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Reinvigorating NATO: The need for increased multilateral defense efforts in the 21st century Europe

Posted by [email protected] on November 21, 2017 at 4:40 AM Comments comments (0)

By Jason D'Antonio

On 26 December 1991, the free world had won. Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final Soviet premiere, had resigned and the USSR dissolved into the records of history. As the world breathed a sigh of relief following the collapse of the USSR, countries (especially the United States and in Europe) began to adjust for a post-Cold War world. One of de-escalation, economic development and liberalization, reconstruction of diplomatic relationships, and above all, peace. Yet recently, Russia, under the control of Vladimir Putin, has attempted to establish itself as the primary global play, and increasingly, aggressor.

In 2013, after President Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the EU, pro-European Ukrainians launched the “Euromaidan” revolution to bring the country closer to its eastern neighbors. They succeeded in ousting Yanukovych, but threw the country into chaos. The awaiting Russians seized the opportunity, and soldiers (dressed in unmarked, but suspiciously Russian-style uniforms with Russian military weapons) took control of major Crimean areas. By March of 2014, Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation. This new type of hybrid warfare threw many leaders (who were capable of handling conventional warfare) into confusion. It was the signal for a new threat.

Such an action sparked outrage around the world, causing many liberal democratic states and institutions such as the UN and NATO to issue strong condemnations of Russia’s illegitimate actions. “Ukraine is a valued partner for NATO,” the alliance said, and it would continue to “support Ukrainian sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, without outside interference.”

Following the Crimean annexation, NATO agreed to increase its rapid reaction force from 13,000 soldiers to 30,000, and create a 5,000-strong “spearhead” force that can mobilize and deploy into combat zones in a matter of days. These forces would be assigned to strategic bases in states bordering Russia such as Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. Adhering to their 1997 promises, NATO agreed to not permanently station large quantities of soldiers in Eastern Europe but instead renewed its commitment to Eastern Europe.

Aside from territorial expansion, Russia poses intangible threats to the West and liberal democracies around the world. As of June 2016, NATO classified cyberwarfare as a domain of war making it equivalent to land, sea, and aerial combat. Therefore, any NATO member can invoke Article 5 of the group’s North Atlantic Treaty calling for an attack on an individual member to be considered an attack on all members. This is a crucial step in combating the Russian threat. Recently, Russia has utilized its advanced cyberwarfare apparatus to inflict damage to regions beyond the reach of traditional Russian influence from remote locations using minimal resources. In a series of information campaigns, Russian-backed hackers more than likely caused major power outages in Ukraine and released troves of private emails and alerted voter tallies in the country’s 2014 presidential election. Several German officials also credited Russian efforts to steal documents from German Parliamentary investigations only to sell them to WikiLeaks for publication. The most famous and recent incident of Russian misinformation campaigns can be seen in the 2016 US presidential campaign where an estimated 10 million Americans viewed Russian-created advertisements just on Facebook alone. While these actions may not constitute cyberwarfare, they are a testament of the Putin regime’s efforts to influence (and eventually control) democratic elections and essential government functions. Part of NATO’s budget and strategy should be to train its member states and to facilitate measures to protect against Russian military cyberwarfare. Such measures will allow the organization to prevent a crippling cyberattack that would pave the way for invasion and hinder counteroffensive coordination, and to also allow NATO to conduct similar cyber offenses if appropriate.

In the summer of 2017, Russia began one of its largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War, involving some 100,000 troops near the Baltic Sea and western Russia. The exercise of military maneuvers, known as Zapad, or “West”, has a worrying resemblance to the Cold War. In response, the US sent over 600 paratroopers to three Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Earlier that year, Russian aircraft “buzzed” by NATO-member warships, a move seen by many as a provocative measure by Russian officials to flex their muscles. The increased and more assertive Russian presence forced NATO commanders to reevaluate their strength and response ability. Earlier this month, NATO commanders met to discuss the creation of new naval bases in northern Europe to ensure several things. An increased naval presence would 1) counteract the preexisting Russian naval militarization; 2) protect communication cables and shipping lanes from hostile warships; and 3) provide the ability for NATO to send additional troops, equipment, and supplies to strategic allies and likely targets of a Russian invasion such as those in the Baltic states and Poland. This would also aid NATO’s efforts to install a 21st century rapid response “spearhead” force.

But, the main question is, how will this all play out? In theory, it sounds like the organization is readying itself for an unprovoked assault from Russia, but let us look at current challenges to one of the guardians of the free world. Following the September 11th attacks, the US invoked Article 5 for the first time in NATO’s history. The subsequent military campaigns from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) helped the United States conduct operations within the region, and secure the country from the Taliban. By 2010, 400 of the 700 bases in Afghanistan were used by American-led NATO forces with countries like Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and Italy all conducting substantial military operations alongside the US vanguard force.

As conflict within the region has reached its 16th year, many nations are growing weary. However, one can assume that in the event of a conflict with Russia, European NATO member states would be unwavering since the threat is so large and the possibility for defeat is so disastrous. Currently, only 5 of NATO’s 29 member states are reaching the requirement of allocating 2% of their respective GDP towards defense. The 2006 collective agreement has caused some members such as the US, UK, France and Germany, to express various levels of frustration as they bear the majority of the budget.

If Russia continues to assert itself as a global manipulator, NATO and its member states must be ready to meet the odds and prevent a large scale aggression towards the west. The protection and prevention of Russian territorial expansion, development of cyberwarfare measures, and the continuation of collective financing and cooperation will surely reduce the risk Putin poses to the free world.

The EU needs Turkey

Posted by [email protected] on October 27, 2017 at 6:05 AM Comments comments (0)

By Simas Kojelė

On the 24th of September the Federal elections of Bundestag occurred in Germany. In the period of the election campaign, candidates discussed many different topics: migration, social policy, economic growth, the future of the European Union, the future of military forces and defence budget, etc. Regarding the agenda of foreign policy, one of the most important issues was Turkey, and Turkey’s relations with Germany and European Union. Turkey was a huge object of harsh critics from all main political parties in Germany. The Foreign Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel said, “Turkey will never join the EU under Erdogan”. Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she did not believe Turkey should become a member of the EU, and that she would take up with her EU partners the issue of ending accession talks with Ankara. The leader of Social Democratic party, Martin Schulz stated, “If I become German Chancellor, if the people of this country give me a mandate, then I will propose to the European Council that we end the membership talks with Turkey. Now all red lines are crossed, so this country can no longer become a member of the EU.” Finally, Savim Dagdelen, spokesman of the Left party (Die Linke), emphasized that the EU and Germany must impose sanctions against the President of Turkey, Recep Tayip Erdogan and his associates.

These statements can be related to the provocation of populism’s sentiments inside Germany’s society during their elections. But if these proposals really exist within the German political agenda, it is a really dangerous and an irresponsible sign for the future of the EU-Turkish relations. In my opinion, the EU’s should consider a resilient, flexible and constructive relationship between itself and Turkey. Turkey has the potential to strengthen EU in the competitive 21st century world.

First of all, Turkey is a rapidly growing economy. At this moment, Turkey is 6th largest economy in Europe and 18th largest economy in the world, a member of G-20. The prognosis of economic situation in the world by 2030 shows that Turkey has the potential to be the 12th largest economy in the world.

Secondly: the population. The global weight and size of Turkey could be a very important factor of the future of the EU. Contrary to the aging population of the EU, Turkey’s population is very young and dynamic with huge perspectives in the future.

Thirdly, Turkey is a member of NATO and is a serious military power. In different military rankings, Turkey is ranked as the 7-8th largest military power in the world. In this context, Turkey can reinforce the EU common defence and security policy and new initiatives proposed by European Council and European Commission in terms of cooperation on common defence budget and the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO).

Fourthly, Turkey is an Islamic country but simultaneously remains a secular state with divisions between the state and religious authorities. It could help to build the bridges between Europe and Islamic world. Moreover, it could reinvigorate the Muslim community integration inside European Union.

Fifthly, the EU and Turkey have a refugee deal. Yes, this deal is quite controversial, very difficult, but this deal contributed to stabilization of migration crisis inside the EU.

This package of important aspects shows why the EU needs Turkey, and why these relations with Turkey are really important for the future of the continent.

There’s no doubt that the EU must be concerned about what happens in Turkey. After the failed coup d’état on the 15th of July, 2016, many started to question many the measures against opposition, media, NGOs, and human rights activists. Turkey has a huge problem with imprisoned journalists and the Turkish government is one of the biggest incarcerators of journalists in the world ant that is real challenge in the future of this country.

Turkey also has a real issue in the field of historical justice. Unfortunately, Turkish authorities shamefully do not recognise the Genocide of Armenians in the first half of 20th century. It is a very painful thing, because the European project builds on understanding and sensitivity for our history. By the way, in this context, the Bundestag of Germany did a very powerful gesture when in spring of 2016 recognised the Armenian Genocide.

Moreover, Turkish authorities intervened in elections in Netherlands and Germany with disgusting comments about the Dutch and German governments and called them fascists, Nazis and so on.

The EU must definitely underline these problems and persist with the Turkish authority. But in my opinion, ending or suspension accession negotiations with Turkey will not help solve these issues. In fact, the opposite will occur. The ending or suspension accession talks just will free the hands of Erdogan to tighten up the situation in the country. I am sure that after that Erdogan will put the death penalty referendum on the political agenda. Is this in the EU’s interest? I doubt it.

The ending or suspension of accession talks will disappoint the liberal, progressive-minded, educated part of Turkish society mostly in the biggest cities of the Turkey like Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. After the referendum to strengthen the powers of President, we know that this part of Turkish society is very huge. So, the EU must fight for Turkish citizen’s hearts and minds. The ending of accession talks will not serve for this goal totally.

In my humble opinion, the EU must revive the talks of reforming the customs union with Turkey and resume negotiations on visa free regime for Turks. That would be very constructive and useful approach for the EU-Turkey relations in the future. I remain an optimist, and hope that one day Turkey will join the EU.


The Fate of the Union

Posted by [email protected] on September 15, 2017 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (0)

By Olexander Horin

When it was announced on the 24 June 2016, that the United Kingdom had voted to leave the European Union, an air of unease set itself down over the fate of the Union. The sentiment of British solidarity, repeated time and time again by Nigel Farage and the Leave campaign, over an unwillingness to let unelected bureaucrats in Brussels dictate the politics and people of the United Kingdom, had won. An unprecedented event, which many had thought just the night before as impossible to even conceive, had happened.

As many began looking towards upcoming elections the very next year, it seemed as if this wave of National Populism which had suddenly gripped the United Kingdom would continue its stampede through Europe and surely bring the days of the European Union to a sad end. But that was not the case.

In what could have only been relief for those watching in Brussels, the Dutch and French elections produced a winning majority for pro-European parties. The nationalistic sentiment, once feared, lay defeated and even ostracized by a majority of the population. As if in sheer opposition to what the United Kingdom had voted for, a clear message was sent. National populism and fear would not reign supreme.

It is easier to feed on the fear of people, rather than hope. And for a while it did seem that the European Union might falter. But the message of the European Union never rang more true. It was a message that inspired thousands of refugees to cross treacherous waters and the peoples of countries to rise up and oppose their governments. It was a message that this was a Union built on hope for the future, and solidarity amongst peoples. That there was a future worth striving to achieve, and it would only be done through continued cooperation of all those living together. While the United Kingdom might have voted to leave, that does not mean the end of anything.

BREXIT may be seen as a tragic miscalculation of a government, which had tried and failed at internal political reshuffling, but at the end of the storm there is a golden sky. Europe may still have those who doubt its intents and methods, but now more than ever the European Union represents a brighter future for all those who strive to live within its borders.

Picture: Milos Bicanksi

Turkey: Backsliding to Authoritarianism?

Posted by [email protected] on June 29, 2017 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)

by Meghan Lowther

Less than four years ago, Turkey was hailed by the West as a democracy that, despite its flaws, was becoming stronger in an era of tensions with the Middle East and East-West conflicts. Today, that faith has been almost singlehandedly unravelled by President Erdogan, who has taken it upon himself to systematically dismantle a number of democratic systems to bolster his own power.

This didn’t happen overnight, however. A term being thrown around in the political science world encompasses what’s going on in Turkey is democratic backsliding. This means that democracy isn’t destroyed overnight, or through a coup, or a change in leadership. Backsliding means “state-led debilitation or elimination of political institutions sustaining an existing democracy” and has been used to describe current events in countries like Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and even the United States.

Turkey has experienced a number of tumultuous events since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Recep Tayyip Erdogan became president in 2003, and in that same year, the government took steps to relax certain regulations that would prevent them from proceeding in the accession talks. Those were officially launched in 2005. A number of issues have complicated the process, including public backlash to lifting headscarf bans, strained relations with Israel, and political advances from Islamist-leaning groups that pushed back against democratic reforms. 2014 and 2015 were mired by conflicts with ISIL and a small political shift to the left, and in 2015, the Syrian conflict spilled over into the country and Turkey struck a deal with the EU to continue accession talks if Turkey kept more migrants from entering the EU.

The coup in summer 2016 further stimulated Turkey’s slide into authoritarianism, with Erdogan using the attempt to crack down on the military, extending the favour to the judiciary, academia, and the press. The latest development was the April 2017 referendum to extend Erdogan’s powers through a controversial constitutional referendum, which if implemented, would seriously affect the EU’s relationship with Erdogan’s regime.

On 16 November 2016, The Parliament voted to suspect negotiations, but this decision was not binding. That could change next week in Strasbourg.

The Parliament is concerned about how the recent events in Turkey will affect their accession talks to the EU. In a resolution proposed on 20 June, the Foreign Affairs Committee’s annual assessment of Turkey’s reform process was more negative than years past. Due to the deteriorating situation and the recently passed constitution, the Parliament is recommending that accession talks be formally suspended if they are implemented without any amendments. They stressed the importance of maintaining a good relationship with Turkey but those assertions were coupled with doubts about Erdogan’s backsliding.

There’s not enough being done to address the response to Erdogan’s coup attempt, particularly in terms of the human rights violations and systematic dismantling of institutions like the judiciary and free press.The full Parliament is expected to vote on the proposal in Strasbourg next week. Europe is not ‘closing the door’ to Turkey, but they want to make it clear that the regime’s recent slide to authoritarianism are not in line with EU values. Only time will tell what becomes of Turkey’s administration and rule of law, and the EU hopes that one day the country will be fully ready to embrace the accession process and what comes with it.

More Diplomacy, More Humanity: The European Union Approach in Dealing with the Migration Crisis

Posted by [email protected] on June 29, 2017 at 4:15 AM Comments comments (0)

by George Shadrack Kamanda

Do you remember when our television screens and newspapers were full of pictures of migrants struggling and dying trying to get to Europe? We saw families carrying children, pushing aged relatives in a wheelchair from mile after mile. People pressing through border crossings or trying to board cramp trains. They were horrifying images of shipwrecks, wretched people from the sea, and bodies of those who couldn’t be saved . . . like Alan Kurdi?*

Upon arriving at the European Parliament in Brussels for my internship, it didn’t takelong for me to feel connected to the passions of time, which was the migration crisis of 2015. For me, it was a perfect match for two reasons. First, as an African immigrant to the United States of America, I know what it means to live one's beloved country for greener pastures elsewhere. Second, as someone interested in affecting global social change via the lenses of international law, human rights, and nation building, I believe that the European Union response to the migration crisis offered me the opportunity to understand the complex nuances of immigration policy, human rights, and diplomatic politics.

While I hope to intricately apply these thematic ideas in this essay, I also seek to show how more diplomacy and more humanitarian approach from the European Union and its member states initiated a sustainable policy in addressing the migration crisis. The assertions below will represents my enriching experience learning about the EU, its diplomatic dealings and policy towards the migration crisis.

The surge

The migration crisis tested humanity resolve to itself and more importantly, for the European Union, it tested its foundational principles. Nonetheless, as with every global problem, finding a common solution proved daunting. And the European Union as a supranational institution was not an exemption to these difficulties. As the movement of migrants spread across Europe, several member states became timid and intolerant in accepting migrants across their borders. This momentum and strong resistant made the work of the European Union even more challenging.

While EU countries work on getting a decisive policy for dealing with the crisis, migrants continued to make the perilous journey to Europe by the Mediterranean Sea. In 2015, the death of a three-year-old Alan Kurdi, who died in the Mediterranean alongside 3, 700 others trying to get to Europe truly exemplifies the hardships of thousands of migrants fleeing to Europe. Also in the following year, an estimated 5,000 people died trying to fulfill a life-long dream of getting to Europe, and earning a better life for themselves and their families. Unarguably, it is too late for the ones that have lost their lives making this journey, however, it is not too late for the millions of other in the process. In reflection, and in hindsight, a year and a half after finishing my internship at the European Parliament, I believe it was for the EU's continued resilience to the crisis and Europeans humanity that led to the mitigation of the crisis. While it is self-evident that the dilemmas and ever-changing scope of the migration crisis continue to be of concern for the EU, I also believe that it was for the European Union deep engagement and humanitarian approach that made all the difference.

As an African, getting to learn about the EU's swift engagement with the migration crisis forced me to stop and ask: What if my country, Sierra Leone, or better yet, the African continent can react and engage with the salient issues facing its people in similar ways? Understandably, the EU's determination to help these migrants and mitigate the crisis is worthy of emulation.

EU's response

Irregular migration and forced displacement of people in Europe and broadly speaking, the world at large is not just a crisis but a test of our character. While this test is ongoing and ever-changing, nations, intergovernmental institutions like the EU and the international community have also adapted or are adapting to its challenges.

The European Union, upon realizing and recognizing that the migration crisis is one of a shared responsibility of country of origin, transit and destination, worked diligently to offer a remedy. Also, the EU sought partnership with African leaders and with EU member states to put forward an action plan. This plan, promulgated in November 2015 at the Valletta Summit on immigration in Malta sets the stage for a practical engagement with the crisis. Although, not comprehensive enough to solve the crisis as yet, however, it was a step in the right direction for the European Union.

Key propositions of this plan were centered around the notion of "shared responsibility" of which parties involve geographically, diplomatically and politically can play an integral role in curbing the flow of irregular migration. While this plan put forward several ideas, however, a summation of its key components are pivotal. First, it proposes that the EU will work to address the root causes of migration and forced displacement. Second, enhance cooperation on legal migration and mobility with member states. Third, reinforce the protection of migrants and asylum seekers. Fourth, prevent and fight irregular migration, migrant smuggling, and trafficking of human beings. And finally, offered a platform to work more closely to improve cooperation on return, readmission, and reintegration of migrants.


At the beginning of this paper, I boldly set out to show how the European Union policy of more diplomacy and more humanitarian approach led to the mitigation of the negative trend of irregular migration. Undoubtedly, the action plan has done just that: mitigate the trend of the migration crisis. Although, the threats of irregular migration has by no means ended, however, it self-evident that the EU approach to the crisis has set the stage for a forward thinking and comprehensive approach to dealing with the root causes of irregular migration.

*The BBC, Inquiry podcast, Migration Crisis in Europe

Democracy Abroad

Posted by [email protected] on June 9, 2017 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Democracy Abroad: Parliamentary Election Missions

by Meghan Lowther

The European Parliament conducts election monitoring campaigns all over the world with the goal of promoting peace and democratic institutions. Th eU election observation activities undertake a number of objectives, including efforts to strengthen respect for human rights, completion of comprehensive assessments of the process, and enhance public confidence in elections. The ultimate goal through these objectives is to support peace and democracy around the world in accordance with EU values and traditions.

The European Union is 'founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law' (Treaty of the European Union, 1992). The EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) holds the promotion of democracy at the core of its operations, and when the EU establishes partnerships with other countries, they include human rights clauses and maintain that a main goal is the promotion of democracy. The EU's missions also have the added benefit of enhancing peace-building in those partner countries.

Since 2000, the EU has observed elections in 41 partner countries. The EU applies the same methodology to all observations, which includes assessment areas such as voter registration, media, and civil society; another objective is to remain unobtrusive and nondiscriminatory. The European Parliament's 2017 priorities constitute 9 elections in 8 countries, including Kosovo and Lebanon, and the 2018 early indicators show that 20 countries and at least 5 follow-up missions will be required.

The European Parliament as an institution of the EU plays a prominent role in election observation and deploys its own delegations to partner countries. Observers must follow a code of conduct, which includes principles such as respecting the law of the land and being aware of relevant information and other observing groups. Despite their commitment to democracy and the workers on the ground, the EU does not interfere with the conduct of the elections, as that is up to the host country.

Last week, the communal elections in Cambodia were held, and the results will be released by 25 June according to election officials. While those elections did not have an official European Observation Mission, Petras and the Informal Group of Friends of Democracy in Cambodia still watched the elections closely under informal means, video conferencing with representatives on the ground about the process and the potential implications. In addition, Petras met with activist Vaing Samrigth, who is currently campaigning for the rights of indigenous peoples in Cambodia. He arranges dialogues with stakeholders to raise awareness and promote human rights defenders in the region.

Citizens have an inalienable right to participate in democracy and support the rule of law in their countries. There must  be access to elections by all citizens without discrimination, and in order to protect those freedoms, the rule of law must also be protected. People have the right to choose their own government, and the EU's missions to monitor elections reflects its commitment to supporting democracy not just within the EU's borders, but in countries around the world.

Ukraine's path to Europe

Posted by [email protected] on May 24, 2017 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (0)

                                                                                 Ukraine's path to Europe


                                                                                     By Karina Savchuk

  The term "Europe" combines in itself different elements such as cultural, geographical and historical. However, Ukraine is one of the biggest countries in Europe and European integration is primary foreign policy goal of Ukraine and through the economic and democratic reforms Ukraine builds its successful "return to Europe". Recently, Ukrainians came on the streets to struggle for democratic values and for the greater future for their country, this called " the Revolution of Dignity". Ukraine now faced with extremely difficult times, considering the occupation and military actions conducted by aggressor State. However, the Revolution of Dignity and hard work of Ukrainian diplomats brought historical change - visa-free regime for Ukraine.

Having the opportunity to be the part of this historical day of 17th of may 2017 in Strasbourg when document in formalising visa-liberalization deal with Ukraine have been signed. The document was signed by the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, and Malta's Interior Minister Carmelo Abela, Malta currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko also took part in the ceremony. In addition, on Monday, May 22 in the official EU bulletin appeared a document, which is the EU decision on visa-free regime with Ukraine. According to the regulations, the document comes into force 20 days after publication. It is published since the beginning of the Nice Treaty, which came into force on February 1, 2003 and  published in 24 official languages ​​of the Member States. Only legal acts published in the official journal are binding.

What kind of benefits Ukraine will receive from visa-free regime? First of all, improvements will affect transport. Considering the fact that European transport companies are now entering the markets of Ukraine, tickets will lose significantly in price. Secondly, the tourism sphere will also get preferences - many Europeans will not mind resting on cheap Ukrainian resorts. This  will not only affect business, but also education and science. For example, in the past, there were cases when business meetings were cancelled, and scientists could not get to the conference because of problems with obtaining a visa. Considering the affects of visa-free regime for Ukraine, the case with Moldova could be a good example. In Moldova, the visa-free regime with the European Union is more than a year and a half. During this time, more than half a million Moldovans visited Europe, which is about 15% of the population. After the abolition of visas for visiting Europe, the flow of tourists from Moldova has increased substantially.

Considering all above-mentioned visa-free regime for Ukraine is undoubtedly historical moment for Ukraine and for European Union, moment when Ukraine returns to its European family.

2016 vs. The Future of Europe

Posted by [email protected] on March 8, 2017 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

By: Jacqueline Dixon

Upon coming to Brussels, there were many changes that occurred in the political world. This being said, these new changes would now be the main focus in European Parliament and would affect the future of the European Union. The first of these changes being the referendum that was held in the UK on whether or not to leave the European Union. The end result came as a shock because the majority (51.98%) voted towards leaving the EU. The second change being the 2016 presidential election in the United States. These two events were some of the top news stories throughout 2016. They also happened in a similar way where the end result was not the expectation the rest of the World had. Both votes were split down the middle and are now have various repercussions within the European Union.

The Brexit vote was one of the most shocking things to have happened in the Europe because no one had the expectation that the UK would have ever made the decisions to leave the EU. Last year I took part in a semester long research project looking into the Britain’s referendum. I went into this project not knowing much about the issue and why the UK wanted to even hold this vote. Throughout the semester I focused on the history of the UK’s relationship with the European Union and tried to predict the outcome result of this referendum. With this research I started with the first referendum that was held in 1975. I saw the issues that the UK had with their membership with European Communities, but it was clear that the UK would not choose to leave the EC because they had the fear of what their future would be if they would have chosen to leave. With this past event, I thought it would have been clear what the vote would be; however, history did not repeat itself.

One June 23, 2016, the fate of the UK had been determined by the people and the people chose to leave the European Union. This is where the world started to see how serious and crucial this vote actually was. Coming into this program, I did understand the severity of this issue, but what I did not realize the impact that it had on the institution as a whole. After being here for over a month I have now seen how the outcome is altering the European Union as a whole and how the remaining 27 Member States have a fear that the future of Europe might be unstable. The UK played a major role in the EU and now with Theresa May announcing that she is in favour of a hard Brexit by removing the UK from the common market and customs union, this is offering a sense of uncertainty within Europe.

Another topic that’s now raising more concern within the European Union is with the new President of the United States, Donald Trump. Since his inauguration, many changes have come about in the United States. These changes not only affect the U.S., but are affecting different countries around the world. Being from the United States it is very alarming to see the backlash going on throughout the world. Trump has made it clear with his stance on the European Union and has discussed how he is in favour of the institution breaking up. He has shown that he does not care for the EU and many have responded back. One that stood out in particular was the response from the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk.

Tusk had written a letter addressing the United States president after he had first announced his proposal on the United States travel ban. Donald Tusk promptly responded to Trump and addressed the issues with refugees from the countries that Trump attempted to ban. Tusk stated that if refugees were turned away from the United States, then there would be a place for them in Europe. Not only did he bring up the issue of refugees coming to Europe, but he also raised the issue with what will become of the US relationship with Europe. Tusk wants Europe’s relationship with the United States to remain the same, but Trump seems to be promoting anti-European views. With Trump being a main political actor in the world, he could possibly increase Eurosceptic views, which poses a threat towards the future of Europe.

Ultimately, what seemed like the impossible actually occurred in 2016. No one had ever thought that Britain would leave the European Union and the thought of Donald Trump becoming the 45th president of the United States was never taken seriously. It is concerning how the outcomes of these elections can impact the future of Europe so tremendously. After studying Brexit so in depth and following the US election constantly, it’s seems so strange to get a first-hand look within the European Parliament. Not many realized what the aftermath would be like after these events. Although these raise many concerns within the European Union, both events can be a way for the remaining 27 member states to unite and become stronger than before.

Article 2

Posted by [email protected] on November 15, 2016 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

By: Alexa Ruotolo

Democracy, the rule of law and fundamental human rights are the cornerstone values of the EU. At the end of October the European Parliament passed a resolution on the creation of a mechanism which would monitor and report perceived breaches of these values by EU member states.  This resolution was created largely in response to the lack of action taken against member states who are not complying with the values stated above, Poland and Hungary. Poland and Hungary have both been called out by the Commission and European Parliament for violating these core values throughout the past year. Most recently, Poland has been in the news for trying to limit women's right to abortion while Hungary has been accused of human rights violations against refugees.

Currently little action is being taken to hold these countries accountable. Article 2 sets high standards for countries to enter the EU yet once a country is a member state there is little done to continue enforcing it. MEP Sofia In’t Veld referred to this as the Copenhagen Dilemma which is the perfect way to describe the situation. Turkey is currently in the process to become a member of the EU, however, one of the major barriers standing in their way is their record of human rights violations, particularly to the Kurd minority. But how can the EU claim to have such high standards in human rights yet allow their member states to openly violate them without any repercussions? Under Article 7 of the TEU the council has the power to revoke certain membership rights if a member state does not comply with Article 2, however, this has never been implemented. This is largely due to politics and countries not wanting to open up a dispute of pointing fingers, as no member state is perfect. The issue here though is not just about double standards, it is about the reputation of the EU. The EU is a beacon for human rights standards around the world and if they want to continue to be the institution that others look up to they cannot allow member states to violate these principles.

Another country considered to be on the forefront of human rights is the United States. Americans like to refer to themselves as the “city upon a hill,” a role model of higher moral standards, but even we are wavering on these ideals. The United States just elected Donald Trump as president. Trump ran a campaign of racism, homophobia, xenophobia and misogyny and he was still voted president. How can we as a nation claim to be the “city upon a hill” when our president has admitted to sexually assaulting women and then dismissed it as locker room talk, or who called Mexicans racists, or who wants to ban an entire religion from entering a country? The West prides itself on it’s values of equality and justice. The right of universal suffrage, gender quality, marriage equality and racial equality are all examples of the core values Europe and the United States share. Even though some might be wavering on these values it is important that the EU and the US continue to uphold these high standards and keep pushing forwards so that we don’t go backwards.

The Brittleness of International Law

Posted by [email protected] on November 3, 2016 at 5:05 AM Comments comments (0)

By Martynas Bagdonas

International law has been a pillar upholding modern civic, civil and social norms throughout the world and lays its roots in the early 17th century. In accordance with abstract human thought and morality, law is the thin thread holding the world together from anarchy, an anarchy in which any side and any individual can act according solely to his interests disregarding the wellbeing and status of external parties. What would happen if that pillar of law would one day crumble, would the building collapse or balance between the remaining stanchions?

After coming to Brussels, more specifically the European Parliament, for my internship, I would argue that the pillar of law, especially international law is already as brittle as the small speculoos cookie served with every cup of coffee here. Before any type of convention for international law was ever set up or even thought about there was one very easy way to end disputes - war. If you thought that someone else’s land should belong to you, you went to war, if you thought that someone else’s people have committed a crime against your own subjects, you went to war, if you thought that your religion calls upon you to take a city, you went to war. But at multiple points in history we’ve tried to discredit war and exchange it for dialogue and diplomacy. The first instance of this occurred in Westphalia in 1648, when the Peace of Westphalia was singed, ending the Thirty and the Eighty Years’ Wars. This document first recognized such terms as sovereignty of states and the strive for a balance of power, these principles then became the central points of the beginning to the concept of international law. Another notable attempt at this world wide system of judicial and diplomatic agreements to prevent further war came in the well-known League of Nations. Yet this attempt failed spectacularly with the outbreak of World War II, for reasons which I will touch upon later. But the end to World War II called upon new initiatives in the field of international law since the wish to put on trial all Nazis, their highest ranks, and any co-conspirators in the Nuremberg trials, had no legal basis. Yes you can trial a person for shooting another innocent person, but how can you try an officer who never truly pulled the trigger, but just gave the commands, this was the biggest dilemma that faced the entire world. The lawyers in charge of the Nuremberg trials had to find a solution, the lawyers of the Eichmann trial in Israel had to find a solution. In the case of Eichmann, it took a staggering 16 weeks of trials to finally find the Nazi officer guilty of 15 counts of criminal indictments. The Nuremberg trials took around four years to get through the whole list of criminals. These trials sent a shockwave around the whole world claiming that from now on no one will be able to commit a crime anywhere and get away with it.

I want to go back slightly to the League of Nations and the reasons it failed. We can compile a very long and tedious list of why such an auspicious idea did not deliver on what it promised. It could be the fact that both the USSR and the United States were not part of the League, but I truly believe it was for one main reason - it had no actual power. The League relied heavily on the hope that all countries will want to settle disputes through discussion and not through the barrel of a gun, but when morality and good will dissipated, so did the League and its hopes; the outbreak of World War II was a testament to that. But later-on leaders saw and recognized the nuanced reasons of the failure of the League of Nations and when they created the updated version of it, also known as the United Nations, they added the Security Council, which gave the UN the power and authority that the League lacked.

It seems that these days almost any conflict and any dispute has the right tools at its disposal to end itself peacefully, yet recent years have shown the complete and utter opposite. Which is why I want to go back and bolster my contention that international law is as useful and as binding as the morality, consciousness, and spectrum of interests of the party. I am not saying that international law should be downright disregarded, because even the smallest piece of cover can shelter you from strong winds, but I am saying that it is disregarded by so many in the modern world. The three big reason, that I mentioned before, for why people would go to war were land, oppression, and religion and all of those wars are happening right now. The religious and land war is happening in the Middle-East where the self-proclaimed caliphate of the Islamic State is fighting for, in my opinion, a misinterpreted Islamic doctrine, and is fighting for territory for its caliphate. And in another not so distant region, Vladimir Putin is allegedly protecting the oppressed ethnically Russian citizens in Ukraine. All three reasons to wage war - check.

So where is this international law? How is it not stopping these, at this point, worldwide conflicts? Well it is doing the best it can. Europe and the world have, so many times, threatened Putin and the Kremlin for its actions in Ukraine, legally binding documents have been signed in Minsk on February 11th, 2015, a multitude of sanctions have been set into place, yet everyday people are still dying in Eastern Ukraine. The reasons for this are very simple, Putin and his regime simply do not care about international law and he’s shown this time and time again. Recent developments have only further underlined this disregard, when Putin decided to station nuclear weaponry in Kaliningrad, in range of almost all European capitals. I think this mind set is very well depicted in the words of Mikhail Tolstykh also known as Givi after the death of Arsen Pavlov (Motorola) and how he will avenge Motorola’s death: “They can trial me in their ‘courts’ - The Hague, and that other European b******. Guess how much I don’t give a s***.” That’s where the brittleness of international law comes from: the ability of someone to do whatever he wants as long as he is protected by someone and is incapable of being physically taken to court.

I do not want to discredit international law entirely, but especially after spending sometime in the European Parliament I just want to call for more drastic measures to be used alongside international law when it comes to serious violations. There are so many inter-governmental institutions that have the potential and the capabilities, such as the UN or the EU, to uphold these international regulations and they have to continue to do so with even more fervour. Law, consciousness, morality, diplomacy, these are the pillars that hold up the basis of a society that upholds all human rights and for those pillars to stand tall and resilient is our goal.