Iraq's geostrategic importance for the European Union is mirrored by the growing interests of single European states. This is particularly true for France and Italy, who are indeed at the forefront of the European strategic relationship with Baghdad.
Last week was a bad week for the Islamic State. In just three days, the organisation lost two leading figures: one in the Sinai, where key commander Abu Hamza Al-Qadi surrendered to Egyptian security forces, and one in the Sahel.
At the heart of the European project, the Franco-German tandem provides impetus for further integration within the EU. However, Brussels is yet to decide which direction it wants to take, and the French and Germans still have to agree on their position with regards to economics, foreign affairs, or enlargement. The geopolitical context provides a call for action for an EU which endeavours to become increasingly “geopolitical” and aims at “speaking the language of power”. How can the French and Germans cooperate, and which hurdles are they going to face?
In the run up to the G5 Sahel summit in N'Djamena, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed the French government’s desire and goal for the summit to mark a “diplomatic, political and development surge”. Held on 15 and 16 February, the event itself was like a balance sheet of activities in the region.
2020 has been a challenging year for the world economy. Although the magnitude of the shock triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic differed widely from one country to another, no economy was left unscathed.
One of the dimensions of rising inequality in developed countries is the growing divide between urban cores and peripheries, with the result that urban regeneration is back in fashion. In France, however, it never really went out of fashion. Starting with the first wave of riots in the banlieues in 1981, a little more than a decade after the death of the famous French-Swiss architect and urban planner Le Corbusier, the politique de la ville (French for urban policy) has been part of the social protection system policy toolkit.
The five years following the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris saw two important changes in jihad- inspired terrorism in France. Between 1995 and 2015, the profile of the terrorists and their modus operandi were quite constant: a huge majority of young, second- generation Muslims, mainly from North Africa, and a smaller group of converts, who set up networks of relatively well-trained friends and brothers, aimed at killing the largest possible number of people by using explosives and automatic weapons.
The challenge of returning foreign fighters affects the whole of Europe. France adopted a clear-cut unofficial policy of outsourcing, asking Iraq to prosecute French fighters to keep them away from Europe. In fact, the issue of returnees cannot be swept under the carpet and needs a proper strategy that combines prosecution and de-radicalization.
On November 12, French president Emmanuel Macron and his Chadian counterpart, Idriss Déby, met in Paris, at the Peace Forum. Faced with the urgency of the situation in the Sahel, where the G5 military forces (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) have just suffered a major setback with the death of 50 Malian soldiers during a terrorist attack, France seems more than ever to rely on Chad and its army to restore security.
Between 3 and 6 February this year French air force jets attacked a convoy of trucks carrying rebels in north-east Chad, who were advancing on the capital N’Djamena with the aim of overthrowing the regime of President Idriss Deby. Since the Nineties, France has repeatedly promised to reduce its interference in internal African politics without wider consultation, yet this was a unilateral French strike, ordered by Paris, that harked back to the days when France regularly intervened in the internal politics of its former colonies.
When China’s President Xi Jinping launched his flagship project on the “Silk Road Economic Belt” in Astana in the fall of 2013, followed by the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” in Jakarta a month later, few people in France took notice, except perhaps for a few experts in academic circles or research institutions focusing on China.
With the so-called “Gilets jaunes movement”, France has gone through a political mobilization which is both “déjà vu” and radically new. The “déjà vu” dimension is linked to the historical tradition of protest and political violence in a country where the representative channels and the intermediary groups are and always have been sociologically weak and politically illegitimate since the 1789 revolution. This French peculiarity has little to teach to other democratic systems which are usually better equipped with instruments of mediation both at the societal and political level.