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The EU and Russia: Locked into confrontation

28-07-2020

Following the post-Cold War reset of the 1990s, EU-Russia relations have become increasingly tense. Although initially seen as a pro-Western reformer, since the start of his first presidency in 2000 Vladimir Putin has shown increasingly authoritarian tendencies, and his efforts to assert Russian influence over post-Soviet neighbours threaten the sovereignty of those states. Russia's 2008 war against Georgia led to no more than a temporary cooling of relations with the European Union (EU). However ...

Following the post-Cold War reset of the 1990s, EU-Russia relations have become increasingly tense. Although initially seen as a pro-Western reformer, since the start of his first presidency in 2000 Vladimir Putin has shown increasingly authoritarian tendencies, and his efforts to assert Russian influence over post-Soviet neighbours threaten the sovereignty of those states. Russia's 2008 war against Georgia led to no more than a temporary cooling of relations with the European Union (EU). However, its 2014 annexation of Crimea caused a more permanent rupture. Responding to Russian aggression in Ukraine, the EU adopted hard-hitting sanctions. In 2016, the EU decided to base its Russia policy on five principles, which remain as valid as ever in 2020. They are: insistence on full implementation of the Minsk Agreements on eastern Ukraine as a condition for lifting sanctions against Russia; efforts to strengthen relations with Russia's former Soviet neighbours; greater EU resilience to Russian threats; selective engagement with Russia on certain issues such as counter-terrorism; and support for EU-Russia people-to-people contacts. After six years of deadlock, French president Emmanuel Macron is among those calling for renewed EU-Russia dialogue. Improved relations between Ukraine and Russia following the election of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in spring 2019 raised hopes of a solution to the Donbass conflict, which is still the main obstacle to better relations between the two sides. However, there is still no sign of a breakthrough.

Textile workers in developing countries and the European fashion industry: Towards sustainability?

24-07-2020

As fashion becomes increasingly globalised, garment and footwear production has shifted to low-wage, mostly Asian countries. Thanks to lower manufacturing costs, clothes have become increasingly affordable for European consumers. For developing countries, fashion exports create jobs and growth, helping to bring poverty rates down. While there are benefits on both sides, the fashion industry highlights inequalities between the global North and South. With almost unlimited flexibility between countries ...

As fashion becomes increasingly globalised, garment and footwear production has shifted to low-wage, mostly Asian countries. Thanks to lower manufacturing costs, clothes have become increasingly affordable for European consumers. For developing countries, fashion exports create jobs and growth, helping to bring poverty rates down. While there are benefits on both sides, the fashion industry highlights inequalities between the global North and South. With almost unlimited flexibility between countries and factories, European and North American brands and retailers can dictate conditions to developing-country manufacturers, forcing them to cut costs in order to compete. The ultimate victims are factory workers, toiling long hours in harsh and sometimes dangerous conditions, for wages that barely enable subsistence. In many countries, restrictions on trade unions make it harder for workers to assert their rights. With employers reluctant or financially unable to invest in safety, many have died in industrial accidents, such as the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, which claimed over 1 000 lives. Decent work has become a priority for the United Nations, the International Labour Organization and other international organisations. The EU supports decent work, for example through its international trade agreements. European consumers and companies are also increasingly interested in sustainable fashion. After the Rana Plaza disaster, over 200 mostly European companies joined the Bangladesh Accord, which has helped to eliminate some of the worst safety hazards. While these are positive developments, a lot more still needs to be done.

Hagia Sophia: Turkey's secularism under threat

24-07-2020

Turkey's decision to convert Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque, announced on 10 July 2020, created a wave of protest from international and EU authorities, who fear for religious freedom and the republican secular tradition in Turkey. The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union (EU) condemned this decision at its meeting of 13 July 2020, alongside international organisations including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), raising concerns that the ...

Turkey's decision to convert Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque, announced on 10 July 2020, created a wave of protest from international and EU authorities, who fear for religious freedom and the republican secular tradition in Turkey. The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union (EU) condemned this decision at its meeting of 13 July 2020, alongside international organisations including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), raising concerns that the decision would 'fuel mistrust, promote renewed divisions between religious communities and undermine efforts at dialogue and cooperation'. While Turkey is still an EU candidate country, several recent initiatives, ranging from military interventions in Syria and military assistance to Libya in breach of the arms embargo, to illegal gas drilling and repeated threats to EU Member States in the eastern Mediterranean, undermine the country's path towards EU membership and open the door to possible sanctions.

Korean peninsula: State of play - Further uncertainty follows period of hope

20-07-2020

North Korea and South Korea have been on different paths since World War II. The North has remained isolated and poor, its regime inspired by Soviet structures, with a centrally planned economy. The South, meanwhile, after alternating periods of autocratic and democratic rule, made a clear choice at the end of the 1980s in favour of democracy and a market economy, a choice that has led the country to success in several sectors. North and South Korea are still technically at war, as the military conflict ...

North Korea and South Korea have been on different paths since World War II. The North has remained isolated and poor, its regime inspired by Soviet structures, with a centrally planned economy. The South, meanwhile, after alternating periods of autocratic and democratic rule, made a clear choice at the end of the 1980s in favour of democracy and a market economy, a choice that has led the country to success in several sectors. North and South Korea are still technically at war, as the military conflict of 1950-1953 ended with an armistice that was never followed by a peace treaty. There are 28 500 US (United States) soldiers stationed in South Korea, which signed a Mutual Defence Treaty with Washington in 1953. There have been frequent tensions over the past 70 years, and North Korea has become a de facto nuclear power since the 2000s, prompting international sanctions. Early in 2018 a detente raised hopes of peace. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, but the summits have led neither to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, nor to the easing of sanctions against the North. Pyongyang's frustration provoked new tensions in the region in June 2020, when the North, in a symbolic move, destroyed the liaison office in the border area, the de facto embassy of the two Koreas. But Kim's options seem limited at present, and there is little chance of progress until after the US presidential elections. Meanwhile, Moon Jae-in has invested much political capital in the Korean peace process, and is willing to make further moves before the end of his mandate in 2022. The EU has traditionally maintained a policy of critical engagement towards North Korea, upholding the international non-proliferation regime and supporting a lasting reduction in tensions on the peninsula. The EU and South Korea are strategic partners. During the 30 June 2020 EU–South Korea summit, the EU reaffirmed its support for Seoul's efforts to engage with the North to achieve peace and prosperity on the peninsula.

A Balanced Arctic Policy for the EU

20-07-2020

The EU is currently working towards updating its Arctic policy. It needs to respond to two major changes that affect the region and pose challenges to the role of the EU in the Arctic; accelerated climate change and increased geoeconomic and geopolitical competition. The EU finds itself in a rather unique position. As a supranational institution with competences in parts of the Arctic, and with Member States having territories in the region, as well as institutionalised linkages with Arctic countries ...

The EU is currently working towards updating its Arctic policy. It needs to respond to two major changes that affect the region and pose challenges to the role of the EU in the Arctic; accelerated climate change and increased geoeconomic and geopolitical competition. The EU finds itself in a rather unique position. As a supranational institution with competences in parts of the Arctic, and with Member States having territories in the region, as well as institutionalised linkages with Arctic countries Iceland and Norway — with whom the EU shares the European Economic Area (EEA) — it needs to balance sectoral policies, priority areas and addressing different Arctics. The EU should therefore create ‘more EU in the Arctic’ by broadening the scope of its existing Arctic policy, as well as incorporating ‘more Arctic in the EU’ by stipulating that the Arctic becomes a cross-cutting consideration in other relevant EU policies. In addition, the EU will need to address hard and soft security issues within existing functional, regional and global frameworks and continue engaging in dialogue and confidence-building measures with Russia. Finally, a revised EU Arctic policy needs to be proactive and ambitious, based on existing strengths and expertise within the EU. At the same time, in an Arctic that witnesses the return of geopolitics, the ‘civilian power’ EU will encounter challenges assuming its role in the region. How it narrates its future position in the Arctic will play a tangible role in negotiating this position politically.

External author

Dr. Petra Dolata, University of Calgary

Impact of the pandemic on elections around the world: From safety concerns to political crises

17-07-2020

The coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on electoral processes around the world, with many elections being postponed because of emergency situations. Ideally, postponing elections should involve a sensible balancing act between the democratic imperative, enshrined in international law and national constitutions, to hold regular elections, and public health requirements restricting large gatherings and minimising close contact between people. While some countries have decided to go ahead with elections ...

The coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on electoral processes around the world, with many elections being postponed because of emergency situations. Ideally, postponing elections should involve a sensible balancing act between the democratic imperative, enshrined in international law and national constitutions, to hold regular elections, and public health requirements restricting large gatherings and minimising close contact between people. While some countries have decided to go ahead with elections, most countries with elections scheduled since the beginning of March have postponed them. Among those that have held elections during the pandemic, South Korea has emerged as a model for having organised a highly successful electoral process, while protecting the health of its population. Others, such as Burundi, have set a negative standard, ignoring health risks putting both population and politicians in peril. Postponing elections as part of the policy response to the crisis ideally requires a broad political consensus. However, rescheduling has proven divisive in many cases. Those in power have often been accused by the opposition and other critics of trying to reshape the calendar to their own advantage, either by lifting lockdowns too early to allow for the restart of the electoral process (such as in Serbia − the first European country to hold parliamentary elections after the crisis) or by prolonging transitional situations unnecessarily (such as in Bolivia, which has an interim president). The crisis provides a unique opportunity for electoral reform. Extending opportunities for early and remote voting has been seen as a way to reduce risk. However, much caution is needed, particularly as regards remote online voting, which involves either limitations of the right to voting secrecy or serious and still unmanageable cyber-risks.

Scenarios for geo-politics after coronavirus: A recent Atlantic Council analysis

16-07-2020

The Atlantic Council report, 'What World Post-Covid-19? Three Scenarios', has two main takeaways: first, Chinese-US rivalry could get worse and go global, destabilising an increasingly divided EU and endangering the United States' alliances system in Asia. Second, there is no way around the US, Europe and China cooperating to develop a positive, global 'new normal'.

The Atlantic Council report, 'What World Post-Covid-19? Three Scenarios', has two main takeaways: first, Chinese-US rivalry could get worse and go global, destabilising an increasingly divided EU and endangering the United States' alliances system in Asia. Second, there is no way around the US, Europe and China cooperating to develop a positive, global 'new normal'.

Ratification of international treaties, a comparative law perspective - United States of America

15-07-2020

This study forms part of a wider-ranging project which seeks to lay the groundwork for comparisons between legal frameworks governing the ratification of international treaties in different legal systems. The subject of this study is the ratification of international treaties under the laws of the United States. It describes relevant constitutional, statutory, and other legal provisions with respect to the making and ratification of treaties, as well as legal provisions relating to the making of ...

This study forms part of a wider-ranging project which seeks to lay the groundwork for comparisons between legal frameworks governing the ratification of international treaties in different legal systems. The subject of this study is the ratification of international treaties under the laws of the United States. It describes relevant constitutional, statutory, and other legal provisions with respect to the making and ratification of treaties, as well as legal provisions relating to the making of executive agreements, which also constitute binding international obligations of the United States. The study discusses the approach to international law taken by the U.S. legal system, and the position of treaties and executive agreements within the hierarchy of U.S. laws. The international agreement process and its participants are described. The study then considers the time required for ratification of treaties. This study is intended to give European Parliament bodies an overview of the ratification process of the respective contracting parties (the United States of America, in this instance). This will enable them, for example, to estimate the time required by other treaty partners to ratify any prospective future treaty and to adjust their work programme accordingly.

External author

This study has been written by Mr Andrew M. WINSTON, Chief, Public Services Division, Law Library of Congress, of the United States Library of Congress, at the request of the “Comparative Law Library” Unit, Directorate-General for Parliamentary Research Services (DG EPRS), General Secretariat of the European Parliament.

EU-Iran: The way forward - Can the JCPOA survive the Trump presidency?

07-07-2020

Two issues have dominated relations between the EU and Iran in recent years: the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – including efforts to conclude it, followed by efforts to save it – and human rights concerns. Even though the European Union (EU) and Iran have worked together over the past two years to save the JCPOA, relations between the two have deteriorated. Iran accuses EU Member States of not standing up to pressure from the United States of America ( ...

Two issues have dominated relations between the EU and Iran in recent years: the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – including efforts to conclude it, followed by efforts to save it – and human rights concerns. Even though the European Union (EU) and Iran have worked together over the past two years to save the JCPOA, relations between the two have deteriorated. Iran accuses EU Member States of not standing up to pressure from the United States of America (USA) to isolate Iran and of not doing enough to save the JCPOA. The EU, for its part, is concerned about Iran's enrichment activities; growing tensions in the region and Iran's role in this context, including the provision of military, financial and political support to non-state actors in countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen; and its ballistic missile programme. In 2011, the EU put restrictive measures in place to react to serious human rights violations in Iran. These remain in force. Nevertheless, the EU has continued to engage with Iran, in marked contrast to the USA. Following the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018, the Trump administration re-imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Iran and has since then pursued a policy of 'maximum pressure'. The declared goal of the maximum pressure campaign is to push Iran to negotiate a new agreement that would also address Iran's ballistic missile programme, end its support of militant groups in the region, and curb its foreign policy ambitions in western Asia. Instead, the US policy of maximum pressure on Tehran has led to an escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf region, with potentially direct consequences for Europe. With Iran continuing uranium enrichment to levels far exceeding the levels permitted under the JCPOA, and with the USA threatening to trigger the re-imposition of United Nations (UN) sanctions against Iran, further escalation is likely. Security in the EU is linked to the security situation in western Asia. For that reason, Europe should maintain efforts to preserve the JCPOA and seek to reduce tension between Iran and the USA.

Association agreement between the EU and Ukraine

07-07-2020

The European implementation assessment (EIA) evaluates the implementation of the association agreement (EU AA), including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), between the EU and Ukraine. The evaluation forms an update of an evaluation published in July 2018. The EIA shows progress and challenges in the implementation of the agreement in Ukraine and stresses the importance of further reforms in this Eastern Partnership country. The EIA consists of two parts, an opening analysis ...

The European implementation assessment (EIA) evaluates the implementation of the association agreement (EU AA), including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), between the EU and Ukraine. The evaluation forms an update of an evaluation published in July 2018. The EIA shows progress and challenges in the implementation of the agreement in Ukraine and stresses the importance of further reforms in this Eastern Partnership country. The EIA consists of two parts, an opening analysis prepared internally by the DG EPRS and a briefing paper prepared externally by the Polish Institute of International Affairs. The EIA has been prepared to accompany the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) in its scrutiny work, namely on its work on the own-initiative annual implementing report on the EU association agreement with Ukraine.

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