Tag Archives: ban

The Political Salience of the Burqa Ban

Henning Meyer from the Social Europe Journal turned my attention to this report of the Pew Global Attitudes Project measuring the public approval of the ban of face-covering veils (burqas). What I did was to compare the data for the approval rate with the percentage of the Muslim population in the respective countries (data was obtained from the 2009 report of the Pew Research Center). Not surprisingly, there is a strong positive correlation between the percentage of Muslim population and the support for the burqa ban (correlation= 0,84, R2=0,71).

The US citizens are somewhat more tolerant than the average and Britons somewhat less, but the overall correlation is quite strong.

This post is cross-posted on Think 3: Developing World.

The EU Reacts to the Volcano Situation

The consequences of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano are strongly felt throughout Europe, with most of the EU airspace still closed because of the volcanic ash in the atmosphere that can damage airplane engines.

The question now is what is the EU doing about it?

The Spanish Secretary of State , Diego López Garrido and the Vice-president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport, Siim Kallas, met on Sunday with Eurocontrol to find out first hand the evolution of the volcanic cloud that has forced the closure of most of the airports in Northern Europe.

More, the EU transport ministers will be meeting on video conference today to get a grip of the situation and to decide on common measures. The airline companies at the same time are demanding the lift of airspace restrictions after flight tests by Lufthansa, KLM and other airlines that conducted more than a dozen flights without any problems during the weekend. One airport company manager quoted by FT said that “the impact is already worse than 9/11”.

Meanwhile the airspace ban has delayed various EU meetings, including a the accession talks with Croatia, the meeting of the Fisheries Council. The plenary session of the European Parliament is also in doubt, since many MEPs may not be able to reach Strasbourg.

I’ll post an update when we have results from the meeting of transport ministers.

UPDATE: BBC reports that the body that represents the world’s airlines, IATA, has criticised Europe’s governments for the way they closed air space. British Airways demands compensation from the EU due to the accumulated loss.

Siim Kallas has issued a press statement, saying that there is a meeting going on of all Eurocontrol members, national civil aviation authorities, national air navigation providers, representatives of the airline and airport industry, as well as the Spanish Presidency. The aim is to agree technical solutions for stronger European co-operation to maximise available airspace. He says that they are working hard to agree technical solutions to do that today.

UPDATE2: EU transport ministers agreed to gradually lift airspace restrictions where possible.

Déjà vu – the Bulgarian Idea for Referendum on Turkish News

I am in a state of déjà vu – after the Swiss referendum on the ban of minarets, now we have an idea for a national referendum on whether to continue allowing the broadcast of Turkish language news on Bulgarian national television.

Just as for the Swiss referendum, I will focus on the legal implications only.

The Bulgarian Law Providing for Citizens’ Direct Participation in Government allows for national referendums on questions of national importance that are within the competences of the Parliament. Reading the Bulgarian Constitution it appears that such a referendum should result in the adoption of a law by the Parliament that explicitly prohibits the broadcast of Turkish language news on Bulgarian national television. I will stop my analysis of Bulgarian constitutional law here. My Bulgarian colleagues should understand what I am talking about.

But apart from the Bulgarian Constitution we also have the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (CPNM). Bulgaria is legally bound by this Convention. Let’s have a look at art. 9, para. 4 of the Convention:

“4. In the framework of their legal systems, the Parties shall adopt adequate measures in order to facilitate access to the media for persons belonging to national minorities and in order to promote tolerance and permit cultural pluralism.”

The explanatory memorandum to the convention says:

“This paragraph emphasizes the need for special measures with the dual aim of facilitating access to the media for persons belonging to national minorities and promoting tolerance and cultural pluralism. The expression “adequate measures” was used for the reasons given in the commentary on Article 4, paragraph 2 (see paragraph 39), which uses the same words. The paragraph complements the undertaking laid down in the last sentence of Article 9, paragraph 1. The measures envisaged by this paragraph could, for example, consist of funding for minority broadcasting or for programme productions dealing with minority issues and/or offering a dialogue between groups, or of encouraging, subject to editorial independence, editors and broadcasters to allow national minorities access to their media.”

To my understanding we have allowed the broadcast of the news in Turkish in order to implement the CPNM, that is, to fulfill an international obligation.

Now we want not only to stop, but also to prohibit the broadcast of news in Turkish on the Bulgarian national television (we will have to do this by law once the referendum approves the measure).

My simple question is – by doing this, will we or will we not infringe the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities?

I would welcome any comments from experts in the field (I am really NOT interested in propaganda).

Update: Dnevnik says that the ALDE group has put the question on the agenda for the plenary session of the European Parliament in January 2010.

The Swiss Ban on Minarets: Legal Implications

There are many reactions to the results from the referendum in Switzerland that tries to impose a ban on further construction of minarets in the country. However, most of them are (understandably) quite emotional.

From a political perspective a lot must be done now to assess the reasons for that vote. After all, 53,4% of the Swiss electorate voted and 57,5% of the votes have approved the ban on construction of new minarets.

However, I am much more interested in the legal analysis of that referendum. Back in October 2009 experts from the UN Human Rights Committee voiced concerns that the ban will infringe human rights protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. They said that the initiative should have been declared inadmissible under the Swiss Constitution. The experts probably referred to a violation of art. 18 of the Covenant:

“Article 18

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”

Switzerland does not have a reservation on art. 18 and therefore it is fully applicable. That much is certain. However, we now know that being a party to this international covenant will not necessarily produce an observable direct impact. That leads us to the question – Even if Switzerland does violate the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, what can we do?

Well, Switzerland is also part to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Art. 9 of the Convention:

Article 9 . Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

1 Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

2 Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

I believe that this text will be used to challenge the ban both before Swiss courts and later – before the European Court of  Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. From what we know about the jurisprudence of ECHR, this legal challenge will probably succeed.

The issue is of great importance to the European Union as well. Switzerland is surrounded by the EU and the Union is an essential trade and political partner for the country. Provided that the ban does violate the relevant international human rights law and the European Convention on Human Rights in particular, this will inevitably strain relations between the parties and may lead to serious consequences for Switzerland.

From a legal perspective I would also like to point out that introducing such a ban is currently impossible in any EU Member State, irrelevant of the local political challenges.