The EU spy chief’s José Casimiro Morgado’s plans to travel to Taiwan were leaked… but why?

The EU spy chief’s José Casimiro Morgado’s plans to travel to Taiwan were leaked… but why?

The one year anniversary of the coup in Sudan could turn violent

Hi there Intriguer. Breathe easy – Tico the manatee (an endangered species in Brazil) was found and rescued after he embarked on a two-month jaunt along the South American coast. Tico left the shallow waters of his native Brazil and swam to Venezuelan shores some 4,000 km from home, setting records for distance travelled, and heart rates of manatee conservationists spiked.

Today’s briefing is a ~5 min read:

  • 🛫 EU-Asia relations: Spy chief’s travel plans leaked.
  • + Plus: Protests intensify in Sudan, OPEC+ cuts oil production quotas, and Iran joins the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Our take: During our research, we noticed a divide between how Western newspapers and ‘non-Western’ newspapers covered the Xi-Putin meeting in Uzbekistan yesterday. Western newspapers focused on Xi’s apparent dissatisfaction with Putin’s war in Ukraine, while many papers in Central Asia, Africa, and Latin America focused on the strength of the Russia-China relationship, other elements of the summit, or didn’t cover it at all.

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EU intelligence chief reconsiders his travel plans

In brief:

  • Europe’s chief intelligence officer cancelled his upcoming visit to Taiwan after his travel plans were leaked to Chinese officials.
  • The EU denied the trip was ever planned, probably because it is keen to walk that familiar tightrope of avoiding angering China while showing support for Taiwan.

The EU denied its spy chief ever had plans to travel to Taiwan. Source: Giphy

Best laid plans that were never planned

According to a report by Politico, José Casimiro Morgado, the Director of the European Union Intelligence and Situation Centre, cancelled a visit to Taiwan after his travel plans were ‘leaked’.

  • Once the cat was out of the diplomatic bag, China applied pressure to make sure Morgado’s visit was called off.

The EU’s approach to Taiwan can be described as cautious but warming.

  • While the EU does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, 15 member states have established ‘representative offices’ in Taipei. The EU is also Taiwan’s biggest foreign investor.

As with so many countries, the EU’s main interest in Taiwan is semiconductors (apart from democracy, of course). Janka Oertel, Director of the Asia Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, explains:

“The realization [by the EU] of Taiwan’s central role in semiconductor supplies, coupled with acknowledging the heightened geopolitical tensions and weaponization of trade, have made European governments care more about developments in the Taiwan Strait.”

Two points of concern

If the events disclosed by Politico are true – and here, we’re contractually obligated to tell you an EU official has denied the very existence of the trip – there are two important questions to consider:

1. How did China or others find out about the trip? 

According to the sources cited by Politico, the information was leaked, although it isn’t clear whether it was given up by an insider, or if China played a more proactive role in obtaining it.

  • In the world of diplomacy, secrets can find their way into the light for all sorts of reasons. In this case, China expert Bill Bishop thinks a “leak from the Taiwan side [is] as or more likely than a leak from the EU side”.

Perhaps some Taiwanese officials didn’t fancy another high-level visit and thought it best to keep a low profile following the cross-strait tensions of the past months.

2. Why didn’t Morgado pull a Nancy Pelosi and go anyway?

The short answer is that China raised the costs of the visit beyond what the EU was willing to pay.

The EU is eager to avoid confrontation with China despite their deteriorating relationship – after all, the EU has to adequately represent the foreign policy of 27 different states.

Put simply, the EU has enough on its hands without adding a diplomatic crisis with China.

Taking a stand

Not everyone is happy with Brussel’s (alleged) caution. Geopolitical analyst Mathieu Duchâtel criticised Morgado’s decision: “Cancelling such a visit after a leak is losing twice, in the eyes of Beijing and in the eyes of Taipei.”

To Duchâtel‘s point, it could be argued that it was precisely because Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan plans became public knowledge that she felt compelled to go through with them. Better to risk tensions than to be seen being bullied.

That dynamic isn’t lost on the EU – they’re aware they’ll need to address the issue more convincingly.

  • During a session on EU-Taiwan relations earlier this week, chief diplomat Josep Borrell conceded that “the tensions in the Strait will not go away. The reunification with Taiwan is now […] a priority.”

So, no EU spy chief visit for now, but don’t be surprised if there is a senior EU visit to Taiwan in the not-too-distant future.

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Africa & the Middle East

🇪🇬 Egypt

The US will withhold $130M worth of military aid to Egypt due to its failure to fulfil its promises to improve human rights conditions.

  • That might seem like a lot, but Egypt will still receive $170M worth of military aid for spending in the worryingly vague category of ‘counterterrorism measures’.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that Egypt had made some progress on human rights issues, including political detentions and due process.

🇮🇷 Iran

Iran has signed a Memorandum of Obligations to become a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a Eurasian political, economic and security organisation.

  • Welcoming Iran into the fold gives Iran some breathing space to avert Western sanctions, and strengthen ties with SCO members (including Russia and India).
  • China helped found the SCO in 2001, which lay relatively dormant for many years. But the bloc is now being used as a tool to counter Western influence across Eurasia.

🛢️ OPEC+

OPEC+ have agreed to a small cut in oil output for October’s quotas to prop up falling oil prices.

  • Russia reportedly opposed the cut because it would signal abundant supply and diminishing demand for crude oil, upon which a sizable portion of its export economy relies.
  • However, the size of the production decrease is only minor, and OPEC countries had already been underdelivering on their monthly oil quotas.

🌍 Regional

Africa is losing up to 15% of its GDP growth due to climate change, according to the African Development Bank.

  • Rising global temperatures have aggravated extreme weather events on the continent, including droughts, floods, and cyclones.
  • Africa is also facing a $1.3T climate finance gap, which will make a transition to a greener economy much more difficult.

🇺🇬 Uganda

The Ugandan government has paid the first $65M instalment of the $325M in war reparations it owes the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

  • Back in the 1990s, a series of wars led to the Ugandan military illegally occupying Congolese territory and resulted in significant economic damage to the country.
  • The International Court of Justice ruled that Uganda had violated international law by occupying parts of eastern Congo and supporting other armed groups.

Is Sudan’s military dictatorship on the way out?

People gather in Khartoum demanding justice for a killed protestor. Credits: AFP.

Unrelenting opposition: Thousands of protesters took to the streets on Tuesday to oppose Sudan’s military dictatorship and called for a return to full civilian rule.

  • Sudan has seen regular pro-democracy protests since last year’s military takeover, despite violent crackdowns. The protests will likely intensify as the coup’s anniversary nears.

Some context: The Sudanese military has often played an uncomfortably large role in the country’s politics.

  • After the 2019 coup that toppled long-time President Omar al-Bashir, Sudan settled into an awkward military-civilian system that ended up with the armed forces installing General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan at the country’s helm last October.

Going in circles: In a surprising move, Burhan hinted at the possibility of creating a new technocratic government in which the military would accept a downsized role.

  • Susan Stigant, Director of the US Institute for Peace, believes “Burhan’s address presents an opening to catalyze ongoing political dialogue, organizing and nonviolent mobilization”. 

But many remain unconvinced by the proposal, citing the military’s previous less-than-democratic behaviour.

A dire situation: Almost a quarter of the population of Sudan is believed to be suffering from acute hunger.

  • Between the ongoing food supply chain woes, the domestic political crisis, soaring inflation, and persistent drought, the country’s overall outlook has worsened considerably since last year.


🪵 A little logrolling

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