Tag Archive | "EU"

EU-Turkey Agreement: What’s the Deal?

Photo Credit: AmnestyUSA

Photo Credit: AmnestyUSA

On March 8, 2016, the European Union (EU) and Turkey reached an agreement aimed at resolving the migrant crisis, which has grown exponentially over the past several years.

Since the beginning of the conflict, a total of 9 million migrants, have fled war-torn areas such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In search of safety, most of these refugees have found a new home in neighboring countries like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. More than 1 million migrants have relocated to southern Europe, primarily Greece and Italy.

During the September 2015 meeting, EU members pledged to resettle 160,000 refugees in need of immediate protection. However, as of March 15, 2016, only 937 asylum applicants were relocated from Greece and Italy to other EU Member States.

Refugees typically arrive in Europe after crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat. The journey that the migrants take is incredibly dangerous and has already claimed thousands of lives. Despite the difficulties, an average of 2,000 to 3,000 refugees continue to arrive in Greece every day.

The EU-Turkey deal is an attempt to find a mutual solution to the crisis.

According to the agreement, which came into effect on March 20, 2016, migrants arriving in Greece after March 20, 2016 would be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their application is denied. In exchange for every returned Syrian, one legally registered Syrian refugee from Turkey may be resettled in Europe, and only up to a maximum of 72,000 refugees.  This so called “one-for-one” deal does not extend to illegal migrants. Further still, the agreement does not extend to the non-Syrian refugees who have fled the brutal violence in Afghanistan and Iraq. For these people, the route to Europe is now closed, and if they arrive in Europe illegally, they will be quickly expelled to Turkey.

Under the pact, the EU agreed to allocate €3 billion to Turkey to help finance readmission and resettlement of refugees arriving from Greece. These funds are also intended to help Turkey cope with almost 3 million Syrian refugees currently sheltered within its borders. In addition, by the end of June 2016, the EU has promised to grant Turkish citizens the right to visa-free travel within the EU’s Schengen zone. Turkey also asked the EU to reconsider its application to become an EU member state.

Even though the EU and Turkey are taking steps to ensure that the return of refugees and migrants is legal under international law norms, the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as many humanitarian organizations, are gravely concerned about the blanket application of the terms of the agreement to all individuals seeking asylum. According to the UNHCR, the terms of the agreement violate the main principles of European and international law. Specifically, refugee advocates argue that international law requires that States assess each refugee case on an individual basis. Put another way, no automatic returns are allowed.

While the details of the agreement continue to be worked out, more than 50, 000 men, women and children remain stranded at the border between Macedonia and Greece awaiting their fate to be handed down by leaders of the EU and Turkey.

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Schengen Fails Under Weight of Migrant Influx as Sovereignty Trumps

 

The migrant crisis is forcing tensions between the free-movement created by the Schengen Agreement and notions of state sovereignty.  The crisis has brought into questions of European solidarity as countries force migrants from one country to the next.  In practice the EU’s Dublin Regulation, which requires that a migrant’s asylum claim be processed in the European country where he/she first arrives, has been de facto suspended.  Some have suggested, which this author agrees with, that the Dublin Regulation needs to be completely revamped to respond to the current crisis.

Just this weekend, the Hungarian government has accused Croatia of breaching international law by failing to register migrants.  At the same time, Hungary is currently building a razor wire fence in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants into the country.  Additionally, a number of migrants who reached Austria via Hungary have told the BBC they had not been registered in Hungary either, simply driven in buses across the country and told to walk over a railway line into Austria.

Meanwhile, in the last 24 hours, Austria has seen the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants.  Migrants were sent first to Hungary by Croatia, who stated it was unable to accommodate the 20,000 plus migrants who had arrived since Wednesday. While initially welcoming them, Croatia later state said it was unable to cope, sending them to Hungary.  Hungary then turned to Austria, while accusing Croatia of breaking rules by failing to register migrants.

EU Crisis - Boheme
Migrants queue as they wait to board a regional train at the main railway station in Munich, Germany. (Reuters)

Countries like Germany, which have welcomed refugees and have offered to take in records numbers of migrants are now finding that such offerings are untenable.  In his State of the Union speech on 9 September the EU Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, called free movement under Schengen “a unique symbol of European integration”.  However, such integration is now being tested.  While Mr. Juncker called for “better joint management of our external borders and more solidarity in coping” with the influx, the reality is that few countries have demonstrated solidarity in order to find a durable solution to the crisis.

While EU nations desperately guard their sovereignty and shift the burden from one country to the next, the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Eritrea continue raging, forcing migrants to choose between enduring extremely dangerous and dire situations at home, or leaving their homes and embarking on perilous journeys towards what they hope will be safety. Illustrating the dangers many migrants face in their flee towards safety is a recent warning from Croatia of the risk of landmines if migrants venture off the main roads in border areas, where Croat and Serb forces clashed in the early 1990s. Yet many migrants are still reported to be entering Croatia across those dangerous fields in an attempt to bypass border controls.

One migrant who made it safely to Austria told the Associated Press, “I feel like I’ve been born anew. It makes no difference whether I am delayed, whether I stay here two days. The important thing is that I’ve finally arrived and that I am now finally safe.”  However, the travel options for migrants remain dangerous, with the Greek coastguard reported that a five-year-old girl died when the boat taking her from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos sank, and at least 13 other migrants on board are missing.

What is clear is that the conflicts in countries such Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan shows no signs of stopping, and as a result, migrants will continue to seek safe haven in Europe.  With attempts such as the EC’s recent proposal for mandatory quotas to distribute 160,000 migrants EU-wide being rejected, countries need to do much more to address this issue which will not disappear any time soon.  However, the problem is incredibly complex, as migration expert Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute Europe has suggested.

Papdemtriou stated recently that to address the migrant crisis, Europe will have to invest in creating real opportunities for refugees so that they can stay in neighboring countries, make a livelihood, get an education, and access health services. He suggests further that Europe should work with countries that are a launching pad, by targeting three or four key countries on the pathway from countries experiencing large patterns of migrations, and do as much as it takes to get their cooperation — to stop traffickers, to create opportunities for people to stay, and create a safe pathway.  This of course requires the cooperation of European countries and governments, something that has been in short supply during the crisis.  This is not to oversimplify the fact that governments have genuine security concerns, and real concerns regarding resources both economic and otherwise, and this crisis is incredibly complicated.  There is no “easy” solution.  However, what this situation requires is a strategic response, which cannot be achieved without the cooperation of affected countries, including a possible revamp of the Dublin Regulation and an open dialogue on the functioning of the Schengen Agreement within the framework of the current crisis.

Emily Boehme is a 3L at University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Senior Managing Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: The Economic Impact of Russian Sanctions

 

Introduction

The US is ready to impose further sanctions on Russia for its continuing activities in Ukraine, and the markets are once more faced with uncertainty. This announcement is the latest development in US and EU exchanges with Russia over events in Ukraine and suspected Russian involvement. In November 2013, Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych abandoned an agreement strengthening ties with the EU in favor of a closer relationship with Russia. That decision led to anti-Yanukovych protests in Ukraine, which became more violent as the unrest spread and intensified from November through February. On February 22, Yanukovych fled Ukraine after a political coup ousted him from power, and a new Ukrainian government took power. The new government’s Western leaning stance caused many in Crimea to seek support from Russia, which culminated in Crimea’s parliament voting to join Russia on March 6th. On March 16th, a referendum was held where 97% of Crimea’s voters decided to join Russia. Russia formally annexed Crimea on March 21.

 

The First Round of Sanctions

While the events in Ukraine were taking place, leaders in the US and the EU were determining how to respond to Russia’s involvement in the events. In response to the rising unrest in Crimea and Russia’s involvement, President Obama issued Executive Order 13660 on March 6th freezing the assets of any person “directly or indirectly” engaged in activities threatening the peace, disrupting the democratic processes, or misappropriating assets in Ukraine. The Executive Order set the legal authorization for further sanctions and allowed the US Department of Treasury to impose financial sanctions on individuals and entities meeting the Order’s definitions.

Similarly, the EU adopted Decision 2014/119/CFSP and Regulation 208/2014 on March 5th and 6th respectively. The two pieces of legislation directed EU member states to impose restrictions on the funds and economic resources “belonging to, owned, held or controlled by persons” involved in the misappropriation of Ukrainian state funds or who were responsible for human rights violations in Ukraine. The EU applied its sanctions against 18 named individuals, including former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, Yanukovych’s family, and his close allies.

The most immediate business effect of the first round of US and EU sanctions was uncertainty. Although the US is not among the top ten trading partners with Russia, Russia “remains a crucial market for American retail, construction and energy companies, as well as some of the biggest United States banks.” Europe’s economy is more tightly integrated with Russia than the American economy is, with Europeans engaging in $460 billion in business with the Russian economy. In economic terms, the largest impact of the sanctions was to increase demand for investment in safe commodities, such as gold. With uncertainty looming heavy on the minds of investors, traders also invested in options markets to offset any potential losses that future tensions might create.

 

Second Round of Sanctions

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In response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, both the US and the EU have taken steps to enact economic sanctions against Russia. Image: Politico.com

Following the March 16th referendum where Crimean citizens overwhelmingly voted to join Russia, US President Obama passed Executive Order 13661. Order 13661 was a continuation of the sanctions already imposed, and it expanded the reach of sanctions by freezing assets of eleven named individuals, including former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and two aides of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Order also allowed for expanding the reach of the sanctions to Russian officials, those persons or entities who “operate in the arms or related materiel sector in the Russian Federation,” or those persons or entities who “have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services” to Russian officials.

The sanctions imposed by the EU in response to Crimea’s vote to join Russia went further than those from the US. On March 17th, the Council of the EU adopted Decision 2014/145/CFSP and Regulation 269/2014 that imposed travel restrictions and asset freezes on an additional 21 Ukrainian and Russian officials. The EU sanctions prohibit any direct or indirect sharing of financial or economic resources with the named individuals or persons responsible for action that threatens the sovereignty of Ukraine. In contrast to those individuals named in the American list, which appeared to target high-ranking Russian officials, the EU sanctions were directed toward mid-level officials who may have been more “directly involved on the ground.”

The second round of sanctions seemed to effect an easing of tensions, which created positive gains from an economic standpoint. The day following the imposition of sanctions by the US and the EU, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia did not seek any further division of Ukraine. This in turn eased fears among investors because it assuaged much of the concern that the crisis would deepen: “The probability that things could get worse in eastern Ukraine is reducing,” one market strategist was quoted as saying in response to the second round of sanctions. As a result, stocks in both the US and Russia experienced gains following the March 17th sanctions.

 

Third Round of Sanctions

In an attempt to put more pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s decision to annex Crimea, US President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13662 on March 20th, which imposed another set of sanctions on Russia.  The Order continued the sanctions already in place while naming a further twenty Russian officials whose assets were frozen. In addition, Order 13662 included sanctions against Bank Rossiya, Russia’s seventeenth largest bank, which resulted in prohibitions on trading with the bank. Targeting the bank was significant because the bank not only serves as a personal bank for many senior officials in Russia, but it also provides services related to the oil, gas, and energy sectors.

In lockstep with the US, the Council of the EU adopted Decision 2014/151/CFSP and Regulation 284/2014 on March 21st. The EU’s sanctions added travel restrictions and froze the assets of an additional 12 Ukrainian and Russian officials.

Prior to the third set of sanctions, the direct impact from the previous sanctions had been minimal. The third round of sanctions changed that, with Russia’s sovereign rating being downgraded (sovereign ratings reflect an opinion on “the future ability and willingness of sovereign governments to service their debt obligations to the nonofficial sector in full and on time”). Russia’s stock indexes opened significantly lower following the sanctions, and Visa and MasterCard ceased operations with Bank Rossiya. The sanctions also had the effect of injecting uncertainty back into the markets as it was unclear how long these sanctions would be in place and how far reaching the sanctions’ impact will be.

 

Conclusion

Although there have been no further official sanctions against Russia since Russia formally annexed Crimea, the situation remains tense.[1] Pro-Russian forces have seized government buildings in Eastern Ukraine and armed men without insignias have been spotted in Eastern Russia, reminiscent of the unidentified armed soldiers present before Crimea declared independence from Ukraine. Continuing unrest in Eastern Ukraine has prompted officials in the EU and the US to consider the imposition of further sanctions on Russian officials. Based on the consequences of the previous sanctions, the only thing that can be certain is that markets will continue to face uncertainty until the situation is resolved.

 

Greg Henning is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a General Editor for the View From Above


[1] On April 11, the US Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on seven Crimean separatists and Crimean-based Chernomorneftegaz, a gas company. The impact of those sanctions remains to be seen at the time of writing this article.

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Critical Analysis: Muslim and Jewish Faiths Fight Poland’s Ban on Ritual Slaughter

In November 2012 Poland’s Constitutional Court held that the religious slaughter of animals for Muslims and Jews violated the country’s constitution and animal welfare laws. The European Union rule that went in to effect on January 1st allows an exception for religious slaughter. With the E.U.’s exception to the rule that all animals be stunned prior to slaughter, Poland’s court ruling has now been in conflict with the exception. This past July Poland’s lawmakers introduced a law to allow an exception for religious slaughter but it was then voted down. Leaders of the Jewish and Muslim faiths are concerned that Poland’s refusal to allow a ritual exception will limit their right to religious freedom. Both groups are now requesting the Polish court to examine the law again.

A woman in Poland protests ritual slaughter for kosher and halal meat.   (Source: blogs.ft.com)

A woman in Poland protests ritual slaughter for kosher and halal meat.
(Source: blogs.ft.com)

Humane laws aim to reduce animal suffering by requiring that animals be stunned prior to killing but the traditional customs of Jews and Muslims follow a different method. Livestock animals are killed by slitting the throat and allowing it to bleed out while still conscious. Religious leaders argue that their practice has been used for thousands of years and it is consistent with humane treatment of animals because they require the animals to be healthy and uninjured prior to death. They do not believe in treating the animals in a cruel manner and argue that their method of slaughter delivers a quick death.

The research provides conflicting views. A study from University of Hannover in Germany suggests that with the ritual slaughter properly performed, after the first three seconds the animal will fall into a deep sleep-like consciousness due to the loss of large amounts of blood, which cuts off oxygen to the brain. On the other hand, a 2009 study from New Zealand’s Massey University claimed that although a calve loses consciousness after several seconds pass, the pain sensations will continue for up to two minutes. That study then applied the stun method and claimed the pain on the electroencephalography ceased immediately.

The differences in slaughtering methods has caused some tension. Poland’s population is estimated at around 38 million with about 20,000 to 30,000 members in both the Jewish and Muslim communities. Because they are the religious minorities, some have suggested that the kosher slaughter laws, which began in 1936, are part of anti-Semitic efforts to push Jews out of Poland. However, Poland’s president, Bronislaw Komorowski, has stated he supports the rights of the religious minorities to kosher slaughter and would work to resolve the issue because he believes the religious freedom of the “Jewish community to be a national interest of supreme importance.”

Although the majority of Polish people are Catholic, democratic ideals urge the rights of religious freedom should be protected for all of the various groups of faith. Recently, Pope Francis has expressed his concerns and opposition to restricting religious freedoms and has ordered an investigation in to Poland’s ritual slaughter ban. On the other hand, Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society, believes the Pope’s actions will “interfere with the democratic processes of an independent nation like Poland.” He argues that an attempt to overturn parliamentary or judicial decisions threatens democracy and would be an abuse of the Catholic Church’s power. The Vatican announced that there will be a follow-up meeting after the investigation conducted by Cardinal Kurt Koch is complete.

The loss of ritual slaughter not only raises concerns for religious freedoms but also increases economic and financial troubles for Poland’s citizens. Ten percent of the cows and chickens are slaughtered by kosher and halal methods and those slaughterhouses employ 4,000 people. Poland subsequently exports that meat to twenty different countries. Last year commercial butchers exported $460 million worth of kosher and halal meat. In preparation for Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, kosher meat was imported from Vienna and Budapest, although some slaughterhouses in Poland are continuing their traditions and ignoring the ban.

Other countries that ban ritual slaughter include Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Latvia. The Dutch government also introduced a ban but it was later abandoned and the community instead reached a compromise on the length of time the animal could be conscious. When the Polish court revisits this issue it will look to clarify the factors weighing on the matter. The court will need to consider the religious rights of Jews and Muslims, the rights of the animals under their animal welfare regulations, the EU law, the Constitution of Poland, and the religious and economic implications of allowing or banning the exception to ritual slaughters. The pressure of these numerous factors may lead the government to seek a compromise in Poland, similar to that used by the Dutch.

Kristen Pariser is a 3L, a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, and the Executive Editor for The View From Above blog.

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Critical Analysis: EU Wins Nobel Peace Prize

The European Union flag. (CzechFolks.com)

Early on Friday, October 12, the Nobel Committee in Oslo surprised many by giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union or EU, rather than an individual. The peace prize is historically bestowed upon individuals like Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu for fighting injustice, ending wars, and helping people in need. Last year’s peace prize was shared by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Liberian antiwar activist, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman, a democracy activist in Yemen.

This year, the Norwegian panel weighed 231 nominations before deciding to award the 2012 Peace Prize to the EU, even as the supranational organization faces its most serious crisis since it emerged from the ruins of World War II. Speaking in Oslo, Thorbjørn Jagland, head of the Nobel committee, dismissed the EU’s problems, stating that the institution had been a force for peace both after the World War II, and following the bloody slaughter of the 1990s in the Balkans. Citing EU achievements, Jaglan proclaimed, the “main message is that we need to keep in mind what we have achieved on this continent, and not let the continent go into disintegration.”  Jagland cited several key EU achievements. He said another conflict between France and Germany was “unthinkable” following 70 years as close allies.

The EU is often described as a “family of democratic European countries, committed to working together for peace and prosperity.” The origins of peace in Europe lie in the alliance made between France and Germany that gave birth to the European Coal and Steel Community, a forerunner of the EU. The EU, which now claims 27 member states, came into formal existence through the Treaty on European Union, signed at Maastricht in 1991. Since the EU came into existence, the continent has seen consistent peace, and international security remains one of the EU’s top priorities, not just in Europe but in the rest of the world. In addition, the single market is probably the EU’s single biggest claim, though the two achievements seem to be interrelated.  In addition, the EU accounts for half of all global aid, €53.1bn last year alone.

However, the Nobel Committee’s announcement to give the peace prize to the EU was met with mixed reactions. On one hand, many politicians and world leaders praised the decision, as is evidenced by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s statement that “the award of the Nobel Prize of Peace to the European Union reminds us that the EU is endlessly more than [interest-rate] spreads and bailout funds.”  Likewise, José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said the award proved that the European body was “something very precious.” Barroso also stated that the award was a “justified recognition” of a unique project that works for the benefit of its citizens and the world.

In contrast, others in the international community were not so pleased with the Committee’s decision, “mocking the award to an agglomeration of countries, many of which are in recession and internal turmoil.” Rania Svigkou, a spokeswoman for Greece’s Syriza party stated that the “award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU is an insult to the people of Europe themselves, who currently are experiencing an undeclared war as a result of the barbaric, anti-social austerity policies that are destroying social cohesion and democracy.” Likewise, Nigel Farage, a British Eurosceptic, allegedly remarked: “This goes to show the Norwegians really do have a sense of humor.” Another Brit, Martin Callanan, a member of the European Parliament and the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, stated that “the Nobel committee is a little late for an April Fool’s joke,” further stating that the EU’s policies have exacerbated the financial crisis.

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has made little secret that the prize is being given in part because of the current predicament that the EU finds itself in. In response to a question about the decision, the secretary of the Nobel Peace Prize stated that the Committee was trying to send a message to the European public, urging them “to secure what they have achieved on this continent.” Thus, it seems feasible that the Committee is giving the award, in part, as a means to plea for support of the endangered EU at a critical moment in the institution’s history.

Kate Hennessy is a 3L at the University of Denver School of Law and Staff Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy. 

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University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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