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Will Europe give in to Washington’s demands?

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s remarks on the nuclear deal with Iran have been widely reflected in the world’s political circles. Many of the international affairs analysts consider these statements to be “the White House full confrontation with Iran,” and they argue that terms stated by the new US Secretary of State are not to be realized.

Pompeo’s speech was delivered as the negotiations between Iran and the European troika on maintaining the nuclear deal are going on. Although the United States seemingly doesn’t play any roles in these talks, but behind the curtains, the American authorities are busy negotiating with European officials in opposition to Tehran’s interests. In recent days, many American media and international affairs analysts have warned Trump about his biased approach towards Iran; warnings that have not been taken seriously so far by the president of the United States and his administration members like Nikki Haley and John Bolton, but can turn into their Achilles’ heel in the near future.

Many of international affairs analysts believe that Pompeo’s remarks are in fact the White House’s absolute and explicit opposition to Iranian government and nation, and are considered as the official announcement of the US attempt to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is while such a goal was followed by Jimmy Carter, Donald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Obama, and ended up with no results but failure for Washington. In this equation, Mike Pompeo has become a messenger for Trump’s defeating government against the Islamic Republic of Iran. It seems that the US Senators’ initial disagreement with Pompeo’s being the US Secretary of State wasn’t without a reason!

A recent New York Times’ article on Pompeo’s remarks reads: Mr. Pompeo promised to bring “unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian [government]… and to inflict “bigger problems than they’d ever had before… There are many things wrong with this approach, but let’s start with this: It’s not a strategy. It’s wishful thinking that will make regional tensions worse, if not lead to outright conflict.

The author then continues: It’s no coincidence that John Bolton, one of the George W. Bush administration’s architects of that disaster, is now at the center of American policymaking as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser.

The next thing to note is about the European troika’s real approach to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The European troika is at the same time negotiating with Mike Pompeo and other American diplomats, and holding talks with our country’s foreign ministry officials on “maintaining the JCPOA”.

In a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Pompeo said the administration intended to use all of America’s economic and military strength against Iran. The demands contain 12 points in all including inspection of Iran’s military sites, termination of our country’s missile program and releasing American prisoners; demands that are basically unrealistic.

However, by adopting a paradoxical approach, the European troika is attempting to persuade Iran to accept a new agreement with the United States. As noted above, since the very moment that the United States pulled out of the nuclear deal, Mike Pompeo began his negotiations with European foreign ministers on how to deal with the atmosphere formed in the international system after the US unilateral withdrawal. In a formal statement, the US State Department emphasized on Pompeo’s talks with his British, German and French counterparts over the Iran deal.

Obviously, if the European officials are incapable to provide the necessary safeguards to ensure the realization of the JCPOA (as mentioned by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution), and continue to play by the US rules, the consequences of Iran’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal is going to struck them as well. We can well see that the talks between the United States and the European troika resulted in nothing better than the joint emphasis of the German Chancellor and the French President on the inclusion of our country’s missile capability and regional activities in the nuclear deal. The European authorities’ insistence on “changing the JCPOA” can be analyzed in the same vein.

The fact of the matter is that the European authorities are well aware that due to the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal, there can’t be any more arguments over “changing the JCPOA”. But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the foreign ministers of the European countries are all after managing a common plan in this regard; a plan whose final outcome is not going to be to our country’s benefits. At this period, Iran is standing at the one side of the equation while Washington and the European troika are cooperating together on the other side. Thus distinguishing between America and Europe in this game would be the biggest strategic mistake by our country.

The US Secretary of State stated that despite withdrawing from the JCPOA, Washington has called for continued cooperation with Europeans on a new agreement with Iran. In other words, European officials, while speaking of resistance against the US measures, are in talks with the White House to form a new nuclear deal with Iran. Under such circumstances, the only remaining option for the European troika is to take an utterly separate way from that of the United States in this game towards the JCPOA, and attempting to realize the rightful demands of the Islamic Republic of Iran in all the aspects which were previously mentioned in the nuclear agreement. Undoubtedly, as far as the European Union is concerned about playing by the US rules and for Trump’s satisfaction, the cost of the Brussels’ defeat will go higher in this equation. This is what many analysts of European affairs has warned about.

First published in our partner MNA

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Libya is in no state to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean

Samantha Maloof

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Italy’s new government—an unholy alliance of the populist M5S and far-right League parties—careened into office on an uncompromising anti-migrant platform, soliciting the warnings of politicians and financial institutions around the world. With its recent decision to hand naval control of a large swath of the Mediterranean—extending almost to Malta and Crete— to failed-state Libya, the coalition government may yet set a new low more rapidly than expected.

Italy’s hope is that the Libyan forces it has ceded responsibility to will prevent shipwrecked migrants from reaching European shores, instead returning them to the very country they are trying to flee. While this plan might sound attractive to a government which has lamented it can’t deport its own citizens from minority backgrounds, NGOs working in the area have stressed the grave threat the new policy poses to migrants. Those rescued now face a return to prolonged detention and harsh treatment in a country which has been desperately torn apart for seven years. From the spate of warring militias which control Tripoli to General Khalifa Haftar’s lengthy campaign against Islamist forces in the country’s east, Libya is plagued with conflicts which make it no safe haven for migrants.

In this context, Italy’s decision to hand over responsibility of such a large portion of the Mediterranean to Libya is likely not only against international law, but an affront to basic human rights. The Italian government is set to donate 12 boats to enhance the capabilities of the Libyan coast guard—such as it is— given its new responsibilities. Libya will need these twelve vessels and more before they can carry out even the most basic search and rescue operations. At present, the country only has three operational patrol boats; barely seaworthy, they are often forced to stay at port due to lack of fuel. “It’s very clear that the priority is not saving lives”, one spokesman from the German charity Sea Watch remarked about the sorry state of Libya’s fleet; “I have not seen a single life jacket.”

Unsurprisingly, Libya’s track record on saving migrants at sea is hardly exceptional. More than 100 migrants, including young children, recently drowned off Libyan shores after the coast guard picked up just 16 survivors when their overloaded vessel capsized. In a separate incident, a shipwreck east of Libya’s capital Tripoli saw 63 people go missing after their inflatable boat sank. The Libyan coast guard was unable to even locate their bodies.

The number of migrants dying during the dangerous crossing has significantly increased since the European Union began to back away from rescue missions and close crucial ports. At the same time human traffickers are exploiting the desperation of those attempting to flee violence on the African continent, the European bloc seems ever more reluctant to extend a well-trained, well-resourced helping hand.

That reluctance has had deadly consequences. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), one out of seven migrants attempting the journey across the Mediterranean died at sea last month, compared to last year’s average of one in 38 migrants.

Though it is becoming increasingly obvious the EU cannot accept further significant inflows of migrants without exacerbating tensions that risk breaking the bloc apart, plans to send migrants back to be detained in war-torn Libya under horrific conditions are simply inhumane.

If Italy is determined to turn over control of migrant rescue operations to the Libyan government, it first needs to make sure that that government is stable and just. So far, the West has done little to support Libya, privileging short-term solutions to the country’s deeply-rooted problems. Many Western countries have also stubbornly continued to push for the unelected, UN-backed-government in Tripoli, long after it has proven to be weak and ineffective. Upon the violent end of Muammar Gaddafi’s four decades of dictatorial rule, the US abdicated responsibility for “picking up the pieces” of Libya. At the same time, the UN worked to reconcile adversarial political blocs under the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). This top-down approach has proven profoundly flawed, not least because it has sidelined actors outside the UN government, such as General Haftar, who already commands significant respect and power in the country.

Thankfully, Western attempts to stabilize Libya are slowly becoming more effective. Major international powers now finally recognize that all principal Libyan stakeholders must necessarily be involved in crafting a sustainable solution. France in particular is taking the lead on pushing for a workable way out of the crisis. Paris believes Haftar, whose four-year-long military campaign has been successful at rooting out the Islamic State and its affiliates from Derna and other fundamentalist strongholds, must inherently be a part of that process. In an encouraging breakthrough, Haftar and the three other key Libyan leaders have met and even tentatively agreed to hold elections in December.

This new approach to diplomacy within Libya’s chaotic borders is promising, and may point to a more stable future in years to come. In the meantime, Libya cannot be trusted with patrolling a huge section of the Mediterranean until a steadfast Libyan government can prove its mettle in ensuring the rule of law domestically.

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U.S. Crushes Europe

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) came out with their listing of “Global Top 100 companies (2018): Ranking of the top 100 global companies by market capitalisation”, and reported: “The increase in China’s market capitalisation has been close to that of the US this year. … China’s contribution to the top 100 market capitalisation increased by 57%, to $2,822bn. … European companies have never fully recovered from the 2009 financial crisis. Europe is now represented by just 23 companies (down from 31 in 2009) and accounts for only 17% of the top 100 market capitalisation (compared to 27% in 2009).

How much more can Europe’s wealth shrink?

Europe is shrinking as an international place to invest, even while it is exploding as an international place to receive refugees from the nations where the U.S. regime bomb and destroy the infrastructure, and leave hell for the residents, who thus flee, mainly to nearby Europe, and so cause the refugee-crisis there. Usually, the U.S. isn’t the only invader: it solicits any allies it can muster — mainly fundamentalist-Sunni Arab regimes, plus the apartheid theocracy of Israel, but also a few regimes in Europe — to join in this creation of hell for the escapees, and of immigrants to Europe. But, as Barack Obama put it, “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.” The U.S. aristocracy intend to keep things that way, and their allies just tag along.

The U.S. regime is solidly neoconservative, or imperialistic; and the way that it grows its wealth and its power now is at Europe’s expense. The data show this.

During recent centuries, Europe had led the world, but now the U.S. does, and at Europe’s expense, but especially at the expense of the people who live where we bomb. This is just a fact, but what are Europeans doing about it? Thus far, nothing. Is that about to change? Maybe things are finally getting bad enough.

On page 31 of the PwC report, is shown that whereas in 2009 the U.S. had 42% of the “Top 100” companies, that figure in 2018 is 54% — 54 firms, instead of the previous 42.

China has 12 instead of the former 9.

But most of Europe has seen declines, instead of rises.

UK now has 5 instead of the former 9.

France now has 4 instead of the former 7.

Germany now has 4 instead of the former 5.

Russia has been hit particularly hard by U.S. sanctions; it now has 0, instead of the former 2.

Three European countries had 1 in 2009 and now have 0 — none at all — and these three are: Italy, Norway, Finland.

No one can reasonably deny, in light of these data, that the U.S. aristocracy — the individuals who control America’s international corporations and U.S. Government and America’s ‘news’media (to control the public) — have continued to win against Europe’s aristocracies (the U.S. counterparts in the European subcontinent). What’s amazing is that Europe’s aristocrats are not fighting back — except (some of them) against the refugees from America’s invasions and coups (and opposing those refugees isn’t dealing with the source of Europe’s economic problem). Even if the publics in Europe are powerless, the billionaires who still remain there are not. How much longer will they continue to be sitting ducks for America’s billionaires to target and eat?

Europe’s power in the world could shrink to almost nothing, unless foreign affairs in Europe soon reverse 180 degrees, and turn against the U.S. and its allies, instead of stay with those regime-change fanatics — and against themselves.

Europe is not declining on account of some failure by Europeans, except a failure to fight back in an intelligent way, which means, above all: against the real source of Europe’s decline. America, after all, definitely is not a democracy.

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Customs Union: The world’s largest trading block turns 50

MD Staff

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The Customs Union is unique in the world. It is a foundation of the European Union and essential for the proper functioning of the Single Market.The Customs Union is a single trading area where all goods circulate freely, whether they’re made in the EU or imported from beyond its borders. This means that there are no customs duties at the borders between EU countries. Duty on goods from outside the EU is generally paid when they first enter the EU. From then on, there’s nothing more to pay and no more checks. National customs services in all EU countries work together as one to manage the day-to-day operations of the Customs Union. Member countries share one single system for handling the import, export and transit of goods.

The Customs Union comprises the 28 Member States of the EU, Monaco and British territories. Over 114,000 customs officers work around the clock at airports, border crossings, ports, inland customs offices or customs laboratories. The EU’s customs administrations need to work closely to facilitate trade and protect the health and safety of all EU citizens.

How does the EU’s Custom Union help to protect and keep us safe?

The aim of the Customs Union is to protect society at large while making sure that legitimate trade can flow easily. The Customs Union defends against international trafficking and smuggling, protects consumers against illegal and dangerous goods, and preserves the environment and European cultural heritage as well as the financial interests of the EU and the Member States. In the EU, there are 90 state-of-the-art customs laboratories to carry out this job. Some labs specialise in certain types of analysis – for example, toy safety. When human senses are not enough to detect certain types of illegal goods, customs officers partner up with sniffer dogs which specialise in detecting illegal drugs, suspicious food, explosives or even large amounts of cash. 

HOW THE CUSTOMS UNION PROTECTS  

 DRUGS AND CIGARETTES  
  • In 2016, EU customs seized almost 4.6 billion illegal cigarette and 298.9 tonnes of drugs in the EU.
  • In Spain, for instance, law enforcement dismantled an organisation producing contraband tobacco products. In three of these operations, 15 persons were detained and more than 275 tonnes of tobacco products, valued at more than €20 million, were seized. Two types of machines were confiscated: for the manufacturing of the tobacco products and for drying the tobacco. Additionally, numerous sacks containing chemical substances used to fabricate the final product were also seized.
  • In Poland, a tobacco sniffer-dog discovered 10.5 million cigarettes inside a sea-container at the container terminal of the Gdynia sea-port.
  • On the west coast of France, 19 tonnes of cannabis resin were seized in a sailing ship. Three tonnes of cocaine were found in a maritime container. In addition, 120 000 doses of diazepam were seized.
  • In Spain, a customs boat supported by a customs helicopter intercepted a sailing ship loaded with almost nine tonnes of hashish.
  • In Belgium, customs seized 2 275 kilos of drugs which were smuggled through passenger traffic (by air) and 476kg by express consignments.
 
WEAPONS  
  • Some 6,256 firearms were seized in the EU in 2016, along with more than 1 million pieces of ammunition and 1 520 pieces of explosives.
  • Customs officials in Belgium were able to stop 126 pieces of weapons/ ammunition/ explosives from entering the EU. These weapons were being smuggled into the EU through air traffic or post.
  • In Spain, 737 assault rifles and 72 grenade launchers, including chargers and instruction books were seized.
 
FAKE AND DANGEROUS GOODS  
  • EU customs intercepted products suspected of violating intellectual property rights on more than 63 000 occasions. In 2016, more than 41 million articles were detained with an estimated value of nearly €672 million.
  • Estonian customs seized almost 34,000 pieces of fake “Diesel” jeans in Muuga Port.
  • Greek customs seized more than 1.3 million batteries, 537,000 packs of cigarettes and 24,300 wallets.
  • There were almost 14 000 cases of goods presenting a risk for consumers in terms of health (sanitary, phyto-sanitary and veterinary technical standards). More than 37 million items were identified as unsafe or uncompliant in terms of product safety.
 
GOODS VIOLATING ENVIRONMENTAL RULES  
  • 3,500 infringements of regulations for endangered species (CITES) were detected. In 96 cases, exports were detected which did not respect the rules on exports of cultural goods.
  • Estonian customs seized almost 66,000 tubes of face cream which contained caviar.
  • In France, 110,000 cosmetic products with caviar and protected plants were seized, as well as 46 square meters of alligator skin and 20 tonnes of wood from the exotic “Dalbergia retusa” species.
  • In the United Kingdom, 300 map turtles (Graptemys spp), 5 live giant salamanders, 6 kg of caviar, 300 leather items made from python skin, 760 kg of traditional medicines containing protected plant species and 18 kg of ivory tusks were seized.
UNDECLARED CASH
  • Travelers entering or leaving the EU are obliged to declare amounts of cash valued at €10,000 or more (or its equivalent in other currencies or bearer negotiable instruments) to customs authorities. In 2016, there were 571 significant cases, where seizures of undeclared cash amounted to more than €50,000.
  • Each year, more than 100,000 cash declarations are submitted to customs, amounting to more than €62 billion. Each year, more than 10,000 cases of undeclared cash or incorrectly completed cash declarations are recorded
  • As part of the EU’s Action Plan against Terrorism financing, recently-agreed new rules will extend the rules to cover cash sent in postal parcels or freight shipments, to prepaid cards and to precious commodities.

How does the EU’s Custom Union help to facilitate trade?

The EU is one of the largest trading blocks in the world. In 2015, the EU accounted for almost 15% of world trade in goods, worth €3.5 trillion. Managing this volume of international trade requires handling millions of customs declarations per year in a fast and efficient manner. The Union Customs Code removed the need for hundreds of different customs forms and now allows the use of electronic transport manifests for customs purposes and the moving of goods under temporary storage without lodging a transit declaration. It also introduced centralised clearance, and is more straight-forward for businesses, providing uniform and harmonised rules on guarantees. Finally, it also reduces the administrative burden on compliant and trustworthy economic operators (AEOs) by allowing a number of simplifications of customs procedures, and of the use of guarantees, and by allowing self-assessment of customs debts under certain conditions.

What has the Commission proposed to support customs operations as part of the new EU budget?

As part of the plans for the next EU budget, the Commission has now proposed a continued financial commitment of €950 million for the EU’s customs programme, representing just 0.07% of the entire budget. The programme supports the essential cooperation between customs authorities across the EU and protects the financial and economic interests of the European Union and its Member States. It has helped to build a modern and innovative Customs Union that ensures the safety and security of all EU citizens, while at the same time facilitating growing global trade. It allows the joint development and operation of major, pan-European IT systems and establishes networks, bringing together national officials from across Europe.

The new proposed Customs Programme [LINK] will build on this success, helping customs administrations to deal with increasing trade flows and emerging trends and technologies, such as e-commerce and blockchain. It will also support customs authorities through enhanced cooperation on the ground and more training. The programme will help to provide better risk management to protect the EU’s financial interests and to respond to security threats and cross-border crime. A new Customs equipment instrument worth €1.3 billion is also being created to allow the purchase, maintenance and replacement of innovative customs equipment by Member States.

CUSTOMS UNION – TIMELINE AND KEY STEPS 

1 July 1968 

 

All customs duties and restrictions lifted between the six member countries of the European Economic Community (EEC). A common customs tariff replaces national customs duties on products from the rest of the world. Trade between the countries multiplies and investment and economic growth increases.
1987  One Single Administrative Document replaces hundreds of national customs declaration forms. At the same time, the common transit system is created.
1992  EU adopts the Community Customs Code, creating a common rulebook for customs legislation. This milestone leads to much simpler guidance for traders and customs alike.
1993 

 

Free movement of goods become a reality: no more customs formalities at internal borders of the EU and no more long queues for lorries filled with goods to be checked at border crossings. For the first time, uniform customs legislation becomes directly applicable in all Member States of the EU.
1994  Launch of the integrated tariff of the European Union in digital format (TARIC) with daily transmissions to the EU Member States. It replaced the first TARIC database with weekly transmissions since 1987.
1996 EU-Turkey Customs Union enters into force.
2003  A new computerised transit system becomes operational. It is the first European customs system that uses electronic declaration and processing.
2004  10 new countries join the EU and the EU Customs Union, marking the largest expansion of the EU Customs Union in its history.
2005

 

 

EU launches the Customs Risk Management system that connects more than 800 customs offices and provides a digital platform to exchange information about risks and irregularities. New security legislation is introduced providing for advance cargo information, risk-based controls and measures aimed at end-to-end supply chain security, including through use of technology.
2008 

 

 

EU introduces the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status: an internationally-recognised quality mark indicating that a company’s role in the international supply chain is secure, and that customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant. It is voluntary and enables simplified customs procedures and in some cases the right to ‘fast-track’ shipments through some customs and safety and security procedures.
2011  Customs becomes a major actor for increased security in the EU. Common risk criteria for security and safety start to apply to all goods crossing the EU borders, ensuring equal protection of all EU citizens and member states.
2016 

 

 

The Union Customs Code takes effect, further modernising and streamlining customs procedures throughout the EU. It also introduces a number of IT systems to support harmonised customs rules and to reduce the administrative burden for trade. Full implementation of IT systems is foreseen in steps, with the majority of systems being available by 31 December 2020, with further upgrades during the period up to 2025.
2018 The EU Customs Union celebrates 50 years of operation.
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