Photo : Dato Parulava/POLITICO
24 January 2022, Monday | NIAS Europe Daily Brief #106
By Harini Madhusudan
The Artemis Accords: Europe’s Dilemma
On 04 January, an opinion in the POLITICO discussed the American push to get its allies on board with the Artemis Accords. Though a sizeable number of European Space Powers signed the Accords, France and Germany have kept away.
While the US has been working with Paris and Berlin to increase cooperation on Outer Space, hoping to rope France and Germany into the Accords, the two countries do not seem convinced with the text. This lobbying is seen in the context of the US Space Race with China. Both Russia and China have also raised similar concerns about the accords and have declined to be a formal part of the Artemis Accords. The primary reason being, the Artemis Accords legally seeks to override the principles of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Countries like Luxembourg have willingly participated in the Accords for the same reason, the intent to exploit the Lunar resources.
Artemis Accords: A Brief Note
The Trump administration introduced the Artemis Accords in 2020, with an objective to take humans back to the moon and to establish a permanent presence on the celestial surface. On 23 January, Israel became the fifteenth country to announce its participation with the Artemis Accords. The US allies have been asked to sign the 18-page document to gain access to NASA’s Artemis program that has outlined the course of human activities for the lunar surface in the upcoming decade. The signatories include Italy, the UK, Luxembourg, Australia, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and Israel.
First Dilemma: Artemis 2020 vs. OST 1967
Though the accords do not constitute any form of international law yet, there are clauses in the accords that override the norms of the Outer Space Treaty, and since the accords are bilaterally signed, they could cause legal issues in the future. Separately, there is also a fighting perspective among these countries of the need to ally with the US ambitions in Space. The Outer Space Treaty has in-place laws regarding ownership, liability, and sovereignty, which the Artemis Accords aims to flesh out. The text of the accords asks the signatory countries to agree that "extraction of space resources does not inherently constitute national appropriation," which indicates a signal for countries and companies to use them to their advantage. These deviations from the principles of the Outer Space Treaty have placed an ethical question for European countries. Besides space mining, the accords also propose designating “safe zones”. These safe zones would necessarily give exclusive ownership access to the countries, a stark difference from the OST 1967.
Second Dilemma: Resource Exploitation
Countries like France and Germany are staunch believers of the principles of non-appropriation listed in the OST. The Accords seek to override this principle by allowing themselves to utilize the resources for commercial purposes. This would not only allow various countries to exploit lunar resources, but would allow commercial industries to take advantage. Resource exploitation would be a very serious legal problem for space-faring countries in the upcoming decades. Ideally, the signatories should have opposed this clause in the Accords, as it is not in line with the main theme of what the text stands for.
Third Dilemma: An Exclusive Role for Europe
The new government in Germany hopes to introduce a Europe-specific ‘space law,’ that would include common standards for the use of resources. Since Luxembourg, Italy, and Poland have already signed, they would remain engaged with the Accords bilaterally. Additionally, the Europeans are also technologically engaged with the Artemis program since they are building the Orion service module. France is Europe’s space powerhouse and the French space experts have a strong sentiment against the Accords. The US has also promoted the accords outside of the “normal” channels of International Law. In its right, after the restructuring of the ESA in 2019, the European side could represent their interests through the ESA while upholding the principles of the OST and not simply ally with the US. However, there would remain a divide within Europe – between the countries that have already signed the accords and the ones that await more clarity of the US intentions. In terms of collective participation, technological cooperation between the European Space Agency, and NASA would have to continue despite the European stance on the accords.
One has to see the accords as a business deal that was made to ensure the US interests are upheld in their attempts to drive back to their lunar glory of the 1960s. However, without careful negotiation, the accords would open a Pandora’s box of legal issues once countries begin to engage with the resources and seek ownership of assets and locations on the Moon. It would also be essential for space-faring countries and the European region as a whole to ensure they have a role in the decision-making, and not have to play by the rules of the US, in this case.
Ilan Fuchs, “Artemis Accords: Israel soon to become a new member,” EDGE by the American Military University, 21 January 2022.
Joshua Posaner and Giorgio Leali, “America’s new moonshot: getting Europe to sign up to its space rules,” POLITICO, 04 January 2022.
Christopher Newman, “Artemis Accords: why many countries are refusing to sign moon exploration agreement,” The Conversation, 19 October 2020.
By Ashwin Dhanabalan, Joeana Cera Matthews and Padmashree Anandhan
President Sarkissian announces resignation
On 23 January, the President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian announced his resignation claiming to have failed in influencing the domestic policy during the crisis situation. A domestic political crisis arose from the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The clash began between Sarkissian and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan during the war over removing the Chief of General Staff. Sarkissian was against the removal, but Pashinyan fearing a military coup proceeded with the removal. In Armenia, the President’s role is considered ceremonial and the Prime Minister holds the executive power to influence the processes of foreign and domestic policy. According to Sarkissian: “The president does not have the necessary tools to influence the important processes of foreign and domestic policy in difficult times for the people and the country.” (“Armenian president resigns, citing lack of powers,” Deutsche Welle, 23 January 2022; “Armenian president resigns citing 'difficult times' for nation,” France24, 23 January 2022)
Presidential Elections 2022; Parliament begins secret ballot
On 24 January, the Italian Parliament initiated its voting process to select a candidate who becomes the country's next President. On 23 January, Presidential candidate Silvio Berlusconi withdrew his name from the race for Presidency as he failed to garner enough support for his candidature. Incumbent Prime Minister Mario Draghi is currently the most prominent candidate. However, Parliament members equate Draghi’s victory with political instability in the country. Rightist League leader Matteo Salvini said: "At this difficult moment, it would be dangerous to remove Draghi from the post of prime minister." The Presidential elections in Italy are conducted via a secret ballot, which will see more than 1,000 parliamentarians and regional representatives casting their votes. The process will take up to several days as the procedure involves three rounds of voting, and each round takes a minimum of four hours. (Angelo Amante, "Italy's parliament starts voting for president in wide-open race," Reuters, 24 January 2022; Angela Giuffrida, "Secret ballot to elect president of Italy begins as Berlusconi drops out," The Guardian, 23 January 2022; "Italy: Silvio Berlusconi drops presidential bid," Deutsche Welle, 22 January 2022)
Ukraine and the UK accuses Russia’s plan to position former Ukraine minister
On 23 January, the Foreign Office of Russia planned to name the former Ukrainian minister Yevhen Murayev as a probable candidate for Ukrainian government. Upon which the UK government accused Russia’s plan and warned that it shall face serious consequences if it invades Ukraine. The UK intelligence found out the backend attempts of the Russian intelligence officers in contacting former Ukrainian leaders to take charge of Ukraine after a planned attack. While Russia has denied the allegations stating it as “disinformation.” Ukraine and the Western powers have objected to the act of Russia. (“Russia-Ukraine tensions: UK warns of plot to install pro-Moscow ally,” BBC, 23 January 2022; “Ukrainian politician mocks 'stupid' UK claims,” Reuters, 23 January 2022)
Ukraine: German Vice-Admiral resigns after remarks on Putin and Crimea
On 22 January, German Navy Chief Kay-Achim Schönbach resigned following his remarks of Putin “deserving respect” and Crimea being lost forever. The Vice-Admiral, addressing India’s Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, understated the possibility of a Russian invasion. Although the German government declined from an official statement, it distanced itself from Schönbach’s comment. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador as Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba asked Germany to “stop undermining unity” provoking a “new attack” from the Kremlin. Later, Schönbach released an apology and clarified that the statement was a personal remark and “in no way reflect the official position of the defense ministry”. The Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht is said to have accepted Schönbach’s resignation. The Ukrainians are disappointed in Germany blocking Estonian attempts to provide weapons while refusing to send any themselves; they have, however, offered a field hospital. (“German navy chief Schönbach resigns over comments on Putin, Crimea,” Deutsche Welle, 22 January 2022; Philip Oltermann, “German navy chief quits after saying Putin deserves respect over Ukraine,” The Guardian, 23 January 2022; “German navy chief resigns over Ukraine comments,” BBC, 24 January 2022)
Belgium: Protests against COVID-19 measures near EU institutions in Brussels
On 23 January, Belgium experienced violent protests against COVID-19 restrictions on the streets of the Brussels. The capital saw 50,000 people taking to the streets to protest against the measures; the demonstrations were organized by a network involving Europeans United for Freedom and other groups. The police used tear gas and water cannons to control the protestors near the EU institutional area as protestors threw objects at the officers and even charged at them. The demonstrators lit an escalator on fire and shattered the exterior glass of the European External Action Service office. Three officers and 12 protestors were injured while 70 people were detained. Chairman of Europeans United for Freedom group Tom Meert said: "We do not deny that there are diseases. Our arguments would be the same in the case of a natural disaster or any other crisis: a country's policies must be deliberate and founded on the principles of the democratic rule of law." (Pietro Lombardi, "Rioters fight Brussels police, smash headquarters of EU foreign service," POLITICO, 23 January 2022; Johnny Cotton, "Belgian police fire water cannon, tear gas during COVID curbs protest," Reuters, 24 January 2022)
The Vatican City: Pope Francis encourages women's role in the diocese
On 23 January, Pope Francis recognized the role of women in Catholic ministries by conferring them with the functions of lector and catechist. The conferring happened at a mass in St. Peter's Basilica. Reuters reported: "The ministries of lector and acolyte existed before but were officially reserved to men. Francis instituted the ministry of the catechist last year." Pope Francis' actions came as a reference for change as, over the years, conservatives have used rules and rigid regulations to block women in their dioceses and from taking up those roles. However, the Vatican also emphasized that this would not lead to women becoming priests and justified it by saying that Jesus only chose men as his apostles. Pope Francis has played a vital role in appointing women to senior positions in the Vatican departments. Pope Francis’ initiative has also encouraged women's role in the Amazon region where there is a shortage of priests. (Philip Pullella, "Pope confers lay ministries on women, formalising recognition of roles," Reuters, 23 January 2022)
Ukraine: US State Department asks diplomats’ families to leave Kyiv; issues travel advisory
On 23 January, the US State Department asked families of US diplomats residing in Kyiv to begin leaving the capital. Releasing a travel advisory on its website, the State Department cautioned against travelling to Ukraine given the “increased threats of Russian military action” along with COVID-19. A voluntary departure for embassy employees, funded by the US government, has also been arranged. The Department officials clarified that the move was not an evacuation and that the embassy would continue functioning with the Charge d'Affaires Kristina Kvien staying back. Nonetheless, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called the move “premature and a manifestation of excessive caution”. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov extended gratitude to the US for its USD 200 million worth of defense aid that reached the country. (“US orders families of Kyiv embassy staff to leave Ukraine,” Deutsche Welle, 23 January 2022; Jem Bartholomew, “US embassy in Ukraine 'requests staff evacuation' amid war fears,” The Guardian, 22 January 2022; “Ukraine receives second batch of US weapons in Russian stand-off,” Reuters, 24 January 2022; David Shepardson and Paul Sandle, “US tells diplomats' families to leave Ukraine, weighs troop options,” Reuters, 24 January 2022)
Norway: Taliban delegation in Oslo begins talks with Afghan civil society members
On 23 January, the Norway Foreign Ministry announced an all-male 15-member Taliban delegation to have begun talks with Afghan civil society members in Oslo. Focused on human rights, the talks are a precursor to meetings set with Western leaders. Following the talks, a Taliban official commented that the meetings were an effort to “legitimize the Afghan government”. He added: “This type of invitation and communication will help the European community, the US or many other countries to erase the wrong picture of the Afghan government.” An activist attending the meeting expressed that the meeting resulted in a positive outcome with the Taliban “patiently” listening to their concerns. However, multiple protests related to the event were seen in Norway, London and Toronto. (“Afghanistan: Taliban envoys start talks in Norway,” Deutsche Welle, 23 January 2022)
Germany: Israel’s Cabinet orders State Commission to look into corruption case in naval vessel purchase
On 23 January, Israel’s Cabinet ordered an investigation into a corruption case in the purchase of submarines and warships from Germany. So far, Israel has purchased naval vessels worth EUR 1.76 billion from Germany between 2009 and 2016. Those close to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are suspected to be involved in the submarine affair, which is known as Case 3000 in Israel. Netanyahu has called it the most serious corruption scandal in the country’s history. The investigation has been handed over to the State Commission, which will focus on the procurement and not investigate the defendants. (“Israel to probe purchase of German submarines under Netanyahu,” Deutsche Welle, 23 January 2022)