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The New EU Voting system – the old west-east north-south division

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Economic governance reforms and Eurozone consolidation has significant institutional and political consequences: a multiple-tier integration is ever more realistic. „Out” countries seek to mitigate the negative impact of these developments. In this respect V4 – Visegrad countries differ a lot: Slovakia, a relative latecomer in economic reforms is part of the currency union. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are not Euro-members.

But even this sub-group is divided: Poland intends to join whenever requirements are fulfilled while the Hungarian and the Czech governments are cool on accession. At the same time, further economic federalisation in the Eurozone is to come. Against this background, the question whether a long-term “great divide” among V4 group countries in relation to their EU policies and consequently their future situation in the rapidly altering EU will be maintained, is of key importance.

European economic integration in political perspective

Economy and politics walk hand in hand in the process of European integration. This has been clearly seen during the years of the euro crisis. During the worst crisis ever experienced by the EU as from 2008, the euro was not seen as the solution, rather than the source of the problem. But in fact, the true lesson from the recent malaise is that the institutions and policies behind the common currency need significant reinforcement.

The euro is one of the most sophisticated results of the process of modern European integration. It is also a symbol of peaceful collaboration between European countries, which has been accompanied by, or has resulted in, unprecedented levels of peace, stability and prosperity in Europe.

In order to restore confidence in the single currency zone, a more coherent fiscal union must be created, which will require further measures of economic integration in the long run, such as the creation of a European finance minister, a larger EU budget, and a fully operational banking union. Tax and even social policy coordination will also be on the to do list. Obviously not all members will be able or willing to go that far. EU members states are destined to go at different paces maybe even in different directions. A two-speed Europe has already come into existence in reality which was reinforced with the UK’s decision to stand aside. The dynamics of integration is uncertain. This is partly because the alliance between the 18 current members of the euro zone is not a stable formation per se; for many of them, the bar will be set too high, and they will not be able to accept the degree of harmonisation needed. An additional factor is that integration is to proceed on an intergovernmental – rather than supranational – basis, and there will be a need to clarify the roles of the EU bodies, in particular that of the European Commission. These developments have consequences for the V4 Group as well in the medium term.

One has to be aware of the fact that despite its undoubted successes, modern European integration – in historical terms – is a fragile construct. The main reason for this is the absence of a precise self-definition. Europe seems still to be a nascent formation, consisting of political compromises, a common system of law, a common economic zone, and a collection of political and institutional responses to crises. Although the peoples of Europe have lived side by side for thousands of years, they do not share traditions, living myths, a common identity or language; nor do they project a single image towards the outside world. The political class and the intellectual elite are just as divided: some want more Europe, while others think that even the present level of cooperation is far greater than desirable. The underlying reason is that no one has a clear picture of the function, goal and future development of the EU; there is no agreed vision.

The federalist school holds that the time has come to establish a political union, or the alternative is a collapse of the integration project brought about by the euro crisis. Others claim that political union is not only unnecessary but also impossible in Europe[1]. Many member states, much of public opinion and of the European cultural elite reject the idea of a political union. In addition, Europe is not yet prepared mentally for such a union. There are three reasons for this. First, the lack of common European traditions, identity and language. Second, the member states having extremely divergent visions for the European Union and holding a variety of opinions on what is the ideal economic and social model. Third, it is a physical impossibility to create a unified political union out of a Europe that has 28 members and is expected to expand continuously. Consequently, the result is a multi-speed Europe.

The UK is distancing itself from integration, thereby creating a good reason for the German-French duo to press on with moving towards Core Europe while avoiding the EU-28 setup as it is today. For eurozone key countries surrendering more of their sovereignty will be far less painful than a euro meltdown. Chancellor Merkel seriously believes that the demise of the euro would be the downfall of the EU.

By creating the euro (which was in many – especially in economic – respects either an irresponsible enterprise or a visionary act, depending on one’s perspective), Europe crossed the Rubicon: it pushed integration to a point of no return where it either presses on with a fiscal and economic union or must bear the dire economic and social consequences of a break-up of the common currency. As Ottmar Issing puts it: Der Euro “is still an experiment whose outcome seems likely to remain uncertain for a considerable time to come.”[2]

Euro-related challenges are not the only factors: Europe at the beginning of the 21st century is facing not only a financial crisis but also a political crisis (caused in part by the economic crisis). It is a political crisis in the sense that the political institutions established after World War II, including those of the EU, have lost the confidence of the electorate. Society and the economy are undergoing rapid change. For many, such change is an opportunity, but for even more people it is a threat. This undermines society’s confidence and leads to the chronic rejection of political institutions and a widening of the chasm between the elite and the man in the street. The welfare model that was designed to prevent a repetition of the disastrous social problems of the interwar period is now in a crisis, thereby jeopardising the social peace that was based on keeping the middle-classes satisfied. This in turn has added to economic and social tensions caused by immigration and to a hysterical fear of globalisation. In the view of many, globalisation – or as the anti-globalists call it: the unbridled competition of dog-eat-dog capitalism – finds embodiment in the European Union. It is therefore not accidental that there is a growing rejection of European integration, accompanied by a general rejection of the political mainstream.

Crises are inherent to capitalism, but the crisis that began in 2008 has several unique features. The first is its rapid spread in the financial sectors of the developed world, which was due to the unprecedented interconnectedness of the world’s financial markets. Many have drawn comparisons between the current crisis and that of 1929. True, at that time too, an irresponsible deluge of credit had caused economic bubbles, but the crisis was one of over-production. In other words, the problems of the 1930s originated in production, i.e. the real economy. In contrast, the crisis of 2008 originated in the financial sector. There were no problems with the foundations of the real economy until they were rocked by the financial meltdown. But the most important feature of this crisis is that – contrary to previous ones in the second half of the 20th century – it is a crisis of the West.

The scenario is not that of a collapsing emerging economy (Argentina, Mexico, Russia, East Asia) that has proved itself incapable of implementing the operating principles of Western liberal capitalism. On the contrary, the rest of the world remains relatively stable while the economy of the West (USA and EU) seems to be cracking. Ground zero of the financial crisis was in the United States, the key archetypal capitalist actor. However, by 2011, the eurozone had become the real focus of the crisis. China, Japan, and the United States are keeping a watchful eye on the success (or failure) of Europe’s crisis management, while drawing up various strategic scenarios. Thus the crisis has crossed the Atlantic, and made the leap from the financial sector to the real economy, affecting in particular national budgets. Act two of the current crisis centres on unsustainable national budgets. This explains why, in Europe, a rescue is needed not only for the banks but also for the member states.

Clearly, the present crisis is one of the most serious ones in the history of European integration. It is fundamentally a political crisis rather than a purely economic one. It is the consequence of a downward spiral of political and economic problems that mutually reinforce each other. At its centre lies a weakness of political vision in the EU and in the eurozone. In economic terms, Europe is better placed than the USA (when one considers the level of national debt or fiscal deficit); yet it is the eurozone that has become the epicentre of the crisis. History teaches us that monetary unions are unsustainable without political coordination and a fiscal union: a major economic crisis has now made this painfully clear to the eurozone too.

In the history of European integration, crises have acted as the triggers of major political and institutional changes. Europe and the EU face many external and internal challenges, the scale of which has grown in recent decades (greater international competition, a whole series of demographic, social and budgetary problems). Member states have often made feeble and belated responses to such challenges with delayed reforms and poor management of immigration and demographic trends. At the same time the European Union has not been more robust either (see weak and eventually failed policy visions as the Lisbon programme, diplomatic and geopolitical difficulties due to the lack of a common EU position, years of impasse after the failed European constitutional project, etc.)

The question is whether the present crisis, which threatens the existence of the most important achievement of European integration – the common currency – will lead to a ‘quantum leap’ towards closer political integration and a multi-speed Europe. It may indeed result in any of the two.

In the medium term, the whole of Europe must prepare itself for a decade of sluggish economic growth. The gap in economic, social and political development within the eurozone will only widen unless there is a major change of direction in the integration process. In the long term, the European welfare state is unsustainable in its present form (cf. ageing and shrinking populations, budgetary over-extension, an increasing competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis Asia). For this reason alone, it would seem sensible to pool European resources and to aim for a common European political and geopolitical agenda. But that will be the result of economic necessity rather than rationality.

In this socio-economic context a lot of discussion is taking place about European political union. But one thing has to be clear: not any form European political union should or could mean the formation of a regional world government or the elimination of Europe’s nation states. The nation state is a European invention, and Europe’s nations will never be dissolved into an all-embracing pan-European political unity – if for no other reason than because for Europeans a sense of European identity barely exists, and Europe does not have a common language like the United States does. Political union could mean closer political integration, a real common foreign policy, a real European (or Eurozone) president, real European parliamentary elections, a real (perhaps eurozone) budget, and a truly common economic policy. It could also mean unified European representation (a single seat and a single voice) in international organisations as well as stronger pan-European symbolism in daily life. The euro would still not be backed by a real country, but there would be regional integration with a far stronger political profile.

Currently, the key question concerning the future of European integration is whether or not a currency without a country is viable. The European Union has tried to establish a monetary union without a political union, but it has become increasingly clear that both are needed – or neither. Some thought that this ambiguous situation would lead to a great crisis, forcing the EU to establish closer political integration. That is to say, what cannot be achieved through nice words, will happen under pressure – as has been the case so many times before. Angela Merkel has a point saying that if the present crisis leads to the end of the euro, this would result in the collapse of European integration as a whole, at least in its present form[3]

Not only is the common currency without a country; it also has no backing in the form of political institutions or even the basic foundations of economic integration. The EU barely has a budget: in a modern market economy, the budget amounts to 40-50 percent of GDP, while the EU budget amounts to just one percent of European GDP. Moreover, money is not spent on things that a “normal” budget would target, but for very different purposes, such as farm subsidies – which still account for almost every second euro spent. These factors add up to a budget ill equipped to make significant transfers between eurozone members at different levels of development and in different stages of the economic cycle. An even more important deficiency of the eurozone is its lack of a common economic policy and the cumbersome decision-making with unanimity required, for instance, to adopt common fiscal rules.

A closer union in fiscal and economic policy terms – a European finance minister, eurobonds, common financial supervision, a closely coordinated economic policy – seems inevitable, as does, in certain respects, a political union. All this will require a new treaty, an amended ECB statute, and above all political will. Closer integration may certainly be envisaged in the form of a multi-speed union. A radically different European space is appearing before our very eyes. And in this new space the role of Europe’s major powers will change, and there will also be a shift in the relative clout of countries. Germany may be the greatest beneficiary of the reshuffle with its new-found regional primacy. German political elite supports closer integration, which will help mitigate fears of German hegemony, but the German-French tandem is no longer regarded as a partnership of equals. History (and necessity) has made the economy – and the common currency – the driving force of federalism, rather than political institutional development or the construction of a European cultural identity, which would have favoured the French. The French wanted the euro – and the whole process of integration – as a means of keeping the Germans in check, but in reality the opposite happened. The principles of France’s European policy – the multiplication of French power and capacities at the European and global level coupled with categorical inter-governmentalism – have been sorely wounded.

Historically speaking, hostility, rivalries and war are the norm on the European continent; periods of peaceful co-existence are the exception. Or, as prof. Anis Bajrektarevic rightfully questions our deceiving wonderworld: “Was and will our history ever be on holiday? From 9/11 (09th November 1989 in Berlin)… to the Euro-zone drama, MENA or ongoing Ukrainian crisis, Europe didn’t change. It only became more itself – a conglomerate of five different Europes”.[4] Also, in historical terms, modern European integration (voluntary cooperation between sovereign states, based on the respect for common laws, and which was launched after World War II with a strengthening of economic and commercial relations but with the primary purpose of pacifying Germany) is a vulnerable formation. As a consequence, peace and solidarity on the European continent may soon be replaced by growing hostility – if the economic situation deteriorates and becomes crisis-ridden in a geopolitical milieu that is increasingly unstable. The fate of the boldest achievement and symbol of EU integration – the common currency – is intertwined with the fate of integration as a whole: an anarchic collapse of the euro would be accompanied by the break-up of the EU and political paralysis in Europe. The euro is fundamentally a political and symbolic creation; in its present form, it does not have firm economic foundations.  In light of the above it is in the interest of the EU to save the euro by establishing a strong economic union.

With its present architecture, rules and stakeholders (whether they are the EU-28, the EU-26 or the EU-18), the European Union is incapable of moving forward at the right speed and depth. In addition, European public opinion gives a cool reception to any initiative coming from above, from Brussels. The European Union – it seems – faces two possible scenarios in the long term. Under the first scenario, it passively allows the centrifugal forces (markets, member-state sabotage, public disinterest) to break it up or it ceases to exist in its present form, with the unplanned termination of the euro. All of this would be temporarily accompanied by an extremely grave crisis. Under the second scenario, in the extended lands of Charlemagne a new intergovernmental treaty may be adopted, resulting in strong economic policy integration and preserving the euro. The second and third groups of countries could join later based on new conditions (which would be far stricter than they are today). The historical and European lesson is that regional integration projects are far from everlasting, and often the temporary break-up of a poorly designed form of integration is the key to a restructured formation that guarantees long-term survival.

Historical experience shows that monetary unions are successful when they have among their members at least one economic power-house acting as the engine. Central institutions are also needed to control and enforce the rules. The most successful ones are preceded by a political union, as in the case of the USA, the UK or Germany. Price and wage flexibility is a fundamental criterion, so that wages can be limited in poorly performing regions, just as inter-regional transfers can be useful. Fixing and applying criteria on economic convergence also prove to be necessary. In the eurozone, we can hardly talk about real flexibility of labour markets, just as we cannot talk about a political union either. The EU budget is not designed for major income transfers either, as it only disposes of 1% of GDP. The US federal budget is around EUR 3.3 trillion, compared with the EU “federal” budget of roughly 140 billion euros, a good part of which is transferred to non-eurozone countries. The difference between the internal transfer capabilities of the two monetary unions is obvious. In any case, the euro was created by politics. Politics must also help preserve it. As André Sapir and Jean Pisani-Ferry put it: the euro area needs fewer routine procedures and more ability to act in times of real crises[5].

This is the economic and political framework in which V4 countries (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic), deeply integrated in the EU’s internal market and in the case of Slovakia as member of the Eurozone, should navigate.[6]

 

The case of the V4

 

The close link between economy and politics has been clearly demonstrated during the years of the euro crisis when the euro was often not seen as the solution, rather than the source of the problem. But in fact, the lesson from the recent malaise is that the policy system behind the common currency needs significant reinforcement. The way V4 countries approach the Euro accession and crisis management is also a mix of economic and political features.

Firstly, a few remarks on the V4 Group itself. The loose alliance of the four central European EU member states, namely Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia until introduction of the “double majority” voting in the EU in late 2014 had equal number of weighted votes with Germany and France put together. If counted as a single nation state, V4 with its sixty four million inhabitants would rank 22nd in the world and 3th in Europe. Moreover it is the seventh largest economy in Europe and the 15th globally. The Group had a significant blocking, therefore policy-shaping power in the EU. The V4 Group functions as a leverage of influence for their members not only in Council voting but also in diplomatic dealings. Chinese, Turkish, or Indian political leaders have been much more open to contact the Group as opposed to deal with members individually. V4 has also gained a certain appeal in the eyes of other countries in the region, but the alliance wanted to keep its doors closed until now[7].

From November 2014 though, the double majority replaced the current weighted voting system. According to the new rule the support of 55% of the Member States representing 65 % of the overall population of the European Union will be required. The new system significantly modifies the power distribution by strengthening the influence of big Member States – with a population of 60 million; Spain and Poland will lose their big Member State status and medium-sized countries’ – between 2 and 11 million inhabitants – voting power will be reduced dramatically. Germany and France will gain increased blocking capacities but V4 countries will not be able to form any blocking coalition any longer. Even the new Member States joined in 2004 and 2007 will not be able to block decisions under the new system. So with the new voting rules, plus and more importantly the largely diverging visions on decisive European issues, and with some of the states in some out of the Eurozone, and especially with Poland with way more significant geopolitical ambitions and Hungary’s political isolation (more on these issues later) the V4 cooperation will probably get less and less relevant.

As a start it is obvious that these countries are integral part of the European economy with Germany playing a key role as export and import market. 

Table 1.: Share of EU in V4 countries’ export and import

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The above table clearly shows the deep integration of the V4 countries in the EU market, especially on the export front. As far as import is concerned one has to bear in mind the fact, that these countries are dependent to a great extent on Russian energy sources which shows in the overall geographical distribution of imports

Differences: great divides to stay?

But homogeneity seems to stop here, since the success rate of the V4 countries harnessing the benefits of EU membership differs a lot. Some of the new members were more successful than others in using EU-accession as an economic and modernisation leverage by halving the number of people living in poverty and raising the per capita GDP by almost fifty percent. Bratislava, and Prague is richer than Vienna and Budapest also comes close. This is in itself a spectacular development[8]. At the same closing the wealth gap and decreasing internal territorial wealth gaps in individual V4 countries is much less of a success story in the case of Hungary and to a lesser extent in all the four new member states, although there are major differences in this respect.

Different development paths walk hand in hand with different policies, which indicates that economic success and political decisions are interlinked to a great extent in the region. This linkage seems even more pronounced than in the case of old member states. This stems from the fact that politics in general and the direction in which the political class wants to direct the country is more important in this region in terms of end results both in political and economic terms. A new government in the V4 countries can have dramatic impact on the geopolitical, EU-political and economic policy path the country takes. Long-term political stability is still in nascent form, or in a more pessimistic tone: is a rarity in the region. This is due to lack of self-conscious civil society, stable institutions and as a result: a hyperpuissance of the political classes.

There is obviously a clear difference in the group when euro-status is considered. When it comes to EMU issues, the four countries are in different position and have differing views. But this is only partly justified by economic factors or by the fact that being in or out makes a significant difference. It is also stemming to a great extent from political considerations.

When considering the most important economic trends and features of the first decade of EU-membership of the V4 countries, growth, competitiveness, per capita GDP and obviously the Maastricht-related indicators are worth being analysed. Although one can draw remarkable conclusions from this analysis related to the specificities of the economic development of the four countries in question, the key finding is that Euro-accession is a function of the combination of the existence of the fulfilment of the nominal (Maastricht) criteria, and political determination. They are interlinked and none of the two in itself suffices. Also these two factors will explain the attitude of these countries towards the ongoing and future EU and Eurozone-level EMU reform measures.

In the following section a series of comparative economic data is provided to assess the first ten years of EU membership of the V4 countries.

Table 2.: Growth rate of V4 countries between 2004-2014[9]

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To close the development gap vis-à-vis “old member states” a much stronger economic growth performance is needed over the long run in the V4. The above table shows that basically Slovakia and Poland were able to pull out that performance during the first decade of EU-membership.

The below table somewhat in contradiction to the first one indicates that as regards international competitiveness the V4 countries (including Slovakia) except for Poland are true underperformers

 

Table 3.: Competitiveness ranking 2003-2014.

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Table 4.: Employment level 2004-2013

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As far as employment level is concerned, where even the EU – including Western European countries – in an underperformer, V4 countries except for the Czech Republic could not even reach the unsatisfactory EU-average.

Table 5.: Inflation 2004-2014

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In keeping inflation under control which is one of the Maastricht criteria the Czech Republic’s and especially Hungary’s 10 year performance proved to be especially poor. Hungary’s performance in relation to the long-term interest rate (another Maastricht criteria for euro introduction) was again the most humble (see below). Not surprising that Hungary is the country that spent the longest period (9 years, between 2004 and 2013) under the excessive deficit procedure.

 

Table 6.: Long-term interest rates

 

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Table 7.: Debt 2004-2014.

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The EU as a whole and even more so, the Eurozone was heavily hit by the sovereign debt crisis, which resulted in way above the mark national debt to GDP ratios. In the light of this, V4 countries’ performance in controlling the national debt was a relative success, although in absolute terms all of them experienced a rising debt. Here again, Hungary is a relative underperformer with a debt hovering around 80 percent of GDP (although this is lower than the EU average).

 

 

Finally, looking at the most important Maastricht criteria, one sees, that the EU28 average’s and V4 countries’ deficit developed in a correlated way, with a slight disadvantage at the V4 camp. Two outliers stand out: positive balances for Hungary and Poland. But one has to be very cautious with these peaks: they are the results of the nationalisation of the private pension fund assets that later on have been evaporated without either supporting growth or reducing national debt. More importantly the cost of annulling the private pension wealth will be payed dearly by future generation.

 

Table 8.: Budgetary balance 2004-2014

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Concluding remarks

In contrast to the nineties and early two thousands when Euro-Atlantic accession was the unquestionable central theme of politics, the V4 countries have started to get separated not only in terms of their economic performance but – and mainly – in terms of their overall EU policies.

Poland clearly aims for a regional power status in the EU and in the Eastern Neighbourhood context, wanting to punch over its weight with the help of a historical reconciliation with Germany and in the absence of France as a capable partner for Germany to shape the future of the integration and with the UK withdrawing itself from the European political mainstream. In this light it is not surprising that Poland is doing everything to be in the potential future core, which necessitates a eurozone membership.

By contrast, Hungary that has manoeuvred itself to a quasi pariah status, with its political freedom fight against the EU and with its clumsy geopolitical rapprochement with Russia, clearly turned its back on the EU, shunning eurozone accession for an undefined period. This rather difficult explain from any economic point of view. Hungary is one of the biggest net beneficiaries of the EU budget, although this country has become a clear underperformer in harnessing the economic benefits of membership. Nor is the anti-EU stance explicable from a reasonable geopolitical point of view since it has resulted in international isolation.

Slovakia the only, member of the Eurozone, experienced a major per capita GDP increase, nevertheless still suffering from territorial inequalities, regularly voiced its discontent with EU and Eurozone (see the issue of the contribution to the Greek bailout) policies and measures, but generally follows the political directions coming from Brussels and Berlin.

The Czech Republic is a cautious EU-partner. Like Hungary it is selective in accepting EU reforms and reluctant to join the common currency. Parts of the political elite voice harsh anti-EU and pro-Russian views. Although the mainstream political discourse is not as militant vis-à-vis ”Brussels” as in Hungary.

What seems to be obvious from the comparative economic analysis is that Slovakia as the only eurozone member does not stand out from the general V4 performance level in a striking way )in fact Poland can be singled out as a success story). This reinforces the fact that Eurozone membership is a function of multiple factors, including political decisions and geopolitical benefits.

In 2014 the V4 group is divided not only by its status (Slovakia in, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic out) but by its political drive as well (Poland: determined to join, Czech Republic being much cooler, Hungary being even hostile to the idea). This situation also determines these countries political stance related to political decisions relevant to EMU reforms. And – as we saw it earlier – EMU reforms will probably have significant impact on the way the European Union is going to develop not only from an economic but also from a political and institutional point of view. With the reinforcement of Eurozone institutions a deeper divide is expected between the EU18 and the rest. This may be an annoyance to Hungary and the Czech Republic but can be a serious geopolitical concern for Poland that wants to get into the inner circle of the EU to enhance its political and geopolitical clout.

The Stability Pact and the Euro-Plus Pact was not signed by the Czech Republic. The Euro Plus Pact which envisages coordination in areas such as taxation was not signed by Hungary either. A clear political divide is visible here. Is the current political situation a long-term “great divide” in the V4 group? As Hungary and the Czech Republic – without a clear indication of an entry date – leaves the timing of Euro membership hovering somewhere around the beginning of the next decade, this divide seems to be stuck and it will probably deepen as the EU18 will push ahead.

A long-term non-membership has significant economic and political consequences. In exchange of an (often sceptically received) higher level of economic autonomy, out countries lack the firepower of ESM, and ECB in crisis situations. Moreover it is obvious that saving a eurozone country is much higher on the agenda of Brussels and Berlin than otherwise. EMU membership is obviously not only an economic but also a geopolitical or even a security issue especially in Eastern Europe and in the Baltics. Individual countries ponder these factors in a different way. Contrary to the facts that the crisis has tarnished the image of the common currency and that eurozone accession has become a more difficult exercise because of economic tensions and a higher level of suspicion in Brussels and Berlin after Greece had lied itself into the elite club, the eurozone is still desirable place to join. Not only – maybe even not primarily – for economic, but for geopolitical reasons. One of the main drives for EMU membership in the Baltic states is security policy which has gained further relevance since the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The political manoeuvring of the V4 countries does and will take place in the broader context of how the Europe of 28 will react to the pressing economic and political issues ahead. Member states and EU institutions will have to agree on how to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the common currency, and how take the European citizens on board for this, especially because most of the steps need to be taken will have significant consequences on national sovereignty. The grand design of an institutionalized two-speed Europe that makes room for the UK, and maybe Turkey and Ukraine will also be on the menu. All in all the economic, political and geographical setup of the EU will have to be rearranged and the relevance of being a new or old member state will eventually fade away. But at the same time, the differences between individual V4 countries’ EU policies will remain significant, due to mainly national politics and choices of the political class.

From the above analysis it seems obvious that the choices of the political class in some cases – mainly in Hungary – cannot be based either on proper geopolitical, or on economic considerations. Therefore the research analysis of the V4 countries’ economic policies and general EU-policies should have a strong political economy element. A purely economic policy approach in the research of this topic has clearly reached its limits. A political science and political economy approach should follow up.

References

–          European Commission: Five years of an enlarged EU – Economic achievements and challenges. COM(2009) 79/3, Brussels, 2009.  http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/publication14091_en.pdf

–          Marján, Attila: Europe’s Destiny, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, USA

–          Central Europe fit for the future: 10 years after EU accession – Milan Nic, Pawel Swieboda (ed.). 2014. január 21.CE Policy.org; http://www.cepolicy.org/publications/central-europe-fit-future-10-years-after-eu-accession

–          Bajrektarevic, A. (2014), Europe of Sarajevo 100 Years Later, Routledge – London, UK

–          Krulis, Krytof: Enlargement Ten Years on: New Europe’s Contribution to Single Market. Association for International Affairs. Research Paper 1/2014. Prague, February 2014.

–          Think Visegrad Platform: Between Institutional Engineering and Crisis Management: The Visegrad Voice in the EU Governance Debate;

–          Timo Baas and Herbert Brücker: EU Eastern Enlargement: The Benefits from Integration and Free Labour Movement;

 


[1] Attila Marján: Europe’s Destiny, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, USA

[2] Ottmar Issing: Europe: Common Money – Political Union? p. 6. European Central Bank, 1999.

[3]http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/if-the-euro-fails-europe-fails-merkel-says-eu-must-be-bound-closer-together-a-784953.html

[4]Bajrektarevic, A. (2014), Europe of Sarajevo 100 Years Later, Routledge – London, UK (page 143)

[5]Pisani-Ferry, Jean, et al.: Coming of Age: Report on the Euro Area, Bruegel Blueprint 4. p.4. 2008, Brussels

[6] M. Nic – P. Swieboda (ed): Central Europe fit for the future: 10 years after EU accession  2014. January  21. CE Policy.org; http://www.cepolicy.org/publications/central-europe-fit-future-10-years-after-eu-accession

[7] Attila Marján: EU rule changes force a Visegrad re-think. Europe’s World No. 26. 2014.

[8] See more on this in: K. Krulis: Enlargement Ten Years on: New Europe’s Contribution to Single Market. Association for International Affairs. Research Paper 1/2014. February 2014. Prague.

[9] All data from European Commission, Eurostat

Hungarian economist, PhD in international relations. Based in Brussels for fourteen years as diplomat and member of EU commissioners’ cabinets. Two times visiting fellow of Wilson Center in Washington DC. University professor and author of books on EU affairs and geopolitics. Head of department, National University of Public Administration, Budapest.

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“The starry heavens above me…”* A plea for awareness and peace

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*Immanuel Kant: “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” 

In the neighborhood with Russia

Who is actually aware today where the border of the former German Empire was once located? Or how far to the northeast the village of Nimmersatt and the nearby coaching inn Immersatt actually lay?   Nimmersatt was located at the northern tip of East Prussia, surrounded by the Baltic Sea to the west and Russia to the east and north. Russia – then Russian Lithuania – was our direct neighbor until 1918. The Memel territory was traditionally Prussian borderland, 120 km long and 40 km wide, stretching north along the Memel River. In 1422, the Treaty of Melnosee established the frontier, which remained almost unchanged until 1920. After the Pyrenean border, it is the second oldest in Europe.

Source: : de-academic.com

Located on the imperial border, Nimmersatt was the former German Empire’s most northeastern spot and was last in German hands in 1945.[1] Like Nimmersatt, there are many seemingly vanished places and landscapes in historic eastern Germany. But they have for the most part disappeared. These places bear witness to the fact that many Germans, consciously or unconsciously, are still deeply rooted in these seemingly vanished landscapes.

The German soul is closely connected with the East and its territories, especially with Germany’s historical East, including East and West Prussia and the Memel territory.

According to estimates, about 14 million refugees had to leave their homes after the Second World War, losing everything, all their belongings. About 2 million died in transit, and Germany lost a quarter of its territory.

As Simone Weil (1909–1943) once put it: “Rootedness is probably the human soul’s most important and most misunderstood need.”

Crises, conflicts and silver lining

If you look at today’s world, you see crises everywhere, wars and deep divisions in our societies. Fears are being fueled and images of “the enemy” that were actually long forgotten are being revived. The war that has been raging in Ukraine since 2014 has now escalated on the European continent into a proxy war between the United States and Russia. Russia is being declared the enemy. With its arms deliveries and military support,[2] Germany has also officially entered into the war with Russia.

What immeasurable suffering wars visit on mankind – a painful truth also understood by members of Germany’s “war generation” and their descendants, especially those with roots in Germany’s historical East. Germans and Russians look back on a common and consequential past; we share one of history’s darkest and most horrible chapters, beginning with Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 and the subsequent conquest of East Prussia by the Red Army.

Whatever happened, a shared history connects peoples, and Germans and Russians will therefore always be connected

Civilians are and always have been the ones who suffer most in war. During the Second World War, from 1939 to 1945, the Soviet Union had the most casualties: 24 million people,[3] 14.3 million of them civilians. Germany had a total of 7.7 million casualties, of which 2.2 million belonged to the civilian population.

In her old age, Mama, my mother, could still recall the terrifying whistling sound of the rocket launchers known as “Stalin organs.”[4]  During thunderstorms and when fireworks were being shot off, she would begin to shiver and sought shelter. Yet despite all the war trauma, the attachment to Germany’s historical East is part of the German soul and an integral part of the German cultural nation. Not for nothing was I christened Katja. Mama and my grandmother often affectionately called me “Katjuscha”[5] in their East Prussian dialect – a reference to the old Russian folk song.

The horrible sound of the Stalin organs was eventually forgotten. Bridges of reconciliation between Russians and Germans were built in large numbers after World War II, something that fortunately continues to happen.

Having left the Cold War behind us, which divided the world into good and evil or West and East, the world is evolving into a more complex, multipolar place – a multipolar world that could again give humanity a chance to create a new global world order of peaceful coexistence.

This might be possible were it not for the US, which seems to be resisting a multipolar world with all its might: The US wants to continue to assert its supremacy and influence worldwide. It has basically never withdrawn from Germany, and does not accept any other powers on the world stage. This US influence is expressed above all in the strategies of NATO and the EU, since they again rely on images of Russia and China as “the enemy” and on exclusion and division.

Shaktarp – when life comes to rest

The “Fifth Season” – Shaktarp in Lithuanian or, in Russian, Rasputitsa – is a special time, between the winter and spring season. It is the time of floods, of inundated meadows. This time was also called the time of “roadlessness” – the Memel territory and neighboring lowlands were neither passable, nor navigable during this period.[6] Life and people came to rest and there was thus time for reflection. Perhaps this is what our world sorely needs now.

It seems to me just the right time to pause, to rediscover and feel the magic of life. A magic that comes from looking at a piece of amber through which the sun is shining. Often found near the Baltic Sea, amber continues to fascinate people to this day. Sometimes known as the tears or gold of the gods, amber was once an important commodity, more valuable than gold, and it made its way across Europe on ancient trade routes from the Baltic Sea to Southern Europe and North Africa – one of the beginnings of globalization, or, rather, of the bonds that bring people together.

In addition to the Silk Road, the Amber Road has connected people, drawing them under the spell of this magical substance, which shines brighter than the sun.[7]

“States don’t have friends, states only have interests”

The observation made in 2013 by Egon Bahr, the German politician known for a commitment to peace and détente, remains true today: “International politics is never about democracy or human rights. It is about the interests of states. Remember that, no matter what they tell you in history class.[8] Otto von Bismarck and Charles de Gaulle, among others, have also pointed out that feelings and values have no place in politics. Only “interests and reciprocity should be used as a guideline.”[9]

Therefore, it is more important than ever to accept realities and define national interests. Values are volatile and often subject to the current zeitgeist. For example, no one called for a “feminist values-based foreign policy” until a German foreign minister from the Green Party did so. The much “cited community of values is not a form of governance, as it has not been legitimized by any democratic process.” [10]

We have been living in a multipolar world for a long time, with different forms of governments, democracies, dictators and authoritarian regimes.  But our international institutions and organizations, which were created after the Second World War, have not been updated.

According to a study by The Economist in 2021, only 45% of the world’s population lives in countries with democratic structures.[11] The ostensibly promising narrative of “change through trade” has not come to fruition. The expansion of economic relations with China that began in 1978 has been driven solely by economic gain. Even today, China offers a huge market for foreign products. The expansion of economic relations and the opening of the country in turn has helped move a significant part of the Chinese population out of poverty, and China’s technological backwardness has been quickly overcome. Both sides, the West and China, were and still are exclusively concerned with economic interests and geopolitical influence in Eurasia.

What is new, among other factors, is that the military no longer has a monopoly on wars and conflicts. We are increasingly experiencing ideologically fueled media and propaganda wars that deeply divide the population, make factual debates almost impossible, and drive humanity into division and thus into wars.

Ideology prevails over common sense and the heart

Fear and hatred are mighty propaganda tools – e.g., fear of the virus, fear of CO2 and distrust of Russia and China. The laborious and decades-long process of reconciliation between Germans and Russians, among others, has come to a standstill. Not only have economic relations been broken off, but cultural exchange has also come to a halt. Russian artists are being disinvited from performing if they have not publicly taken a clear stand against Putin. Political attitudes have become more important than art, and ideological attitudes are determining economic orientations and political decisions.

China – the surveillance state

The narrative of “change through trade” is now a thing of the past. China continues to pursue its “Grand Strategy.” What were once the dynasties of the Chinese Empire have become – since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949 – the Communist Party, with current President Xi Jinping as its head, as emperor. In accordance with the “Chinese Dream,” the country is striving to become Number 1 in the world in all areas, including military power.

The drastic end of its zero-Covid policy shows how capable China is. The Chinese government has reacted, in a way that saves face, to the “spontaneous protests” and thus shown strategic flexibility. Thus, Xi Jinping has not only done the Chinese economy a great favor by lifting all Covid measures, he has also cemented his power and the power of the Communist Party. The transformation into a different system, propagated for so long by the West as justification for maintaining economic relations with an authoritarian regime, now seems more unlikely than ever. On the contrary, the Chinese government continues to pursue its strategy and to build a perfectly controlled, highly technological surveillance state.

China thus remains a very flexible economic partner and geopolitical player. This requires an equally flexible China strategy on the part of other countries. Supply chain disruptions must always be taken into consideration, investments in China should be thought about carefully and protected. Potential dependencies in the area of critical infrastructure and products, such as upstream inputs for pharmaceuticals, should always be avoided. Yet this also applies to economic relations with non-authoritarian regimes.

Moreover, dealings with China, economic and political, should be free of emotion, determined only by the relevant economic interests and reciprocity, for the benefit of all concerned parties. The fact is: China continues to go its own way and is a country in which the individual and individual freedoms play a very limited role.

Ideology has great importance in China – an ideology that is not only intended to hold the population together internally, but is the guiding principle externally for every political step on the world geopolitical stage. In dealing with China, one’s own national interests and reciprocity should always be the guiding principle. This applies not only to interactions with China, but especially to those with Russia as well.

We are all connected to each other.

Russia and the German soul

Let’s be realistic: Russia is a nuclear power; economic sanctions will not harm it in the long run as a country that is almost immeasurably rich in raw materials. On the contrary, sanctions allow Russia to diversify its gas market and thus no longer depend on just one customer.

A prime example:  the reactivation of the economic corridor running from China to Mongolia to Russia.[12] Further, the Russian gas pipeline to China will replace Nordstream 2.[13] In the course of securing its energy supply, China wants to keep its energy mix balanced and is thus increasing the share of natural gas. India is also a grateful purchaser of Russian gas.

Something that shows a decoupling from Russia is not so simple is the fact that from January to October 2022, Europe’s LNG imports increased by 40% over 2021. Russian LNG accounted for 16% of total European marine imports, with the main customers being France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands.[14] Instead of low-cost and environmentally friendly pipeline gas, the focus is now on LNG.

The resulting damage is now being felt by Germany in particular, as an industry-intensive and, compared to Russia, resource-poor country. The growing home-made energy crisis is driving deindustrialization in Germany; large companies are increasingly thinking of leaving the country; medium-sized enterprises – once the backbone of the German economy – are increasingly being destroyed; the country’s economic performance is declining; unemployment and poverty are the consequences.

And wasn’t the attack on Nordstream 2 the first terrorist attack against Germany since World War II?

The decisions and actions of the current Federal Government, with Olaf Scholz as Chancellor, are not in accordance with the oath taken “to prevent harm to the German people.”

“I swear that I will devote my strength to the welfare of the German people, increase its benefit, avert harm, uphold and defend the Basic Law and the laws of the Federation, fulfill my duties conscientiously, and ensure justice for all. (So help me God.)”

With or without God’s help, arms deliveries and military support to Ukraine, the homemade energy crisis, the intolerable excesses of gender-neutral language, so-called wokeness, cancel culture and uncontrolled immigration are also destroying not only the German soul, language and culture and putting pressure on the national budget, they are also continuing to widen already deep social divisions. None of this works to the benefit of Germany and the German people.

The power of culture, history and geography

“… the continuity of the state without which Germany would be much poorer – Germany did not come out of nowhere. Prussia was one of the most formative great powers in Europe and one of the most modern states in the world, with its effective administration, literacy down to the last street in the last village, and the rule of law at all levels.[15]

While there were serious political instabilities in the Weimar Republic, as the largest member of the German Empire, Prussia was politically very stable. Otto von Braun,[16] Prussian prime minister from 1920 to 1932 and a diehard Prussian and Social Democrat, reformed the state and school systems. Prussia was thus a “reliable pillar of the Weimar Republic.” But, following the so-called “Prussian blow,”[17] von Braun was removed from office.

The Reich’s control over Prussia, especially over the Prussian police, made it much easier for Adolf Hitler to establish a dictatorial regime in the course of the National Socialist takeover in 1933.[18]

The power of culture and shared history together with geography are enduring cornerstones that provide a strong foundation. “Between Russia and America lie oceans. Between Russia and Germany lies a great history,” wrote historian Michael Stürmer.[19] Vladimir Putin also quoted Stürmer in his speech to the German Bundestag on September 25, 2001.

Building bridges

My unshakable optimism tells me that it is not too late to return to our fundamental power, our culture and history, in order to create a new world order based on peaceful coexistence. What’s more, because of its geographic location, Germany should serve as a bridge between East and West.

Authoritarian regimes can only be changed from within, by their own people. Thus, Germany, too, can only free itself from its shackles from within, leaving behind the seemingly endless moralizing blame game and victimization loop and returning to what we Germans actually are: peace-loving, creative, innovative, technically expert and culturally sensitive.

How else should one interpret the famous “golden 20s” of the early 20th century? Here are some examples: Within a short time and despite the immense reparation claims made by the victorious powers based on the Versailles Treaty of June 28, 1919,[20] defeated Germany became the second most powerful industrial nation after the US – thanks to US credits, because banks in the US had faith in Germany’s economic power.  Further, as the treaty also prohibited motorized flight, some Germans made a virtue out of necessity, tinkered a bit and invented the glider.[21]

The economic basis for Germany’s return to its fundamental strength, to its roots, is first and foremost the need for a drastic reduction in the state administration and the number of its government employees.  The state should return to its original tasks: ensuring there is efficient infrastructure; a high-quality and affordable health-care system; high-quality, affordable and humane care for those in need; an excellent and free system of education; as well as ensuring internal and external security – in keeping with the oath taken to act for the good of the German people.

Changing our view of the world

The press, education and the health-care system, among others, must no longer be subject to competition and profit maximization, and could be transformed instead into foundations, for example.

Only a free press can ensure freedom of opinion and access to the full range of information. The monopoly of state media – such as broadcasters ARD and ZDF – and the ownership of media by billionaires – the Springer, Bertelsmann (Mohn) and Holtzbrinck families, among others – must end to create space for alternative media and sources of information. We need be well informed in order to become critical-thinking people in the sense of Immanuel Kant’s saupe aude.

The education system and especially the health-care system and pharmaceutical companies and their research must not be driven by profit maximization. Hospitals must not be run like businesses – health should be their exclusive concern. Old people’s and nursing facilities should be outfitted with the best possible equipment. The staff should be optimally paid. Profit should not play a role; all efforts should be guided by the desire to help people experience a graceful and respectful end to earthly life.

The divine within us and awareness

In his writings, Jacques Ancel, French geographer and geopolitician, proposed an identity of the heart, and a nation of the heart – the idea that people can connect and create a community based on a common history, language and culture. 

This path back to the heart reconnects us as human beings to the divine. We are all “soul people.” We are spiritual beings that come from the same source. This spiritual or divine expresses itself differently in various cultures and traditions, be it religion, Buddhism, shamanism or a closeness to nature.

We should shift back from the cold rational mind to the feelings of the heart. By doing so, we can create a new world view and a new world order. Such a reconnection to the heart and the divine in us would enable us to look at life and nature with reverence and love once again.

May we all become aware once again of our humanity and the many things that connect us.

Identity of the Heart – Back to the Roots – We Are All Love

References and further reading

Ancel, Jacques (1938):  Géographie des frontières, Gallimard.

Banik, Katja (2022): Im Rausch des Bernsteins – der historische Osten Deutschlands, www.katjabanik.com

Banik, Katja (2021): A clear view eastwards: Russia and Germany, www.katjabanik.com

Banik, Katja (2021): Without roots, no future. Decoupling ideologies, www.katjabanik.com

Bode, Sabine (2009): Kriegsenkel. Die Erben der vergessenen Generation, Klett-Cotta.

Brzezinski, Zbigniew (1998): The Grand Chess Board, Basic Books.

Die Bundesregierung (2022): Krieg in der Ukraine, www.bundesregierung.de

Deutscher Bundestag: Wortprotokoll der Rede Wladimir Putins im Deutschen Bundestag am 25.9.2001.

https://www.bundestag.de/parlament/geschichte/gastredner/putin/putin_wort-244966

Deutsch Historisches Museum (2022): Lebendiges Museum Online, Berlin.

Euractiv (2022): Russia says pipeline to China will replace Nordstream 2.

Dohnanyi, Klaus (2022): Nationale Interessen, Siedler Verlag, München.

Graichen, Hesse (2012): Die Bernsteinstraße. Verborgene Handelswege zwischen Ostsee und Nil, Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Hamburg.

Jähner, Harald (2022): Höhenrausch. Das kurze Leben zwischen den Kriegen. Rowohlt-Berlin.

Kossert, Andreas (2009): Kalte Heimat: Die Geschichte der deutschen Vertriebenen nach 1945, Pantheon Verlag.
Lasch, Otto (1959): So fiel Königsberg, Gräfe und Unzer Verlag.

Namzhilova, Victoria (2022): Economic Corridor China – Mongolia- Russia: Infrastructure in Focus, RIAC.

ostexperte.de, Nachrichten aus Russland und China, Berlin.

Putin, Wladimir (2021): Offen sein, trotz Vergangenheit, Gastbeitrag vom 22.6.2021 in der WochenzeitungDie Zeit.

https://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2021-06/ueberfall-auf-die-sowjetunion-1941-europa-russland-geschichte-wladimir-putin/komplettansicht

Pölking, Hermann (2022): Das Memelland. Wo Deutschland einst zu Ende war, bre.bra. verlag, Berlin

RedaktionsNetzwerkDeutschland (2022): www.rnd.de. Hannover.

Statista (2022): https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1055110/umfrage/zahl-der-toten-nach-staaten-im-zweiten-weltkrieg/

Segelflugzeug.org (2022): www.segelflugzeug.org

Teltschik, Horst (2019): Russisches Roulette: Vom kalten Krieg zum kalten Frieden, C. H. Beck.

The Economist (2022): https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2022/02/09/a-new-low-for-global-democracy?fsrc=core-app-economist?utm_medium=social-

Wagener, Martin (2021): Der Kulturkampf um das deutsche Volk. Der Verfassungsschutz und die nationale Identität der Deutschen, Lau Verlag.


[1] Pölking (2022): Das Memelland. Wo Deutschland einst zu Ende war.

[2] Bundesregierung.de (2022) War in Ukraine.

[3] Statista (2022): https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1055110/umfrage/zahl-der-toten-nach-staaten-im-zweiten-weltkrieg/

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VduZuCsqL00

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acPvvv1gqGg

[6] Pölking (2022): Das Memelland. Wo Deutschland einst zu Ende war.

[7] Graichen, Hesse (2013): Die Bernsteinstraße.

[8] Bahr (2013) Conversation with students, „Willy Brandt Reading Week,” Friedrich Ebert House Heidelberg.

[9] Otto von Bismarck.

[10] Dohnanyi (2021): Nationale Interessen.

[11] The Economist (2022): https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2022/02/09/a-new-low-for-global-democracy?fsrc=core-app-economist?utm_medium=social-

[12] RIAC (2022): https://russiancouncil.ru/en/analytics-and-comments/analytics/economic-corridor-china-mongolia-russia-infrastructure-in-focus/

[13] Euractiv (2022): https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/russia-says-pipeline-to-china-will-replace-nord-stream-2-2/

[14] Rnd (2022): https://www.rnd.de/wirtschaft/fluessiggas-aus-russland-europa-importiert-rekordmenge-Y4DHLEMMPFEB5A5VSWZSLTVCD4.html

[15] PAZ, No. 47, 25.11.2022.

[16] German Historical Museum (DHM), https://www.dhm.de/lemo/biografie/otto-braun

[17] DHM, https://www.dhm.de/lemo/kapitel/weimarer-republik/innenpolitik/preussenschlag

[18] DHM, https://www.dhm.de/lemo/kapitel/weimarer-republik/innenpolitik/preussenschlag

[19] ostexperte.de, https://ostexperte.de/deutschland-und-russland-teil-1/

[20] DHM, Berlin. https://www.dhm.de/lemo/kapitel/weimarer-republik/aussenpolitik/versailler-vertrag.html

[21] Glider.org, http://www.segelflugzeug.org/segelflug_geschichte.php

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The Ukrainian Crisis and its Impact on the European Security Governance and Global Legal Order

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Emergency services are working around the clock to deal with the consequences of Russia`s strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure. (file photo). Photo from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine

Authors: Abhinav Mehrotra and Amit Upadhyay*

As the attack on Ukraine continues by the Russian Military, there is a need to understand the continued impact of such attacks on global governance and legal order. The illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories has been one of the most shocking incidents affecting the world order since World War II ended. It sets a dangerous precedent for all independent nations formerly part of big empires from asserting their own identity as sovereign nations as per international and domestic norms.

Historically, the modern Ukraine crisis began with Nikita Khrushchev’s 1954 transfer of Crimea from the Russian Socialist Federal Republic to the Ukrainian Socialist Federal Republic in order to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Ukraine-Russia unification. The crisis further extenuated during the 1990s after the disintegration of the USSR, when the Western leaders understood that Russia must not be labelled as a defeated state. It was in this background that the West was to assume responsibility to develop post-Cold War structures, processes, perceptions, and activities by balancing the European nation’s interests and promoting democratic and liberal values, alongside keeping Russia within the framework.

Further adding to the complexity was the fact that NATO, under the US leadership, developed a complicated architecture where NATO’s integrated military command structure would be preserved. The aim was to develop close relationships with the European countries that later took the form of the European Union. Surprisingly, during these deliberations, the United States and other NATO nations never took into consideration the fact that it may be Russia’s will to remove the NATO like the Warsaw pact and have an equal role in developing a new institution for ensuring security.

Nonetheless, the act of a nation ie Russia exercising control over the political decision-making of another independent nation ie Ukriane  with the objective to retain in its influence using force undermines various key principles of international law. It is argued by Russia that the West including the European Union (“EU”) has failed to understand Russia’s security interests whereas the EU argues that a serious diplomatic effort is necessary to re-establish the core principles of the European political order which Russia so far have failed to do.

What needs to be understood  is that for Russia, the defiance in the post-Soviet Union era world order can be traced to the act of taking Pristina airport with paratroopers in 1999 based on a presumed occupation by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which is similar to the ongoing Ukrainian Crisis where NATO’s eastward expansion has been cited as the reason for anticipatory self-defense

Cut to the present, the annexation of Crimea, aggression against Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories by Russia have far-reaching implications for European and global security. It challenges certain basic assumptions underlying the western policy in the post-Cold War era of treating Russia more as a partner than an adversary and considering Europe essentially stable and safe from invasion. The lack of an EU strategic framework to deal with security challenges in relation to Russia. EU needs to have a more robust defence posture requiring it to revisit its defence strategies especially when the possibility of Russian aggression against other European states cannot be excluded. The Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) responsible for supporting revised security policies has been insufficient as Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence is seen as essential indicator for future European security governance. The CSDP sought autonomy from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (“NATO”) to have Europeans provide for their own security as a strategic doctrine, but it has since generated limited autonomous military capacity.

In this context, there is need to analyse to what extent Russia’s intervention in Ukraine is based on the assertive defence of its interests in its neighbourhood inspired by a revisionist challenge to the European rules-based system of security governance and how it impacts global order. The need of the hour is to see how International Community, States and Multilateral Institutions respond to Russia’s actions to provide the balance between the requirements of European security and the resources available to support it as International law is dealing with the unique challenge posed by Russia’s defiant behaviour including the acts of claiming exclusive rights and privileges; the need to claim a higher position in the international social hierarchy due to diminished reputation and importance, relative to other nations; and a belief that all these actions are necessary for national prestige, security and wealth

Going forward, the United Nations Security Council and other multilateral institutions need to be democratized to accommodate the differing views considering contemporary geopolitical realities. The inclusive collective security institutions are the need of the hour, and they should be accountable to the international legal framework for inclusive global governance.

*Amit Upadhyay is an  Associate Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University and holds an LL.M.  in European and International Law from Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany. His research interests include Constitutional Law, Legal Theory and Human Rights.

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European Union: Refugees’ Right to Seek Asylum & The Principle of Non-Refoulement

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migrants refugees
file photo: IOM/Amanda Nero

Since the establishment of the United Nations, the protection of refugees has been a major priority for the global community. Refugees and anyone in need of protection might use the aid that the States were offering them via the asylum route. These national asylum systems, however, sometimes lacked effectiveness and offered uneven access to the asylum processes. The European Union has been working to create a Common European Asylum System to address this issue by harmonizing the asylum policies and practices of its Member States and streamlining the review of asylum applications. It did this by relying on the pre-existing body of international law, which was controlled by the Rules of the Refugee Convention, 1951 and the Non-Refoulement Principle. The resultant European law on asylum was not an autonomous legal system but rather one that was strongly related to international humanitarian law on refugees. The adoption of uniform laws and asylum processes has shown how difficult it has been for the European Union to come up with policies to handle its migrant and refugee populations. The European Union has been attempting to implement a basic border patrols at the same time in order to stop international crime and illegal immigration.

Procedure for granting the Right to Asylum & Conditions for the Principle of Non-Refoulement:

Numerous steps in the realm of diplomatic and defence policy, in addition to border control and security, were designed to stop illegal immigration[1]. The goal behind the European Security and Defence Policy [ESDP][2] was to prevent as many migrants and asylum seekers from attempting to enter Europe by participating in military and civilian operations in crisis zones throughout the globe. All of these tools have the indirect effect of limiting refugees’ and asylum seekers’ access to the European Union while being designed to manage migration. Even yet, the European Union has created a number of political and legal tools to safeguard these same refugees and asylum seekers, demonstrating its steadfast commitment to upholding human rights and international agreements[3].

For those who manage to cross the border into Europe, the processes to be given refugee status in one of the EU nations were sometimes difficult and took a considerable amount of time. The wide variety of asylum systems and regulations that prevailed across Member States was to blame for this. However, during the last several years, the European Union has made significant strides toward harmonizing the asylum process and has come to an agreement on a set of rules and principles to reduce the differences between the Member States in the area of asylum[4]. As a result, a European Refugee and Asylum Law was created and the issue of asylum was included into the legal system of the European Union. In addition, implementing the whole acquis[5] on asylum has become a requirement for nations wishing to join the European Union.

The legislation governing refugees and asylum seekers in the European Union has undergone continuous development. The development of a Common European Asylum System, which had to juggle the disparate legal frameworks of the Member States with the international standards of refugee protection established by the 1951 Refugee Convention, posed the biggest challenge to the European Union in the area of asylum. All of the nations that make up the European Union have ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and adhere to its asylum regulations[6]. The application of Article 63 of the 1951 Refugee Convention establishing the European Community is essential to the right to asylum in the European Union. Non-Refoulement, a fundamental tenet of international refugee law, was first stated in terms of EU legislation in Paragraph 13 of the Presidency Conclusions of the Tampere European Council in October 1999. It would be fascinating to learn the social and cultural factors that influence migrants’ decision to settle in Europe and how that continent handles the resulting cultural blending. Many migrants and asylum seekers look to Europe as a model of economic advancement, democratic government, and observance of human rights. However, immigrants may pose an economic and cultural burden from a European perspective. Refugees and asylum seekers must be given social aid, shelter, and possibly work by the nation offering them sanctuary[7]. Additionally, it must deal with cultural issues like the assimilation or integration of immigrants, who can find it difficult to fit into the new society. The activities of numerous agencies and organizations working in this area, as well as the steps the media has done, to analyse the sociological and cultural perspective must be examined to have a better and wider view point to get the solutions of this issue pertaining to asylum seekers[8].

Therefore, political and economic approaches must be connected. Given the financial crisis, certain European nations may easily alter their stance on immigration. Due to their inability to support both immigrants and a rise in the number of jobless citizens, Member States may be forced to tighten immigration policy as a result of the financial crisis. On the other side, the financial crisis may make immigration easier by giving States access to inexpensive skilled labour. Disadvantaged people, like refugees and asylum seekers, would no longer be a burden on nations, but rather a valuable economic resource[9]. It is unknown which alternative the nations will choose. These may be found in a number of rulings, including:

  1. In the case of Elgafaji v. Staatssecretaris van Justitie, application of Article 15(c) 1951 Refugee Convention regarding provision of subsidiary protection to civilians who might face indiscriminate violence upon repatriation.
  2. In the case of Salahadin Abdulla and Others v. Bundesrepublik Deutschland, the issue at hand was the interpretation of Article 11(1) (e) of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which dealt with the termination of refugee status when the conditions that had given rise to it ceased to exist.
  3. In the case of Bolbol v. Bevándorlási és llampolgársági Hivatal, interpretation of Article 12(1) (a) of the 1951 Refugee Convention on the exclusion of people protected by organs or agencies of the United Nations other than UNHCR from the refugee status.
  4. In the Cardoza-Fonseca case, the American Immigration and Naturalization Service denied a Nicaraguan woman’s request for asylum because she was unable to show a demonstrable risk of persecution if she were sent back to her native country. The respondent attempted to petition for asylum and avoid deportation even though she was living in the country unlawfully because she had a legitimate fear of being persecuted. According to the US Supreme Court, a significant difference should be established between a clearly probable persecution and a well-founded fear of persecution when determining whether to grant refuge. In this instance, the Nicaraguan lady sought both asylum and a stay of removal based on the same ground, a well-founded fear of persecution, oblivious to the fact that the two requests were distinct and required separate justifications.
  5. The House of Lords established the same in the case of R v. Secretary of State for the Home Department that there had to be demonstrated a reasonable degree of likelihood that he would be so persecuted, and in determining whether the applicant had made out his claim that his fear of persecution was well founded, the Secretary of State could take into account facts and circumstances known to him or established, the court stated. This implied that there had to be a substantial danger of persecution in the applicant’s place of origin in order for them to dread returning there and request refuge.
  6. In Korablina v. Immigration and Naturalization Service (1998, US Court of Appeals of the 9th Circuit), which illustrates the circumstances of a Jewish Ukrainian lady who endured persistent acts of religious prejudice in her country of nationality, is an important case law on the acts of persecution. The Court comes to the opinion that persecution may be established by repeated, particular acts of violence and harassment directed against a person and her family members, including acts committed by both the government and a group it has chosen not to exert authority over.
  7. In A and Another v. Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Another (1997, Australia High Court) details the case of a Chinese couple with one child who requested asylum in Australia on the grounds that they belonged to a social group and would face persecution and forced sterilization if they were sent back to the People’s Republic of China. This case is another important one on the relationship between discrimination and persecution. A form of persecution must be involved for the prejudice to qualify, and it must be motivated by the victim’s race, religion, nationality, political views, or membership in a specific social group. According to this expansion of the Refugee Convention, persecution and discrimination have a shared basis, such as race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a specific social group.
  8. In Attorney General of Canada v. Ward, 1993 case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada, the mention of state protection is made. This case demonstrates that if a state fails to provide for the protection of its citizens, those citizens may experience a well-founded fear of persecution and seek refuge in other nations. If the claimant’s fear has been proven, one is entitled to assume that persecution will likely occur and that the fear is well-founded if there is a lack of state protection.

There is no question that these notions are completely interrelated, despite the fact that they may sometimes be deceptive. But creating a set of requirements to limit the number of migrants entering its frontiers through the asylum procedure is the major problem for the State.

Conclusion:

The UNHCR and other international and non-governmental organizations’ findings must be taken into consideration before a decision is made to move a person to another country, which is the biggest obstacle for EU Member States in effectively implementing the principle of Non-Refoulement. For the concept of Non-Refoulement to be completely recognized and effectively used, the nation to which a person is exiled must be secure, both in theory and in reality. Asylum seekers are given temporary protection under the subsidiary status as well as under the temporary status. The Member State that provided the asylum seeker with protection may decide that it is safe to send him back to his home country when the conditions that prompted him to leave his country change, without thoroughly examining whether his nation is indeed safe in reality and not only in principle. Thus, the asylum seeker may be sent back to dangerous nations in violation of his right to Non-Refoulement if a circumstance like this emerges.

While the majority of Member States have embraced the European acquis on refugee and asylum issues, some have been less receptive to the harmonising of the European asylum system and have preferred to be guided by their national law when dealing with refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, evacuated populations, or people in need of international protection. Additionally, policies pertaining to asylum and to freedom, security, and justice are recognized as shared capabilities between the Union and the Member States, which means that Member States are allowed to exercise their competence to the degree that the Union has not done so. In other words, the Member States have the authority to take the necessary actions independently even if the Union has enacted a number of measures related to the question of asylum. We can confirm that a European refugee and asylum law is unquestionably being created by including the subject of asylum in the main European Treaties and by taking a number of steps toward the creation of a Common European Asylum System.


[1] Chapter 1, par.1 of the Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, available at < http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c39e1.html > [accessed on 1st October, 2022].

[2] Daniel Warner, “Migration and Refugees: a challenge for the 21st century”, in Jean-Yves Carlier, Dirk Vanheule, Europe and Refugees: a challenge? Kluwer Law International, The Hague, 1997, p. 58.

[3] UNHCR, 2009 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons, Division of Programme Support and Management, 15 June 2010, p.2, available at [accessed on 1st October, 2022].

[4] Walter W. Skeat, The concise dictionary of English etymology, Wordsworth Editions, Ware, Hertfordshire, 1993, p.164.

[5] Sadako Ogata, “Refugees in the 1990s: Changing Reality, Changing Response”, lecture at Georgetown University on 25 June 1991, in Eduardo Arboleda, Ian Hoy, “The Convention Refugee Definition in the West: Disharmony of Interpretation and Application”, in Selina Goulbourne, Law and Migration, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, 1998, p. 77.

[6] Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Recommendation 773 (1976) on the situation of de facto refugees, 26 January 1976 < http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/AdoptedText/ta76/EREC773.html > [accessed on 1st October 2022].

[7] Maria-Teresa Gil-Bazo, “The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the Right to be Granted Asylum in the Union’s Law”, in Refugee Survey Quarterly, vol.27, issue 3, 2008, pp.33-52.

[8] Eduardo Arboleda, Ian Hoy, “The Convention Refugee Definition in the West: Disharmony of Interpretation and Application”, in Selina Goulbourne, Law and Migration, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, 1998, p. 72.

[9] Liza Schuster, The use and abuse of political asylum in Britain and Germany, Frank Cass Publishers, London, 2003, p.3

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