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Security Brief: EUCOM Week of September 27, 2021

Week of Monday, September 27, 2021 | Issue 47

Federica Calissano, Iris Raith, Pètra van de Gevel, Vanessa Coimbra, EUCOM Team


Vice President of the European Parliament, Klára Dobrev[1]


Date: September 28, 2021

Location: Élysée Palace, Paris, France

Parties involved: Greek government; French government

The event: On Tuesday, September 28, 2021, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron jointly announced a 5 billion Euro ($5.8 billion USD) deal where Greece will buy three Belharra warships from France.[2] The deal also includes new fighter jets, and a mutual commitment among both countries regarding military aid.[3] The announcement was especially welcomed in France after the previous week’s AUKUS submarine deal debacle.[4]

The implications:

  • This defense deal is likely to be the first major step in developing a strategically autonomous European Union (EU) for which calls have mounted in the last months after the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan. With the Greek government preferring to buy its new warships from a European manufacturer instead of competing British and American ones, it has shown the importance of prioritizing the EU defense market. The attractiveness of European-made weapons outside of Europe - given that 26% of globally exported arms come from European countries - is a testament to the state-of-the-art military equipment that is locally produced.[5] This move is highly likely to encourage other European states, especially Estonia, Lithuania, Portugal, and Poland to also buy EU-local military equipment. In the long term, this would likely make the EU stronger militarily and less dependent on the United States’ equipment and protection. If the arms procurement market is redirected internally within the EU and away from buyers such as Saudi Arabia, the EU will likely be able to set up a defense union.

  • The already tense relationship between some EU member states, particularly France and Greece with Turkey, is highly likely to be strained with this deal’s conclusion. Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan already interpreted this arrangement as a direct threat to Turkey and allegedly to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a claim that was quickly rebuffed.[6] The likelihood of President Erdoğan taking the deal as a pretext to re-deploy research vessels or navy ships in the Eastern Mediterranean is very high. This could lead to a renewed escalation in the region regarding maritime delimitation disputes and controversial drilling rights, potentially leading to higher tensions between both countries with their militaries on constant high alert. The deal is also likely to hinder comprehensive discussions during the upcoming 63rd round of low-level bilateral exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey that are meant to find inclusive solutions to the region’s problems, diffuse tensions, and promote bilateral dialogue.

Date: September 29, 2021

Location: Stravroupoli, Thessaloniki, Greece

Parties involved: Greek Education Minister Niki Kerameus; Thessaloniki Police Department; Golden Dawn party; Stavroupoli’s Vocational High School’s (EPAL) students; Greek teenagers

The event: On Wednesday, September 29, 2021, Greek Education Minister Niki Kerameus ordered an investigation into clashes involving far-right individuals and Stavroupoli’s Vocational High School’s (EPAL) students in Thessaloniki.[7] Police arrested six people and detained at least 59 others after Molotov cocktails, rocks, and glass bottles were thrown on the school grounds.[8] The Golden Dawn, a disbanded Greek neo-Nazi party, showed online support for the clashes, while other far-right websites and social media followed the dissolved party by sending encouragement messages.[9]

The implications:

  • The reported violence near EPAL's school grounds is almost certainly a response to the hardline educational policies the Greek government aims to introduce at next week's Parliament's meeting. The ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings can likely explain the schedule for the voting procedures, which will almost certainly decrease the likelihood of future turmoil regarding the reform's approval. The creation of a campus police division and limited university access requirements are likely seen by students and faculty members as overly restrictive regulations to limit access to higher education, which almost certainly is considered a disregard for the rights to education and freedom of expression. Protests over the educational reforms, such as those that took place in Athens earlier this year and ended in the government's order to temporarily abolish the right to protest, will almost certainly increase if these reforms are approved. It is likely increased law enforcement presence will be one of the measures to control the possible unrest arising from these protests.

  • Along with educational reforms, other issues such as immigration policies are likely to incite turmoil among citizens who oppose Prime Minister Mitsotakis's government. The decision, in early July, to remove Iasonas Apostolopoulos, a Greek sea rescuer, from a national award, allegedly motivated by far-right pressure, likely represents the extremist grip on the country. Opposition parties exploited this event to undermine the governmental institutions' transparency, which is highly likely a forerunner for further protests regarding the government's stance on refugees and external policy.[10] Differently, right-wing supporters will likely continue to express their support through similar Thessaloniki protests.

  • These violent incidents are very likely to be followed by additional incidents in the coming days, given that October 7 marks the first anniversary of the verdict that disbanded the far-right Golden Dawn party. The now-illegal organization has remained very active as an underground entity, being able to gain new and young members through online and in-person propaganda.[11] Younger generations, who have been targeted and recruited, are likely to be deployed to provoke violent events throughout the country to show the far-right is still present and able to influence Greek society.

Date: September 30, 2021

Location: Hungary

Parties involved: Hungarian government; European Parliament; EU; Fidesz party; Democratic Coalition (DK) party

The event: On Thursday, September 30, 2021, Klára Dobrev, the vice president of the European Parliament, won the first round of an opposition primary in Hungary.[12] The opposition primary will decide who will lead the coalition of parties that intend to unseat current Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his party, Fidesz.[13] Dobrev is part of the DK party and is married to the former Prime Minister of Hungary, Ferenc Gyurcsány.[14]

The implications:

  • Although it is not yet certain that Dobrev will win the ultimate primary, the opposition leader will lead a coalition that ranges from far-right to socialists in order to be a united block against Orbán and his party. As the opposition is planning to unite in a bid to oust Orbán from power, it is likely that Orbán will try to alter the political system by shifting the election system towards the majoritarian principle to entrench his and his party’s political power, as he did before during the 2014 elections by introducing a new constitution and electoral law.[15] This will most likely result in disproportionate outcomes in favor of individual parliamentary seats, as the new law is very similar to the voting method like first-past-the-post voting (FPTP), meaning that the candidate with the most votes wins.

  • As the opposition transforms into a united block against Orbán, the likelihood of the opposition winning becomes higher. However, Orbán will highly likely try to prevent this by not only changing election laws, but also enhancing his control over all public institutions by imposing restrictions, policies, and regulations, and nationalizing larger sections of the economy, such as the private sector and private pension funds. It is highly likely that as the 2022 elections near, opposition parties will politicize issues of migration, press freedom, and LGBTQ+ rights, to further galvanize the Hungarian population and take a stance against Orbán and his policies.

  • The alternations of election laws will highly likely result in objection of the opposition and its followers; Orbán will most likely use his party’s majority in Parliament to further assert control over the opposition. The opposition will likely capitalize on the moment by calling out Orbán and his party. As a result, clashes between supporters of the opposition and the Hungarian national police may arise and turn violent. Orbán will likely not resign freely if election results show that his party did not win the elections, and therefore, the possibility of violent protests emerging and turning violent is high.

[1]Vice-president, Ms. Dobrev is chairing the plenary at Monday evening” by the European Parliament licensed under Wikimedia Commons

[2] Greece to buy French warships in multibillion-euro defence deal, The Guardian, September 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/28/greece-to-buy-french-warships-in-multi-billion-euro-defence-deal

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Smoking Guns – How European arms exports are forcing millions from their homes, OCHA, July 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/world/smoking-guns-how-european-arms-exports-are-forcing-millions-their-homes

[6] Turkey angered by France-Greece deal, Kathimerini, September 2021, https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1169003/turkey-angered-by-france-greece-deal/

[7] Far-right links to be probed after fresh school violence, Kathimerini, September 2021, https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1168827/far-right-links-to-be-probed-after-fresh-school-violence/

[8] Ibid

[9] 6 arrested at Greek school protest backed by far-right group, Associated Press, September 2021, https://apnews.com/article/europe-education-arrests-greece-thessaloniki-268dcee9e5f51aefea5fa93eccff30cc

[10] Greece cancels award of honoured refugee rescuer, Euractiv, July 2021, https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/short_news/greece-cancels-award-of-honoured-refugee-rescuer/

[11] Far-right links to be probed after fresh school violence, Kathimerini, September 2021, https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1168827/far-right-links-to-be-probed-after-fresh-school-violence/

[12] Klára Dobrev wins first round of opposition primary in Hungary, Euronews, September 2021, https://www.euronews.com/2021/09/30/klara-dobrev-wins-first-round-of-opposition-primary-in-hungary

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] How Orbán broke the EU — and got away with it, Politico, September 2020, https://www.politico.eu/article/how-viktor-orban-broke-the-eu-and-got-away-with-it-hungary-rule-of-law/

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