On the historic date of March 08th – International Women’s Day, a large number of international affairs specialists gathered for the second consecutive summit in Vienna, Austria.Along with the two acting State Presidents, the event was endorsed by the keynote of the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Excellency Olivér Várhelyi.
Some of the most anticipated talks were grouped around Panel II:Rule of Law, Health to Education, Social compact, Cross-generational and Economic greening, etc.
A long-time insider, Spanish Public Prosecutor, Carlos López-Veraza Perez, addressed the audience on this topic with the following:
The Panellist Carlos López-Veraza made a general analysis of the impact of Covid (C-19) on both the rule of law and fundamental rights in Europe. In the last year, he has worked until September as a prosecutor in Spain and then at the European Court of Human Rights, which gives him a global vision of the challenge in question. And although he does not say anything controversial, he made it clear that everything he says is his personal opinion, and in no way binds either the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office or the Council of Europe.
The speaker gave a generic analysis of the rule of law situation in Europe due to the pandemic. During crises, the state’s powers do not usually decrease, but on the contrary, increase what has sometimes been called the ratchet effect. And it is at this point that the counterweight of states must be the rule of law and human rights. The relationship between the rule of law and human rights is increasingly recognised at the international level, not only at the European level but also by the United Nations itself. For this reason, the author considers it essential to explain the rule of law in terms of its relationship with human rights.
He has analysed the topic in the light of the answers given by the European Union, the Council of Europe, but also from the point of view of a Spanish public prosecutor.
In Spain, public prosecutors have, in addition to their criminal functions, the legal mission of safeguarding legality and the fundamental rights of citizens. In this context, he notes that from his point of view as Prosecutor, he has observed from the beginning of the pandemic challenges to fundamental rights that are sometimes not so obvious. We are all aware of the consequences of the drastic impact on fundamental rights that C-19 has had on rights such as the right to demonstrate, the right of assembly, and the right to mobility, among others. But this cannot make us overlook other challenges such as guaranteeing the health of people in prisons and of any person deprived of liberty for any reason, rights of migrants, rights of persons with disabilities, as well as the need to guarantee procedural rights during trials. But there is also another fundamental challenge that arises mainly from confinement regarding the victims of crimes. In this context, and bearing in mind that it is women’s day, he highlights the situation of women victims of gender violence who have been forced to live 24 hours a day with their aggressors. But also, victims of trafficking in human beings, who are increasingly difficult to detect due to lockdowns adopted by states as a way of combating the pandemic. The confinement makes it difficult for victims to ask for help or to be detected by the police or social agents, which is a serious challenge. And he recalls that Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits slavery and that countries are obliged to take effective measures to prevent and eradicate slavery, as the European Court of Human Rights ruled in, among others, Siliadin v. France.
In the second part of the presentation, he has given a brief overview of the measures taken by European states. According to a report of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, most EU Member States have resorted to states of emergency to limit rights. The main control measures have been parliamentary controls and the fact that the related measures are temporary in duration and often have a sunset clause. Only 14 states of the EU have not declared a state of emergency.
The author highlights that during states of emergency, there is a shift in the distribution of powers at both a horizontal and vertical level. The powers of the executive tend to be temporarily strengthened vertically and horizontally. Therefore, it is so important the scrutiny and oversight of emergency measures and, in any case, respect for fundamental rights.
At this point, even if it is an ex-post control, the European Court of Human Rights will have to rule on the measures agreed by states if citizens come before the court in opposition to the actions taken to combat C-19, especially those that may have affected human rights.
That is why the author reports that the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Ms. Marija Pejčinović Burić, issued on April 2020 a toolkit for governments across Europe on respecting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law during the C-19 crisis and recalling first of all the possibility of invoking Article 15 of the European Convention if the States deem it appropriate.
According to Article 15 of the Convention of Human Rights, in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation, any High Contracting Party may take measures derogating from its obligations under this Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law.
However, only a few states have made use of it. It remains to be seen whether this will have consequences for citizens’ applications to the European Court of Human Rights about measures agreed by states to combat the pandemic.
There are some restrictive measures adopted by member states that may be justified on the ground of the usual provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention) relating to the protection of health (see Article 5 paragraph 1e, paragraph 2 of Articles 8 to 11 of the Convention and Article 2 paragraph 3 of Protocol No 4 to the Convention), measures of exceptional nature may require derogations from the states’ obligations under the Convention. It is for each state to assess whether the measures it adopts warrant such a derogation; any derogation will be assessed by the European Court of Human Rights (Court) in cases that will be brought before it.
However, certain Convention rights do not allow for any derogation: the right to life, except in the context of lawful acts of war (Article 2), the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 3), the prohibition of slavery and servitude (Article 4§1) and the rule of “no punishment without law” (Article 7). There can be no derogation from the abolishment of the death penalty or the right not to be tried or punished twice (Protocols Nos 6 and 13 as well as Article 4 of Protocol No 7).
Additionally, the Council of Europe has given in the mentioned toolkit some guidelines to ensure the rule of law and the fundamental rights during the pandemic, such as:
– Ensuring the principle of legality;
-The establishment of a limited duration of the regime of the state of emergency and the emergency measures.
-Limited scope of the emergency legislation.
-The principle of necessity
-Distribution of powers and checks on the executive action during the state of emergency regime
In conclusion, the speaker highlights that C-19 and the rule of law is a tricky balancing act. Laws must make the appropriate balancing of the interests at stake concerning human rights. A fair balance between compulsion and prevention is the most appropriate way to comply with the Convention. And as the panellist said – and the Final Document of the Vienna Process endorsed, too, even in an emergency, the rule of law must always prevail.
This leg of the Vienna Process titled: “Europe – Future – Neighborhood at 75: Disruptions Recalibration Continuity”. The conference, jointly organized by the Modern Diplomacy, IFIMES and their partners, with the support of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, was aimed at discussing the future of Europe and its neighbourhood in the wake of its old and new challenges. This highly anticipated conference gathered over twenty high ranking speakers from three continents, and the viewers from Australia to Canada and from Chile to Far East. The day was filled by three panels focusing on the rethinking and revisiting Europe and its three equally important neighbourhoods: Euro-Med, Eastern and trans-Atlantic (or as the Romano Prodi’s EU Commission coined it back in 2000s – “from Morocco to Russia – everything but the institutions”); the socio-political and economic greening; as well as the legacy of WWII, Nuremberg Trials and Code, the European Human Rights Charter and their relevance in the 21st century.
Nurturing Sino-EU Ties through Multilateralism
Considering the fact that relations between China and the EU are shifting, they will continue since China’s position as a crucial economic powerhouse for the EU cannot be understated, especially as the EU confronts a real and technical economic downturn. In the Eurozone, countries such as the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Germany are experiencing a deceleration in economic growth, which requires immediate consideration. The primary reason for this is the industry-related crisis caused by the collapse of export operations on both domestic and global markets due to a lack of purchasing power.
If this mild downturn becomes a full-blown crisis, the economies of both the European Union and the United States could stagnate. Because of these challenges, the European Union (EU) must strike a fine balance between resolving the current crisis and accommodating U.S. demands. The recent summit of European Union leaders holds great importance as the EU determined its policy towards China. The EU’s economic prospects are highly dependent on developing strong ties with China.
When combined with China’s growing consumer market and massive expenditures in infrastructure, the European Union’s economy has a once-in-a-generation chance to rebound and thrive. The European Union (EU) stands to gain from closer economic connections with China due to the opportunities it presents for increased collaboration, broader trade, and the infusion of much-needed Chinese investment into the EU’s flagging industrial sectors.
Recognizing this undeniable potential, the EU must priorities capitalizing on the benefits of its partnership with China, whilst likewise making sure that the relationship remains mutually beneficial and sustainable. The path towards achieving such equilibrium, however, is fraught with obstacles, mainly due to external pressures from the United States. Notably, the United States has imposed tariffs and trade restrictions on a number of European products, creating financial challenges for European companies. These actions are frequently used as pressure to influence Europe’s approach to China.
The EU is in a precarious position, compelled to navigate an environment where financial goals, geopolitical issues, and common values intersect. Maintaining a delicate equilibrium is essential. The pressure exerted by the United States highlights the necessity for Europe to assert its own interests and independence in international affairs. It is essential that the EU devise an independent and principled strategy that protects its own interests while approaching China with a productive discussion.
European Council President Charles Michel’s recent statement that it is in the EU’s best interest to maintain “stable and constructive” ties with China has, in a sense, confirmed the continuation of EU-China relations. In a latest commentary, Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, pointed to how the EU could modify its policy towards China. However, he advocated for “vigorous engagement” between the EU and Beijing.
Under the weight of US pressure, maintaining a delicate balance in EU-China relations requires careful handling. European leaders will have the opportunity to define the EU’s position on China at the upcoming EU summit, ushering in a future of balanced, constructive, and mutually beneficial engagement. It is essential that European leaders seize this opportunity and set a course that protects their economic interests and fundamental values. In this manner, the EU can promote stability, resilience, and sustainable growth in the face of changing global dynamics.
At this critical juncture, leaders must engage in exhaustive dialogues that incorporate the many facets of the EU’s relationship with China. The promotion of human rights should be coupled with economic considerations. Considerations such as trade disparities, rights to intellectual property protection, and the development of equitable market practices must be addressed in an open discussion. This strategy will ensure an equitable playing field for EU and Chinese businesses, fostering an environment conducive to healthy competition and long-term economic growth.
The foundation of Sino-EU relations should base on mutual interest and respect, multilateralism, and economic exchanges, and they should be exempt from illicit US interference and pressures. By navigating these complexities and forging a path that safeguards economic interests and fundamental values, the EU can promote stability, resilience, and sustainable growth in the face of changing global dynamics.
China-Germany Win-Win Cooperation
The China-Germany cooperation exemplifies the transformative potential of collaboration based on mutual regard, shared objectives, and complementary strengths. This exceptional partnership has spawned a domino effect that extends beyond bilateral relations, inspiring other nations to pursue similarly mutually beneficial partnerships.
As the world becomes more interconnected, countries can learn from the China-Germany model of cooperation, which fosters economic development, technological advancement, environmental stewardship, and cultural exchange. By adhering to the principles of win-win cooperation, nations can construct a more prosperous, sustainable, and harmonious global community.
China and Germany’s dynamic and mutually beneficial cooperation is a shining example of win-win collaboration on the global stage. Both nations have nurtured strong economic and diplomatic ties over the years, resulting in enormous advances and benefits for their respective societies.
Strong and coordinated global action is needed immediately to combat climate change and advance sustainable development. There is still a lot to be done, but China and Germany have already shown their dedication to environmentally friendly and low-carbon development. By aligning their strategies and exchanging best practices, they can expedite the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.
China’s pledge to peak carbon emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 shows its commitment to a deep low-carbon transformation of its economy and society. Through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) administered by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the German Federal Government supports Sino-German climate change cooperation.
Collaboration in areas such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, the circular economy, and sustainable transportation can lead the way for a greener future, mitigating the effects of climate change and nurturing ecological equilibrium.
China and Germany have established a strong economic partnership that has benefited both countries significantly. Germany’s main commercial partner is China, and vice versa, and this strong bilateral commerce has led to significant economic growth and employment creation. This collaboration has given German businesses access to the sizable Chinese market.
Notably, the exchange of products, services, and knowledge between the two nations has fostered innovation, productivity, and economic resiliency, thereby laying the groundwork for long-term cooperation. This commitment to cooperation has yielded an array of beneficial effects, strengthening the conviction that win-win partnerships can drive progress and prosperity in an interdependent world.
The dynamic economic partnership that has grown between the two nations is one of the pillars of China-Germany cooperation. Germany, known for its scientific prowess, inventiveness, and precision engineering, found a favourable market in China, with its enormous customer base and rapidly expanding economy.
On the other hand, China’s manufacturing expertise and devotion to infrastructure development have presented German businesses with incredible possibilities to expand their operations and enter new markets. Entrepreneurs from both nations could keep pursuing openness, inclusiveness, and win-win cooperation, as well as keep the stability of industrial and supply chains with high-level practical cooperation. This symbiotic relationship has allowed both nations to capitalize on their respective strengths, resulting in economic expansion and job creation for both countries.
China and Germany have also established cooperation in the fields of innovation and research, recognizing that advancements in these fields are crucial agents of economic and societal progress. Through joint research initiatives, academic exchanges, and institution-to-institution collaboration, both nations have been able to pool their intellectual resources, foster innovation, and address global challenges. This cooperation has not only led to revolutionary scientific discoveries, but it has also set the groundwork for future innovations in technology that will benefit all of humanity.
China and Germany have fostered cultural exchange and people-to-people diplomacy in addition to their economic and technological cooperation. By encouraging education exchanges, cultural events, and intercultural dialogue, both countries have built bridges of appreciation, understanding, and friendship. Not only do these interactions enrich the lives of individuals, but they also strengthen the bilateral relationship as a whole. They facilitate dialogue, eliminate preconceived notions, and set the groundwork for mutually beneficial relationships and respect.
By expanding on these accomplishments and upholding a spirit of mutual respect and shared objectives, the China-Germany partnership can continue to advance progress and inspire global collaboration.
The China-Germany model of win-win cooperation provides valuable lessons for nations seeking to forge prosperous partnerships. It emphasizes the significance of mutual respect, trust, and open communication as the foundations for productive collaboration. It also emphasizes the importance of recognizing and capitalizing on balance in strengths and resources, which allows nations to maximize the positive effects of cooperation.
The Eurasian Zeitenwende: Germany and Japan at the Crossroads
Russia’s decision to invade in Ukraine in February of last year has been nothing short of a critical juncture in recent history—sending reverberations across the entirety of Eurasia. Seldom have events on one end of the continent been so consequential on the other. Russia’s invasion has shattered the prime directive underpinning the long peace after the Great Wars—the inviolable right to sovereignty has been shattered, as mass armed aggression has reared its head once again. Nowhere is this sweeping change felt than in Berlin and Tokyo—to capitals separated by over 12,453 kilometers of land and sea.
German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz spoke to the Bundestag just three days after Russia’s invasion, on the ‘historic turning point’, the Zeitenwende this moment presented. Not a year later, on December 16, after much negotiation Japan finally released their first National Security Strategy in almost a decade. Ukraine provided for both governments the impetus to shed decades of consensus on defense policy. Berlin and Tokyo were once partners in the greatest conflict wrought on mankind, and today they are once again on the same page—but this time arming in the name of global peace.
The postwar consensus
With 1945 came the crashing down of the German and Japanese imperial ambitions that underwrote the explosions of violence from 1914 to 1945. The first half of the twentieth century saw successive orders predicated the passing of power; the imperialist order long preceded the turn of the century, and came crashing with the First World War. From there, a brief liberal interlude of the Washington Conference was doomed to fail given Anglo-American isolationism, and from that chaos was born—a return to imperialism. With these passing orders, German and Japanese leaders debated and sought to reinvent themselves in response to changing tides across the globe.
In fact, twice in the last century, during Twenty-five Years Crisis, Wilhelmine and Nazi imperialism exploded in the European theater. For the Japanese, a slow roll to imperial domination in Asia began much before the war and exploded in the 1930s. This imperial flame was extinguished almost as soon as it was ignited—bringing with it the deaths of millions through genocide and war, and the destruction of much of the world’s industrial capacity. In the wake of it, a similar thinking overtook both Berlin and Tokyo. In the wake of the horrors of war, both peoples came to a similar conclusion that militarism ought be eschewed—with Japan going as far as enshrining its anti-militarist urge in the constitution’s article 9. Though it must be noted, the Germans accepted their guilt—the Japanese continue to engage in denialism and apologia.
For decades, under the guise of guilt in Germany, and occupation-enforced constitutional limits for Japan, both countries eschewed providing for their own national defense needs—instead relying on the all-powerful U.S. security guarantee.
A new look in a new environment
This change that has occurred here has happened within the context of what Dr. Kent Calder described in The New Continentalism: Energy and Twenty-First Century Geopolitics, and Supercontinent: the Logic of Eurasian Integration, as ‘proto-continentalism’—the modern stirrings of transcontinental integration. The continent was transformed by China’s Four Modernizations, the Oil Shock, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union—all requiring readjustments on the continent. Continental integration followed the integration and modernization within China, the Oil Shock highlighted the need for energy-driven interconnection, and the collapse of the Soviet Union meant no more Cold War political antagonisms. These changes meant that there were suddenly lower costs for trade across the continent—one rife with great complementaries. Like some geographic providence, the world’s largest energy producers in the Middle East, sat between the world’s biggest consumers in Europe and Asia.
Of course, this integration isn’t just relegated to the economic realm—but also the defense sector. Whereas integration was predicated by the near-collapse of mass interstate conflict, the War in Ukraine would seem to threaten just that. But in fact, integration ensures the costs associated with this conflict are felt from one end of the continent to the other. This inherently ties the most far-flung countries on matters of defense—exactly what ties Berlin and Tokyo, and their similar responses to the war in Ukraine. This integration doesn’t just tie Berlin and Tokyo, but also Seoul and Warsaw, both of which have seen deepened defense cooperation not limited to the production of South Korean tanks and artillery in Poland. Furthermore, Japan has sought out increased cooperation with NATO.
The mutually-reinforcing loop
Russia’s invasion has been an unmitigated tragedy for the people of Ukraine—but a boon for solidarity in the ‘Western’ security architecture, including the West’s numerous Asian allies and partners, and Eurasian integration writ large. In fact, the mutual economic ties that have fostered closer defense ties across the region, will continue to reinforce each other. Integration between these partners, across various sectors is the greatest mitigator of future conflict—an idea that underpins the great postwar peace, and one that will continue to endure.
Today, Germany and Japan, once imperial menaces to the international system, now make a proactive contribution to global peace—in deciding to behave like normal countries, and arm amidst a threatening global environment. Their contribution to the peace is in the solidification of transcontinental defense ties—ones predicated on deep economic integration.
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