On 24 August, La Tribune reported that France and Italy agreed on proposing to Germany Rome’s inclusion, represented by Leonardo, a prominent Italian defence company, in the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) programme (Cabirol, 2023). The MGCS aims to develop a future land warfare system that includes a Main Battle Tank (MBT) around 2040 (Oestergaard, 2021). This news was unsurprising since Italian participation had already been envisaged (Valpolini, 2020; Arivella & Moran, 2022). Until now, Paris has opposed the inclusion of other states. However, this move reflects an effort to restore balance in the initiative’s power dynamics, taking advantage of the fruitful history of Franco-Italian defence industrial cooperation (Defence Industry Europe, 2023; Meta Défense, 2023).
The term was first adopted in the European Commission’s Communication Towards a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector of 2013, whereby a ‘certain degree of strategic autonomy’ is necessary ‘to be a credible and reliable partner’ (European Commission, 2013, p. 3). The Communication posits that ‘Europe must be able to decide and to act without depending on the capabilities of third parties’ (European Commission, 2013, p. 3). Special notice is given to the security of supply, access to critical technologies and operational sovereignty (European Commission, 2013, p. 3).
Unmanned systems have become indispensable in both civilian and military contexts, playing a crucial role in the contemporary operational landscape. These systems have the potential to transform the way military operations are conducted, offering improved efficiency, reduced risks to human personnel and enhanced collaborative capabilities. Nevertheless, realising their full potential requires overcoming interoperability challenges to enable diverse unmanned platforms to work together effectively when integrated within a mission operation network. The European endeavour to tackle this challenge is pursued through the Interoperability Standards for Unmanned Armed Forces Systems (INTERACT) project, aiming at developing a common basis for a European interoperability standard to enhance military operation capability. This Info Flash explores the growing capabilities of unmanned systems in military operations and delves into the complex challenge of interoperability, highlighting the role of the European INTERACT project in enhancing the efficiency and cooperation capabilities of European armed forces.
Since his last public appearance during a diplomatic meeting alongside Sri Lankan and Vietnamese foreign ministers in Beijing on 25 June, Qin Gang, the then Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs, has vanished from the public eye (Le Monde, 2023). This unexpected turn of events has triggered a surge of inquiries within the global political landscape. Curiously, his disappearance has been followed by a sequence of intriguing developments, including his abrupt removal from the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs and the subsequent appointment of Wang Yi, his predecessor, as his replacement (Ng, 2023). China’s response to the unfolding situation has been characterised by attempts to downplay the affair’s significance. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning addressed the matter during a routine press briefing in Beijing, dismissing the speculations surrounding Qin Gang’s absence as ‘malicious conjecture’ and asserting that pertinent information would be revealed in due course (France 24, 2023). Nevertheless, key details about Qin Gang’s current status and the rationale behind his dismissal from office remain ambiguous. Notably, a conspicuous omission of more than 20 queries concerning Qin Gang from the official press conference records has raised legitimate questions (Davidson, 2023).
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenian-Azeri ethnic tensions in the South Caucasus have severely escalated. This culminated in the First Karabakh War between 1988 and 1994, where Armenia prevailed (RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 2006). The war concluded without a formal peace agreement and Armenia took control of border territories internationally acknowledged as Azerbaijani (Mulcaire, 2015). This included Nagorno-Karabakh, a region within Azerbaijan inhabited by an ethnically Armenian population that has historically been governed by an autonomous Armenian administration (RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, 2006). This region has been the focal point of the recent conflict. This Info Flash will examine the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani border crises, which especially affects the welfare and human rights of the Nagorno-Karabakh region’s population. It will discuss the complex alliances and balance of forces in the South Caucasus. This is essential to understanding the European Union Mission in Armenia (EUMA), an ongoing EU operation seeking to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the crisis.