected candidates other than Merkel to run for party chair at its conference in December, Peter Tauber, secretary general of the CDU disclosed “as far as I know, there’s no one else who is preparing to run for this office.” Meanwhile in an interview on 16 October with Tagesspiegel newspaper, Tauber pointed to Merkel’s view that one person should fill the roles of both party chair and chancellor. Meanwhile on 17 October, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a CDU member who is often rumoured to be a possible successor to Merkel, told a gathering of senior military leaders that she hoped to continue serving in her role beyond the election. CDU member Annegret Kramp-Karrenbuaer, who is premier of the state of Saarland, stated of the vote for party chair: “There will be one female candidate,” adding that the party would elect that candidate with a big majority.
While Merkel is seen as one of the most successful chancellors of post-unification Germany, her popularity has declined since her decision last year to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants into the country. However in an Infratest dimap poll, which was published on 6 October, 54 percent of Germans indicated that they were satisfied with her work, up by 9 points compared with a September poll.
Commissioner Warns that EU Should Prepare for Return of Jihadists as Iraq Launches Operation on MosulOctober 31, 2016 in Europe
The European Union’s (EU) commissioner has warned that the EU should be prepared for returning jihadists if the so-called Islamic State (IS) is driven out of its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul.
Julian King has told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper that even a small number of militants would pose “a serious threat that we must prepare ourselves for.” The comments come after Iraqi forces on 17 October launched what is expected to be a lengthy offensive on Mosul. Officials believe that as many as 5,000 IS fighters are believed to remain in the city.
King, a British diplomat who was recently made the EU’s security commissioner, told Die Wel that the threat of IS fighters returning to Europe after the fall of Mosul was “very serious.” He disclosed that there were currently about 2,500 fighters from EU countries in the combat zone, stressing however that it was “very unlikely that there would be a mass exodus of IS fighters to Europe.” He noted that similar cases in the past had shown that “only a few fighters come back.”
On day one of the offensive, a coalition of some 34,000 Iraq security personnel, Kurdish fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen, and Shia military forces, backed by the US and other nations, took control of a number of villages and districts located in the south and east of Mosul. On the ground sources have reported that the strategy is to encircle the city before moving in on the centre itself. Late on 17 October, US Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook disclosed that the campaign was “ahead of schedule,” warning however that it was early days and it was not yet known whetehr IS fighters would “stand and fight.” On 18 October, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned that “it could be a long battle” lasting several weeks, if not months.
In other reports, the Syrian army has accused the US-led coalition of planning to allow IS fighters in Mosul to flee into Syria. The army, which has no control over Syria’s border with Iraq, was quoted by Reuters news agency as stating that it would resist any attempt by fighters to cross. The commander of Iraq’s Counter-terrorism Service, Maj-Gen Fadhil Jalil al-Barwari, has been quoted by the New Arab website as saying that IS fighters are being offered two corridors “to go to Syria.”