The European Union (EU) police agency Europol warned early this month that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group is likely to launch more attacks in Europe, noting that several dozen militants are already in place and more are possibly arriving as IS continues to face setbacks in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
In a report on the threat that IS poses to the EU, Europol disclosed that the most probable forms of attack would be those used in recent years – ranging rom the mass shootings and suicide bombings that were seen in Paris and Brussels to stabbings and other assaults carried out by ‘lone wolfs,’ effectively radicals who are acting alone. In the report, Europol officials warn that car bombs and kidnappings, which are common in Syria, could emerge as tactics in Europe. It notes however that protected sites, such as power grids and nuclear power stations, were not seen as being top targets. The agency went on to say that essentially the entire EU is under threat as almost all of its governments back the US-led coalition in Syria, warning that IS was likely to infiltrate Syrian refugee communities in Europe in an attempt to inflame hostility to immigrants that has shaken many EU governments.
In a statement, Europol disclosed “if IS is defeated or severely weakened in Syria/Iraq by the coalition forces, there may be an increased rate in the return of foreign fighters and their families from the region to the EU or to other conflict areas.” It went on to say that IS was also likely to start planning attacks and sending militants to Europe from Libya and that other groups, including al-Qaeda and its affiliates, also continue to pose a threat to the European continent.
While Europol Director Rob Wainwrigth has disclosed hat EU states have increased their security cooperation in the wake of IS attacks in the last couple of years, which in turn has allowed for more plots to be thwarted, he noted that “nevertheless…Today’s report shows that the threat is still high and includes diverse components which can b only tackled by even better collaboration.”
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.