22nd Sep 2023


Visions of war and peace in Europe This WEEK

  • Russian Victory Day parade to be scaled down this year (Photo: Dmitriy Fomin)
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Russian president Vladimir Putin will cheer on a mini war-parade in Moscow on Tuesday (9 May), as German chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks of peace in Europe in Strasbourg.

Moscow's annual Victory Day parade, commemorating Russia's defeat of Nazi Germany in WW2, is to see fewer troops and armour than in past years and to use conscripts instead of normal soldiers amid mounting losses in Ukraine.

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Putin has cancelled the Immortal Regiment march — a parade of WW2 veterans' relatives holding aloft their photos — for fear of advertising the tens of thousands of Russian soldiers being killed in his war against Ukraine. He has also cancelled several regional parades outside the capital.

For all that, the scaled-down military pageant will still hawk his central propaganda theme — that he is, once again, saving Russia, this time from what his spin-doctors call "Nazis" in Ukraine and Nato.

But speaking the same day in the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, Germany's Scholz will present an alternative vision for Europe.

Scholz's debate with MEPs will fall on Europe Day, commemorating a French political declaration in 1950 that led to the creation of the EU in order to make war "not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible" between fellow member states.

The celebration of the EU's contribution to peace in Europe involves open-door public events at EU institutions and embassies all week long.

But as EU countries send billions of euros of arms and financial aid to Kyiv, Europe Day 2023 will also "bring citizens together to learn more about how the EU is supporting peace, security and democracy through its resolve in face of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine," an European Commission press release said.

The events come amid a Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russian forces expected to start any day now.

They also come amid Putin-stoked fears of a direct Russia-Nato clash, highlighted by a near collision between a Polish patrol plane and a Russian fighter jet over the Black Sea on Sunday.

"The Russian jet flew just in front of the nose of the Polish plane, crossing its trajectory at a dangerous distance, estimated by the crew at about five metres," a Polish government spokeswoman said.

In the background, EU foreign ministers meeting informally in Stockholm on Friday (12 May) will continue behind-closed-doors talks on the 11th round of Russia sanctions, amid calls to strike at Russian nuclear, steel, diamond, and agricultural industries.

The ministers will set aside time for a "strategic discussion on EU-China relations", amid ever closer Beijing-Moscow ties.

EU diplomats are also discussing which Moldovan oligarchs and their minions to blacklist over Russian-backed efforts to topple the pro-Western government in Chișinău.

And adding to a week pregnant with geopolitical significance, Turkish people will vote on Sunday (14 May) on whether to end president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's increasingly authoritarian 20-year long rule.

If he loses, as polls predict, Erdoğan might well try to overturn the result, Turkey experts fear, plunging one of Nato's most important allies in the campaign to stop Putin's war into a potentially explosive political crisis.

In other related developments, the EU Commission will, on Monday (8 May) discuss plans with MEPs on how to help Europe's military-industrial complex produce more ammunition to fight the kind of high-intensity artillery wars unleashed by Russia in south-east Ukraine.

MEPs will also vote on Tuesday to approve an extra €145m in financial assistance to Moldova amid a refugee and energy crisis provoked by Russia's war in Ukraine.

AI Act

But if some fear impending Armageddon due to the risk of WW3, others have voiced apocalyptic warnings due to the risks coming from AI.

For their part, MEPs in the civil liberties committee will hone the EU Parliament's vision of how to regulate the sector in a vote on the EU's AI Act on Thursday (11 May).

"If we don't get that control right, then you might have this dystopian view that is being expressed by many," Romanian MEP Dragoș Tudorache has said.

Turning to kitchen-sink issues, MEPs will vote on Wednesday (10 May) on whether to approve how the EU spent its budget last year.

The annual discharge is more political than ever amid frozen EU money for countries, such as Hungary and Poland, which have trampled on rule of law at home.

MEPs will discuss, on Tuesday, how to reform the bloc's fiscal rules, designed to stop the kind of profligacy that led to the emergency bailouts of several national treasuries 10 years ago.

And turning back to Putin, who decriminalised wife-beating as part of his parallel culture war against EU values, MEPs will also show a different face of Europe on Wednesday when they vote for the EU to ratify the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women and girls — even though Bulgaria, the Czechs, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia have still failed to do so themselves.

EU lawmakers 'hold breath' on eve of AI vote

European lawmakers regulating the risks of artificial intelligence are likely to face resistance from EU states ahead of negotiations later this year and possibly even among their peers ahead of a plenary vote.

Spain's EU-language bid and UN summit This WEEK

While the heads of EU institutions are in New York for the UN high level meeting, Spain's EU presidency will try to convince ministers to make Catalan, Basque, and Galician official EU languages.

Von der Leyen's State of the Union address This WEEK

The EU's political season is back in full swing after the summer break, with the EU Commission president's State of the Union address on Wednesday. Meanwhile, exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will also address the European Parliament.

La Rentrée and MEPs anti-corruption reform This WEEK

The European Parliament's committee on constitutional affairs will vote on a 14-point anti-corruption reform, after the Qatargate allegations. Meanwhile, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will participate in the first Africa Climate Summit.

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