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MSC 2024: Leaders discuss future of European Union

Published February 18, 2024last updated February 18, 2024

On the final day of the Munich Security Conference, participants discussed the enlargement of the European Union and the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olha Stefanishyna, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and French Diplomatic Advisor Emmanuel Bonne speak about EU enlargement on day 3 of the MSC
Several European officials and the president of Georgia took part in an MSC panel titled: "Adding Chairs to the Table: A Deeper, Wider, and More Capable EU?" Image: Matthias Schrader/AP/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Leaders discuss European Union geopolitical goals
  • MSC participants focus on the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations
  • Putin critic tells DW that Navalny's death will 'repress the Russian people'
  • Georgia's president tells DW her country is unwavering in support of EU accession

This live blog is now closed, for more coverage of the Munich Security Conference, click here.

Skip next section Lithuanian foreign minister 'returning from Munich a bit gloomy'
February 18, 2024

Lithuanian foreign minister 'returning from Munich a bit gloomy'

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis noted after the Munich Security Conference how he had been asked "why I am so gloomy." 

"It is good practice to evaluate things honestly — with all their gloominess," he said. "Ukraine is starved of ammunition and forced to pull back, Europe is facing challenges which might test Article 5 [the NATO mutual defense pledge], and global instability emerges because autocrats are emboldened by Russia's action and our cautious response. This is not pessimism. This is fact." 

The Baltic politician, whose country borders Russian ally Belarus and Russia's Kaliningrad oblast, warned that, "baseless optimism is a form of self-deception, it is demobilizing us." 

Baltic States - How NATO is preparing to resist

Landsbergis wrote that he had "no doubt that the West has the capacity to help Ukraine win this war" and that there was no doubt that Russia's industrial capacity was no match for a united West. 

"We don't lack capacity, we lack the political will and urgency necessary to support Ukraine and maintain our collective security," he said. "Russia, on the other hand, has the will to destroy Ukraine and reestablish the Russian Empire. When will we start using our capacity to deter this?" 

He argued that the meeting in Munich should have focused more on what still needs to change rather than what has changed since Russia's 2022 invasion. 

"Strategically the goal should be to change Putin's calculations. Disrupt the field. I know it's not easy, but it is better to admit mistakes and chart a new path forward, rather than to engage in empty self-congratulation. So yes, I am returning from Munich a bit gloomy," he concluded.

Skip next section What next in Gaza, DW panel discusses possibilities at MSC
February 18, 2024

What next in Gaza, DW panel discusses possibilities at MSC

On the last day of the Munch Security Conference DW's Conflict Zone hosted a meeting titled "Peace in Pieces" with several world leaders looking at what comes next in the conflict in Gaza.

The panelists were Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, former Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares Bueno, and Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly.

Conflict Zone will only air on DW TV later this week, but users can watch the entire one-hour discussion chaired by Sarah Kelly online already.

Skip next section Europe still behind in long-term defense spending, analyst tells DW
February 18, 2024

Europe still behind in long-term defense spending, analyst tells DW

Europe still needs to spend more on defense despite German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's promise to meet NATO's target of 2% of gross domestic product (GDP), Ulrike Franke, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told DW on Sunday.

Franke was speaking on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference a day after Scholz made the spending commitment "in the 2020s, in the 2030s and beyond."

"It feels like we're still coming up short," she said. "The Europeans need to come together. They need to continue to ensure Ukraine's defense and also build up their own capabilities, take advantage of economies of scale and work together rather than finger point [about who is spending more]."

Scholz made the 2% commitment almost two years after he gave his “Zeitenwende” or watershed speech, announcing a €100 billion ($108 billion) fund to upgrade Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr, which is separate from Germany's main defense budget.

Franke noted how the special fund had, so far, mainly been spent on F-35 fighter jets from the United States but questioned, "what happens when this fund runs out?"

The ECFR analyst said Germany had committed to many short-term measures, including weapons deliveries for Ukraine to fight back against Russia's full-scale invasion.

"But I still worry that we're not putting everything in place for the next [few] years. This is not just with regard to money but also industrial capability — producing more military equipment. It feels like we've lost at least a year if not almost two [because of the Ukraine war]."

Asked about former US President Donald Trump's threat — if he eventually wins reelection — not to aid NATO members that he thinks are spending too little on defense in the event of an attack or threat, Franke said the rhetoric was already "undermining NATO's security guarantees," whether or not the words were any indication of potential policy.

"Just him [Trump] saying these things is bad news and it could encourage an actor like Russia to test NATO, to see whether or not they [NATO members] would defend each other. This is yet another wake-up call for the Europeans that maybe in the long run we need to be able to do more things ourselves."

Skip next section Palestinian PM warns: Don't force Gazans into Egypt
February 18, 2024

Palestinian PM warns: Don't force Gazans into Egypt

Israel must not attempt to force Palestinians in Gaza across the border into Egypt, Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said.

"I know, and we know, that it has been an Israeli program to push people out of Gaza. We and the Egyptians have been working hard not to allow this to happen," Shtayyeh told delegates at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday. 

His comments come as Israel is preparing an offensive on Gaza's southern city of Rafah, which lies on the border with Egypt. An estimated 1.5 million Palestinians are now sheltering in the crowded area and senior diplomats and humanitarian agencies have spoken of their grave concerns if the offensive goes ahead. 

Several international media outlets have reported that Egypt is constructing a reception camp on its side of the border to accommodate Palestinian refugees.

Egypt building Gaza buffer zone as Rafah offensive looms

Shtayyeh also said that the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the occupied West Bank, does not maintain contacts with Hamas, which has run the Gaza Strip since 2007. The Palestinian Authority is run by the Fatah political party. 

He called for the spiral of violence to be broken and said that the Palestinian issue had to be resolved.

Shtayyeh also noted that various Palestinian groups, including Fatah and Hamas, are to meet in Moscow on Thursday at Russia's invitation.

Skip next section US Republican senator gives different perspective on Trump, NATO, Ukraine
February 18, 2024

US Republican senator gives different perspective on Trump, NATO, Ukraine

Although many attendees at the MSC urged more aid for Ukraine and expressed wariness regarding a possible second term of US President Donald Trump, Ohio Republican Senator J.D. Vance offered a different perspective on Transatlantic ties and the current situation in Europe.

Trump recently claimed that he would not protect countries in NATO that do not spend enough on defense and would "encourage" an aggressor to "do whatever the hell they want" with them.

"Obviously we love our NATO allies and I think we value the NATO alliance, and that's true across the political spectrum," Vance said at the event.

Ohio Republican Senator J.D. Vance
Vance has been floated as a possible vice presidential candidate for Trump Image: Matthias Schrader/AP/picture alliance

Vance said that Trump and conservative Republicans want Europe "to be a little bit more self-sufficient" when it comes to defense. The Ohio politician said that if Europe believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is an "existential threat." then key EU players like Germany would have "have to step up."

As a $60 billion (€55.6 billion) aid package for Ukraine remains stalled in the US Republican-majority House of Representatives, Vance said during a MSC panel discussion that the assistance would not "fundamentally change the reality" of the wartime situation. 

He argued that the main problem in Ukraine was "that there's no clear end point," while adding that the US doesn't manufacture enough weapons and ammunition to back wartime efforts in Europe, the Middle East and "potentially contingency in East Asia."

"Can we send the level of weaponry we've sent for the last 18 months?" Vance asked, regarding US support for Ukraine. "We simply cannot. No matter how many checks the US Congress write, we are limited there." 

Vance said "what's reasonable to accomplish is some negotiated peace."

Attendees at the MSC have criticized Vance's point of view, saying peace talks at the moment could lead to Russia solidifying its gains over Ukraine since it started in the war in February 2022.

J. D. Vance, Richard Lang, David Lammy, and Priyanka Chaturvedi take part in an MSC dialogue called: "Figuring Out Relationship Goals: The EU and Its Partners"
German Greens politician Ricarda Lang was skeptical of J.D. Vance's stances regarding a negotiated peace in UkraineImage: Michaela Stache/MSC

German politician Ricarda Lang, the co-chair of the environmentalist Greens, rebuked Vance's point, saying Putin "has no interest in peace at the moment."

If Putin is victorious, Lang said, "he, but also other forces like China, are going to learn that it's possible to just change borders and that NATO is not going to hold it against us." She said this would have negative consequences not only for the EU, but also the US.   

Skip next section Russia expert: Navalny's memory must be 'kept alive' in Europe
February 18, 2024

Russia expert: Navalny's memory must be 'kept alive' in Europe

Ekaterina Schulmann, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin, told DW that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's memory should be "kept alive" in Europe.

"Many people present here at the Munich Security Conference know Alexei Navalny personally, he was a presence in the life of many for the last 15 years at least," Schulmann said, describing the initial reaction to his death as 'chilling."

"What further decisions will be made after more cold deliberation, I, of course, do not know, Schulmann said. "But I do think that his, at least his memory ought to be memorialized. At least it ought to be kept alive in perhaps the names of streets or public places in European capitals."

"And I have had suggestions coming to me from Russia that they ought to be a memorial at Charite, the hospital in Berlin where he was convalescing after his initial poisoning, Because unfortunately now we have reasons to suppose that he was poisoned a second time," she added.

Will Navalny's fate rally the Russian opposition?

Schulmann also described Navalny as a person and what his loss means for the Russian opposition movement against Vladimir Putin. The Russia expert said Navalny "could talk to various social stratas."

"He had the talent of addressing different people. He was not just an idol of the urban youth. He could communicate with very diverse types of people," Schulmann said. "He had the gift of language and he had his highly appealing personality. No one else can be put on the same level as him."

Although Navalny's death is a loss for the Russian opposition, Schulmann said there is social demand for leadership against Putin.

"We know that demand for an alternative, for another type of future, for any sort of future that the present Russian regime is denying its people, is huge," Schulmann maintained.

Skip next section German Chief of Defense Breuer to DW: Ukraine's Avdiivka retreat 'absolutely correct'
February 18, 2024

German Chief of Defense Breuer to DW: Ukraine's Avdiivka retreat 'absolutely correct'

German's top military official, General Carsten Breuer, told DW that he believes Ukraine's decision to retreat from the key town of Avdiivka is "absolutely correct." Breuer gave his opinion on the matter after just having visited Ukraine.   

"What I experienced during my visit last week were soldiers who are tired, but steadfast. I met a new commander-in-chief who has a plan, who knows where he wants to go and is now putting this plan into action," Breuer said, referring to Oleksandr Syrskyi.

"I believe what we saw in Avdiivka was resolute decision-making to save personnel and I think this was absolutely correct." Breuer said.

Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskyy recently installed Oleksandr Syrskyi as commander-in-chief, replacing General Valery Zaluzhny after a stalled counteroffensive against Russia. 

Skip next section Georgia's president tells DW: Black Sea region essential for European security
February 18, 2024

Georgia's president tells DW: Black Sea region essential for European security

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili speaking to DW Chief Political Editor Michaela Küfner
Georgia's president urged Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and her countryImage: Zura Karaulashvili/DW

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili spoke to DW about her country's EU ambitions and its solidarity with Ukraine following Russia's invasion.

Zourabichvili praised EU leaders for reaching a deal on a €50 billion Ukraine aid package and said she was "confident" that the US Congress will also pass additional aid for Kyiv.   

The Georgian leader spoke about her country's position on the Black Sea, calling the body of water "our vital connection to Europe."

"The security of the Black Sea is the security of Europe. And that's what is at stake with Crimea, with Ukraine, with Georgia, with now the plans of Russia to build a military base on the Black Sea," she said. 

Zourabichvili was also asked about the internal political battles in Georgia regarding accession to the EU. 

What are Georgia's chances of joining the EU?

"Well, like any country, there are internal political battles. But what is very important to know outside of Georgia is this has the full consensus of the Georgian people and this has been the case for the last 30 years since our independence," Zourabichvili said, while adding that this has not changed despite Russia's invasion and occuption of Georgian territories in 2008. 

In regards to the future, Zourabichvili said that the "best outcome is Russia having to retreat on its own territory, learn that it has borders like any other nation in the world and respect its neighbors. That means that it releases the occupied territories and we are becoming a member of the European Union. That the best and the only outcome I can think about."   

Skip next section Navalny's killing will 'repress the Russian people,' Putin critic tells DW
February 18, 2024

Navalny's killing will 'repress the Russian people,' Putin critic tells DW

Bill Browder, the American-born British co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management and an adamant critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, spoke to DW at the MSC regarding the death of Alexei Navalny

The death of the Russian opposition leader has been confirmed by Navalny's allies, but they say the Russian government is refusing to hand over his body.  

Bill Browder: 'We're terrified for Kara-Murza's safety'

Browder asserted that "Putin killed Alexei Navalny" and the "purpose of this murder is to send a message to anybody in Russia who's even thinking about Vladimir Putin that if you challenge Vladimir Putin, you will be killed." 

"And that message I believe is an extremely strong message because Alexei Navalny was such a larger than life bigger figure and to take the biggest person and take him down I think is absolutely going to suppress and repress the Russian people, sadly," he continued. 

Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy had said it was no coincidence that Navalny's death was announced shortly before the MSC kicked off on Friday. Browder said that the news of Navalny's death before the event was Putin's way "to effectively troll the entire world."

"Even though he's not in person, along with his entourage, by killing Alexei Navalny, Putin is in the head of every single person at this conference all through the weekend," Browder said.     

Navalny joins long line of Putin critics who died early

When asked about those at the MSC who believe there is a way to negotiate with Putin to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Browder rejected the idea. 

"Putin has made it clear that there's no negotiation, and that he has no capacity to compromise, to seek peace. Putin is a warmonger," Browder said. 

Browder also said he worried about the fate of his close friend, Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been handed a 25-year prison sentence. 

"Alexei Navalny has now been killed and Vladimir Kara-Murza is probably next on the block," Browder said. "We're terrified for his safety and for his well-being and one of the main topics of the conference for me here is to work with Western leaders to try to figure out a way to free Vladimir Kura-Murza so he doesn't end up dead like Alexei Navalny did." 

Browder, as a Putin critic, also expressed concerns for his own safety: "It's a very dangerous place for people like me and anybody who opposes Putin in Russia or anywhere in the world, unfortunately." 

Skip next section Munich Security Conference looks to the future of Europe
February 18, 2024

Munich Security Conference looks to the future of Europe

Enlargement and the geopolitical goals of the European Union, as well as the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations, will be debated on the final day of the Munich Security Conference.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will participate in a discussion on the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The benefits of EU enlargement will be discussed by Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna, and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell and Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina will participate in a panel discussion on the European Union's next geopolitical agenda.

The conference will conclude with a discussion on the next 60 years in geopolitics, featuring Finland's President-elect Alexander Stubb.

Skip next section What happened at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday
February 18, 2024

What happened at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Europe must strengthen its ability to defend itself to deter would-be aggressors regardless of who wins the upcoming US elections or how the war in Ukraine turns out.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on his country's supporters to step up efforts against Russian aggression and President Vladimir Putin.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, called for the United States to deliver "what they have promised" to Ukraine.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his country will remain a "force for stability" amid conflicts around the world.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan met on Saturday with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and sought to continue working towards peace in the Caucasus region.    

dh/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)