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International Law

The Exclusive Maritime Economic Zones in the Mediterranean

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Nowadays all coastal countries are taking action at maritime level by creating Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and this happens also in the already crowded Mediterranean, thus redesigning power projections, possible future agreements and future alliances.

 It is Turkey, however, which has currently allied with al-Sarraj’s Tripolitania to avoid the harsh conditions that Cyprus and Greece have long imposed on its EEZ.

In principle, Turkey wants economic equality in Cyprus between the two ethnic groups, namely the Greek and the Turkish ones.

Therefore it forces -often manu militari – the external exploration ships to move away from the Cypriot sea, which is an excellent future extraction area.

 Turkey’s idea – which has so far proved effective – serves to separate the Greek contact and continuity with the neighbouring maritime areas of Cyprus and Egypt, so as to avoid the Greek control of the EastMed gas pipeline and hence break the continuity line between Southern Europe and Africa, which is needed mainly by Italy.

 It is useless to resort to more or less universal lawyers and courts of justice. We need to “carry the sword”, as Our Lord Jesus Christ also advises.

 The new Turkish EEZ stretches from the Kas-Marmaris line, on the edge of the Kastellorizo island to the south of Crete, with a triangle that enters the maritime area between the EEZs of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt.

Clearly the aim is to isolate the Greek EEZ from the Cypriot and East and South Mediterranean ones, which have already been classified as particularly rich in oil and gas.

So far Turkey has not specified the precise geographical and geo-mathematical boundaries of its new EEZ, but Egypt has also dismissed it as “illegal” and Greece has branded it as “absurd”.

 A possible strategic calculation is what makes us think that Turkey still regards al-Sarraj in Tripolitania as a card to play for a possible future victory against Khalifa Haftar. It is likely, however, that President Erdogan simply considers al-Sarraj the safest card to play anyway, thanks to his Westernist affiliations.

 Westerners will not abandon al-Sarraj and his Tripolitania full of jihadists and Muslim Brothers. This is music to Erdogan’s ears, since he does not want to be left alone to hold the bag of a failed State, namely Tripolitania.

 Either you are smart on your own – and Erdogan certainly is, besides being an expert strategist – or you trust other people’s stupidity and, in this case, nothing is better than Westerners’ foreign policy. 

In principle, however, what is an EEZ? According to the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, which fully entered into force on November 16, 1994, it is the largest sea area – which, however, cannot exceed 200 miles – in which a coastal State exercises its sovereign rights on the body of water for managing natural resources, such as fishing or the extraction of oil, gas or other substances, as well as for the ecological and biological protection of the marine environment. We should not overlook also scientific research into the sea environment, which is currently essential for technological evolution.

Unless otherwise provided for, theEEZ outer limit coincides with that of the continental shelf in which the State under consideration has the right to exploit mineral resources.

 In this case, the EEZ may not even be proclaimed officially , but the coastal State has always exclusive and original rights on the continental shelf.

 Italy – which is now the country of Farinelli and of the ancient tradition of the castratoopera singers – is also very cautious about the issue of the Turkish-Libyan EEZ. However, at the Cairo Summit held on January 8 last, Italy declared null and void the claims of Turkey and Tripolitania to oppose the claims of Greece, Cyprus and France.

 As to Tripoli alone, however, an EEZ has already existed since 2009.

 It unilaterally incorporates the Fisheries Protection Zone, established in 2005, but the Libyan capital of the West, namely Tripoli, has also declared it has held negotiations only with Greece. As Tripoli claims, said negotiations have ended due to the Greek claim to include in its EEZ a small island below Crete, namely Gaudo, which would have changed – to its benefit – the  equidistance line between the Greek EEZ and Tripoli’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

In the discussion on the Mediterranean EEZs, however, Greece demands a rigid geographical equidistance enhancing its many islands while, currently, in maritime law there is a tendency to use a principle of proportionality between sea surfaces and length of coasts.

Hence Turkey has proposed to Tripoli a new border further north than the one accepted by Greece. This greatly enhances the coasts of Cyrenaica and Anatolia, but severely harms the rights of Crete and the Greek Dodecanese.

Greece, in fact, wants to establish its EEZ not in the Aegean Sea – which would be geographically and politically obvious, although it here clashes with a whole range of conflicting interests of Italy, Cyprus, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Israel – but in the East Mediterranean.

For its Exclusive Economic Zone, Greece has long been seeking agreements with Italy and Albania, but Italy considers only the protection of its fisheries to be a priority, while Albania regards the 2009 Treaty as severely unfair to Albanian maritime interests.

After the harsh darkness of German financial operations against its small economy, Greece is now rebuilding its maritime policy and its modest, but intelligent power projection.

 It is by no mere coincidence that Greece immediately wanted to take part in the European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH), which would monitor commercial and non-commercial transit in the Strait of Hormuz.

 EMASOH is led by France, which now has a close relationship with Greece against Turkey, and sees the participation of Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Germany, Holland and Portugal.

For the time being Greece has exploited the Cypriot harshness vis-à-vis Turkey, especially by granting exploration permits in areas delimited and bordered by the EEZs of Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.

Turkey strongly challenges this Greek maritime autonomy, supporting the right of the Turkish Cypriot community to collect their share of royalties and, in any case, considering part of the Greek EEZ – the one in which prospections have been authorized – to absolutely belong to Turkey.

 The East-Med Gas Forum organized by Cyprus has so far stabilized relations between Crete, Israel and Egypt. The solution reached at the Forum, however, is inevitably written in the sand.

 The real problem for Turkey, however, is the route of the new EastMed gas pipeline, which excludes the Turkish territory and part of the European market from the next gas pipeline planned by Turkey together with the Russian Federation.

So far the EU has not shown it accepts the document for the Turkish-Libyan EEZ.

In fact, however, the European Union cannot effectively oppose the Mediterranean countries that want to have a clearly excessive EEZ in relation to their coasts and economic weight.

As mentioned above, Italy has not signed the Memorandum of January 8 last in Cairo.

 There are many reasons explaining this attitude: Italy does not like Turkey’s excessive autonomy, but it is not even happy with the Greek and Cypriot maritime projects, while France well protects its Total and hence also the agreement between Totaland ENI, between Cyprus and the Lebanese and Egyptian coasts.

Italy’s energy policy, which has never viewed the EastMed pipeline favourably, appreciates and enhances instead the Green stream pipeline from the Libyan (and Tunisian) coasts but, on the other hand, does not even effectively protect its own immediate interests in Libya or Tunisia.

 The strategic link between Turkey’s and Tripoli’s policy, however, is based on a proven fact: the strenuous defense by the EU, Great Britain, Israel and the United States of the gas fields identified south and east of Cyprus.

 Therefore Turkey must look elsewhere to certify its hegemony over oil and gas, which is a right of passage and not a right of production.

Also Colonel Gaddafi, however, had a very personal and sometimes imaginative idea of international maritime law.

 In 1973 the Raìs included the entire Gulf of Sirte in the Libyan inland waters. In 2005 there was the proclamation of the Fishing Protection Zone 62 miles from the coasts of Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya. In 2009, however, there was also the new Libyan EEZ which stretched up to “what international law permitted”, as the Colonel of Sirte used to say, but it was a rather subjective interpretation of maritime law.

 Cyprus, the real punctum dolens of Turkish maritime policy, already established its EEZs with Egypt (in 2003), the Lebanon (in 2007) and Israel (in 2010).

It should be recalled that Turkey has not yet its own EEZ, except for the one defined between Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot Republic, and it accepts the proposal of EEZ with al-Sarraj, while it actively opposes all oil operations in the East of Cyprus.

 Greece has always been bound by NATO’s obligation not to exacerbate tensions with Turkey. It has therefore stopped the establishment of its own EEZ, but Turkey’s activism with Tripoli has changed the situation and hence also Greece’s geopolitical choices.

Certainly every State is anyway free to define its own EEZs, but it should ultimately be a right limited by binding international treaties. Currently, however, the legal-practical criteria are clear and sufficiently common: the first principle is geometric equidistance, while the median line is – almost always – the result of a free agreement between the Parties.

Moreover, the classic approach of equidistance was taken for delimiting the Turkish-Libyan EEZ. As mentioned above, a line was drawn from the waters directly behind Kastellorizo up to the Marmaris peninsula just in front of Rhodes, while the Libyan area of this EEZ goes from the geographical border of Cyrenaica with Egypt up to Derna.

 The Greek islands, apart from Kharpatos, have been completely neglected by the Turkish EEZ, but certainly Greece cannot and does not want to deal directly with Cyrenaica or Tripoli.

Hence what can be done? Greece could immediately extend its territorial waters – which are currently still limited to 6 miles – to 12 miles. However, also Italy is involved since, following the 1985 decision of the European Court of Justice, it must set up its EEZ. The Court of Justice ruled that, while establishing their EEZs, both Malta and Libya should stop at meridian 15°10′, which is the one where the zone of interest of third countries begins – hence precisely Italy.

Among these issues there is the extension – wanted by the Algerian government – of its EEZ to the Central-Western Sea of Sardinia, overlapping the Italian Ecological Protection Zone and the Italian-Spanish continental shelf.

 There is long-standing tension between Spain and Algeria, due to the role of the new post-Franco Spain in the Spanish Sahara and its never denied support to the Frente Polisario y del Rio de Oro, as well as to a vast sequence of old and new conflicts.

The political meaning of the Algerian operation is obvious: as from now Algeria wants to consider itself a frontline State compared to France, which, moreover, has extended its territorial waters up to Ventimiglia and Menton, with an agreement signed secretly in 2015 between Italy and France – an agreement which, strangely enough, grants to France the fishy areas of Cimitero, Fuori Sanremo, Ossobuchi, Vapore and Banco.

 “Sanremo’s red prawns are a dream”, as the Genoese Paolo Conte sang in Genova per noi.

 The agreement is not yet operational, but France has already involved the EU for its implementation.

Hence the Italian masochism does not only concern the Libyan coast.

However, there has been a sequence of creations of Mediterranean EEZs. Israel has defined its Exclusive Economic Zone by excluding the sea in front of Gaza, also for obvious security reasons, thus integrating its areas with those of Cyprus and Greece.

 This has immediately led to Turkey’s reaction and it is well-known that Turkey is now the main point of reference for Hamas, the organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, in the Gaza Strip and in Sinai where Hamas also operates as a thorn in the flesh of the harshest enemy of the Muslim Ikhwan, namely Al Sisi’s Egypt.

In February 2018 units of the Turkish Navy blocked – rather harshly – a Saipem ship which was to explore and probably drill an underwater area off Cyprus, where Turkey had unilaterally declared the universal blockade of seabed exploration activities.

 Moreover, in October 2019, Turkey started its oil and gas exploration in Block 7, which – as established by the Cypriot government – falls within the joint competence of Total and ENI.

 Total – a French company re-founded after the Second World War by the former French intelligence agent Guillermet -was given 20% of the Cypriot Blocks 2 and 9 (the same amount previously held by the Cypriot company Kogas), and 30% of Block 3 – with ENI down to 50% – and also 40% of Block 8, previously totally in ENI’s hands.

 On the one hand, in June 2018 ENI discovered the large Egyptian underwater field, namely Noor, which is already the most important one in the Mediterranean and could radically change Egypt’s economy and power projection.

Hence, on the other hand, Turkey is holding tight the whole underwater oil and gas area of the sea around Cyprus- even extending it to the coasts of Cyrenaica – so as to maintain its status as a global oil hub between East and West and counterbalance the oil expansion of Egypt, Israel, the Greek part of Cyprus and the Lebanon.

As already mentioned, the issue of the Algerian EEZ is particularly interesting, if only our governments had any idea of what the national interest.

It should be recalled that Algeria established its new EEZ on March 20, 2018.

As is well known, the border applies also to the seabed: the Algerian area partly overlaps the Hispanic-Italian continental shelf and the Italian Ecological Protection Zone, to the west of Sardinia, with the Algerian EEZ stretching north-westwards, in the Gulf of Oristano, up to reaching the waters of Portovesme, Sant’Antioco, Carloforte (the area where the best Italian tunafish is produced), Oristano, Bosa and Alghero.

 The cusp of the Algerian area (coordinates 40°21’31” N and 06°50’35” E) is about 60 miles from the coast of Sardinia, but 196 miles from the Algerian coast.

 The Algerian EEZ replaces the old Fisheries Protection Zone (FPZ) established in 1994, which had a maximum distance of 40 miles from the Algerian coast of Ras Tenes and, as things stand now, seems a clear imitation of the new Turkish-Libyan EEZ – to Italy’s detriment, of course.

We should also recall the proposals for maritime expansion by some States in the East. The Levantine Sea is very rich in oil, as well as the Ionian Sea, where Greece is supposed to have designs on its oil and gas.

 There is also the sea south of Crete, now seized and requisitioned by Turkey, but also the Adriatic Sea, which is currently exploited for natural gas by Croatia and Montenegro.

The proposal for establishing an Italian EEZ was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies on December 20, 2019, while the proposal for the establishment of a Ministry of the Sea lies idle in the Senate.

 Certainly, Turkey has recently granted to al-Sarraj’s Libya a very “generous” loan of 2.7 billion US dollars, but – as noted above – Turkey wants to become the one and only energy hub of the whole Mediterranean, both for the lines coming from Russia and the Caucasus and for those originating from the Mare Nostrum.

 Blue Stream, South Caucasus Pipeline, Southern Gas Corridor, TANAP and the Turkish Stream are all elements of a future Turkish hegemony in the energy world, which is Erdogan’s top priority.

 Italy cannot be excluded from all these sectors and, regardless of the government in office, it shall anyway not leave ENI alone and finally conceive an Italian geopolitics in the Mediterranean, which is clearly missing today.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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International Law

Psychology of Political Power : Does Power Corrupt or is Magnetic to the Most Corruptible?

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Last week I attended a conference on ‘Political Power, Morality and Corruption’. A Socratic dialogue with fellow scholars led me back to one question that epistemologically haunts political theory and philosophy to date – Does power corrupt or is magnetic to the most corruptible? The cornerstone that this question posits on is antithetical to the idea of power duality as malefic or benefic. Instead, this problem statement is trying to explore and exact the fundamentals of political power. While the former part of the question is striving to deconstruct the soma of power itself, the latter construct of the question is focussing on the agency of an individual with political power.

Now, if you have read Frank Herbert’s Chapterhouse Dune, Missionaria Protectiva US science fiction novelist (1920 – 1986), he writes, “All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted”. Rather than saying absolute power corrupts absolutely, Herbert reveals a common metaphysical denominator: corruptibility,  that fundamentally connects all those with political power. However, his sematic interpretation gives birth to more questions than answers. Suppose we take Herbert’s argument in consideration and assume that the most corruptible are indeed attracted to power. In that case, the global political infrastructure as we know today, is then built on the building block of corruption by its very virtue. For example, the 4th edition of the Global Corruption Index (GCI 2021) covered 196 countries and territories, and provided a comprehensive overview of the state of corruption around the world based on 43 variables. This extensive data revealed that only 52 countries have a low corruption index, with Finland and Norway leading the way. On the other hand, the rest 144 countries are suffering from profane corruption. Using Herbert’s interpretation of power and corruption, should we conclude that political corruption which is about privatization of average citizen and the use of public sphere to promote private interests, is the foundational political infrastructure of these 144 countries? And if this assertion is true, does it mean that every government representative of these 144 countries are fundamentally corrupt? Herbert’s simplistic interpretation of the problem statement creates a moral conundrum of either this or that, rather than exploring the connection between the two variables – power and corruption.

Power does not corrupt. It amplifies and reveals a leader’s predispositioned traits.

For decades, social psychologists were convinced that power corrupts. One of the key demonstrations of this assertion was the classic Stanford Prison Simulation Experiment (Zimbardo, 1971), where volunteers were randomly assigned to play the role of prisoners or prison guards. As the day passed by, it was observed that the students who were given the role of prison guards became sadistic and exercised their power to subjugate prisoners by taking away their clothes and forcing them to sleep on concrete floors. This subduing was absolute barbaric and callous in nature. The results were shocking. However, the Stanford Prison Experiment failed to explore one crucial variable –  the behavioural and cognitive pattern of students who willingly participated and were recruited to be a part of ‘study of prison life’. So, Thomas Carnahan and Sam McFarland (2007) conducted an experiment on Revisiting the Stanford Prison Experiment: Could Participant Self-Selection Have Led to the Cruelty?. They wanted to studywhat kind of people participate and are drawn to the likes of Stanford Prison Experiment. The research revealed that “ volunteers for the prison study scored significantly higher on measures of the abuse-related dispositions of aggressiveness, authoritarianism, Machiavellianism, narcissism, and social dominance and lower on empathy and altruism, two qualities inversely related to aggressive abuse”.

What Carnahan and McFarland’s experiment revealed was that power doesn’t corrupt, but it is a phenomenon that is monopolized by the agency of an individual. Power amplifies and exposes cognitive and behavioral predispositions that already exists within you. It merely reveals your innate tendencies, but it does not corrupt. Let’s take another example of a democratic statesman who wants to introduce a new healthcare bill for his people, is unexpectedly confronted with an ethical conundrum – he can either strengthen his political power and wealth by collaborating with pharmaceutical giants and increase the prices of the medicines in concern (demand-supply chain) , or he can metamorphosize his proposed bill into reality and benefit his subjects. What will he do? Since he already has procured political power and is deliberating on actualizing his healthcare bill to empower people, power here has not corrupted him. In fact, the argument that power corrupts collapses because if power indeed corrupts, this democratic statesman would not have proposed a healthcare bill for the welfare of his people to begin with. However, if he decides to enact the bill in favor of pharmaceutical moguls to increase his wealth and political status quo, it would be due to his predispositioned behavioral and cognitive schema for corruptibility. How he responds to this ethical conundrum will mirror his political psyche. It has nothing to do with power being essentially corruptible. Power only amplifies and exposes a leader’s predispositioned traits. 

Friedrich Hayek makes a similar point in his chapter ‘Why the worst get on top’ in The Road to Serfdom (1943), where he highlights that individuals who rise to the top in the government are those who want to wield power and those who are most ruthless in using power. He writes, “Neither the government administration of a concentration camp nor the Ministry of Propaganda is suitable places for the exercise of humanitarian feelings. Yet, positions like these create a totalitarian state. So, when a distinguished American economist concludes that the probability of people in power disliking the possession and exercise of power is low, is similar to falsely assuming that the probability of an extremely tender-hearted person to desire a position of an whipping-master in a slave plantation is high.”

Recently, psychologists have re-investigated this phenomenon and theorised that rather than being a corrupting influence, power amplifies leaders’ innate tendencies. For example, extensive research on ‘Leader corruption depends on power and testosterone’ by Bendahan, Zehnder, Pralong and Antonaki used incentivized experimental games to manipulate leaders in power. Here, leaders had complete freedom to decide monthly pay-outs for themselves and their followers. Now, leaders could have made a prosocial decision to benefit the public good. However, they chose to abuse their power by invoking antisocial decisions, which reduced the total pay-outs of their followers but boosted the leaders’ earnings with a high margin. The researchers write, “In Study 1 (N = 478), we found that both amount of followers and discretionary choices independently predicted leader corruption. Study 2 (N = 240) examined how power and individual differences (e.g., personality, hormones) affected leader corruption over time; power interacted with endogenous testosterone in predicting corruption, which was highest when the leader power and baseline testosterone were both high. Honesty predicted initial level of leader’s antisocial decisions; however, honesty did not shield leaders from the corruptive effect of power.” 

Concluding with Caligula – The Mad Roman Emperor!

After years of witnessing the most barbaric purges, treason laws, exiles, execution, and corruption of all time during Tiberius’s rule, Caligula (37 – 41 AD) was seen as a breath of fresh air when he took the throne. After going through despondent years of constant fear, Caligula’s initiation was perceived as a hope for a flourishing Roman republic. At first, Caligula lived up to the expectations of the roman people. He brought back many people exiled by Tiberius and ceremoniously burned the records of the infamous Treason Trails held by Sejanus under the order of Tiberius. This act was celebrated and made Caligula popular and well-liked among the Senate. He then took a step further and eliminated unpopular hefty taxes, initiated constructions of harbors that created massive employment opportunities for Roman citizens, and staged lavish events like chariot races, gladiator shows, and theatre plays to entertain his people. He was indeed a breath of fresh air after Tiberius. 

But, after seven months of his rule, things changed for the worst. Caligula started to use and abuse his political powers so dauntlessly that it pushed Rome into a dark age of political and economic instability. He went on a rampage of committing murder, adultery, and acts of debauchery. His eccentricities became more murderous, including restating the very Treason Trials that he had ended. Dressed in silk robes and covered in jewels, Caligula pretended he was a god. He made it mandatory for his senators to grovel and kiss his feet and seduced their wives at lavish dinner parties. He wanted his statue to be erected in the temple at Jerusalem, which at the point, would have been highly controversial in a region that was already prone to revolt against the Romans. Luckily, Herod Agrippa, who ruled Palestine then, convinced him not to do so. Additionally, since Caligula was spending vast amount of money on his lavish lifestyle, he emptied Rome’s treasury. To reverse this damage, he started blackmailing roman leaders and senates, and confiscated their properties and wealth. 

There is no denying that there was a method to Caligula’s political madness but power didn’t corrupt him. If it did, the first initial seven months of ruling Rome after Tiberius, Roman republic would not have experienced economic, political and culture growth. However, power certainly did amplify and expose his innate characteristics of corruptibility and debauchery. Caligula’s madness of abusing political power and tyrannical reign grew out of control. An assassination plot for structured against him and he was murdered after being stabbed over 30 times by a cabal of Praetorian guards in 41 A.D. This reminds me of what Robert Caro mentioned in his book The Passage of PowerThe Years of Lyndon Johnson(2012), “Power always reveals. When a man is climbing, trying to persuade others to give him power, concealment is necessary. But, as soon as the man obtains more power, camouflage becomes less necessary.” To conclude, it is not that the power corrupts or is magnetic to the most corruptible. The truth is – power only reveals who you truly are.

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Omicron and Vaccine Nationalism: How Rich Countries Have Contributed to Pandemic’s Longevity

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In a global pandemic, “Nobody is safe until everyone is safe”, – it is more of true with respect to the current globalized world system. It is said that crisis strikes the conscience and forces the ‘commonality of purpose’ on one another- and a major one in magnanimous scale. But the current Covid-19 crisis seems to have emerged in oddity with this very axiom, of course, due to self-serving, in WHO’s words- ‘self-defeating’ and ‘immoral’, approaches to dealing the pandemic by wealthy countries.

 A new and potentially more transmissible variant of Covid-19 virus, named Omicron by WHO, has been detected in South Africa. With scientists yet to be confirmed about new variant’s epicenter and its likely implication on human immune system, the emergence of Omicron has brought the long-warned case of ‘vaccine nationalism’– a phenomenon in which each nation prioritizes securing ample doses without considering impact on poor ones- to light.

Unheeded to the repeated warnings by scientists and pandemic specialists, many of the world’s richest countries had embarked on a vaccine-acquisition frenzy and hoarded jabs more than their requirements. Some countries have even gone to the extent that they had acquired up to four times what their population needed. Thereby, it has left majority of poor and developing countries, particularly those in global south, unvaccinated, with further risk of the virus being muted into more virulent variants, as in the case of Omicron.

A simple numerical data over vaccination rate across the world exposes the grotesques picture of pandemic recovery divide among the countries and immoral hoarding and hedging efforts on vaccine supplies by wealthy countries. As of now, whereas only 3% of people in low income countries have fully been vaccinated, the figure exceeds 60% in both high-income and upper-middle –income countries. In Africa, the most under-vaccinated and the epicenter of ominous Omicron, only some 7% of its 1.3 billion people are fully immunized.

Given the 9.1bn vaccines already manufactured and 12bn expected by the end of this year, the question is- why does vaccination effort remain so discriminatory and dividing across the regions? The answer, in most part, lies in the ‘pervasive economic inequity’ inherent in initial vaccine-acquisition process. With their enormous capacity to pay out, rich countries, even before pandemic took devastating hold, had pursued a ‘portfolio-approach’ in investing on vaccine development research by pharmaceutical companies- simultaneous investment on multiple ones. In exchange, those countries stroke bilateral deal with each drag company to secure enough prospective vaccine doses to inoculate their respective population several times over.

This absolutist vaccine-acquisition drive of wealthy nations had substantially thwarted the holistic approach taken up by World Health Organization(WHO) under the platform of COVAX, a vaccine sharing program. With the aim of reducing the delay in vaccine allocation to poor and developing countries, and thus ensuring vaccine equity, the multilateral platform didn’t get enough incentives from wealthy ones, since started its journey in April 2020. Both investment and acquisition by well-off countries, having bypassed the COVAX, kept them into the front of manufacturing line, thereby, contributed to the distributional injustice.

‘What starts wrong ends wrong’- initial absolutist approaches in vaccine acquisition started to be manifested in discriminatory distribution of vaccines. Thereby, an amazing scientific breakthrough, development of vaccine in record time, has been offset by awful political policy. In mid-2021, when one portion of world were almost on the track of carefree normalcy, people in bigger portion were struggling to breath. Today, problem is not in production of vaccines, as 2 billion doses of vaccines are being manufactured in every month, rather in the ‘unfairness of distribution’.

Early monopolistic exercise by G20 on acquisition and subsequent stockpile of vaccines has resulted in such galling situation that they have commandeered over 89% of vaccines already produced and over 71% of future deliveries. Consequently, the global inoculation drive, since started, is so unjust that for every vaccine delivered to the poorest countries, six times as many doses are being administered as third and booster vaccines in the richest countries. Adding further to the crisis being escalated, while more than 100 countries, for past one year, have desperately demanded emergency waiver on TRIPs related regulatory restriction on Technologies crucial to pandemic recovery, it has repeatedly been blocked by UK and EU.

Picture is not all-about gloomy with respect to vaccine collaboration but it is quite tiny to the scale of requirements. Rich countries could not deliver on the commitments they did to help poor countries immunize their population. For instance, WHO’s target of having 40% of global population vaccinated by end of this year, through COVAX, seems certainly to fall short largely due to the rich countries failing to deliver on their promise to use their surplus vaccines to immunize the under-vaccinated countries. Far from near, the G7 countries had drastically failed to deliver on their promises made on G7 summit in June. As of last week, USA has delivered only 25%, with further embarrassing arithmetic of EU only 19%, UK 11% and Canada just 5%.

Given the frightening predictions from WHO that another 5 million could be added to the already 5 million death tolls across the world, in the next year or more, it is high time starting a collective endeavor with herculean efforts to inoculate large swaths of unvaccinated people in un-protected areas. Keeping large portion out of vaccination will only make the pandemic endure with no time to end, as virus continues to persist through mutating in un-protected area into a more menacing variant. If so, then again someone else may say, after next the worst wave-We were forewarned- and yet here we are.             

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The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty (TPNW): Wishful daydream or historic milestone?

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The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), adopted in 2017, has entered into force on the 22nd of January of this year and the number of ratifying states continues to grow, with Mongolia being the latest to announce its accession. This positive trend is certainly welcomed with enthusiasm by the Civil Society campaigners and growing number of supporters of this treaty that represents a huge step forward for the global movement to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. It would certainly be dishonest to ignore the fact that this new international legal instrument remains controversial, to say the least, for most of the members of the so-called nuclear deterrence community. As preparations are ongoing for the first Meeting of States Parties, scheduled to take place in Vienna on 22-24 March 2022, it is useful to address some of the main doubts and arguments against the treaty.

In this regard, the main criticism is that it makes no sense to support a treaty on nuclear weapons if those states that possess them have not joined nor any intention to join it.  

In order to address this claim, it may be useful to recall that in the case of the Mine Ban and the Cluster Munition treaties, its main promoters and supporters were also states that did not possess those weapons, and that those international instruments also received some harsh criticism for this reason. Despite of this, there is no doubt now that both of those treaties have become remarkable success stories, not only by achieving the goal of approaching universalization, but also by consolidating a general moral condemnation of those categories of weapons. Therefore, the argument that a treaty necessarily needs to be joined by the possessors of the weapons can easily be rebutted. Despite of the current position of the nuclear weapons states, each new ratification of the treaty is not meaningless: on the contrary, it provides the treaty more authority and contributes to the growing pressure on nuclear weapons states to adopt further steps towards nuclear disarmament.

The other major contribution of the TPNW is that it facilitates the process of delegitimisation of nuclear weapons, necessary to finally amend the well-established foundations of nuclear deterrence doctrines. The humanitarian principles that are underlying the treaty are totally incompatible with those doctrines, and therefore are having an impact on them by highlighting the inherent immorality and illegitimacy of nuclear weapons.   

Another argument for the case of ratification is that it provides states the opportunity to support the process of democratization of the global debate on nuclear weapons, as this new treaty has been the result of a very open discussion with active engagement of delegations from all geographic regions and, in particular, of representatives of Civil Society. This is not a minor aspect of this process, but a key element. Indeed, unlike in negotiations of previous international legal instruments, in this era of growing complexity and interlinkages, the main challenges faced by humankind are being addressed by a diverse group of citizens, from all walks of life and regions. Traditional diplomacy is certainly not enough, and in the case of the TPNW, the positive results would clearly not have been possible without the decisive boost provided by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which was able to mobilize Civil Society and likeminded governments towards the goal of negotiating a nuclear weapons ban treaty. 

While it would be naïve to expect the establishment of the nuclear weapons states to be convinced by the humanitarian narrative and in a foreseeable future to amend its defence and security policies base on nuclear deterrence, the TPNW and its focus on the security of the human being instead of the traditional notion of the security of the state, are already having an impact on the academic and public debates in those states.

The second argument used by its critics is that the TPNW weakens the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  Actually, this is not only incorrect, the opposite is true. In fact, the TPNW can serve as an initiative to help implement article VI of the NPT, by which parties are committed to undertake to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”. This is of vital importance as the treaty clearly attaches a key role to all parties, and not only to those states that possess nuclear weapons. This commitment has also been reflected in the Final Document of the 2010 NPT Review Conference, and the TPNW can be understood as a reflection of that obligation to contribute to nuclear disarmament by non-nuclear weapons states.

Another common point is that the nuclear weapons industry is too strong and well consolidated and that it would be naïve to pretend that this treaty could actually have an impact on investment decisions.

This pessimism has also been proven wrong. In fact, in 2021, more than one hundred financial institutions are reported to have decided to stop investing in companies related to nuclear weapons production. As a result, the nuclear weapons industry is experiencing a considerable reduction and the trend towards the exclusion of this sector from investment targets is growing steadily. This is not only the consequence from the legal obligations that emanate from the TPNW but a reflection of the devaluation of the public image associated to these industries. As this public image continues to deteriorate, it is likely that this trend will continue and that the moral condemnation of these weapons of mass destruction will be absorbed into the mainstream of society.

Another common misinterpretation is that the TPNW should be understood as an instrument that is only designed to be joined exclusively by non-nuclear weapons states.

In fact, even though the treaty was developed by non-nuclear weapons states, it has been drafted and negotiated with the goal of universal adherence, including, someday, those states that still include nuclear deterrence in their national security doctrines. In particular, the TPNW establishes a clear set of steps for nuclear weapons states in order to eliminate their arsenals of nuclear weapons. Specifically, within 60 days after the entry into force of the treaty for a state party that possesses nuclear weapons, that state must submit a plan for the complete elimination of its nuclear weapons to a competent international authority that has been specially designated by states parties. The treaty also includes a process to designate a competent international authority to verify the elimination of nuclear weapons by a state before acceding to the treaty, and a process for states parties that maintain nuclear weapons in their territories for the removal of these weapons and report this action to the United Nations Secretary General.

It is also noteworthy that this treaty obliges states parties to provide adequate assistance to victims affected by the use or by testing of nuclear weapons, and to take the necessary measures for environmental rehabilitation in areas contaminated under its control. This dimension of the treaty constitutes an important contribution both to the protection of human rights of victims and to the now inescapable obligation to protect the environment, which are aspects that are not covered by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This certainly does not affect the value and vital role of this key instrument of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime but complements it by addressing the fundamental issue of environmental reparation.

The main challenge now is now not only to achieve a wider universality of the TPNW, but to engage more stakeholders and create awareness on the urgency of bringing pressure on the nuclear weapons states to finally move toward nuclear disarmament. In this regard, Civil Society initiatives have been promoting engagement of members of grassroots, parliament, the media and city governments, particularly in nuclear weapons states, which has had impressive results, with hundreds of local governments expressing support for the treaty and generating discussion among the population. These initiatives serve the purpose of putting pressure on politicians and especially, to facilitate a discussion within democratic societies about the sustainability and risks involved in the possession and harboring of nuclear weapons.

Indeed, the TPNW has a long way to go and overcome many obstacles to achieve its objective, but in its first year of entry into force, it has already had an undeniable impact on the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation debate, despite the expected skeptics and efforts to ignore its existence stemming from the still powerful nuclear deterrence establishment. Most of its technical experts, academics and government officials honestly believe that nuclear weapons have helped to guarantee peace and stability to the world and therefore should continue as the foundation of international security doctrines. These well-established ideas have been based on the questionable assumption that the deployment of these weapons have avoided war and can guarantee permanent peace for all nations. This has served as a sort of dogmatic idea for many decades, but recent research results have shown that the risks involved are significantly higher and that the humanitarian consequences would be catastrophic for every citizen of the planet. The humanitarian impact paradigm, which underlies the process that has inspired the TPNW, has provoked a tectonic shift in the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation debate, which had been limited to the NPT review conferences with its often-frustrating results. Certainly, the persistence of the different approaches needs to be addressed in a more constructive discussion among the supporters of this treaty and the deterrence community.

Finally, the fact that the first meeting of states parties of the TPNW will take place in Vienna is very meaningful as Austria has been one of the leading nations in this process, particularly in drafting the Humanitarian Pledge to fill the legal gap for the prohibition of nuclear weapons, which has been a decisive step towards the treaty that has already fulfilled that commitment. Despite of all the difficulties and the persistence of significant resistance, the active and committed participation of diplomats and Civil Society representatives, under the leadership of Austria, allow to envisage that this first meeting will help to strengthen the treaty and move forward in the long and burdensome road to the final objective of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

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