Future of the EU

State of the Union Conference 2019: Re-uniting Europe? Between geopolitical tensions and domestic constraints

With this high-level two-day conference Clingendael offered an opportunity to reflect on the future of the EU, bringing together over 150 participants and over 40 international (think tank) speakers, including Monika Sie Dhian Ho, Dominique Moïsi, Bas Eickhout, Nathali Tocci, Thijs van der Plas, Maria Demertzis, Kati Piri, László Andor and many more.

Plenary panel 'Re-uniting Europe' with (from left to right) Eleni Panagiotarea (Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy), Maria Demertzis (Bruegel Institute), Monika Sie Dhian Ho (General Director, the Clingendael Institute), Dominique Moïsi (King's College London and Institute Montaigne), Piotr Buras (European Council of Foreign Relations Warsaw) and Antonio Villafranca (Institute for International Political Studies).

‘Effective without empathy’ – Perceptions of Dutch interest promotion inside the EU

Using a mix of research methods, this Clingendael Report (Brigitte Dekker, Rem Korteweg, Adriaan Nunes, Monika Sie Dhian Ho and Wouter Zweers, April 2019) gives an impression of the perception of Dutch interest representation in the EU, both confirming and debunking stereotypes. The report received a lot of media attention and was the starting point for a Café Clingendael debate organised at the Dutch Permanent Representation in Brussels, which was attended by two hundred Brussels-based professionals (October 2019). This research was commissioned by the Dutch House of Representatives.

Senior Research Fellow Rem Korteweg (far right) presenting the Report at the Dutch House of Representatives.

The European Commission in balance? Ambition, organisation and power

The tasks, functions and ambitions of the European Commission were assessed in depth by Adriaan Schout and Adriaan Nunes in this Clingendael Report (November 2019), connecting a broad range of developments in a political-historical and organisational perspective.

EP elections 2019

In order to interpret the Dutch debate on the EU elections and place it within a broader European context, Clingendael developed a ‘theme file’ on the 2019 EU elections consisting of guest blogs from experts from different Member States and overarching analyses by Clingendael experts. Building on the knowledge gathered online in the theme file, Clingendael organised both a private lunch meeting entitled 'Preview of the EU elections' with top officials from different ministries (May 2019) and a high-level 'Outcome of the EU elections' meeting with top officials from various ministries (July 2019). In addition, Clingendael organised a public event for a wider audience – specifically young people – entitled ‘EP-elections: What can be chosen?’ at the University of Leiden (in cooperation with the Liaison Office of the European Parliament) and the ‘EU Election College’ at Radboud University, Nijmegen (both in May 2019). To promote the public event, a vlog was produced entitled #EP2019: Are millennials interested?


The US-China trade-tech stand-off and the need for EU action on export control

This Clingendael Report (Maaike Okano-Heijmans and Brigitte Dekker, August 2019) discusses the type of export control policies the EU could consider in response to US-China rivalry on new technologies. What could be the EU’s approach to so-called ‘omni-use’ emerging technologies, and which rules and norms for their use could be considered? This timely report contributed to multi-stakeholder debates on the topic in the Netherlands and beyond, provided input for the strategic visions of tech business federations and triggered media requests for comments.

European seaports and Chinese strategic influence

To better understand the relevance to Europe and the Netherlands of Chinese investments in European ports against the background of China’s Maritime Silk Road, this Clingendael Report (Frans-Paul van der Putten, December 2019) discusses two main questions: what is the relevance of Chinese involvement in European ports for China’s political influence in the European Union? And what are the long-term implications of the Maritime Silk Road for the Netherlands, in particular with regard to Chinese involvement in European ports? The author was invited to speak on the topic at public and closed events, engaging with European policymakers and business representatives.

Security and defence

European Intervention Initiative

In 2019, Clingendael extensively researched a new defence cooperation format: the European Intervention Initiative (EI2), which culminated in two publications. The first report (Dick Zandee and Kimberley Kruijver) compared the national strategic cultures of the participating countries at that time to find entry points for strategic cultural convergence. The advice not only resulted from a thorough literature review, but was also based on numerous interviews with EI2 representatives. The subsequent policy brief assessed how EI2 fits in the wider landscape of European defence cooperation formats. To reach a wider public, summaries were published in the magazines of Clingendael and the Dutch Atlantic Association. Clingendael researchers also presented their findings in Brussels at a public event organised by the Belgian Egmont Institute.

NATO 70 Years Conference

In May 2019, Clingendael brought together high-level experts, including former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, for a symposium to celebrate the Alliance’s 70th anniversary. This event was part of a series of symposia organised on behalf of NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division to assess how Member States perceive the future of the Alliance. In the morning, policymakers, researchers and students discussed arms control challenges. The results were presented at the subsequent public event, followed by a lively discussion with a varied audience. The public event was also live-streamed on Clingendael’s YouTube channel. On the basis of the symposium, Clingendael contributed to a publication on the future of arms control (Carnegie Europe) that was presented to NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in November at NATO headquarters in Brussels and is an important input for the Reflection Group of high-level personalities that has been tasked to provide advice on the same topic by the end of 2020.


Strategic Monitor 2019-2020

On 27 January 2020, the Clingendael Institute and The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) presented their Strategic Monitor 2019-2020 report 'Between Order & Chaos: The Writing on The Wall' to Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok. The yearly report analyses the most important trends and developments in the international regimes that constitute the international order. The Strategic Monitor points to increasing geopolitical competition between China and the United States, which is manifesting itself in a growing number of policy domains. The report also notes that the economy and security are becoming even more closely intertwined. These two trends require European strategic autonomy and new partnerships. The Strategic Monitor has been an important input for the updating of the Dutch Integrated Foreign and Security Strategy, released in April 2020.

From left to right: Tim Sweijs (HCSS), Monika Sie Dhian Ho (General Director, the Clingendael Institute), Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs - Stef Blok, Rob de Wijk (HCSS) and Danny Pronk (Clingendael) at the presentation of the Strategic Monitor 2019-2020.

Trade and Connectivity

Speaking at the EU’s novel Connectivity Forum

Clingendael Senior Research Fellow Maaike Okano-Heijmans was one of the speakers at the newly established Europa Connectivity Forum opened by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (September 2019). This forum discussed the new ways of connecting the EU and Asia, its infrastructure and peoples.

AIG Global Trade Series

This conference series, sponsored by AIG - one of the largest insurance companies worldwide – explores the future of the global trade system in a changing economic and (geo)political context. The Clingendael Institute co-organised three events in Washington, Rotterdam and Shanghai together with its partners including Chatham House, Georgetown University’s Institute of International Economic Law, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Port of Rotterdam, and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. The conferences brought together trade experts, policymakers and executives to discuss the consequences of growing US-Chinese trade tensions , new technologies and regional initiatives such as the Belt & Road on the global rules-based trade system and its institutions.

Panel debate in Shanghai (June 2019) with (from left to right) Rem Korteweg (the Clingendael Institute), Mingqi Xu (Shanghai Institute for European Studies), Teresa Lin (The Conference Board), Tim Summers (Chatham House), and Geng Xiao (Peking University).

Europe’s broader neighbourhood

EU options for dealing with the Assad regime

Our Levant research programme examines the impact of hybrid security organisations on state performance and development in the Levant region, focusing on Syria and Iraq. A highlight in 2019 was our production of a policy brief analysing EU options for dealing with the Assad regime. The brief, which calls for better containment of the negative externalities resulting from a re-entrenching Assad regime, fed into several high-profile sessions with policymakers and was widely praised for its relevance and balanced policy recommendations, amongst others by the Dutch and German governments, EU officials and the World Bank. It also enjoyed a wide uptake among the Syria expert community on Twitter.

New approaches to stabilisation and good governance in Mali, Niger and Libya

Clingendael’s Sahel research programme focuses on security and survival under fragmented sovereignty in the greater Sahel region, and how intervention strategies can be better adjusted to these dynamics. One highlight from 2019 is our study (Fransje Molenaar, Jonathan Tossell, Anna Schmauder, Abdourahmane Idrissa and Rida Lyammouri, August 2019) on the role of traditional authorities in border regions of Mali, Niger and Libya, which are far out of reach of these states’ central governments and confronted by the ever-increasing presence of armed groups. Together with local and international implementers, we provided recommendations on how policymakers can engage with traditional authorities to advance new approaches to stabilisation and good governance in these settings.

Cover image of our study on the role of traditional authorities in border regions of Mali, Niger and Libya.

A way forward for positive migration governance in Libya

Our main research on migration and conflict in 2019 focused on what could be done at the local level to promote positive migration governance in Libya. The study (Floor El Kamouni-Janssen, Nancy Ezzeddine and Jalel Harchaoui, November 2019) finds that the increased relevance of migrant workers for the livelihoods of ordinary Libyans has allowed well-positioned migrant workers to negotiate better economic agency for themselves. The reliance of certain economic sectors on migrant labour has resulted in community pushes for local migrant registration schemes to ensure there is a supply of foreign labour to local businesses. These efforts could be further capitalised upon to improve positive migration governance in Libya.

The influence of Somali corporate actors

Clingendael’s Horn of Africa research programme focuses on how informality – and specifically informal economies – can be harnessed to strengthen stabilisation strategies in the region. In 2019, we achieved substantive impact with a project (Jos Meester, Ana Uzelac and Claire Elder, June 2019) that approached political finance and fragility in Somalia from the perspective of the influence of Somali corporate actors. The findings sparked a range of debates, both within Somalia and amongst international policymakers and their implementing partners, on the role of the private sector in financing governance and conflict, as well as on integrating private sector programming with stabilisation programming in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

The Arctic Elephant: Why Europe must address the geopolitics of the high north

This policy brief (Louise van Schaik and Ties Dams, November 2019) argues that there is an urgent need for the EU to act more vigorously on the ‘elephant in the Arctic’: geopolitics. This needs to be taken on board in the revised EU strategy for the Arctic, which should call for an Arctic council on security and geopolitics. If the new European Commission truly wants to be a geopolitical one, the Arctic is one of the chessboards that can no longer be treated primarily as an area for scientific cooperation on climate change.

EU and Dutch policy towards the Western Balkans

Together with the Europe Policy Advisory Group (BIEPAG), Clingendael organised two events to discuss the EU and Dutch policy towards the Western Balkans. In May 2019, an event in The Hague focused on the role of Serbia. In June 2019, an event in Belgrade focused entirely on the role of the Netherlands as an advocate of a strict and fair EU enlargement policy, with Wouter Zweers and Jan Marinus Wiersma as Clingendael speakers. See also our policy brief ‘Between effective engagement and damaging politici sation – Prospects for a credible EU enlargement policy to the Western Balkans’ (Wouter Zweers, May 2019).

EU Eastern Partnership

In October 2019 Clingendael organised a closed expert discussion on policy options for the Eastern Partnership, also in light of the future EU budget and its priorities and the continuation of EU sanctions on Russia. Ahead of this meeting a think tank exchange took place with the Moldovan-based European Institute of Politics and Reforms (IPRE), which included a three-day fact-finding mission to Chisinau and a conference on Moldova’s Europeanisation process after its election.

Climate Security & Sustainability

Planetary Security Conference 2019 #doable

On 19 and 20 February 2019 the fourth and final edition of the Planetary Security Conference took place under the heading #doable. The meeting brought together over 450 diplomats, military personnel, development professionals, local and regional leaders, scientists and private sector players from over 55 countries to discuss ways to implement and scale up actions to reduce security risks emanating from climate change. They discussed how to address immediate needs, particularly those that are most pressing in the spotlight regions of the Conference: Iraq, Lake Chad, Mali and the Caribbean. The Conference included over 35 sessions, several side events and media fellow and youth programmes.

Since the end of 2019 the Planetary Security Initiative has continued its locally based activities and continues to operate as a knowledge hub for the community of practice working on climate security through its website, events and online activities.

Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for the Netherlands, in conversation with Mbaranga Gasarabwe, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG), UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mali.

Event with EcoPeace on climate actions in the Middle East

Together with EcoPeace our Planetary Security Initiative organised a public debate in Amsterdam (De Balie, July 2019) on how Jordan, Palestine and Israel are aiming to solve climate issues together, despite their political and religious issues.