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The concept of 'climate refugee': Towards a possible definition

29-01-2019

According to statistics published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, every year since 2008, an average of 26.4 million persons around the world have been forcibly displaced by floods, windstorms, earthquakes or droughts. This is equivalent to one person being displaced every second. Depending on the frequency and scale of the major natural disasters occurring, there are significant fluctuations in the total number of displaced people from one year to the next, yet the trend over recent ...

According to statistics published by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, every year since 2008, an average of 26.4 million persons around the world have been forcibly displaced by floods, windstorms, earthquakes or droughts. This is equivalent to one person being displaced every second. Depending on the frequency and scale of the major natural disasters occurring, there are significant fluctuations in the total number of displaced people from one year to the next, yet the trend over recent decades has been on the rise. Many find refuge within their own country, but some are forced to go abroad. With climate change, the number of 'climate refugees' will rise in the future. So far, the national and international response to this challenge has been limited, and protection for the people affected remains inadequate. What adds further to the gap in the protection of such people – who are often described as 'climate refugees' – is that there is neither a clear definition for this category of people, nor are they covered by the 1951 Refugee Convention. The latter extends only to people who have a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and are unable or unwilling to seek protection from their home countries. While the EU has so far not recognised climate refugees formally, it has expressed growing concern and has taken action to support and develop resilience in the countries potentially affected by climate-related stress. This briefing is an update of an earlier one of May 2018.

Multilateralism in international trade: Reforming the WTO

22-10-2018

Since its establishment in 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has embodied the multilateral trading system. Despite successes in some areas, including the effective settlement of numerous trade disputes and the conclusion of new multilateral trade agreements, the WTO currently faces serious challenges to its legitimacy and its effective functioning. Of particular concern is the US blockage of new appointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body (AB), which fulfils a key role in the WTO dispute settlement ...

Since its establishment in 1995, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has embodied the multilateral trading system. Despite successes in some areas, including the effective settlement of numerous trade disputes and the conclusion of new multilateral trade agreements, the WTO currently faces serious challenges to its legitimacy and its effective functioning. Of particular concern is the US blockage of new appointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body (AB), which fulfils a key role in the WTO dispute settlement system. This impasse could soon paralyse the practical enforcement of multilateral trade rules, which would undermine the rules-based system. In addition, certain countries’ contentious trade practices cannot be addressed under existing WTO rules, and rules on transparency are not fully complied with. The WTO has also had limited success in adding new issues to its trade agenda, and the 2001 Doha round was inconclusive. This has led many countries to pursue their own trade agreements outside the WTO’s multilateral framework. The EU is a key supporter of the multilateral trading system and seeks to address the challenges that the WTO faces. In September 2018, the Commission published a concept paper on WTO reform, in particular in the areas of rule-making, regular work and transparency, and dispute settlement. Other countries have also been working on WTO reform, sometimes together with the EU. A meeting of 13 WTO members, including the EU, to discuss reform proposals is due to take place in Canada on 24 and 25 October 2018. The European Parliament strongly supports the multilateral trading system and has expressed its support for efforts to reform the WTO. Parliament’s International Trade Committee is currently drafting an own-initiative report on the matter. This is a further update of a briefing published in December 2017.

China, the 16+1 format and the EU

07-09-2018

Since 2012, China has engaged 16 central and eastern European countries (CEECs), including 11 EU Member States and five Western Balkan countries under the 16+1 cooperation format, which it has portrayed as an innovative approach to regional cooperation. Although framed as multilateralism, in practice this format has remained largely bilateral and highly competitive in nature. While in 2012 the CEECs had enthusiastically embraced this form of cooperation as a chance to diversify their EU-focused economic ...

Since 2012, China has engaged 16 central and eastern European countries (CEECs), including 11 EU Member States and five Western Balkan countries under the 16+1 cooperation format, which it has portrayed as an innovative approach to regional cooperation. Although framed as multilateralism, in practice this format has remained largely bilateral and highly competitive in nature. While in 2012 the CEECs had enthusiastically embraced this form of cooperation as a chance to diversify their EU-focused economic relations in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, by 2018 some of them had voiced dissatisfaction with the economic results it had yielded for them. The 2018 Sofia summit guidelines for the first time stressed the need for a more balanced trade, reciprocity of market access and open tenders in infrastructure construction, thus echoing concerns the EU had repeatedly raised with China. Empirical evidence shows that China-CEEC trade had actually jumped prior to 2012, whereas afterwards it increased at a much slower pace, with Chinese exports to CEECs expanding much quicker than CEEC exports to China, thus generating an unbalanced trade that is heavily tilted in favour of China. Foreign direct investment (FDI) data reveal that while Chinese FDI is highly concentrated on the biggest CEECs, it accounts for an extremely low share of total FDI stock. Some smaller CEECs have started to attract Chinese FDI as well, although at comparatively low levels. Some of China's infrastructure construction projects in the CEECs have suffered setbacks in a regional environment governed by EU norms and regulations. The EU engages in the 16+1 as a summit observer, adheres to the principles of its 2016 strategy for China and works towards cooperation with China on physical and digital infrastructure - through the EU-China Connectivity Platform. It has added the Berlin Process to its Western Balkans policy and has issued a new strategy providing for a credible enlargement perspective for and an enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans. This updates an 'at a glance' note, China, the 16+1 cooperation format and the EU, of March 2017.

Pakistan ahead of the 2018 elections

17-07-2018

Pakistan will hold general elections on 25 July 2018. This event deserves attention for several reasons. With around 200 million inhabitants, Pakistan has the sixth-largest population in the world. One of the world's nine nuclear powers, it is the only Muslim country among them. It is strategically located between India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. It plays a major role with regard to Afghanistan's stability and the fight against terrorism, for which it has often been accused of connivance with ...

Pakistan will hold general elections on 25 July 2018. This event deserves attention for several reasons. With around 200 million inhabitants, Pakistan has the sixth-largest population in the world. One of the world's nine nuclear powers, it is the only Muslim country among them. It is strategically located between India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. It plays a major role with regard to Afghanistan's stability and the fight against terrorism, for which it has often been accused of connivance with militant groups. Finally, it is home to the world's second-largest Muslim population. The election is set to secure the second consecutive democratic transition of power in a country marked by chronic dualism between political and military power. The event is particularly important, given the current political turmoil following the removal of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office. Pakistan is accused of giving support to terrorist groups. However, after the Taliban massacred 132 children at an army-run school in 2014, the authorities adopted a number of provisions to curtail terrorism. Nevertheless, the US administration, which considers Pakistan one of its key allies in the Afghanistan war, is unsatisfied with its record of fighting terrorism. The resultant US freeze on military aid to Islamabad may force the latter to switch allegiance to China and Russia, which could jeopardise Washington's efforts in Afghanistan. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of infrastructure projects is an example of the already flourishing relations with Beijing. An EU election observation mission is monitoring the electoral process. Since 2014, Pakistan has benefitted from the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which has boosted the country's exports to the EU. A new EU-Pakistan strategic engagement plan is to be signed in 2018. The European Parliament has expressed concern over the country's human rights situation on several occasions, with special reference to the persecution of religious minorities.

The migration challenge [What Think Tanks are thinking]

21-06-2018

Next week, European Union Heads of State or Government will discuss the politically charged issue of reforming the EU’s migration and asylum policies. Divisions among EU members over how to handle migrants were exposed again earlier this month when Italy’s new government tightened its migration policy, while the German ruling coalition faced a potentially destabilising rift over the issue. The EU's southern borders remain under pressure from irregular migrants escaping poverty and war in the Middle ...

Next week, European Union Heads of State or Government will discuss the politically charged issue of reforming the EU’s migration and asylum policies. Divisions among EU members over how to handle migrants were exposed again earlier this month when Italy’s new government tightened its migration policy, while the German ruling coalition faced a potentially destabilising rift over the issue. The EU's southern borders remain under pressure from irregular migrants escaping poverty and war in the Middle East and Africa. Although the 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey significantly slowed the influx of migrants into Europe, the problem continues to be used for political gain by nationalist, anti-immigrant and populist movements across the EU. This note offers links to commentaries and studies on migration by major international think tanks. Earlier papers on the same topic can be found in a previous edition of 'What Think Tanks are Thinking', published in March 2018.

US counter-terrorism since 9/11: Trends under the Trump administration

25-05-2018

The fight against terrorism has dominated the national security agenda in the United States since Al Qaeda's terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 (9/11). To improve the country's intelligence and homeland security apparatus, the presidential administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama implemented a series of legislative, organisational, policy, and personnel reforms. The new administration under Donald Trump is continuing these efforts and has put particular emphasis on restricting the entry ...

The fight against terrorism has dominated the national security agenda in the United States since Al Qaeda's terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 (9/11). To improve the country's intelligence and homeland security apparatus, the presidential administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama implemented a series of legislative, organisational, policy, and personnel reforms. The new administration under Donald Trump is continuing these efforts and has put particular emphasis on restricting the entry of and tightening the vetting process for refugees and immigrants. The administration has released a series of documents that provide strategic guidance for the US approach to national security and defence. Today, the US domestic counter-terrorism strategy focuses on radical Islamic terrorist threats, stopping the movement of foreign terrorist fighters, and countering the spread of radicalisation. In this context, cyberspace is of particular interest, since the internet provides opportunities for terrorists to inspire, radicalise and recruit followers; raise funds; communicate through encrypted apps; and supply guidance and instructions to followers for carrying out attacks. The European Union and the United States are key partners in the fight against terrorism, including through NATO.

EU as a global player one year on from the Rome Declaration

15-05-2018

The EU celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties a year ago by pledging to enhance the EU’s role as a global player, in line with the 2016 Global Strategy. This was intended to develop the EU’s role in security and defence matters, starting with increasing support for the European defence industry and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) as a whole, as well as reinforcing existing or developing new partnerships and pushing for further global engagement in support of the UN system ...

The EU celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties a year ago by pledging to enhance the EU’s role as a global player, in line with the 2016 Global Strategy. This was intended to develop the EU’s role in security and defence matters, starting with increasing support for the European defence industry and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) as a whole, as well as reinforcing existing or developing new partnerships and pushing for further global engagement in support of the UN system, NATO and rules-based multilateralism. What progress has been made since 25 March 2017? What are the European Parliament’s positions on these issues, and what are the prospects for the future? Answering these questions is crucial for ensuring the effectiveness of the EU’s strategies, policies and actions and for the credibility of the EU project in future.

The European Council and the Western Balkans: Overview of discussions since the Lisbon Treaty

14-05-2018

The Western Balkans have regularly featured on the agenda of the European Council since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009. Three dimensions – enlargement, counter-terrorism and migration – have been at the centre of the EU leaders' discussion of the subject. However, the message has often seemed technical and EU leaders have appeared less inclined to offer a strategic view of future relations between the EU and the Western Balkans. The European Council has held only one strategic ...

The Western Balkans have regularly featured on the agenda of the European Council since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009. Three dimensions – enlargement, counter-terrorism and migration – have been at the centre of the EU leaders' discussion of the subject. However, the message has often seemed technical and EU leaders have appeared less inclined to offer a strategic view of future relations between the EU and the Western Balkans. The European Council has held only one strategic debate on the Western Balkans, in March 2017, when it discussed the then deteriorating security situation in the region and agreed to keep it under review. The strategy for the Western Balkans put forward by the European Commission in February 2018 sends a strong political message of openness and inclusiveness to the countries in the region. In April 2018, the Commission’s country reports for Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia recognised the progress made, and supported the opening of accession negotiations. In this context, EU leaders may consider enlargement at their next regular meeting, following a Council meeting on enlargement in June 2018.

Western Balkans [What Think Tanks are thinking]

04-05-2018

The European Union’s planned enlargement into the Western Balkans has recently drawn increased attention. In February 2018, the European Commission released its new enlargement strategy, giving a credible accession perspective to the region. The latest impetus came last month, when the Commission proposed opening entry talks with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Presenting the 2018 Communication on the EU enlargement policy to the European Parliament, Commission President Jean-Claude ...

The European Union’s planned enlargement into the Western Balkans has recently drawn increased attention. In February 2018, the European Commission released its new enlargement strategy, giving a credible accession perspective to the region. The latest impetus came last month, when the Commission proposed opening entry talks with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Presenting the 2018 Communication on the EU enlargement policy to the European Parliament, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the EU needed to eventually accept new members from the Western Balkans to avoid the risk of a new war in the region. Many EU Member States insist that before enlarging, the EU must implement internal reforms. Future members must meet many tough entry criteria. From the Western Balkans, only Croatia has so far joined the EU, in 2013. Accession talks continue with Montenegro and Serbia. Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are official membership candidates, while Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a potential candidate country, along with Kosovo. This note offers links to reports and commentaries from some major international think-tanks and research institutes on EU enlargement and Western Balkans. More reports on the topic can be found in a previous edition of ‘What Think Tanks are thinking’, published in October 2017.

China's Arctic policy: How China aligns rights and interests

24-04-2018

Unlike the Arctic states, China has no territorial sovereignty and related sovereign rights to resource extraction and fishing in the Arctic. Faced with very limited rights as a non-Arctic state, China has been eager to design strategies to bridge the widening gap between the legal and institutional constraints in the Arctic and its growing Arctic interests. It has developed a self-defined Arctic identity as a 'near-Arctic state' and sought – and in 2013 gained – observer status in the Arctic Council ...

Unlike the Arctic states, China has no territorial sovereignty and related sovereign rights to resource extraction and fishing in the Arctic. Faced with very limited rights as a non-Arctic state, China has been eager to design strategies to bridge the widening gap between the legal and institutional constraints in the Arctic and its growing Arctic interests. It has developed a self-defined Arctic identity as a 'near-Arctic state' and sought – and in 2013 gained – observer status in the Arctic Council, to prepare the ground for a future expanded foothold in the region. China's first-ever white paper on Arctic policy of 26 January 2018 seeks to justify the country's Arctic ambitions through its history of Arctic research and the challenges and opportunities that rapid climate change in the Arctic present the country. China acknowledges for the first time that its Arctic interests are no longer limited to scientific research but extend to a variety of commercial activities. These are embedded in a new China-led cooperation initiative which aims to build a 'Polar Silk Road' that connects China with Europe via the Arctic and corresponds to one of two new 'blue ocean passages' extending from China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, launched in 2013. The white paper stresses China's commitment to upholding the institutional and legal framework for Arctic governance and to respecting the sovereign rights of the Arctic states. On the other hand, it asserts China's right as a non-Arctic state to participate in Arctic affairs under international law. China's Arctic policy suggests a strong desire to push for the internationalisation of the Arctic's regional governance system. The white paper is not a strategy document, and is more interesting for what it omits, such as the national security dimension that is a major driver of China's Arctic ambitions.

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