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EU sanctions: A key foreign and security policy instrument

08-05-2018

Sanctions have become an increasingly central element of the EU's common and foreign security policy. At present, the EU has 42 sanctions programmes in place, making it the world's second-most active user of restrictive measures, after the US. Unlike the comprehensive trade embargoes used in the past, the EU has moved towards asset freezes and visa bans targeted at individual persons and companies, aiming to influence foreign governments while avoiding humanitarian costs for the general population ...

Sanctions have become an increasingly central element of the EU's common and foreign security policy. At present, the EU has 42 sanctions programmes in place, making it the world's second-most active user of restrictive measures, after the US. Unlike the comprehensive trade embargoes used in the past, the EU has moved towards asset freezes and visa bans targeted at individual persons and companies, aiming to influence foreign governments while avoiding humanitarian costs for the general population. Other measures in the sanctions toolkit include arms embargoes, sectoral trade and investment restrictions, as well as suspensions of development aid and trade preferences. The declared purpose of EU sanctions is to uphold the international security order as well as defending human rights and democracy standards, by encouraging targeted countries to change their behaviour. Measuring their effectiveness is difficult, as sanctions rarely achieve all their aims, and usually there are other causes to which changes can be attributed. However, even when this primary purpose is not achieved, sanctions may have useful secondary effects, for example by deterring other actors from similar behaviour. The broader the international support for EU sanctions and the closer the relationship between the EU and the targeted country are, the stronger the prospects for success will be. On the other hand, effectiveness can be undermined by inconsistent application of sanctions standards and by the difficulty of coordinating implementation between multiple stakeholders.

Malaysia's 2018 general election

26-04-2018

On 9 May 2018, Malaysians go to the polls to elect federal and state parliaments. Although a financial scandal and rising living costs have dented the popularity of the government, the opposition faces an uphill battle to end the governing Barisan Nasional coalition's six-decade rule, and it is not widely expected to win.

On 9 May 2018, Malaysians go to the polls to elect federal and state parliaments. Although a financial scandal and rising living costs have dented the popularity of the government, the opposition faces an uphill battle to end the governing Barisan Nasional coalition's six-decade rule, and it is not widely expected to win.

Socioeconomic inequality in Russia

19-04-2018

Russia has gone from Soviet-era egalitarianism to extremes of wealth and poverty. Economic growth since 2000 has slightly reduced the gap between rich and poor, but inequality is still higher than in most other developed countries. The income gap is exacerbated by such factors as corruption and low taxes for the rich, but it is also mitigated by a relatively inclusive education system.

Russia has gone from Soviet-era egalitarianism to extremes of wealth and poverty. Economic growth since 2000 has slightly reduced the gap between rich and poor, but inequality is still higher than in most other developed countries. The income gap is exacerbated by such factors as corruption and low taxes for the rich, but it is also mitigated by a relatively inclusive education system.

Water disputes in the Mekong basin

17-04-2018

The Mekong is south-east Asia's longest river (around 4 900km). From its source in Tibet, it flows southwards through the Chinese province of Yunnan before passing through five south-east Asian countries (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam). Nearly half of the river is in China, where it is known as the Lancang. For the 70 million people who live in the Mekong basin, the river is a vital source of food and water, as well as an important transport route. Increasingly, it is being used to ...

The Mekong is south-east Asia's longest river (around 4 900km). From its source in Tibet, it flows southwards through the Chinese province of Yunnan before passing through five south-east Asian countries (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam). Nearly half of the river is in China, where it is known as the Lancang. For the 70 million people who live in the Mekong basin, the river is a vital source of food and water, as well as an important transport route. Increasingly, it is being used to generate hydroelectricity. Human activity threatens the river's fauna and flora, and competition for natural resources is intensifying.

Russia's 2018 presidential election: Six more years of Putin

08-03-2018

On 18 March 2018, Russians will elect the president who will govern their country for the next six years. Incumbent, Vladimir Putin is firmly on track to win, with approval ratings that have stayed above 80 % since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russians see him as a strong president, who has brought order to the country and restored its great power status. They are worried about the economy, poverty and corruption, but these problems, though partly blamed on Putin, have barely dented ...

On 18 March 2018, Russians will elect the president who will govern their country for the next six years. Incumbent, Vladimir Putin is firmly on track to win, with approval ratings that have stayed above 80 % since Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014. Russians see him as a strong president, who has brought order to the country and restored its great power status. They are worried about the economy, poverty and corruption, but these problems, though partly blamed on Putin, have barely dented his popularity. Reportedly, Putin's campaign has set a twin target of a 70 % vote in his favour and a 70 % turnout. Polls suggest that Putin will indeed win by a record margin, but also that a low turnout will tarnish his victory, denying him a ringing endorsement at the start of his fourth and probably final term in office. Apathy will probably be the main reason for voters staying at home, but some will heed an election boycott called by Alexey Navalny, Putin's most vocal opponent, who has been barred from the race. Vying for second place are seven other candidates. The most likely runners-up are veteran Vladimir Zhirinovsky and newcomer Pavel Grudinin. Reality TV star Xenia Sobchak adds colour to an otherwise lacklustre campaign, but few see her as a credible candidate. Widespread electoral fraud on the day of the vote is not expected. Nevertheless, the exclusion of Alexey Navalny and the lack of any real alternative to Putin raise questions about the democratic legitimacy of the election.

Palm oil: economic and environmental impacts

16-02-2018

Economical and versatile, palm oil has become the world's most widely used vegetable oil. However, its production comes at a heavy environmental cost, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two main producers. Efforts to make its production more sustainable still have a long way to go.

Economical and versatile, palm oil has become the world's most widely used vegetable oil. However, its production comes at a heavy environmental cost, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two main producers. Efforts to make its production more sustainable still have a long way to go.

International Agreements in Progress: EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement

14-02-2018

The free trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam has been described as the most ambitious deal of its type ever concluded between the EU and a developing country. Not only will it eliminate over 99 % of customs duties on goods, it will also open up Vietnamese services markets to EU companies and strengthen protection of EU investments in the country. According to European Commission figures, the FTA could boost Vietnam's booming economy by as much as 15 % of GDP, with Vietnamese exports to Europe growing ...

The free trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam has been described as the most ambitious deal of its type ever concluded between the EU and a developing country. Not only will it eliminate over 99 % of customs duties on goods, it will also open up Vietnamese services markets to EU companies and strengthen protection of EU investments in the country. According to European Commission figures, the FTA could boost Vietnam's booming economy by as much as 15 % of GDP, with Vietnamese exports to Europe growing by over one third. For the EU, the agreement is an important stepping stone to a wider EU-south-east Asia trade deal. Despite the obvious economic benefits of the FTA for Vietnam, some of its more vulnerable manufacturing sectors may suffer from competition with the EU. NGOs have also criticised the EU for pursuing closer ties with a politically repressive regime known for its human rights abuses, although the deal includes some safeguards against negative outcomes. Although the content of the FTA was already agreed in 2015, ratification has been delayed by a 2017 opinion of the European Court of Justice. The Court argued that some aspects of the EU-Singapore FTA, which is similar to the Vietnam FTA, are 'mixed competences', meaning that the FTA as it stands will have to be ratified not only by the EU but also by the 28 Member States. The Commission and Council are now considering whether to modify the agreement so that parts of it can be ratified more speedily by the EU alone. Second edition. The ‘International Agreements in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the process, from initial discussions through to ratification.

Kremlin trolls in the US presidential election

12-02-2018

Discussions about Kremlin interference in the 2016 US presidential election initially focused on Russian hackers and leaked e-mails. However, US Congress enquiries have highlighted the important role played by Russian social media activity in influencing public opinion.

Discussions about Kremlin interference in the 2016 US presidential election initially focused on Russian hackers and leaked e-mails. However, US Congress enquiries have highlighted the important role played by Russian social media activity in influencing public opinion.

The EU's Russia policy: Five guiding principles

08-02-2018

While EU-Russia relations had long been difficult, in 2014 they took an abrupt turn for the worse, after Russia illegally annexed Crimea and fomented separatist insurgencies in eastern Ukraine. To date, little progress has been made towards ending the Ukraine conflict. In addition, new sources of tension have emerged, for example: Russia's military backing for the Assad regime in Syria, and alleged Russian interference in EU politics. In the short term, an easing of tensions seems unlikely. In March ...

While EU-Russia relations had long been difficult, in 2014 they took an abrupt turn for the worse, after Russia illegally annexed Crimea and fomented separatist insurgencies in eastern Ukraine. To date, little progress has been made towards ending the Ukraine conflict. In addition, new sources of tension have emerged, for example: Russia's military backing for the Assad regime in Syria, and alleged Russian interference in EU politics. In the short term, an easing of tensions seems unlikely. In March 2016, EU foreign ministers and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, agreed on five guiding principles for EU-Russia relations: full implementation of the Minsk agreements; closer ties with Russia's former Soviet neighbours; strengthening EU resilience to Russian threats; selective engagement with Russia on certain issues such as counter-terrorism; and support for people-to-people contacts. Implementing each of these principles faces major difficulties. The EU is unlikely to lift sanctions against Russia while implementation of the Minsk agreements remains stalled; the EU's Eastern Neighbourhood remains a zone of confrontation; EU security is threatened by dependence on Russian energy imports and the destabilising effects of aggressive propaganda; EU-Russia cooperation on international issues has become a victim of tensions between the two sides; repressive Russian legislation obstructs EU support for Russian civil society; diplomatic tensions are mirrored by mutual suspicion between ordinary EU citizens and Russians. This is an updated edition of a briefing from October 2016.

Russia in the southern Caucasus

18-01-2018

Armenia is a Russian ally, Georgia has chosen a pro-Western course, while Azerbaijan has kept its distance from both sides. Despite these differences, Russia has significant economic interests in all three Caucasian countries and enjoys considerable soft power.

Armenia is a Russian ally, Georgia has chosen a pro-Western course, while Azerbaijan has kept its distance from both sides. Despite these differences, Russia has significant economic interests in all three Caucasian countries and enjoys considerable soft power.

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25-06-2018
State Aid and EU funding - Are they compatible?
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HEARING ON THE FACEBOOK/CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA CASE - Part 2
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26-06-2018
Espionage in Europe throughout the ages
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