Biden’s European Tour Exudes Optimism

Democratic Security Monthly Foresight: June 2021

1 June 2021

NATO and G7 summits will give the Transatlantic communities the opportunity to realign themselves with a more united strategy against threats to democratic security as well as find new areas to cooperate though expectations may be unrealistically high. Czech police have once again recommended charges of fraud be brought against Prime Minister Babiš, and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša avoids impeachment but calls for early elections increase.

Main takeaways:

  • Joe Biden’s European tour will be the strongest test yet for the new administration to redirect the Transatlantic alliance. There will be a string of high profile meetings from the G7 June 11-13 June, the NATO Summit 14 June and a potential meeting with Vladimir Putin on 16 June.
  • Italy’s Matteo Salvini continues to push for a new EU parliamentary grouping made up of far-right and illiberal politicians from across the continent. In April, the first meeting between Hungary’s Fidesz, Italy’s Lega and Poland’s PiS took place in Budapest with all parties showing an interest in discussing options for a new, tactical alliance. Salvini hopes the next meeting will be held this month in either Poland or Italy.
  • Czech police have recommended charging Prime Minister Andrej Babiš with fraud after an investigation found he had misused EU funds. This is the second time the police have recommended charges; the first instance ended with the case being dismissed and returned for further investigation. Pavel Zeman, the head prosecutor, recently resigned from his position stating undue pressure from Justice Minister Marie Benešová.
  • Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša is facing a barrage of domestic issues directly before he is to take control of the EU’s rotating presidency on 1 July. Narrowly avoiding an impeachment vote last week, the possibility of early elections or Janša being removed from office remains high as his popularity continues to dip.
  • It is Green Week in the EU which will see a number of conferences focused on attaining and fostering the ‘zero pollution ambition’ of the bloc.
  • The possibility of a reshuffle in the Latvian government is high with talks of the KPV LV party leaving the coalition after a disagreement over the position of the Minister of Economy. The coalition decided to postpone the talks until after the local elections happening this weekend.
  • Belarus imposes new rules restricting citizens from leaving the country. The stated reason was to curb the spread of COVID-19, but critics were quick to point out that many Belarusians have left the country since last year’s heavily contested election.

The return of Transatlanticism

June will see President Biden’s first overseas trip since taking office five months ago. Beginning in the UK with the G7 meeting from 11-13 June and continuing on to the NATO summit on 14 June in Brussels. Both venues will offer Joe Biden’s team the opportunity to strengthen the Transatlantic bonds which were heavily strained during the previous Washington administration.

It should be stressed that this is the first time the US president will meet European leaders after Donald Trump left the White House and the strategy to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through vaccination has started to gain momentum; both of which garner a high level of optimism for global democratic security as well as the potential for coordinated efforts against autocratic regimes in Beijing, Moscow and Minsk. The hopes are high…potentially too high and a lacklustre outcome could leave pro-democratic actors in the region with an eerie sense of ennui or unconvinced of the new trajectory.

The media, however, prefers a boxing match to a news conference, so the possible meeting in Geneva just days after has garnered the most attention.

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