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Podcast Episode 12
Host: Hello, my name is Claire Heffron and welcome to this episode of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy podcast on the latest issues, advancing peace, security and international cooperation.
Host: Britain has left the EU, what happens now? We will be discussing the UK post-Brexit with Dr Jamie Shea, Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of Exeter, UK and Associate Fellow with the GCSP’s Global Fellowship Initiative and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for the Emerging Security Challenges of NATO. And as a volatile political situation in Central Africa creates obstacles in the region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s women are now key to lasting peace. As we mark International Women’s Day on 8 March we spoke to women’s activist Julienne Lusenge, a Congolese human rights activist, recognised for advocating for survivors of wartime sexual violence, as well as a former GCSP Executive-in-Residence Fellow with the Global Fellowship Initiative.
Host: Brexit is expected to affect the conditions of European security cooperation. Many questions remain open. What impact would the withdrawal from the EU of a Security Council Member, nuclear power and leading international donor have on the EU’s role as a security actor? Earlier we had the chance to speak to Dr Jamie Shea, Associate Fellow with the GCSP’s Global Fellowship Initiative and Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK. Firstly, where is Britain at the moment now it has left the EU?
Dr Jamie Shea: The UK’s still going through the transition period which lasts a year. So if you're a normal citizen, going backwards and forwards between Europe and the UK, although the UK geographically of course is still part of Europe, nothing has changed or won't change until December. At the same time, the real debate is now starting, which is not on how we leave the EU. That's done. But how do we re engage with the EU in terms of the future relationship? Those talks will start in March. They have to finish by the end of the year. So they're going to be pretty intense. And the real question, of course, is what kind of final Brexit outcome are we going to have? Is it going to be a hard Brexit where the UK turns his back on Europe and tries to find a new relationship with the rest of the world? Or will economic and other sorts of interests prevail and the UK will decide that its interests live with the closest possible association with European trade in defence and security and, frankly, the jury's still out on that because it's all going to come out of the negotiations. And as you can imagine, the UK is still very much divided between Remainers and Brexiteers. The Brexiteers, of course are hoping for a minimal relationship with Brussels, which will leave the UK fully free as they see it to form new relations with the rest of the world. The Remain camp is hoping again the economic interests, security interest will prevail. And as negotiations proceed, there'll be more realism in the UK. And we'll end up with something like Norway or something like Switzerland. Not membership, but still a very, very close working relationship. Let's see, ask me this question in one year.
Host: Britain’s withdrawal from the EU raises questions about the future of EU-UK security cooperation. Can you tell us more?
Dr Jamie Shea: Well, for the time being, as the UK likes to say it's leaving the EU but it's not leaving Europe and therefore not much is going to change from one day to the next. The UK, obviously is still remaining in NATO, which is very popular in the UK. In fact, at a time when NATO's popularity has gone down in a number of countries including the United States. Interestingly, it's gone up in the UK because clearly it's the only game in town now for UK security. So the UK is doubling down on NATO and has an interest of course in keeping the Americans involved in NATO, and in maintaining NATO is the most important organisation that it possibly can. The more important NATO is, the more important the UK security role in Europe becomes, the more influence the UK will have. At the same time, the UK is aware that the EU is ramping up its defence efforts because of Brexit, yes, but also because of the doubts about the American commitment. Does President Trump really believe in defending Europe obviously, a great power competition from Russia, China, and in Brussels on the non-NATO side of town, the EU side of town, there's a lot of activity at the moment, a lot of technical jargon PESCO European Defence Fund, coordinated annual review of European defence but it all means pooling and sharing European capabilities more to have a more integrated European effort with a defence industrial policy. Lots of new acquisition programmes, lots of more money being spent. And so the UK faces a difficult choice. Does it just put all of its eggs in the NATO basket? Or does it sort of believe that something's going to happen with European defence, and even if the UK is not a EU member any longer nonetheless, as a very close neighbor, it should somehow rather participate in some of these programmes, because it may want to join the French and Africa, it may want to join the Italians in Libya, it may want to help out between Greece and Turkey in the Mediterranean. And because also, the British defence industry, you know, Britain has got a lot of big defence contractors that you know, they want a slice of the pie when it comes to the research and development and some of the new capability programs. So, again, ask me that question in a year, and we'll see if it's just NATO, or if the UK is also interested in some of these European defence efforts, as well.
Dr Jamie Shea: The UK talks about resurrecting global Britain, I know personally, I'd...if we can go back to the British Empire in the 19th century, I think, thank God. And I think the rest of the world will believe that as well that those days of empire covering 25% of the land surface of the world, those days are over. And so Britain will have to carefully pick and choose its partners according to its economic and security interests. Obviously, the United States will be a key partner, because the UK traditionally, you think of Afghanistan, Iraq, has worked closely on everything with the United States but if the US is now focusing on the Asia Pacific, rather than on Europe, will the UK really see its interest in going along with the US to put all of its aircraft carriers and frigates in Asia? I'm not so certain, particularly when you look at lots of contemporary issues like you know, buying Huawei technology, whether you support the nuclear deal or on Iran, and the UK is siding more with the Europeans than with the United States. So let's see if it can have a hold on US policy. Of course, there are important, you know, Commonwealth countries, one thinks of India, one thinks of Australia, one thinks of New Zealand and I think the UK obviously will want secure economic relationships with them. But whether the UK is really prepared to take on a role in their security, I'm not so sure. I mean, my own view for whatever it's worth is that the global Britain bubble will be burst rather quickly, and we’ll recognise that on the core issues, you know, Africa, the Middle East, terrorism, the illegal migration, organised crime, all of these kinds of things. You know, we face exactly the same problems as our French neighbours, just 20 miles across the channel. And even if we're not in the EU, we should be part of the overall European effort to secure the European neighbourhood. You know, it's no good going global if your immediate neighbourhood is on fire, and if you've got hundreds of illegal immigrants arriving at your shores every day of the week.
Host: What key questions were established with today's meeting at the GCSP?
Dr Jamie Shea: I certainly think that they see the UK is still a major actor, which is reassuring in a kind of way. Because yes, it is the, you know, the sixth largest economy in the world. It's a member of the UN Security Council. It's a nuclear power, it does have you know, beyond the EU, we mentioned the Commonwealth, lots of old links, even if maybe they're not as strong as they were in the days of the British Empire, the special relationship with the United States with many other countries of the world. So I think there is a real concern that, you know, Brexit doesn't sort of harm the ability of the UK and the US and Europe to work together productively, in terms of stability. You think of Africa, you think of the Middle East, you think of the conflict in Ukraine at the moment you think of dealing with terrorism, and all of these kind of things, and somehow it's all going to have a happy end or a softer landing, but I think they're also aware that the UK is sort of moving into a totally unknown destination and one question And that did come up is the impact on the British economy and whether the UK in the future will have the economic base and the finance to sustain all of these great ambitions, but also whether the Europeans will be able without the UK and you know, the 25% of military capabilities that the UK brings to Europe to really develop their own sort of European defence union, by themselves. You know, a lot of people said to me, you know, well, you know, the Europeans often blame the UK in the past for lack of progress on European defence, because the Brits didn't really support that. But you know, now that the UK is gone, will they really together have the political will to move forward? Or was the UK simply a convenient alibi for European defence that they also didn't really believe in. And so to some degree, this is going to be the moment of truth not just for the UK, but for the desire of the Europeans to push to a closer defense Union as well.
Host: Women have suffered the most as a result of conflict in the DRC and surrounding region. However, their voices are now heard. We talked with Julienne Lusenge, who outraged by the sexual violence against women in nd her country, established Female Solidarity Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI). She's also director of the Congolese women's fund, as well as a former GCSP Executive-in-Residence Fellow with the Global Fellowship Initiative. Firstly, what is SOFEPADI do?
Julienne Lusenge: We work to promote and defend women's rights, but it's not easy because the war is still going on. And when militia come to the city or the village, they rape women, even if they stand up and the beginning to do some activities. When the militia come or if RDC the Congolese Army come into the village to fight the group army, they rape women, they kill people. And it's not easy when we need that international community to help to restore peace in the DRC. We can really change the situation and stop rape in the DRC. Another challenge is the peace process. We agree that the international community, the UN, accompanies DRC to try to restore peace, but it's not enough.
Host: What are the challenges?
Julienne Lusenge: Sometimes, we don't understand why it takes more time, that is a very big challenge we have. And we need support, financial support, I go to the different meetings, the high level meetings. People say we need to support the grassroots to change the situation of women, they have these objectives, they say, for 2030. They say we need to support them but they don't change their policies, because all governments don't accept giving money to small groups in the grassroots, they only give to the international NGO to do their job.
Host: What are the goals thinking ahead?
Julienne Lusenge: In my country, people understand that. Finally, it's a business because they cannot change our situation. We are the ones who know the causes. We are the one who can change, who have the solution. And we are the ones who can speak to the leaders, traditional leaders, to change our situation. But if they don't accept to support this work, we cannot get to the solution and be able to attend this objective.
Host: Well, that's all for today's podcast for the GCSP. Thanks for listening and thank you to Dr Jamie Shea for joining us, along with Julienne Lusenge. Join us again next week to hear all the latest insights on international peace and security. Make sure you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Until then, bye for now.