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Let us make Europe a safe place for environmental human rights defenders

The Brave Women of Kruscica join hands at an event on the third anniversary of the morning they were attacked for refusing to let construction equipment cross the bridge over the Kruščica River. (Photo courtesy of Jakub Hrab/Arnika)

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In 2017 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a group of dedicated grassroots environmental activists staged a 500-day-long protest against the construction of new hydropower dams on the Kruščica river. The fight led by local women, who later came to be known as the Brave Women of Kruščica, met with many obstacles, including physical violence and arrests, but it has not been in vain: it has helped to safeguard access to fresh drinking water for local residents while staving off risks posed by the projects to the habitat of many animal species.

Two years later, in 2019 in the United Kingdom, more than ten years of protests and pressure from environmental campaigners resulted in a government moratorium on fracking, a controversial method of extracting underground gas, offering relief to residents of areas located near extraction sites who feared earth tremors and exposure to other environmental harms linked to potential accidents.

In Spain, almost twenty years of relentless campaigning and a legal battle by Spanish ecologists culminated in October 2020 in victory when the country’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that put an end to a vast residential development project threatening a coastal natural park recognised for its protected marine habitats.

And in March 2021 in France, a government decree setting very short buffer distances between human habitat and areas treated with highly toxic pesticides was deemed unconstitutional thanks to the collective efforts of a number of national and regional environmental NGOs, backed by citizen and consumer associations and health organisations.

These are just a handful of real-life examples of how environmental action has benefited the human rights and collective safety of entire communities in Europe. Many other inspiring success stories can be found, including on Voices of Nature, a brand new website set up by the Council of Europe’s Bern Convention. There are countless others around the world. Some make the headlines. Many go unnoticed.

Environmental human rights defenders

The people behind these extremely important efforts are environmental human rights defenders. The term refers to human rights defenders working on environmental issues. Many of them are ordinary citizens who are simply exercising their human rights, or who are forced to act by circumstances or sheer necessity; some of them may fall into this category regardless of whether or not they self-identify as human rights defenders. The interdependence between human rights and the environment has gradually become one of the central pillars of today’s human rights discourse, as I have noted in my 2019 human rights comment entitled “Living in a clean environment: a neglected human rights concern for all of us”. It is now abundantly clear that environmental harm interferes with the enjoyment of basic human rights and freedoms, such as the right to life, to health, to privacy, or freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment. It follows from this that those who act to protect the environment and to prevent environmental degradation, including climate change, contribute to the protection of our human rights.

The critical contribution made by environmental human rights defenders to our societies has not gone unrecognised, as evidenced by, for example, the landmark resolution on environmental human rights defenders adopted in 2019 by the Human Rights Council, and the “Geneva Roadmap” that seeks to aid its effective implementation. Their role has also been acknowledged by the mandate of the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, not least in the seminal UN Framework Principles on human rights and the environment. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), together with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Universal Rights Group, have developed a dedicated resource portal and a Defenders Policy in support of environmental defenders. Within the Council of Europe, this year’s 9th Edition of the World Forum for Democracy honours their work by focusing on the topic “Defending the Defenders” as part of its year-long campaign devoted to the complex interplay of democracy and environmental protection. In many places around Europe, national and local authorities have given environmental human rights defenders a seat at the policy table in recognition of their valuable voice, experience, and expertise.

At the same time, governments in Europe often consider environmental defenders and environmental advocacy a nuisance at best, and a threat at worst, and respond to legitimate activism with reprisals. Some simply allow unbridled economic development to take precedence over citizens’ legitimate environmental concerns or allow vested moneyed interests and powerful non-state actors to stifle activism. Environmental defenders’ activities have won them some formidable enemies and in many places around Europe today, speaking out and standing up for the environment or denouncing the effects of climate change carries a hefty price tag.

A rise in attacks and reprisals against environmental defenders

The persecution of environmental human rights defenders in Europe is hardly a new phenomenon. In the 2014 report entitled “A Dangerous Shade of Green”, the NGO ‘Article 19’ documented dozens of examples of killings and violent attacks on environmental activists on the continent; other examples, mostly from countries of the former Soviet Union, can be found in the 2019 report “Dangerous work: Reprisals against environmental activists” by the NGO Crude Accountability. Sadly, however, these attacks and incidents have not abated – if anything, they have grown in intensity. Only recently, over 400 academics researching climate and environmental change published an open letter in which they voiced concern about the increasing criminalisation and silencing of environmental activists around the world, which they see as “a new form of anti-democratic refusal to act on climate.”

Support for the work of human rights defenders, their protection, and the development of an enabling environment for their activities are among the core elements of my mandate as Commissioner for Human Rights. It was with this in mind that last December I convened an online roundtable with environmental human rights defenders from across Europe, including lawyers, campaigners and representatives of both local and international NGOs from several European countries. Their testimonials have laid bare the intensification of oppression and intimidation faced by Europe’s environmental human rights defenders in recent years. As can be seen in the conclusions of the roundtable report, those who bring truth to light on environmental issues and are at the forefront of the fight against climate change are currently facing attacks on all fronts.

Sadly, there are places in Europe today where environmental human rights defenders are beaten, threatened, verbally abused, intimidated, or otherwise prevented from carrying out their legitimate activities in a safe and free manner. To mention but a handful of the most glaring examples: an environmental campaigner from Russia was severely beaten by unknown assailants and hospitalised with skull fractures and a broken nose. In Ukraine, an environmental activist investigating the pollution of a local river, allegedly caused by a nearby waste treatment plant, was found hanged under suspicious circumstances. The fight against illegal logging in Romania’s primeval forests has already claimed the lives of several rangers and has put the lives of some activists at risk. I personally heard the harrowing testimony of an environmental campaigner who described being beaten almost to death in 2015; although his assailants were caught on video and identified by an eyewitness, they have never been brought to justice.

When confronted with reports of violence or intimidation of environmental human rights defenders, law enforcement agencies all too often turn a blind eye. Worryingly, in some European countries, this has become quite commonplace. Government reprisals or the inability or unwillingness of public authorities to guarantee the safety and protection of environmental activists has led some of them to seek refuge elsewhere. A prominent environmental activist and head of one of Russia’s oldest environmental groups had to flee the country after being harassed with numerous spurious judicial proceedings. Several other environmental campaigners who fought against the construction of a motorway through a primeval forest, opposed the illegal exploitation of protected forestland, or advocated more openness about the fallout of a nuclear incident, had to leave Russia out of concern for their own and their families’ safety. An environmental defender from Romania told me about having to relocate abroad after receiving information about a bounty placed on his head by criminals in connection with his environmental work, fearing the law enforcement’s inability to guarantee his protection.

Stigmatisation, surveillance and other restrictions on environmental activism

Violent attacks are hardly the only problem facing environmental defenders today, however. Increasingly, governments view and present environmental organisations as suspicious and pass legislation or measures with the aim of limiting their scope for action. A prime example of such legislation disproportionately affecting legitimate environmental activism are the so-called foreign agent-type laws. Such laws force many environmental defender organisations to either avoid official registration altogether or to discontinue their operations, on pain of heavy fines and other punitive measures, including criminal prosecution, judicial harassment, or dissolution. The first such law, adopted by Russia in 2012, was the subject of my predecessor’s intervention in a case pending before the European Court of Human Rights. Regrettably, this bad example has inspired copycat solutions in other parts of Europe. Similar legislation was adopted in Hungary in 2017 despite criticism from my office – and found to be in breach of EU law in June 2020. In May 2020, Poland’s environment minister announced that similar legislation was under consideration and that a working group had been set up to that end; he also accused some environmental organisations of acting not for the environment’s sake but rather on the instructions of undefined “bigger interests”. In Slovenia, the government inserted in a bill on COVID-19-related economic support a provision limiting the ability of environmental activists to participate in environmental impact assessments; the proposal is currently under constitutional review.

Environmental human rights defenders who took part in the above-mentioned roundtable mentioned various other types of government activities deliberately limiting their scope for action and effectively hampering collective efforts to put an end to the adverse consequences of environmental degradation and climate change. These, in turn, can have a chilling effect on the whole of society. In many Council of Europe member states, environmental human rights defenders are deliberately mocked, ridiculed, scapegoated, marginalised, or even likened to extremists and given derogatory labels, such as ‘(eco-)terrorists’ – including by public officials, media outlets, or even judicial authorities. Some governments and businesses resort to offensive and stigmatising public relations campaigns to isolate environmental campaigners and make attacks on them more justifiable to the general public. Their organisations are also smeared online in an attempt to tarnish their reputation, and activists are regularly cyber-bullied. In some member states, law enforcement agencies disrupt the legitimate activities of environmental organisations by raiding their offices and seizing their equipment, thereby further adding to the stigmatisation in the public eye.  

Worryingly, participation in environmental protests is also increasingly equated with unlawful activity or interpreted as a ground for imposing preventive individual restrictions on freedom of movement or the right to liberty. Rules on public assemblies are sometimes applied selectively to the detriment of protests by environmental groups. Public participation in global environmental summits has often been curtailed and large numbers of environmental activists placed under surveillance. These last measures in particular represent a far-reaching intrusion into the privacy of those targeted, but are difficult to detect and challenge legally, due to their covert nature.

For example, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in 2015, France imposed surveillance measures on a number of grassroots environmental activists and placed some of them under preventive house arrest. Legislation adopted by Poland ahead of the COP24 conference in 2018 gave broad surveillance powers to the police and secret services to collect personal data about COP24 participants and to prevent spontaneous peaceful assemblies in the city where the summit was being held. In 2019, a court in Moscow sentenced a youth climate activist and solo picketer to six days in detention for his peaceful protest as part of the global “Fridays for the Future” campaign. In the United Kingdom, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – currently before Parliament – has been criticised by environmental activists for its possible negative impact on freedom of assembly and peaceful protests, and for the discouraging effect its provisions would have on people’s participation in environmental demonstrations.

Intimidation and harassment of environmental journalists

Aggressive tactics used against environmental human rights defenders are also frequently extended to investigative journalists, both because of the environmental harm they might uncover and due to their role in helping activists spread the message about their causes. Examples mentioned during the roundtable ranged from a vexatious lawsuit by an oil company against a newspaper to testimonies about threats against journalists interested in covering environmental campaigns. In March this year, in an apparent attempt to cause a road accident, two bolts were removed from the wheel of a car belonging to a French investigative journalist known for her investigations into the agricultural sector; this incident followed previous threats to her and her family and the poisoning of her dog. Another freelance journalist renowned for her investigation into the environmental degradation caused by the discharge of toxic pesticides by the agri-food industry was targeted by groundless defamation lawsuits initiated by powerful business owners. Although these claims were eventually withdrawn, the overall objective of such vexatious lawsuits, otherwise known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPPs), is to intimidate journalists into abandoning their environmental investigations.

The way forward

The worrying state of affairs described above is untenable. If European governments – both at the central and the local level – are serious about their stated commitments to fighting environmental pollution and climate change, it is high time that they recognised and acted decisively on their responsibilities vis-à-vis environmental human rights defenders and environmental journalists.

First of all, Council of Europe member states must provide a safe and enabling environment for environmental human rights defenders to operate free from violence, intimidation, harassment, or threats. They should adopt a zero-tolerance policy on human rights violations against environmental human rights defenders and environmental journalists; swiftly and firmly condemn any threats or violence against them and their organisations – including by non-state actors; lead full and effective investigations into any threats or violence committed against them, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice; and provide access to effective remedies for such violations.

Second, we must put an end to the stigmatisation of environmental human rights defenders in Europe, including that emanating from non-state actors and taking place online. Politicians and opinion leaders must refrain from referring to environmental defenders using derogatory terms and from seeking to misrepresent or undermine their work. Instead, they should publicly and firmly support their activities and recognise the fundamental importance of their engagement and their contribution to our societies. They should also repeal legislation that interferes with environmental organisations’ ability to work freely and independently. There can be no room in Europe for foreign agent-type or other laws stifling legitimate civil society activism.

Third, public protests and campaigns are among the most effective — and indeed indispensable — environmental advocacy tools for raising public awareness and effecting change. States should respect freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly in relation to environmental matters, and protect the exercise of these rights from interference, including from non-state actors.

Fourth, we must pay due heed to the voice of environmental human rights defenders. Public authorities and private businesses should ensure genuine, effective, and transparent participation of environmental organisations, communities and individuals in decision-making on all policies and projects which may have an environmental impact. States should collect and disseminate environmental information and guarantee procedures that allow concerned individuals to act when confronted with environmental degradation, including the right to receive affordable, effective and timely access to information about environmental issues. In line with my recent written observations to the European Court of Human Rights in a case concerning the negative impact of climate change on human rights, states should also ensure respect for the right to a remedy and remove barriers to access to justice by victims of human rights violations caused by environmental degradation or climate change.

In this regard, I reiterate my call for all Council of Europe member states that have not yet done so to promptly ratify the 1998 Aarhus Convention and the 2010 Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents (Tromsø Convention) and to support their effective implementation. I also invite those states that have already ratified the Aarhus Convention to consider supporting the development of a rapid response mechanism in order to deal with cases of harassment and threats against environmental human rights defenders.

Respect for the rights of environmental human rights defenders is also an obligation of non-state actors. Businesses in Europe should internalise their corporate responsibility to respect human rights, in line with the United Nations “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework. Against the backdrop of the ongoing push for more stringent rules on corporate due diligence on human rights in Europe, it is now more than ever important for companies to be seen as positive and responsible players, in particular with regard to environmental human rights and those who defend them.

Lastly, Europe needs more environmental human rights defenders. States should strive to ensure public awareness on environmental matters and to educate people from an early age about the need to preserve the environment and how to do so. I was pleased to learn that in Sweden and Finland, for instance, lessons on the environment and its meaning for individuals and societies are integrated in school curricula, at every stage of education. Such initiatives are essential for raising a new generation of environmentally aware and active citizens. The Council of Europe offers valuable educational resources in this area.

We cannot claim to be serious about protecting the environment or combating climate change unless we protect those who put themselves on the line for these goals. I want to pay tribute to the environmental human rights defenders’ selfless work and the sacrifices they make so that we can have a dignified future existence on this planet. Without their vision and courage, the environment we live in is bound to suffer serious harm – along with our human rights and well-being. Defending the defenders is not just a moral and political imperative. At the very least, it should also be a reflex for collective self-preservation.

I will continue to raise concerns regarding the plight of environmental human rights defenders in dialogue with authorities and to speak out whenever they face attacks, reprisals, or undue restrictions. I would also appeal to everyone to stand firm in their defence. As they are increasingly targeted, let us reverse the trend and make Europe a safe place for environmental activism.

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The French Dispatch: The Year 2022 and European Security

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2021 has been rich in negative events for European security: the world has witnessed the collapse of the Open Skies Treaty, American-French discord concerning AUKUS, the termination of the official dialogue between Russia and NATO, and the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border.

Over the past year, the Western countries seem to have been searching for new strategies. Since the end of 2019, NATO has been developing a new concept, and in June 2021 at the summit in Brussels, to the displeasure of sceptics, it was possible to agree on its basis—the transatlantic agenda NATO 2030 (# NATO2030) . While the broad formulations and a direct hierarchy of threats still require clarification, new projects in the field of weapons development, combating climate change, and increasing interoperability have already been declared.

In parallel, since the end of 2020, work has continued on the EU European Parliamentary Research Service project—the Strategic Compass. The dialectic between Atlanticism and Europeanism softened after Joe Biden came to power in the United States, but the European interests and red lines retain their significance for transatlantic relations. In 2022, together with the rotating post of the President of the EU Council, the role of a potential newsmaker in this area has been transferred to Emmanuel Macron, who feels very comfortable in it.

On December 9, the provisions of the Paris programme were published under the motto “Recovery, power, belonging” France, as expected, is reiterating its call for strengthening European sovereignty. The rhetoric of the document and its author is genuine textbook-realism. But now for the entire European Union.

Objectives of the French Presidency, are not articulated directly but are quite visible—making the EU more manageable and accountable to its members, with new general rules to strengthen mobilisation potential, and improve the EU’s competitiveness and security in a world of growing challenges.

Paris proposes reforming the Schengen area and tightening immigration legislation—a painful point for the EU since 2015, which has become aggravated again in recent months. This ambitious task has become slightly more realistic since Angela Merkel’s retirement in Germany. At least a new crisis response mechanism on this issue can be successful, even if it is not fully implemented.

In addition, the Élysée Palace calls on colleagues to revise the budget deficit ceilings of the Maastricht era to overcome the consequences of the pandemic and finally introduce a carbon tax at the EU borders. The latter allows for a new source of income and provides additional accountability for the implementation of the “green” goals by member countries.

The planned acceleration of the adoption of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA), developed by the European Commission at the end of 2020, is also aimed at unifying the general legislation and consolidating the European position in the world. In other words, the French Foreign Ministry quite soberly assesses the priority areas and vulnerabilities of the European Union and focuses on them, but with one exception.

A special priority of the French presidency is to strengthen the defence capabilities of the EU. On the sidelines, the French diplomats note that the adoption of the Strategic Compass in the spring of 2022, as originally planned, is a fundamental task, since otherwise the process may be completely buried. With a high degree of probability, this is so: the first phase of the development of the Compass—the general list of threats—lasted a year, and consisted of dozens of sessions, meetings, round tables with the involvement of leading experts, but the document was never published. If Macron won’t do it, then who will?

As the main ideologist and staunchest supporter of the EU’s “strategic autonomy”, the French president has been trying for five years to mobilise others for self-sufficiency in the security sphere. With his direct participation, not only the Mechanism of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in the defence area was launched, where France is the leader in a number of projects, but also the so-far failed European Intervention Initiative. Even without focusing on French foreign policy traditions and ambitions, the country remains a major European arms exporter and a nuclear power, where the military-industrial complex is closely affiliated with the state.

Implementing the 2022 agenda is also a matter of immediate political gain as France enters a new electoral cycle. The EU Summit will take place on March 10-11, 2022, in Paris, a month before the elections, and in any case it will become part of the election campaign and a test for the reputation of the current leader. Macron has not yet officially announced his participation in the presidential race, but he is actively engaged in self-promotion, because right-wing politicians espousing different degrees of radicalism are ready to take advantage of his defeats to purchase extra points.

The search for allies seems to be of key importance for victory at the European level, and the French Foreign Ministry has already begun working on this matter. In 2016–2017 the launch of new initiatives was predetermined by the support of Germany and the Central and East European countries. The change of cabinet in Germany will undoubtedly have an impact on the nation’s policy. On the one hand, following the results of the first visit of the new Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Paris on December 10, the parties announced the closeness of their positions and a common desire to strengthen Europe. On the other hand, the coalition of Social Democrats (SDP) was made up with the Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) who are not at all supporters of excessive involvement in security issues. What “strategic autonomy” means for France, constitutes a more restrained “strategic sovereignty” for Germany Therefore, an intensification of dialogue with Italy and Spain, which are both respected and potentially sympathetic, is likely. The military cooperation agreement concluded in the autumn of 2021 with Greece, an active member of PESCO, can also help Paris.

Gaining support from smaller countries is more challenging. Although the European project is not an alternative to the transatlantic one, the formation of a common list of threats is a primary task and problem for NATO as well. As mentioned above, it is around it that controversy evolves, because the hierarchy determines the distribution of material resources. The countries of Eastern Europe, which assume that it is necessary to confront Russia but lack the resources to do so, will act as natural opponents of the French initiatives in the EU, while Paris, Rome and Madrid will oppose them and the United States in the transatlantic dialogue. The complexity of combining two conversations about the same thing with a slightly different composition of participants raises the bar for Emmanuel Macron. His stakes are high. The mobilisation of the Élysée Palace’s foreign policy is one of the most interesting subjects to watch in the year 2022.

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Unilateral vs Bilateral Euroisation: Political, technical and practical issues in the curious case of north Cyprus

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The island of Cyprus has been split between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north since 1974. The Turkish Cypriot state declared in the north is recognised only by Turkey, while the Republic of Cyprus in the south is recognised internationally and is a European Union (EU) member since 2004. In 2004, 65 percent of Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the United Nations’ Annan Plan for reunification only for Greek Cypriots to reject it. As a result, Cyprus joined the EU as a de facto divided island. Despite joining the EU as a divided island, the whole of Cyprus is considered an EU territory. However, the EU law is suspended in the north until reunification is achieved.

This resulted in the euro being the legal tender only in the southern part of the island. With the recent and continuous depreciation of the Turkish lira, the long-standing question of whether and how the north could switch to the euro has once again intensified. While a bilateral adoption of the euro is not on the cards until a reunification on the island, north Cyprus could technically unilaterally adopt the euro. However this could cause complications in the future as the EU is adamant that unilateral euroisation cannot be used as a mechanism by Member States to circumvent the stages foreseen by the Maastricht Treaty.

Under normal circumstances, “Member States with a derogation”, i.e. the Member States that have not yet fulfilled the necessary conditions for the adoption of the euro are first required to enter the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) to achieve eurozone membership. This is a “waiting room” where any country aspiring to adopt the euro is required to stay for at least for two years. It is now a well-known fact that the ECB shares the opinion of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), i.e. the meeting of the finance ministers of EU Member States adopted in 2000, that this requirement should not be waived. Assuming the northern part of Cyprus is considered a Member State, the same principle will apply and therefore it would not be welcome to adopt the euro unilaterally, bypassing the convergence process foreseen by the Treaty for the adoption of the euro.

Currently, ERM II comprises the currencies of Bulgaria, Croatia and Denmark. Just like these countries, north Cyprus would be expected to peg its national currency to the euro and, given the consent of the European System of Central Banks, fixe a “central exchange rate” and a “deviation margin” under Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) for a duration of no less than two years. If successful based on its ERM II performance, a final exchange rate would be determined and the redenomination would be done over a transition period. 

In the case of north Cyprus, it is understood that the EU might have already agreed to apply a fast track approach where there would be a one-year transition period. However, this has not been confirmed officially by the EU so the EU’s stance in practice is not known. After all, even Denmark, a Member State which has negotiated an opt-out arrangement before the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty has been participating in ERM II although it chose not to adopt the euro. So the EU’s approach in the case of northern Cyprus would not expected to be too lenient. There is no way to find out unless north Cyprus continues the dialogue with the EU.

In the meantime, a more relevant question is whether a unilateral euroisation could be possible. The short answer is yes. For instance the euro was introduced in Kosovo and Montenegro that did not have a status of a sovereign state at the time. In both cases, the decision was made in 1999. Kosovo, defined the Deutsche Mark as the designated currency, which was replaced by the euro in 2002. Similarly, Montenegro introduced a parallel currency system in 1999, in which the Deutsche Mark was allowed to circulate alongside the then legal tender. In 2001, the Deutsche Mark became the only legal tender and was replaced by the euro in June 2002.

In the case of Montenegro, now an official EU candidate, the adoption of the euro without an agreement with the European Central Bank (ECB) was acknowledged by the European Commission as a measure which had to be taken due to “extraordinary circumstances” present in the country at the time. This could be precedent for north Cyprus. However, it is important to note that the ECB still supports the view that unilateral euroisation is not compatible with the Maastricht Treaty and cannot be a way to bypass the convergence process.

The implications of the Treaty framework for in the case of Montenegro currently remain unknown and are expected to be detailed “by the time of possible future negotiations for accession to the EU”. In particular it remains uncertain whether the country would be required to introduce its own currency before it can join ERM II. Should this be the case as Montenegro makes further progress towards EU membership, this would entail substantial operational and changeover costs. Authorities in north Cyprus, should therefore monitor the developments very closely.

Normally, non-euro area Member States are denied the option of unilateral euroization due the principle of equality, i.e. the EU considers bypassing the convergence process incompatible with the EU Treaty and actively discourages it.In particular, the Treaty sets out that there has to be a Community assessment of the fulfilment of these criteria and mutual agreement on the appropriate exchange rates. This means that the ECB does not welcome unilateral euroisation, as such an adoption of the euro outside the Treaty process would run counter to the underlying economic reasoning of European Monetary Union.

However, as north Cyprus is already an EU territory the adoption of the euro could be considered a “common interest of the EU” and therefore an exception could be possible. In fact, the policy of the EU with regard to the Turkish Cypriot community which was set out by the General Affairs Council in 2004 states that “the Council is determined to…facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community”. So in the case of north Cyprus, a switch to the euro could be allowed by way of exception although this would obviously imply circumventing the process of multilateral assessment by the EU Member States.

While the EU could give the green light to adoption of the euro by north Cyprus without a successful exchange-rate procedure under ERM II, it would not allow this to undermine the process of convergence prior to the adoption of the euro. In other words, the Convergence criteria outlined in the Maastricht Treaty would still remain relevant and important as the Treaty requires Member States to achieve a high degree of sustainable economic convergence before they can join the euro area.

In other words the economies of Member States with a derogation must be able to keep pace with those already using the euro. Exchange rate stability, for instance, is evaluated by assessing whether the exchange rate of the country’s currency has remained within the fluctuation bands provided for by ERM II for at least two years without devaluating against the euro.

Besides exchange rate stability, the convergence criteria also include price stability, sound public finances, and convergence in long-term interest rates. This means, for instance, that a country’s long-term interest rate, measured on the basis of long-term government bonds or comparable securities, should not exceed that of the three best-performing Member States in terms of price stability by more than 2 percentage points during the one-year observation period prior to the assessment.   

On the other hand, a country is considered to meet the price stability criterion if its average inflation rate does not exceed the inflation rate of the three best-performing EU Member States by more than 1.5 percentage points during a one-year observation period. These criteria are intended to ensure the sustainability of public finances and that the government is able to manage its debts.

Article 140 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) requires the European Commission (EC) and the European Central Bank (ECB) to report to the Council, at least once every two years, or at the request of a Member State with a derogation on the progress of the country in fulfilling their obligations regarding the achievement of economic and monetary union. In addition to preparing these “Convergence Reports”, both the ECB and the Commission regularly monitor progress throughout the year.

A Convergence Report is normally published at least once every two years or at the request of an EU Member State which would like to join the euro area. Both the ECB and the European Commission issue these reports describing the progress made by non-euro area Member States towards achieving the criteria necessary for a country to adopt the euro. According to the latest report, among countries legally committed to adopting the euro, Croatia and Sweden fulfil the price stability criterion, Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Sweden fulfil the criterion on public finances, Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Sweden fulfil the long-term interest rate criterion. However none of them meet all the requirements for adoption of the euro. So convergence process is very strict and challenging.

In particular, it should be noted that convergence must be sustainable, meaning that satisfying the economic convergence criteria at one point in time is not enough and they are expected to be met on a lasting basis. A Member State’s general financial position is considered sustainable based on two criteria, namely, the government’s annual fiscal deficit should not exceed 3% of gross domestic product, and overall government should not exceed 60% of gross domestic product. This is very important for northern Cyprus as it will need to ensure that its economy is resilient.

It is known that the Maastricht Treaty provides some flexibility and the final assessment depends on the ECOFIN Council. Whether and how this would apply in the case of northern Cyprus remains a mystery. While details remain unknown to the public, the one-year transition period envisaged in the case of northern Cyprus could be related this. However, it should be noted that the decision on whether north Cyprus can adopt the euro would ultimately be a political one and would lie with the Council of the European Union. This means that representatives from all EU countries would be required to take a decision based on a proposal by the EC and after consulting the European Parliament.

Given that participation in the ERM II is a precondition for as well as fulfilment of the nominal convergence criteria to join the euro, it is binding and is unlikely to be waived for any country regardless of any special circumstances. This is because ERM II provides the framework to manage the exchange rates between EU currencies, which is necessary for exchange rate stability. As such north Cyprus would be expected to participate in the mechanism without devaluing its central rate against the euro before it can qualify to adopt the euro.

While no provision of the EU Treaty states explicitly that Member States with a derogation must have their own currency, the Treaty is by and large based on this assumption. In addition, the entry into ERM II is decided by mutual agreement of all ERM II parties, which consist of the ministers of the euro area Member States, the President of the ECB and the minister and the central bank governor of Denmark, as the only non-euro area Member State currently participating in the mechanism.

So in the case of north Cyprus adoption of the euro could mean that the country should first introduce its own currency. This could be a more viable alternative and north Cyprus could then peg its currency to the euro as a preparation for an eventual switch to the euro. Indeed, some countries joined ERM II with their preexisting currency pegs. To give a recent example, the currencies of Bulgaria and Croatia were already closely tied to the euro at the time of applying to the ERM II. Bulgaria had a currency board, first with the Deutsche Mark, and subsequently with the euro after 1999. Croatia had a peg first with the Deutsche Mark, and from 1999 to the euro, with a narrow band.

During this process, legal requirements should not also been underestimated. Article 140(1) of TFEU requires the convergence reports to assess the compatibility of national legislation, including the statutes of the national central bank and the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the ECB. There could also be additional unprecedented requirements and countries may be required to commit to implementing specific policy measures on a variety of topics. For instance, in the case of Bulgaria and Croatia, such requirements range from the anti-money laundering framework, state-owned enterprises and the insolvency framework, to the non-banking financial sector, corruption and even organised crime. It is highly unlikely that the national legislation in north Cyprus is currently compatible with that of the EU as the latest convergence report suggests that the respective national legislations in none of the seven new EU Member States would be deemed “fully compatible” with the exception of Croatia.

In fact, the former north Cyprus President Mustafa Akıncı himself had confessed that “serious work” would needed to ensure the harmonization of the national institutions with the EU acquis. As can be seen in the case of Croatia and Bulgaria, this has now become a prerequisite not only for joining the EU but also in terms of adopting the euro as a new Member State. For instance, this was the main reason behind the delay in Bulgaria’s acceptance to ERM II. Bulgaria was able to get the green light to join ERM II two years after it formally announced its intention to join the mechanism.

The delay was due to the requirement imposed by the Eurozone governments requiring Bulgaria to join ERM II and the Banking Union simultaneously. This prerequisite is known as “the Cooperation Decision” and requires Member States which adopt the euro to also participate in the Banking Union, i.e. the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) and the Single Resolution Fund (SRF). . Therefore, participating in ERM II with a view to later adopting the euro will also involve preparing for joining the Banking Union.

This requirement will now apply to all future candidates including north Cyprus. However, it should also be noted that the procedure for entering the Banking Union is separate from the assessment of the convergence criteria. Joining the Banking Union is irreversible and involves direct powers of the SSM and the SRM over its banking system. This has important implications for the banking sector as banks that will come under the direct supervision of the ECB will also be subject to the direct supervision of the Single Resolution Board (SRB).

To be more specific, this means that, the ECB will become responsible for the direct supervision of the significant credit institutions following the “significance assessment process”. This applies to banks considered to meet the “materiality criteria” as set out in the SSM Regulation (Regulation 1024/2013) and the SSM Framework Regulation (Regulation 468/2014). The criteria include “economic importance for the country” so could technically apply to banks in north Cyprus despite their insignificant sizes in comparison to the EU economy. Therefore, for new joiners like north Cyprus the accession process would involve not only the harmonization with the aquis but also the strengthening of their institutions and administrative capacity that will enable them to implement and monitor the enforcement of the harmonized legislation.

Therefore, adoption of the euro by north Cyprus, bilaterally or unilaterally, would not be as easy as it may look. More than anything else, this would require political will, courage and determination. The former President Mustafa Akıncı, a devoted supporter of a federal solution and the EU, had set an ambitious target of the euro going into circulation “from the first day” in the case of a reunification. However with the failure of the last reunification talks in 2017 in Crans Montana, Switzerland, political conditions have changed dramatically. The current President Ersin Tatar who is a very passionate proponent of the two-state solution is wholeheartedly against the EU and the euro. Therefore, the general stance towards the adoption of the euro in the northern part of the island remains fragmented. Given these circumstances, adoption of the euro in north Cyprus seems a distant prospect.

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Europe

How Red Are the EU’s ‘Greens’?

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Blood-red. But that’s a banned fact. (It will be documented in what follows.)

Here are the announced values (the “Guiding Principles”) of the European Green Party:

“Environmental Responsibility”

“Freedom through Self-Determination”

“Extending Justice”

“Diversity, an Indispensable Condition”

“Non-Violence”

“To sum it up, Sustainable Development”

This “Charter of the European Greens” fills-in those blanks by stringing together clichés, which 90% of the pubic will like, because they’re written so as to avoid (as much as possible) saying anything that’s broadly controversial. For example, “Our answer is sustainable development, which integrates environmental, social and economic objectives for the benefit of all.” (Oh? And how is that pap to be realized in actual policies? What are the measures, and the precise priority-rankings, when any of those values conflict with one-another, which is often?) The Green Party is simply conning liberals, but what is their reality? What are they actually doing, when in power? Inside their own country, and in the EU? Let’s take a very concrete (but broadly representative) case:

Germany, as I recently pointed out, is so corrupt that it has virtually no bans on who or what may donate to politicians. Foreign interests can donate, corporations can donate, even corporations that have government contracts (sell to the government) can donate, donations needn’t go through the banking system, donations may be accepted in any amount, anonymous donations are acceptable, etc. It’s super-libertarian. It is open-sesame to billionaires and centi-millionaires (the few people who have the most money) to control the Government by means of their ‘news’-media persuading the voters, and by means of political campaign donations to present the billionaires’ favored candidates’ viewpoints in the most favorable way — and their least-favored candidates in the least favorable way. It’s control by dollars, instead of control by voters. That’s libertarianism.

A March 2015 academic study showed that, of all 28 EU member-nations, the only five that were more corrupt than Germany were Malta, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Netherlands. Then, on 10 June 2015, a Pew survey in Germany, Poland, Spain, France, Italy, UK, U.S., and Canada, showed that, among those 8 countries, ONLY Germany (and by a big margin: 57% to 36%) opposed Ukraine joining NATO. However, when German and foreign billionaires s‘elected’ the new German Government that became installed on 8 December 2021, it appointed as the Germany’s new Foreign Minister the Green Party’s losing candidate for Chancellor, Annalena Baerbock, whose entire career as a candidate and as an official was the most notable for her strident advocacy for hostility toward Russia, and for Ukraine to be admitted into NATO (the anti-Russian U.S. military alliance). She thus became — though she lost her campaign for the Chancellorship — the most powerful Green Party politician in Europe or anywhere.

Immediately, she reversed Angela Merkel’s policies which had allowed the Russian-Swiss-German natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, Nord Stream 2, to be constructed to bring into the EU the least expensive of all gas to Germany, which is Russia’s pipelined gas. Gas-prices in Germany are now already soaring, and Germans will increasingly freeze, as a result of this ‘German democracy’ and its obedience to its billionaire masters in America.

However, many European billionaires are also being served by this ‘Green’ Party. Much like America’s Democratic Party (or liberal) billionaires, Europe’s liberal billionaires have been investing heavily in ‘green’ technologies, and are betting against their opposition, conservative billionaires, who are still committed to fossil fuels. So: the ‘Green’ Party represents liberal billionaires, against conservative billionaires. 

On 8 September 2021, “Capital Radar” newsletter bannered “‘Most important choice for the next 100 years’: 1.25 million euros from the Netherlands for the Greens” (“„Wichtigste Wahl der nächsten 100 Jahre”: 1,25 Millionen Euro aus den Niederlanden für die Grünen”) and reported that:

               • A Dutch tech billionaire donates 1.25 million euros to the German Greens.

               • It is the largest donation in the party’s history.

               • In an interview with RND, the major donor explains why Annalena Baerbock should steer the ship of state and why the federal election is so important.

Amsterdam. The Dutch entrepreneur and philanthropist Steven Schuurman [archive.md/ZjwWW] donated 1.25 million euros to the German Greens. It is the largest donation in the party’s history. Billionaire Schuurman, born in 1975, is co-founder and ex-head of the data search and analysis company Elastic and co-founder of Atlantis Entertainment. He has already donated millions in the Dutch election campaign.

The Greens have already received large sums of money this year: the pharmaceutical heir Antonis Schwarz [archive.md/COcng] bequeathed them 500,000 euros; the Greifswald Moritz Schmidt, who got rich through Bitcoin deals, one million euros; and Sebastian Schel’s net heir, 250,000 euros. The election program for the federal election states: “Party donations should be capped at an annual maximum amount of 100,000 euros per donor.” [But Germany has separate laws for candidates, and no limits are placed on donations to them.]

Schuurman was quoted as saying that, of the three candidates for Chancellor, only Baerbock took global warming seriously. He ignored the more pressing and sooner danger of avoiding a nuclear war, on which Baerbock’s policy-commitments are rabidly anti-Russian. No U.S.-and-allied billionaires — either liberal or conservative — are opposed to that. But those policies are blood-red, and now.

At the level of the EU itself, the most powerful person over the entire European Union has been a lifelong hater of Russia, the American billionaire George Soros, who controls the Open Society Foundation and other ’non-profits’ that have poured billions of dollars over decades (starting in 1993, just two years after his self-declared war against communism in Russia had become no longer an excuse when Russia abandoned communism in 1991) into color-revolutions targeted against Russia. On 5 November 2017, Alex Gorka at Strategic Culture, headlined “The Myth of European Democracy: A Shocking Revelation”, and opened:

It’s an open secret that the “Soros network” has an extensive sphere of influence in the European Parliament and in other European Union institutions. The list of Soros has been made public recently. The document lists 226 MEPs from all sides of political spectrum, including former President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, former Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt, seven vice-presidents, and a number of committee heads, coordinators, and quaestors. These people promote the ideas of Soros, such as bringing in more migrants, same-sex marriages, integration of Ukraine into the EU, and countering Russia. There are 751 members of the European Parliament. It means that the Soros friends have more than one third of seats.

George Soros, a Hungarian-American investor and the founder and owner of Open Society Foundations NGO, was able to meet with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker with “no transparent agenda for their closed-door meeting.” 

Many but not all of his agents at the European Parliament are Greens. U.S.-and-allied billionaires donate to all politicians that are ready, willing, and able, to advance the U.S. empire to encompass the entire world, and don’t donate to just to one Party. 

Soros was a major funder of the coup-operation that started in the Obama Administration (led by Victoria Nuland under Hillary Clinton) by no later than June 2011 to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected President, Yanukovych, and replace him by a racist-fascist (or nazi) anti-Russian regime and to seize Russia’s largest naval base, which was and is in Crimea, to turn it into a U.S. naval base. (Putin was able to block the latter attempt.) Hillary and Obama had first met with Yanukovych in 2010 and failed to persuade him to push for Ukraine’s NATO membership in NATO, but he said no — NATO then was very unpopular among Ukrainians. During 2003-2009, only around 20% of Ukranians wanted NATO membership, while around 55% opposed it. In 2010, Gallup found that whereas 17% of Ukrainians considered NATO to mean “protection of your country,” 40% said it’s “a threat to your country.” Ukrainians predominantly saw NATO as an enemy, not a friend. But after Obama’s February 2014 Ukrainian coup, “Ukraine’s NATO membership would get 53.4% of the votes, one third of Ukrainians (33.6%) would oppose it.” Obama turned Ukraine around — from being a neutral country on Russia’s border, to being a nazi anti-Russian country. And Annalena Baerbock is a strong backer of today’s nazi Ukraine.

However, the ‘Green’ Party is green in one way: it follows the dollars, not the voters. Other than that way of being green, it’s really only blood-red. Even the ‘Green’ Party’s proposed policies against global warming are futile to prevent global burnout, and they ignore the only policy that, even conceivably, might halt global warming: to outlaw the purchase of stocks and bonds of fossil-fuel-extraction companies. So: they are total fakes. The response of billionaires is to bet either for crackpot business-ventures to halt global warming, or else for extending yet further into the future the use of mainly fossil fuels and ignore even the pretense of caring about the welfare of the generations yet to come. In other words, all billionaires, both liberal and conservative, are really only blood-red, for expanding yet further their empire, in the final analysis.

This doesn’t come from what the voters want; it reflects ONLY what the billionaires want. Here are some data showing that despite all the billionaires’ propaganda for expanding yet further the U.S.-and-allied empire, a majority in some countries — including Germanydon’t want it:

Only Germans “oppose Ukraine joining NATO”: 57% to 36%

“Ukraine Joining EU” opposed by Germans 54% to 41%, opposed by French 53% to 46%

“Oppose Supplyiing Ukraine with Arms Against Russia: Germans 77% to 19%, French 59% to 40%, Italians 65% to 22%.

In 2013, the median favorability of Russia in the EU was 37%; by the time of 2015 it had become 26% — 26/37 or 30% less than only two years earlier, which is to say prior to 

Obama’s having grabbed Ukraine in a very bloody U.S. coup. (Obama was the most successful heir to Hitler since WW II, and was especially successful in jeopardizing the national security of the Russians by grabbing Ukraine on Russia’s border and intensifying the anti-Russian military alliance, NATO, whereas Hitler’s attempt to conquer Russia had turned out to be an colossal failure.)

So, Baerbock — the most powerful ‘Green’ politician in Europe, and even anywhere, though she had failed at the ballot-box — gets here hate (against Russia), her warmongering, not from the voters, but from the sheer cravings of U.S.-and-allied billionaires, to expand their U.S.-and-allied empire, to encompass the entire world. That’s what she (and many Green Party politicians) push for the most.

The ‘Greens” are actually blood-red, for war.

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