Category Archives: Foreign and Security Policy

Very Good Proposal on Schengen

The Commission has put forward a proposal for improving the institutional framework of the Schengen area. First, the Commission proposes a strengthening of the Schengen evaluation mechanism. Announced and unannounced monitoring visits to a given Member State by Commission-led teams with experts from other Member States and Frontex will verify the application of the Schengen rules. Second, the Commission tackles the problem of unilateral reintroduction of borders. Such a decision for the reintroduction of internal border controls for foreseeable events (such as an important sporting event or a major political meeting) would be taken at the European level on the basis of a proposal by the European Commission backed by a ‘qualified majority’ of Member States’ experts. If a Member State fails to adequately protect a part of the EU’s external border, support measures including technical and financial support from the Commission, from Member States, from FRONTEX or other agencies like Europol or the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), can be taken.

The proposed measures are a big step forward for the European border security policy. However, a few Member States have already expressed skepticism, citing the national sovereignty as the main reason. They seem to have forgotten the very poor response of France and Italy to the wave of sea-borne migrants due to the Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa.

It will be very interesting to observe the debate on the Commission proposals, since border security is one of the factors that will define the viability of the European project.

 

 

The Ghost of Hatred is Roaming in Europe

Yesterday a terrible crime was committed in Norway, leaving more than 90 people dead. A lone terrorist was able firs to explode a bomb in the centre of Oslo and then to shoot at least 80 people, many of whom were teenagers. We know very little about his motivation, but it appears that he held far-right, and anti-Muslim views. So let’s say it bluntly: the ghost of racial and religious hatred is roaming in Europe. We have to stop it.

I have watched with indignation the rise of far-right parties in the EU – from Netherlands to France and from Bulgaria to Italy. Everywhere across Europe the narrative of cheap nationalism and populism, the language of hatred and discrimination has become fashionable. Even mainstream politicians have flirted with it. This has to stop.

Europe has suffered too often from its stereotypes of hatred. After all, we nearly exterminated a whole ethnos just 70 years ago. I refuse to look the other way when the same old disease is surfacing. And I cannot overlook the role of media in this. Yesterday, while it was still unclear who was responsible for the events in Oslo, an English newspaper put this headline on its first page, claiming that the bombing was orchestrated by Al Qaeda. This was happening while various counterterrorism experts on Twitter were explaining that it was quite unlikely that Al Qaeda was involved. This was not an innocent mistake. We live in a time when many people in the media business do enjoy flirting with far-right agendas, because they know that hatred sells. Mr. Murdoch’s publications are not the only ones involved. We have to stop this.

It is quite obvious that the European countries do have a problem with the integration of immigrants. A lot can be done here. First, we need to address border security. Second, we need to foster integration of immigrants, without resorting to defeatist language, while taking into account the security concerns of our citizens. Third, we need to redesign development programs for developing countries. Fourth, we need to help designing programs for adaptation to climate change in developing countries. Fifth, we need to persecute crimes motivated by religious hatred and crime.

This agenda is much more important than any other agenda of the European Union. It needs leadership and determination. The alternative is grim. The ghost of hatred is still a ghost. We have to stop it.

UPDATE: Please look at the faces of the victims from the Utoya shooting.

 

Commission Proposal for the New Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020

The Commission has put forward its proposal for the new Multiannual Financial Framework of the European Union for the period 2014-2020. The Multiannual Financial Framework is the main budgeting document of the EU for the seven-year period, and little can be changed once it is adopted. The proposal has to be approved by the Member States and the Parliament.

The main innovations:

1. Expenses

  • A new fund for financing infrastructure, the Connecting Europe Facility that includes a preliminary list of transport, energy and ICT projects;
  • Stronger link of cohesion financing with the Europe 2020 objectives;
  • New category of ‘transition regions';
  • New conditionality provisions;
  • Partnership contracts with each Member State to ensure mutual reinforcement of national and EU funding;
  • An integrated programme of €15.2 billion for education, training and youth, with a clear focus on developing skills and mobility;
  • A common EU strategy called “Horizon 2020″ for investment in research and innovation worth 80 billion €;
  • 30% of direct support to farmers will be conditional on “greening” their businesses;
  • €4.1 billion for the fight against crime and terrorism and €3.4 billion for migration and asylum policies.

2. Revenues

  • New own resources for financing the budget- a financial transaction tax (Tobin tax) and a new modernized VAT;
  • Simplification of the existing correction mechanisms.

You can also read the critical assessment of the proposal by Charlemagne. Real Time Brussels looks at the fierce political battles that will likely emerge in the process of adoption of the Multiannual Financial Framework.

 

Proposal for Reforming EU Trade Preferences

The Commission has put forward an important proposal for the reformation of the so-called Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) which grants specific tariff preferences to developing countries in the form of reduced or zero tariff rates or quotas.

Key elements of the proposal include:

1. Concentrating GSP preferences on fewer countries. A number of countries would no longer be eligible to benefit, including:

  • Countries which have achieved a high or upper middle income per capita, according to the internationally accepted World Bank classification (such as Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar).
  • Countries that have preferential access to the EU which is at least as good as under GSP – for example, under a Free Trade Agreement or a special autonomous trade regime.
  • A number of overseas countries and territories which have an alternative market access arrangement for developed markets.

2. Reinforcing the incentives for the respect of core human and labour rights, environmental and good governance standards through trade by facilitating access to the GSP+ scheme which grants additional, mostly duty-free preference to vulnerable countries.

3. Strengthen the effectiveness of the trade concessions for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) through the “Everything but Arms” (EBA) scheme.

4. Increasing predictability, transparency and stability.

What Do We Really Want from the EU?

European citizens should think more about their demands when talking about the EU. Here’s why.

These are not the best of times for the European Union. There’s a financial crisis; an immigration crisis; a crisis of trust, and who knows what else. In a nutshell, the EU is in trouble.

What is more difficult to comprehend is the malignancy and the “I-told-you-so” attitude of so many politicians, commentators and European citizens. The poignancy of the negative feelings is really remarkable. That is why I would like to do something unusual for this blog and address these skeptics. My objective is to provide a merciless, subjective and heavily normative critique of the complacency of those that seem to prefer a European future without a European Union.

In order to do that, I need to make an important observation. Homo Sapiens has not evolved substantially during the last 60 years. That being said, the claims that a new war on the European continent is impossible seem strange. It was not the tanks and airplanes that destroyed Europe during World War II, it was the people in them. What is more, our physical and genetic ancestors have waged war on one another for at least two millennia on this continent. In fact, the only longer peaceful episode in recent history has been the period of European integration. It’s true that NATO and the dynamic of nuclear deterrence also played a part. But it was the cooperation of European elites within the European Community that cemented this security pact.

Nowadays many believe that wars are part of the history, but not of the future. Others think that wars may be a useful instrument of foreign policy. What unites them is the lack of any wartime experience. This virus of complacency and ignorance is widespread. It has caught up with politicians, journalists, and all kinds of experts. The McDonalds rule is their flag, although it has already been broken. This virus makes them think that states are well equipped to solve emerging problems using the classic instruments of intergovernmental cooperation. The problem with their narratives is that this type of cooperation has recently failed spectacularly – with the UN Climate Change Conference failing to agree on new rules for climate change mitigation, WTO failing to agree on the completion of the Doha round, and the G-20 failing to agree on anything except for the summit menu. These are not just incidents; these are symptoms of the limitations of the classic forms of international cooperation.

Someone might argue that if the EU were so successful, it wouldn’t have experienced its recent crisis. That is true. The EU is not perfect, and we are now bearing the fruits of the lax rules of the Economic and Monetary Union. But it is much better than any other form of cooperation especially given the small economies of many Member States. This issue of economic efficiency is usually not discussed by euroskeptics. The truth is that without the European Union economic life in Europe would definitely slow down, and businesses know that. This is the problem of some anti-EU parties: their constituencies will actually suffer from any possible withdrawal from the Union. That is why they prefer to grumble about the EU without taking a meaningful step towards resolution of their grievances. Referendums should be held in each and every Member State that feels the need to take a different path to prosperity. The United Kingdom should be particularly encouraged to conduct a referendum on its EU membership. The European Union is not a club of convenience; its success depends on the high motivation of its members.

The European Union is not at a crossroads. It is a well-functioning and unique mechanism for political integration. It’s up to its users – the European citizens, to use it properly. It will deliver results only if we command it to do so. That is why from now on I would like to hear more demands, and less chaotic criticism when discussing the EU.

Commission’s Vision on EU Borders and Migration

By now you must have heard that the Mediterranean Member States are experiencing some serious difficulties in managing the wave of new migrants from North Africa. The governments of Italy and France have stepped in and suggested temporal reintroduction of border controls due to the migrant wave. Now the European Commission has issued its own Communication on migration.

The Commission notes that the EU is not fully equipped to help those Member States most exposed to massive migratory movements. That is why it believes that the feasibility of creating a European system of borders guards should be considered. The Commission also recommends adopting a risk-based approach and ensuring greater use of modern technology at land as well as sea borders.

The Commission advocates for a mechanism that would allow the EU to handle situations where either a Member State is not fulfilling its obligations to control its section of the external border, or where a particular portion of the external border comes under unexpected and heavy pressure due to external events. The mechanism should be used as a last resort in truly critical situations.

The Commission also calls for the incorporation of enhanced readmission obligations into the framework agreements concluded with third countries.

One important claim of the Commission is that a European entry-exit system would ensure that data on the crossing of the border by third country nationals would be available for border control and immigration authorities.

The Commission intends to present by 2012 a Green Paper on addressing labour shortages through migration in the EU Member States.

In general the Commission says that the EU should step up its efforts to address the drivers of migration with a special focus on employment issues, governance and demographic developments.

The Communication on migration is a well prepared and consistent document, but it remains to be seen how Member States will act on it.

Why the EU Needs a True Common Border Security Policy

The news that Italy and Malta are pressing for special summits to deal with the “epic emergency” immigration resulting from the upheaval in North Africa did not surprise me. Back in 2009 I wrote to the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe 2020-2030, proposing a specific initiative for a common EU border security policy using the instruments of the Lisbon Treaty. I developed my arguments in an article that I presented at a UACES conference in the beginning of 2010, and it was published in the journal European Security.

My argument was that:

1. EU border security is not effective enough due to uneven policy implementation, and

2. Future challenges and threats may overwhelm the present institutional setting.

I went on to discuss some of the challenges based on the assumption of fundamental factors affecting human security – the changing climate (Stern 2007) and the global demographic trends (Lee 2003). I outlined a number of impending threats and concluded that the development of a true common European border security policy is urgently needed in order to develop and implement adequate holistic solutions for mitigating those threats. Sergio Carrera from CEPS has written an excellent paper on the possible creation of a common European border security service.

Now, it is true that some Member States have their own views about border security. But a strategic review of the EU’s border security policy is obviously and urgently needed. It may or may not result in a common border security service, as Carrera proposes. But it should create a comprehensive action plan that goes much beyond technological standards and ad hoc assistance.

If my analysis is even partially correct, there is no time to lose.