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Biopolitics of Border: EU Security Challenges and the Future of Schengen

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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.

Bio: Bhagya Raj is a post-graduate student of International Relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.

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Europe

The Leaders of the Western World Meet

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The annual meeting of the G7 comprising the largest western economies plus Japan is being hosted this year by the United Kingdom.  Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister has also invited Australia, South Korea, South Africa and India.  There has been talk of including Russia again but Britain threatened a veto.  Russia, which had been a member from 1997, was suspended in 2014 following the Crimea annexation.  

Cornwall in the extreme southwest of England has a rugged beauty enjoyed by tourists, and is a contrast to the green undulating softness of its neighbor Devon.  St. Ives is on Cornwall’s sheltered northern coast and it is the venue for the G7 meeting (August 11-13) this year.  It offers beautiful beaches and ice-cold seas.

France, Germany. Italy, UK, US, Japan and Canada.  What do the rich talk about?  Items on the agenda this year including pandemics (fear thereof) and in particular zoonotic diseases where infection spreads from non-human animals to humans.  Johnson has proposed a network of research labs to deal with the problem.  As a worldwide network it will include the design of a global early-warning system and will also establish protocols to deal with future health emergencies.

The important topic of climate change is of particular interest to Boris Johnson because Britain is hosting COP26  in Glasgow later this year in November.  Coal, one of the worst pollutants, has to be phased out and poorer countries will need help to step up and tackle not just the use of cheap coal but climate change and pollution in general.  The G7 countries’ GDP taken together comprises about half of total world output, and climate change has the potential of becoming an existential problem for all on earth.  And help from them to poorer countries is essential for these to be able to increase climate action efforts.

The G7 members are also concerned about large multinationals taking advantage of differing tax laws in the member countries.  Thus the proposal for a uniform 15 percent minimum tax.  There is some dispute as to whether the rate is too low.

America is back according to Joe Biden signalling a shift away from Donald Trump’s unilateralism.  But America is also not the sole driver of the world economy:  China is a real competitor and the European Union in toto is larger.  In a multilateral world, Trump charging ahead on his own made the US risible.  He also got nowhere as the world’s powers one by one distanced themselves.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen is also endorsing close coordination in economic policies plus continued support as the world struggles to recover after the corona epidemic.  India for example, has over 27 million confirmed cases, the largest number in Asia.  A dying first wave shattered hopes when a second much larger one hit — its devastation worsened by a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and other medicines in the severely hit regions.  On April 30, 2021, India became the first country to report over 400,000 new cases in a single 24 hour period.

It is an interdependent world where atavistic self-interest is no longer a solution to its problems.

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Revisiting the Bosnian War

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Genocide is not an alien concept to the world nowadays. However, while the reality (and the culprit) is not hard to profile today, history is ridden with massacres that were draped and concealed from the world beyond. Genocides that rivaled the great warfares and were so gruesome that the ring of brutality still pulsates in the historical narrative of humanity. We journey back to one such genocide that was named the most brutish mass slaughter after World War II. We revisit the Bosnian War (1992-95) which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 100,000 innocent Bosnian citizens and displaced millions. The savage nature of the war was such that the war crimes committed constituted a whole new definition to how we describe genocide.

The historical backdrop helps us gauge the complex relations and motivations which resulted in such chaotic warfare to follow suit. Post World War II, the then People’s Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the then Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. Bosnia-Herzegovina became one of the constituent republics of Yugoslavia in 1946 along with other Balkan states including Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. As communism pervaded all over Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina began losing its religion-cultural identity. Since Bosnia-Herzegovina mainly comprised of a Muslim population, later known as the Bosniaks, the spread of socialism resulted in the abolition of many Muslim institutions and traditions. And while the transition to the reformed Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1963 did ease the ethnic pressure, the underlying radical ideology and sentiments never fully subsided.

The Bosniaks started to emerge as the majority demographic of Bosnia and by 1971, the Bosniaks constituted as the single largest component of the entire Bosnia-Herzegovina population. However, the trend of emigration picked up later in the decades; the Serbs and the Croats adding up to their tally throughout most of the 70s and mid-80s. The Bosnian population was characterized as a tripartite society, that is, comprised of three core ethnicities: Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. Till  1991, the ethnic majority of the Bosniaks was heavily diluted down to just 44% while the Serbian emigrants concentrated the Serbian influence; making up 31% of the total Bosnian population.

While on one side of the coin, Bosnia-Herzegovina was being flooded with Serbs inching a way to gain dominance, the Yugoslavian economy was consistently perishing on the other side. While the signs of instability were apparent in the early 80s, the decade was not enough for the economy to revive. In the late 80s, therefore, political dissatisfaction started to take over and multiple nationalist parties began setting camps. The sentiments diffused throughout the expanse of Yugoslavia and nationalists sensed an imminent partition. Bosnia-Herzegovina, like Croatia, followed through with an election in 1990 which resulted in an expected tripartite poll roughly similar to the demographic of Bosnia. The representatives resorted to form a coalition government comprising of Bosniak-Serb-Craot regime sharing turns at the premiership. While the ethnic majority Bosniaks enjoyed the first go at the office, the tensions soon erupted around Bosnia-Herzegovina as Serbs turned increasingly hostile.

The lava erupted in 1991 as the coalition government of Bosnia withered and the Serbian Democratic Party established its separate assembly in Bosnia known as ‘Serbian National Assembly’.  The move was in line with a growing sentiment of independence that was paving the dismantling of Yugoslavia. The Serbian Democratic Party long envisioned a dominant Serbian state in the Balkans and was not ready to participate in a rotational government when fighting was erupting in the neighboring states. When Croatia started witnessing violence and the rise of rebels in 1992, the separatist vision of the Serbs was further nourished as the Serbian Democratic Party, under the leadership of Serb Leader Radovan Karadžić, established an autonomous government in the Serb Majority areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The vision and the actions remained docile until the ring of independence was echoed throughout the region. When the European Commission (EC), now known as the European Union (EU), and the United States recognized the independence of both Croatia and Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina found itself in a precarious position. While a safe bet would have been to undergo talks and diplomatic routes to engage the Serbian Democratic Party, the Bosnian President Alija Izetbegović failed to realize the early warnings of an uprising. Instead of forging negotiations with the Bosnian Serbs, the Bosniak President resorted to mirror Croatia by organizing a referendum of independence bolstered by both the EC and the US. Even as the referendum was blocked in the Serb autonomous regions of Bosnia, Izetbegović chose to pass through and announced the results. As soon as the Bosnian Independence from Yugoslavia was announced and recognized, fighting erupted throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Bosnian Serbs feared that their long-envisioned plan of establishing the ‘Great Serbia’ in the Balkans was interred which resulted in chaos overtaking most of Bosnia. The blame of the decision, however, was placed largely on the Bosniak president and, by extension, the entire ethnic majority of the Bosniaks. The Bosnian Serbs started to launch attacks in the east of Bosnia; majorly targeting the Bosniak-dominated towns like Foča, Višegrad, and Zvornik. Soon the Bosnian Serb forces were joined by the local paramilitary rebels as well as the Yugoslavian army as the attacks ravaged the towns with large Bosniak populations; swathing the land in the process. The towns were pillaged and pressed into control whilst the local Bosniaks and their Croat counterparts were either displaced, incarcerated, or massacred.

While the frail Bosnian government managed to join hands with the Croatian forces across the border, the resulting offense was not nearly enough as the combination of Serb forces, rebel groups, and the Yugoslavian army took control of almost two-thirds of the Bosnian territory. The Karadžić regime refused to hand over the captured land in the rounds of negotiations. And while the war stagnated, the Bosniak locals left behind in small pockets of war-ravaged areas faced the brunt in the name of revenge and ethnic cleansing.

As Bosniaks and Croats formed a joint federation as the last resort, the Serbian Democratic Party established the Republic Srpska in the captured East, and the military units were given under the command of the Bosnian-Serb General, Ratko Mladic. The notorious general, known as the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’, committed horrifying war crimes including slaughtering the Bosniak locals captured in violence, raping the Bosniak women, and violating the minors in the name of ethnic cleansing exercises. While the United Nations refused to intervene in the war, the plea of the helpless Bosniaks forced the UN to at least deliver humanitarian aid to the oppressed. The most gruesome of all incidents were marked in July 1995, when an UN-declared safe zone, known as Srebrenica, was penetrated by the forces led by Mladic whilst some innocent Bosniaks took refuge. The forces brutally slaughtered the men while raped the women and children. An estimated 7000-8000 Bosniak men were slaughtered in the most grotesque campaign of ethnic cleansing intended to wipe off any trace of Bosniaks from the Serb-controlled territory.

In the aftermath of the barbaric war crimes, NATO undertook airstrikes to target the Bosnian-Serb targets while the Bosniak-Croat offense was launched from the ground. In late 1995, the Bosnian-Serb forces conceded defeat and accepted US-brokered talks. The accords, also known as the ‘Dayton Accords’, resulted in a conclusion to the Bosnian War as international forces were established in the region to enforce compliance. The newly negotiated federalized Bosnia and Herzegovina constituted 51% of the Croat-Bosniak Federation and 49% of the Serb Republic.

The accord, however, was not the end of the unfortunate tale as the trials and international action were soon followed to investigate the crimes against humanity committed during the three-year warfare. While many Serb leaders either died in imprisonment or committed suicide, the malefactor of the Srebrenica Massacre, Ratko Mladic, went into hiding in 2001. However, Mladic was arrested after a decade in 2011 by the Serbian authorities and was tried in the UN-established International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY). The investigation revisited the malicious actions of the former general and in 2017, the ICTY found Ratko Mladic guilty of genocide and war crimes and sentenced him to life in prison. While Mladic appealed for acquittal on the inane grounds of innocence since not he but his subordinates committed the crimes, the UN court recently upheld the decision in finality; closing doors on any further appeals. After 26-years, the world saw despair in the eyes of the 78-year-old Mladic as he joined the fate of his bedfellows while the progeny of the victims gained some closure as the last Bosnian trail was cased on a note of justice.

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Greece And Yugoslavia: A Brief History Of Lasting Partitions

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Prior to the 1992-1995 Balkan war, the European Community delegated the British and Portugese diplomats, Lord Carrington and Jose Cutileiro, to design a suitable scheme for ethno-religious partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in February 1992 they launched the Lisbon Conference, with the aim of separating Bosnian ethno-religious communities and isolating them into distinct territories. This was the initiation of the process of partition, adopted in all subsequent plans to end the war in Bosnia. However, such a concept was stipulated by Carrington and Cutileiro as the only available when there was no war to end, indeed, no war in sight; and, curiously, it has remained the only concept that the European Community, and then the European Union, has ever tried to apply to Bosnia.

Contrary to the foundations of political theory, sovereignty of the Bosnian state was thus divided, and its parts were transferred to the three ethno-religious communities. The Carrington-Cutileiro maps were tailored to determine the territorial reach of each of these communities. What remained to be done afterwards was their actual physical separation, and that could only be performed by ethnic cleansing, that is, by war and genocide. For, ethno-religiously homogenous territories, as envisaged by Carrington and Cutileiro, could only be created by a mass slaughter and mass expulsion of those who did not fit the prescribed model of ethno-religious homogeneity. The European Community thus created a recipe for the war in Bosnia and for the perpetual post-war instability in the Balkans. Yet, ever since the war broke out, the European diplomatic circles have never ceased claiming that this ‘chaos’ was created by ‘the wild Balkan tribes’, who ‘had always slaughtered each other’. There was also an alternative narrative, disseminated from the same sources, that Russia promoted the programme of ‘Greater Serbia’, which eventually produced the bloodshed in Bosnia and Kosovo.

Facts on the ground, however, do not support either of these narratives. All these ‘tribes’ had peacefully lived for centuries under the Ottoman and Habsburg empires, until nationalist ideas were imported into Serbia and Greece at the beginning of the 19th century. On the other hand, Russia’s influence in the Balkans could never compete with the influence of the Anglo-French axis. The latter’s influence was originally implemented through the channels of Serbian and Greek nationalisms, constructed on the anti-Ottoman/anti-Islamic and anti-Habsburg/anti-Catholic grounds, in accordance with strategic interests of the two West European powers to dismantle the declining empires and transform them into a number of puppet nation-states. In these geopolitical shifts, nationalist ideologies in the Balkans utilized religious identities as the most efficient tool for mobilization of the targeted populations and creation of mutually exclusive and implacable national identities.

The pivotal among these nationalist ideologies has been the Serb one,  built on the grounds of Orthodox Christianity, with its permanent anti-Islamic and anti-Catholic agenda. The existence and expansion of Serbia was always explicitly backed by London and Paris – from a semi-autonomous principality within the Ottoman territory in the 1830s and the creation of the Kingdom of Serbia in 1882, through the 1912-13 Balkan wars and World War I, to its expansion into other South Slavic territories in the form of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), promoted at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919.

Eventually, the Serbian elites – supported by the Anglo-French axis, again – used the dissolution of the communist Yugoslavia as an opportunity for implementation of the 19th-century ‘Greater Serbia’ programme, that is, Serbia’s expansion in all the Yugoslav territories populated by the Orthodox Christians. However, this time ‘Greater Serbia’ was used as a catalyst in a bigger geopolicial reshuffling advocated by the UK and France – the simultaneous implementation of four ethnnically homogenous greater-state projects, including ‘Greater Serbia’ (transferring the Orthodox-populated parts of Bosnia, plus Montenegro and the northern part of Kosovo, to Serbia), ‘Greater Croatia’ (transferring the Catholic-populated parts of Bosnia to Croatia), ‘Greater Albania’ (transferring the Albanian-populated parts of Kosovo and Macedonia to Albania) and ‘Greater Bulgaria’ (transferring the Slavic parts of Macedonia to Bulgaria).

Since 1990s, ethno-religious nationalisms in the Balkans have served only  this geopolitical purpose – creation of ethno-religiously homogenous ‘greater’ states, including the disappearance of Bosnia and Macedonia, whose multi-religious and multi-ethnic structure has been labelled by the British foreign policy elites as “the last remnant of the Ottoman Empire“ that needs to be eliminated for good. The only major foreign power that has opposed these geopolitical redesigns is the US, which has advocated the policy of inviolability of the former Yugoslav republics’ borders. Yet, the US has never adopted a consistent policy of nation-building for Bosnia and Macedonia, which would be the only one that could efficiently counter the doctrine of ethno-religious homogeneity promoted by the UK and France and supported by most EU countries.   

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