The Schengen system was one of the most unique and post-modern ideas the reimagined borders in the International Politics. The idea of weakening of borders and handing it to a supranational entity where the Nation-States that for centuries had waged wars for its borders seems a newer imagination of taking integration to the next level. The Schengen that came into effect around 1995 had the idea of harmonization of states. Post the Arab Spring, there were concerns by the states especially Italy and France to have temporary mechanisms to have internal borders and have some control and checks over the situation. The crises of Mediterranean and various other challenges like terrorist attacks made the Schengen System precarious. The paper aims to look at the ideas of border migration and security through a theoretical perspective and indulges in the debates of security on whose security is more important and then dives into the concept of biopolitics and irregular migrants and tries to relate it to concepts such as biopolitical borders and EU’s security and the future of Schengen.
Debates on security challenges in European Union, Whose security anyway?
The prominent understanding with regards to Europe’s migration problem is found across the understanding of non-academic and critique through the academic and problematizing the uncertainties amongst the neo-liberal policies of EU towards irregular migrants more of rhetoric of a humanitarian policies than actually understanding the violent realities. In the recent times issues relating to the International migration has been one of the most contested area and is boxed in the idea of ‘New Security Agenda’ and has been under the radar of security studies since the 1980s. There are debates that are explored on whether migration is considered as a security issue or not. There needs to be a better understanding when talking about Migration as security issues, as it is important to know if it is a security issue to the Nation-State or Humans. Since the times of early civilization, the idea of other always has brought in a kind of suspicions and also hatred, the incoming international migrants to the Europe bring in new lifestyle, culture, values and traditions and it is taken as a threat and they are although associated with crimes, terrorism and health threat and Khalid Koser in his article points out that these threat perceptions are usually overestimated. The Nation-States idea of security threat comes from the managing the borders and things that may weaken the states sovereignty hence the threat to states sovereignty seems like a justifiable reason for large surveillance systems, detention centres and deportation of these irregular or illegal migrants. The two contesting ideas of National Security versus the human security is always debated. Does the security of the state outweigh the security of humans or the irregular/illegal migrants then? Kerwin contests these ideas and figures out that these debates of National Security and Human Security are not exclusive to each other but a proper policy of national security should only further human security.
The other side of the security debate is of the migration is only from South to North and the idea of most of the irregular migrants ending up in Europe is untrue as most irregular migrants are situated in developing countries as transit or destination and these developing countries take most burden of migrants in the crises of Syria or Iraq. These Eurocentric arguments focus on only developed countries where as the situation of developing countries carrying the un-proportional burden of irregular migrants is ignored. In 2014 the crisis through Mediterranean came into the mainstream, as irregular migrants through the boats tried to seek asylum in the EU. According to European agency on border security reported that almost 90% of irregular migrants came from the Mediterranean and made ways into European through Italy. The response of the European Union towards this situation brought out the discrepancies between the National Security and the Human Security approach. The changing public opinion and the rise of right-wing governments in the European Union points out to the impact on the balance of the national security versus human security approach towards irregular migrants.
The Biopolitics of Border:
Foucault Biopower and irregular Migrants
Aristotle imagined the spheres of ‘life’ and ‘politics’ as different arenas but the shift to look at life as the primary domain of politics was emphasized by Foucault. Biopolitics marks a significant shift from the politics of sovereignty to the politics of society. For Foucault the power is fluid and it cannot be acquired, it can be seen through the relations in which they function. He argues that sovereign had a right to decide over the life and death, this derived from the idea of patria potestas roughly translated to the power of the father to dispose children and slave in Roman family. So, placing this as central the sovereign has the power to kill, that means to save its own life the sovereign can kill and it derives its power through that. He promulgates two forms of power one is biopower and other is disciplinary power and according to him disciplinary power was needed to enhance the rise of modern capitalism and due to this he suggests that the older idea of sovereign of ‘to kill’ was replaced by either to ‘to make live and let die’. Liberalism at its core has a complex relationship with freedom that means that the freedom is produced but this production of freedom means also production of limitations, forms of coercion etc. This idea of producing the limitations to the freedom is referred by Foucault as security.
The tools to maintain the equilibrium of the state that does not disturb its produced freedoms. Taking the discussion forward towards the writings of Rose and the concept of ‘biological citizenship’ they infer it as the way through which citizenship is formed through considering the prominent characteristics of human beings. This then brings into the factors like who is a proper citizen and who are non-citizens. The idea of Denizens that derived from ancient Rome where the foreigners who resided in the Rome were not given all rights and their citizenship not limited. A Denizen is someone who has limited range of rights than the actual citizen, the modern Nation-States system has risen a similar rise into a new form of precariousness into the lives of irregular migrants that can be named as Neo-Denizens and they are victims of state violence and have been portrayed as other and the enemy by the sovereign.
Biopolitical Border Security in Europe
The idea of border control before the Schengen agreement was more dependent on the prevention of movement and the changes in this now is focused on indispensable need for capitalism to thrive is on mobility and to govern the then citizens on a never-ending space i.e, European Union. In Foucaultian notions the emerging ideas of these have newer challenges rather than controlling their movement from one place to the other there is cancellation of circulation is ruled out. The biopolitical border is not to limit the territory but to instead govern the de-territorialized. These newer borders function on freedom but it is not without conditions, these are governed by security practices and conditional movements to regulate citizens.
The biopolitical security mechanisms need to get knowledge of the other life in order to properly secure it, in this case it is the irregular migrants. The knowledge of these lives areunknown then it is considered to be danger. The biopolitical idea of security is through the knowledge of the known and therefore subjects unknown or outside this perceived knowledge are considered through profiling of the population. The European idea on biopolitical security tends to intensify the urge to better this knowledge in order to therefore maximize security through attempts of improving the identification of these irregular migrants. The notion of biopolitics is to increase and optimize life through recent biopolitical governance. These notions can be applied in the context of the European Union where there is significant increase of knowledge towards these irregular migrants in order to not only save them but also empower them.
Due to the development of these ideas there is an emergence of humanitarian borders as written by William Walters. Foucault idea and the biopolitical borders and migrant management policies creates hierarchies in lives between those of irregular migrants and others who are regular migrants. There are although debates where Foucault’s claim if the idea of biopolitics is to further and optimize life then why does the sovereign or the political power kill? Then he notes that there a notable shift in discourse with the rise of the ‘racist state’, where he claims and points out ‘what must live and what must die’. This doesn’t mean that the death to inferior race ensures one’s safety but the death of that race makes one more healthier and purer and this idea of racist biopolitics was furthers by Hitler as written by Foucault. This analysis is furthered by Fassin who understands the idea of life worthy and unworthy. This racist biopolitical notions is now furthered by the deaths of lives in the Mediterranean due to European Union’s rejection. The Foucaultian biopolitics has its inherent paradoxes like how can the same irregular migrant bodies be a threat to security but also the need of lives to be saved in the same? Esposito furthers this idea where he connects that and talks about immunization and gives the concept of autoimmunity where it seems that Europe like an autoimmune condition starts ‘killing’ in order to protect but functions on the contrary.
Future of Schengen System
The series of debates on the Schengen have emerged especially looking at the refugee crisis, terrorist attacks and Brexit and there are states that have acted on their own to create other internal border the inflicts on the idea of free movement in the European Union. The various crises contributed to raising of internal borders even amongst the states that did not have any border restrictions like Sweden and Denmark. Schengen system have although come into light due to these crises by the European Council of Foreign Relations shows that almost 22 out of the 28 countries in the EU have shown promising commitments towards it. The idea for these promising commitments is due to the economic benefits for the states. Despite of terrorist attacks the notion of borderless zone is strong as states believe that the way to tackling these issues are through a combined effort and as European Union.
All’s not well is paradise as having economic benefits there seems to have consistent increase in checks and rise in internal borders. Austria has introduced checks on all of its borders, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden are other states that have introduced some kind of border checks on either side of their border. Emerging from the debates of Biopolitics and the otherization and there has been increase in fear of these irregular migrants as these reflect in the opinions of public as pew research shows that about 82% of the population in Lithuania believes that irregular migrants bring crimes and disturbs the public order, these show 60% in Estonia and 54% in Germany. As the biopolitics of racist states tend to increase and has been reflected in the rise of extreme political ideologs getting into power the near future although seems fine but newer threats like the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors are contributing to a situation that may seem likely changes in the Schengen systems. As Esposito argues that through biopolitics the states turn into immunization and due to these immunization the conditions of autoimmunity becomes real and this condition reflects in the borders and migration policies of Europe where the right to kill and give a death by the sovereign is seen in Europe’s uncertain balance of National security and human security and this imbalance is resulting in costing lives and moving into a phase where humanitarian security needs to largely debated, emphasized and ruled upon. There have been possibilities like Mini Schengens, Small Schengens or remaining with the status quo that has been debated by the academia.
Council of Europe fights for your Right to Know, too
Authors: Eugene Matos de Lara and Audrey Beaulieu
“People have the right to know what those in power are doing” -Dunja Mijatovic Council of Europe, Commissioner for Human Rights.
Access to information legislation was first seen in 1766 in Sweden, with parliamentary interest to access information held by the King. Finland in 1951, the United States in 1966, and Norwayin 1970 also adopted similar legislation. Today there are 98 states with access laws; of these, more than 50 incorporated in their constitution. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights 2006 and the European Court of Human Rights 2009 both ruled that access to information is a human right, confirmed in July 2011 by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, a sine qua non of 21st-century democracy.
Global civil society movements have been promoting transparency, with activists and journalists reporting daily on successes in obtaining information and denouncing obstacles and frustrations in the implementation of this right. To this end, the Council of Europe was inspired by pluralistic and democratic ideals for greater European unity, adopted the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents recognising a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities. It brings a minimum standard for the fair processing of requests for access to official documents with the obligation for member states to secure independent review for restricted documents unless with held if the protection of the documents is considered legitimate.
The right to freedom of information
Access to information is a government scrutiny tool. Without it, human rights violations, corruption cases, and anti-democratic practices would never be uncovered. Besides exposing demerits, the policy is also known to improve the quality of public debates while increasing participation in the decision making process. Indeed, transparency of authorities should be regarded as a fundamental precondition for the enjoyment of fundamental rights, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The policy equips citizens and NGOs with the necessary tool to counter refusal from authorities to provide information. The European Court of Human Rights recognized that withheld documents could be accessed in specific circumstances. In principle, all information should be available, and those upheld can also be accessed, particularly when access to that particular information is crucial for the individual or group to exercise their freedoms unless of course, the information is of national security or of private nature.
Access to information in times of crisis a first line weapon against fake news
The COVID pandemic has enabled us to test access policies and benchmark the effectiveness of the right to know during trivial times, as Dunja Mijatovic mentioned. In fact, having easy access to reliable information protects the population from being misled and misinformed, a first-line weapon dismantling popular fake news and conspiracies. Instead, during COVID, access to information has supported citizens in responding adequately to the crisis. Ultimately, transparency is also a trust-building exercise.
Corruption and environmental issues
Information is a weapon against corruption. The Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) is looking at the specific issue of access to official documents in the context of its Fifth Evaluation Round, which focuses on preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments and law enforcement agencies. In about a third of the reports published so far, GRECO has recommended the state to improve access to official documents. In regards to the environment, the United Nations Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, commonly referred to as the Aarhus Convention, expands the right of access to information on environmental matters thus complementing the Tromsø Convention. Declaring these policies as the primary tools that empower citizens and defenders to protect the environment we live in.
Good models exist
Most Council of Europe member states have adequate mechanisms regarding the right to information. For example, in Estonia, “the Public Information Act provides for broad disclosure of public information” states Mijatovic. Moreover, “in Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and several other countries there is an independent oversight body – such as an Information Commissioner – responsible for monitoring and enforcing the right to information, while some other countries entrust Parliamentary Ombudsmen with supervision of the right of access to information”. Finally, “the constitutions of several European countries do indeed guarantee the fundamental right to information.” Nonetheless, there are still in consistent levels of transparency among state institutions or a failure to meet the requirement for proactive disclosure. The entry into force of the Tromso Convention willbe an opportunity to bring back to the table the importance of the right to information and to read just European States practices regarding the enhancement.
Barriers and Challenges
Digitization is still recent, and authorities are not accustomed to dealing openly. There is a sentiment of reservation and caution. Before the advent of the internet, governments enjoyed a level of political efficiency and practical obscurity. Viewing public records required the time and effort of a visit to the records’ physical location and prevented easy access to details of individual files. Openness has made the policy cycle longer, with a more thorough consultation process and debates. The availability of digital documents has caused an unavoidable conflict.
One of the conflicts is a privacy protection and policy safeguards invoked against freedom of information requests. Requirements to provide transparency of activities must be mitigated with national security, individuals’ safety, corporate interests, and citizens’ right to privacy. Finding the right balance is essential to understand how local governments manage the dichotomy between providing open access to their records by maintaining the public’s privacy rights.
Several governments think twice before pursuing transparency policies. Access to information hasn’t been a priority for some of the European States. Mijatovic reported that “filtering of information and delays in responses to freedom of information requests have been observed in several member states”. Although there is a growth in these laws’ popularity, we are always a step behind meeting the supply and demand of information objectives in an era of digitization.
Tromso Convention has only been ratified by eleven countries, which are mostly located in Scandinavia (Finland, Norway and Sweden) or in Eastern Europe (Bosnia, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldavia and Ukraine). Reading this statement, three questions should come to our minds:
1. Why not all European states have ratified Tromso Convention?
2. Why do Scandinavian countries have chosen to ratify the Convention?
3. Why are most of the Member States from Eastern Europe?
Regarding the first question, the answer resides in the fact that the ones who haven’t taken part in the Convention already have strong national laws protecting freedom of information and don’t need to bother with extra protection and external surveillance. For instance, Germany passed a law in 2005, promoting the unconditional right to access information. Many other European states such as Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France &Poland have similar national law.
Regarding the second question, considering that all Scandinavian countries already have national laws assessing freedom of information, the most likely reason behind their ratification would be symbolic support to the cause or because the Convention’s framework is less restrictive than their national laws.
Finally, concerning the last question, we could suppose that most Eastern countries have an interest in demonstrating themselves as more transparent, more following the rule of law. For example, if we examine Montenegro’s case, we could assume that taking part in the Tromso Convention is a step closer to their accession to the EU in 2025.
As for the reservations that have been made, only Finland, Norway and Sweden have made some noticeable. Regarding Norway, the country declared that “communication with the reigning Family and its Household” will remain private in accordance with Article 3,paragraph 1 of the Convention. This limitation covers something interesting, considering that, as mentioned earlier, access to the data type of legislation was first adopted in order to get access to information held by the King. In parallel, Finland declared that “the provisions of Article 8 of the Convention concerning the review procedure [will] not apply to a decision made by the President of the Republic in response to a request for access to a document. Article 8 provides protection against arbitrary decisions and allows members of the population to assert their right to information. Sweden has made a similarreservation on Article 8 paragraph 1 regarding “decisions taken by the Government, ministers and the Parliamentary Ombudsmen”.
Thoughts towards better implementation
For smoother data access implementation, governments can act on transparency without waiting for legislation through internal bureaucratic policy. These voluntary provisions for openness can be an exercise towards a more organic cultural transformation.
Lengthy debates on open access are entertained by exceptions to access. To be sure, governments have enough legal and political tools to withhold information, regardless of how exemptions have been drafted. Instead, a more productive and efficient process is possible if we concentrate on positive implementation and enforcement, including the procedures for challenges on legal exemptions.
The implementation phase of access laws is challenging due to a lack of leadership motivation, inadequate support for those implementing these requests, especially since they require a long term social and political commitment. To do so, an overall dedication and government bureaucratic cultural shift should take place. Although the implementation of access to information should be included internally in all departments, considering a standardized centralized approach to lead the new regime with authority could send an important message. Record keeping and archiving should be updated to respond to requests with improved information management systems. As such, the goal would be to make a plethora of information immediately and unconditionally available.
France’s Controversial ‘Separatism’ Bill
In his very first days at the Elysee Palace, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to detail his views on secularism and Islam in a wide-ranging speech. It took more than three years for this to happen, with the much awaited speech actually taking place in October a week after a teacher was violently killed for revealing the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) during a lecture on freedom of expression. Macron said during his speech that “Islam is a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world”, adding that there was a need to “free Islam in France from foreign influences”. Mr. Macron and his Parliament allies have described the bill as a reaction to the rise of Islamic separatism, which the President defines as a philosophy that seeks to create a parallel state in France where religious laws replace civil law. Referring to the cartoons at a citizenship ceremony earlier and before the latest attacks, Macron defended the “right to blasphemy” as a fundamental freedom, even as he condemned “Islamic separatism.”
“To be French is to defend the right to make people laugh, to criticize, to mock, to caricature,” the president said. The proposed law allows religious associations and mosques to report more than €10,000 ($12,000) in international support and to sign a promise to uphold the French republican ideals in order to obtain state subsidies. The bill will also make it possible for the government to close down mosques, organizations and colleges that have been described as criticizing republican values.The controversial bill is blamed for targeting the Muslim people and enforcing limits on nearly every part of their lives. It allows government to oversee the funds of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims. It also limits the schooling options of the Muslim community by prohibiting families from providing home education to children. The law also forbids people from selecting physicians on the grounds of gender for religious or other purposes and mandates a compulsory ‘secularism education’ on all elected officials. Physicians will either be charged or jailed under the law if they conduct a virginity test on girls. Critics argue the so-called “separatism law” is racist and threatens the 5.7 million-strong Muslim population in France, the highest in Europe. Its critics include the 100 imams, 50 teachers of Islamic sciences and 50 members of associations in France who signed an open letter against the “unacceptable” charter on 10 February.
A criminal act for online hate speech will make it easier to easily apprehend a person who shares sensitive information about public sector workers on social media with a view to hurting them and will be disciplined by up to three years in jail and a fine of EUR 45.000. The banning or deleting of pages spreading hate speech would now be made smoother and legal action accelerated. The bill expands what is known in France as the ‘neutrality clause,’ which forbids civil servants from displaying religious symbols such as the Muslim veil and holding political opinions, outside public sector workers to all commercial providers in public utilities, such as those working for transport firms.
French Members of Parliament held two weeks of heated debates in the National Assembly. People of Muslim faith interviewed outside the Paris Mosque and around Paris on the outdoor food market before the vote had hardly heard of the rule. “I don’t believe that the Muslims here in France are troublemakers or revolutionaries against France,” said Bahri Ayari, a taxi driver who spoke to AP after prayers inside Paris’ Grand Mosque. “I don’t understand, when one talks about radicalism, what does that mean — radicalism? It’s these people who go to jail, they find themselves with nothing to do, they discuss amongst themselves and they leave prison even more aggressive and then that gets put on the back of Islam. That’s not what a Muslim is,” he added.
Three bodies of the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) have unilaterally denounced the “charter of principles” of Islam, which reaffirms the continuity of religion with France. The three parties said that the Charter was accepted without the full consensus of the other integral components of the CFCM, including the provincial and departmental councils and the imams concerned. “We believe that certain passages and formulations of the submitted text are likely to weaken the bonds of trust between the Muslims of France and the nation. In addition, certain statements undermine the honor of Muslims, with an accusatory and marginalizing character,” the Milli Görüş Islamic Confederation (CMIG) and the Faith and Practice movement said in a joint statement. The bill is blamed for targeting the Muslim community and enforcing limits on nearly any part of their lives. It allows for interference in mosques and organizations responsible for the operation of mosques, as well as for the oversight of the funds of associations and non-governmental organizations belonging to Muslims.
It is a difficult time for the nation, which has also accused its protection bill of containing the press freedom. The law introduced aims at making it unlawful to post photographs of police officers in which it is identifiable by “malicious intent” However, law enforcement has criticized the government after the declaration by Macron of the development of an online forum to flag police brutality.
Why Is Europe Hostile Towards Russia?
In his seminal 1871 work Russia and Europe, the famous Russian intellectual and Slavophile Nikolay Danilevsky set forth his theory that “Europe recognizes Russia as something alien to itself, and not only alien, but also hostile,” and that Russia’s fundamental interests should act as a “counterweight to Europe.”
One hundred and fifty years have passed since that work was published. The world has changed. No matter what anti-globalists might say, the rapid development of modern technologies and their use in our everyday lives has forced us to re-evaluate many of our beliefs about relations between states and people. The exchange of information, scientific discoveries and knowledge, and the sharing of our cultural wealth bring countries closer together and open up opportunities for development that did not exist before. Artificial intelligence does not know any boundaries and does not differentiate users by gender or nationality. Along with these new opportunities, the world is also faced with new problems that are increasingly supranational in nature and which require our combined efforts to overcome. The coronavirus pandemic is the latest example of this.
It is against the background of these rapid changes, which for obvious reasons cannot unfold without certain consequences, that we can occasionally hear this very same theory that “Europe is hostile towards Russia.” Although the arguments put forward to support this claim today seem far less nuanced than those of Nikolay Danilevsky.
Even so, ignoring this issue is not an option, as doing so would make it extremely difficult to build a serious long-term foreign policy given the prominent role that Europe plays in global affairs.
Before we dive in, I would like to say a few words about the question at hand. Why should Europe love or loathe Russia? Do we have any reason to believe that Russia has any strong feelings, positive or negative, towards another country? These are the kind of words that are used to describe relations between states in the modern, interdependent world. But they are, for the most part, simply unacceptable. Russia’s foreign policy concepts invariably focus on ensuring the country’s security, sovereignty and territorial integrity and creating favourable external conditions for its progressive development.
Russia and Europe have a long history that dates back centuries. And there have been wars and periods of mutually beneficial cooperation along the way. No matter what anyone says, Russia is an inseparable part of Europe, just as Europe cannot be considered “complete” without Russia.
Thus, it is essential to direct intellectual potential not towards destruction, but rather towards the formation of a new kind of relationship, one that reflects modern realities.
At the dawn of the 21st century, it was clear to everyone that, due to objective reasons, Russia would not be able to become a full-fledged member of the military, political and economic associations that existed in Europe at the time, meaning the European Union and NATO. That is why mechanisms were put in place to help the sides build relations and cooperate in various fields. Bilateral relations developed significantly in just a few years as a result. The European Union became Russia’s main foreign economic partner, and channels for mutually beneficial cooperation in many spheres were built.
However, EU-Russia relations have stalled in recent years. In fact, much of the progress that had been made is now being undone. And positive or negative feelings towards one another have nothing to do with it. This is happening because the parties have lost a strategic vision of the future of bilateral relations in a rapidly changing world.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin said that Russia is part of Europe, and that, culturally, Russia and Europe are one civilization. This is the basic premise—one that is not based on emotions—that should underlie Russia’s policy in its relations with Europe.
Russia and the European Union disagree on many things, but the only way to overcome misunderstandings and find opportunities to move forward is through dialogue. In this context, the recent visit of the EU High Representative to Moscow was a much-needed step in the right direction, despite the criticism that this move received from the European side. Nobody was expecting any “breakthroughs” from the visit, as the animosities and misunderstandings between the two sides cut too deep. Yet visits and contacts of this kind should become the norm, for without them we will never see any real progress in bilateral relations.
In addition to the issues that currently fill the agendas of the two sides, attention should be focused on developing a strategic vision of what EU-Russia relations should be in the future, as well as on areas of mutual interest. For example, it is high time that Europe and Russia broached the subject of the compatibility of their respective energy strategies, as well as the possible consequences of the introduction of “green energy” in Europe in terms of economic cooperation with Russia. Otherwise, it will be too late, and instead of a new area of mutually beneficial cooperation, we will have yet another irresolvable problem.
In his work Russia and Europe, Nikolay Danilevsky, while recognizing the good that Peter the Great had done for his country, reproached him for “wanting to make Russia Europe at all costs.” No one would make such accusations today. Russia is, was and always will be an independent actor on the international stage, with its own national interests and priorities. But the only way they can only be realized in full is if the country pursues an active foreign policy. And one of the priorities of that policy is relations with Europe.
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