Месечни архиви: January 2016

L’impact de la Communauté européenne du charbon et de l’acier (CECA) sur le Luxembourg et la construction européenne

Écrit par Iolanda Mombelli,

“L’impact de la Communauté européenne du charbon et de l’acier (CECA) sur le Luxembourg et la construction européenne” et l’histoire des pouvoirs et de la politique budgétaire du Parlement européen (PE) étaient au cœur des discussions de la table ronde organisée le 26 novembre 2015 dans l’ancien hémicycle du Parlement à Luxembourg par les Archives historiques du PE (EPRS) en collaboration avec le Centre virtuel de la connaissance sur l’Europe (CVCE) et le Bureau d’information du PE à Luxembourg.

LULLING, Astrid; COLLOWALD, Paul; GOEBBELS, Robert; BARTHEL, Charles; DE FEO, Alfredo; MUNOZ, Susana; DESCHAMPS, Etienne;

LULLING, Astrid; COLLOWALD, Paul; GOEBBELS, Robert; BARTHEL, Charles; DE FEO, Alfredo; MUNOZ, Susana; DESCHAMPS, Etienne;

Cette table ronde a réuni:

  • Astrid Lulling, députée au PE de 1965 à 1974 et de 1989 à 2014, ancienne Questeur du PE, modératrice de l’événement;
  • Paul Collowald, ancien Directeur général de l’information et des relations publiques du PE et ancien Directeur de cabinet de Pierre Pflimlin, Président du PE;
  • Robert Goebbels, député au PE de 1999 à 2014 et ancien Ministre de l’économie dans le Gouvernement luxembourgeois;
  • Charles Barthel, collaborateur scientifique aux Archives nationales de Luxembourg;
  • Alfredo De Feo, EP Fellow auprès de l’Institut Universitaire Européen (Florence) et ancien Directeur de la Bibliothèque du PE;
  • Susana Muñoz, responsable des études européennes au CVCE; et
  • Étienne Deschamps, historien et conservateur à la Maison de l’histoire européenne (PE).

La discussion a démarré avec Astrid Lulling qui a souligné l’importance de la CECA et de la Haute Autorité dans leurs rôles de pionniers et de forces motrices dans le développement de la future Union européenne. En citant une partie du discours de Jean Monnet lors de la première séance, le 10 août 1952, de la Haute Autorité à Luxembourg, Mme Lulling a rappelé le caractère supranational des Institutions de la CECA et la transformation des relations entre les états. Ces derniers avaient décidé de créer la première communauté européenne qui fusionnait une partie des souverainetés nationales pour les soumettre aux intérêts communs. Astrid Lulling a également insisté sur l’importance de cette table ronde pour évaluer de nos jours l’état de cette création.


http://europarl.europa.eu/EPRS/EPRS_2015-11-26_SCH.mp3

 

Le premier intervenant, Paul Collowald, témoin privilégié de la naissance et de l’évolution de l’Europe unie pendant plus de 60 ans, a souligné l’importance incontestable de la figure de Robert Schuman et de la date du 9 mai 1950 pour la réconciliation franco-allemande et pour la reconstruction européenne de l’après-guerre dont la CECA constitue la première étape. Il a retracé brièvement les événements qui ont conduit, entre août 1949 et avril 1951, à la naissance de la CECA et de la Haute Autorité présidée par Jean Monnet et installée à Luxembourg. M. Collowald a également évoqué une autre création de l’époque: l’Assemblée ad Hoc chargée de préparer un projet de traité politique européen. Si M. Collowald a orienté sa présentation sur les événements qui ont précédé et suivi la déclaration Schuman et la création de la CECA, Robert Goebbels s’est surtout concentré sur l’impact que le traité CECA a eu sur son “petit pays”. À l’aide de quelques données statistiques, il a analysé la situation du Luxembourg au début des années cinquante: “il s’agissait d’un pays poussiéreux et provincial avec 300 000 habitants, dont 20 000 étrangers, la ville était délabrée et on y cultivait les patates” a déclaré M. Goebbels. Mais il s’agissait néanmoins d’un pays membre fondateur des Nations Unies et de l’OTAN, doté d’une production sidérurgique très importante (3 millions de tonnes d’acier, une production identique à celle de l’Italie). C’est à cette époque que Robert Schuman a invité le Luxembourg à faire partie des six pays membres fondateurs de la CECA et à devenir ensuite le siège de la Haute Autorité. L’ancien ministre luxembourgeois a souligné que, sans la CECA, son pays serait toujours “un peu rétrograde” et que c’est grâce à cette opportunité que la ville s’est modernisée. Il a terminé son intervention en soulignant que la fin du traité de la CECA en 2002 a été une perte énorme pour l’Union européenne. En effet, celle-ci a alors perdu des pouvoirs économiques et des instruments de contrôle qui auraient pu se révéler très efficaces au cours des crises économiques.

LULLING, Astrid; COLLOWALD, Paul; GOEBBELS, Robert; BARTHEL, Charles; DE FEO, Alfredo; MUNOZ, Susana; DESCHAMPS, Etienne;

LULLING, Astrid; COLLOWALD, Paul; GOEBBELS, Robert; BARTHEL, Charles; DE FEO, Alfredo; MUNOZ, Susana; DESCHAMPS, Etienne;

Lors de son intervention “L’exaucement d’un rêve: le plan Schuman pour la paix et la diplomatie luxembourgeoise du rapprochement des peuples européens”, Charles Barthel a analysé les avantages dont le Luxembourg a profité grâce à la création de la CECA, notamment en politique étrangère. Selon M. Barthel, le Luxembourg est un pays trop petit pour rester isolé et la bonne entente avec les pays voisins a été, depuis toujours, nécessaire et déterminante pour son développement. Le plan Schuman visant à créer une communauté du charbon et de l’acier a été une vraie opportunité pour le pays et l’union entre politique et économie une garantie pour la paix. Le Luxembourg a joué un rôle de “courtier”, ou d’intermédiaire, pour la paix franco-allemande et il a ainsi trouvé sa place parmi les cinq autres pays fondateurs. M. Barthel a souligné pour conclure que cela a été une chance pour le Luxembourg que la naissante nouvelle Europe ait été construite sur la sidérurgie et sur la production de l’acier.

Lors de son intervention, Alfredo De Feo s’est concentré sur l’originalité financière de la CECA ou mieux, sur sa modernité. Le financement de l’Europe a, à plusieurs reprises, présenté un problème, et certaines crises de l’Union européenne ont effectivement été liées à cette question. Il est donc important de souligner que la CECA était un organe avec une forte originalité financière, relative notamment à l’autonomie financière de la Haute Autorité, qui avait la possibilité d’imposer des taxes sur le prélèvement, mais également grâce à une activité de prêt et la création d’un fonds de garantie.

Susana Muñoz a présenté le projet “Retour aux sources orales de la CECA”. De son point de vue, la Communauté, première pierre de la construction européenne, peut être considérée comme un laboratoire et un modèle d’expérience. Ce projet a pour ambition de constituer une mémoire orale donnant la parole à des protagonistes de la construction européenne. Il est constitué aujourd’hui de plus d’une centaine d’interviews qui peuvent être écoutées et contextualisées sur le site internet du CVCE http://www.cvce.eu/histoire-orale.

Étienne Deschamps, dans son exposé “Enjeux de la CECA pour le Luxembourg au début des années 1950”, a analysé les trois problèmes principaux qui se sont présentés au Luxembourg au moment de la création de la CECA: sa participation au Plan Schuman, sa représentation à l’intérieur des institutions et l’établissement d’un siège pour la Communauté. La participation au Plan Schuman et à la création de la CECA était vitale, voire existentielle, pour le Luxembourg et le gouvernement y était fortement favorable, vu l’importance de la sidérurgie pour le pays. Il était donc hautement important d’obtenir une bonne représentation à l’intérieur des institutions européennes afin de défendre les intérêts du pays et la diplomatie luxembourgeoise y a fortement travaillé. Ainsi, lors du choix du siège de la CECA, pour lequel seule la République fédérale allemande ne s’est pas proposée, le Luxembourg s’est bien positionné: même si le pays n’est pas la capitale politique de l’Europe, il est devenu un siège définitif de la Communauté.

En guise de conclusion, Astrid Lulling a souligné que son pays s’est très bien “débrouillé” pour trouver sa place à l’aube de la création de l’Europe unie.


L’intégralité de l’audio des interventions est disponible ici.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/18/limpact-de-la-communaute-europeenne-du-charbon-et-de-lacier-ceca-sur-le-luxembourg-et-la-construction-europeenne/

Enlargement [What Think Tanks are thinking]

Written by Marcin Grajewski

The pace of the European Union’s enlargement has slowed following its historic expansion in 2004-07 to take in 10 countries from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Cyprus and Malta. From among EU hopefuls which have been given membership prospects – Turkey and Western Balkan countries – only Croatia joined the EU in 2013. Accession negotiations continue with Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. Iceland has dropped its membership bid. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he does not expect any new country to join the EU during his term in office, which ends in 2019, a statement confirmed in the European Commission’s most recent enlargement strategy.

The EU hails enlargement as one of its most successful policies as it enforces reforms in candidate countries and expands the zone of democracy and stability in Europe. But many analysts and politicians say that before expanding further, the EU must overcome its numerous, internal problems as well as give time to potential entrants to prepare themselves for membership, notably in areas such as respect for fundamental rights and anti-corruption policies.

This note offers links to a series of recent studies from major international think tanks and research institutes on the enlargement process and the challenges faced by countries aspiring to EU membership.

European Union Enlargements

pyty / Fotolia

Enlargement

The EU’s enlargement strategy 2015: Will the ‘new elements’ make a difference? Centre for European Policy Studies, November 2015

Westbalkan als Kollateralschaden der europäischen Passivität? Aktuelle Entwicklungen im Lichte der EU-Erweiterungspolitik und der Flüchtlingsproblematik  Österreichische Institut für Internationale Politik, November 2015

Die zwei Gesichter der deutschen Erweiterungspolitik gegenüber dem Westlichen Balkan Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, September 2015

EU member states and enlargement towards the Balkans European Policy Centre, July 2015

The challenge of freedom in South-eastern Europe Centre for Eastern Studies, July 2015

EULEX: a mission in need of reform and with no end in sight Elcano Royal Institute, July 2015

European integration of the Western Balkans: Can the Visegrad Group countries serve as role models?

Center for EU Enlargement Studies, Slovak Foreign Policy Association, May 2015

Visa liberalisation process and the way forward: Suggestions for a strategic approach to the political dialogue with Brussels Group for Legal and Political Studies, May 2015

Sharing experience of Visegrad countries EU economic integration and Georgia’s successful institutional reforms for Albania and Kosovo Institute for Public Policies and Good Governance, Policy and Management Consulting Group, April 2015

The Western Balkans Between Europe and Russia Centre for Security Studies, March 2015

Right goals, wrong tools? Civil society empowerment in the EU accession process Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, February 2015

Balkan revival: Kick-starting stalled policies Friends of Europe, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, February 2015

The EU’s enlargement agenda: Credibility at stake? Centre for European Policy Studies, October 2014

Can the European public block the enlargement to the Western Balkans? Institute of International Relations, Prague, October 2014

Turkey

A new episode in EU-Turkish relations: Why so much bitterness? German Marshall Fund, December 2015

Turkey’s EU perspective: How the refugee crisis has accelerated membership negotiations European Future, December 2015

Turkey’s 10 Years of EU accession negotiations: No end in sight Elcano Royal Institute, October 2015

Turkey’s trade in search of an external anchor: The neighbourhood, the customs union or TTIP? Stiftung Mercator, Istituto Affari Internazionali, Istanbul Policy Centre, April 2015

A critical evaluation from the perspective of Turkey’s EU negotiations Finnish Institute for International Affairs, February 2015

Serbia

Young people in Serbia 2015: Situation, perceptions, beliefs and aspirations Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, November 2015

Ohne Kompass Richtung Brüssel? Serbien zwischen EU-Annäherung und russischer Vereinnahmung Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik, September 2015

Civil society networks in the EU integration of Serbia Polish Institute of International Affairs, April 2015

Introduction to Serbia’s negotiations with the EU on chapter 30 : external relations Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, International and Security Affairs Centre. Centar za Evropske Politike, November 2014

Between discretion and professionalism: Merit-based recruitment policy in the context of Serbia’s accession negotiations with the EU European Policy Centre, November 2015

Other countries

Montenegro’s Marathon: Halfway to the EU, Last Lap to NATO Polish Institute of International Affairs, July 2015

Macedonia: Defusing the bombs International Crisis Group, July 2015

Policy options for economic growth and competitiveness of Kosovo Wiener Institut für Internationale Wirtschaftsvergleiche, May 2015

Fortschritt trotz Stillstand: Bosnien-Herzegowina rückt näher an die EU, ohne den Reformstau zu beenden Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, May 2015

The worsening crisis in Macedonia: Waiting for EU leadership Centre for European Policy Studies, April 2015

Saving democracy in Macedonia: What to do after the wire-tapping scandal Center for Research and Policy Making, March 2015

Filling the black hole: Bringing Kosovo into international police cooperation organizations Group for Legal and Political Studies, March 2015

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Back on an EU Track European Union Institute for Security Studies, March 2015

Bosnia as Wunderkind of doing business. Outline of 14 steps to take: A proposal to the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina European Stability Initiative, March 2015

Bosnia in turmoil: Does the EU’s transformative power still exist? Madariaga College of Europe Fundation, February 2015

Albania’s EU accession: Is it risking a 2009 déjà vu? Institute for Democracy and Mediation, December 2014

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/16/enlargement-what-think-tanks-are-thinking/

New Year Resolutions, Reviews and Regulations: January Plenary Agenda

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Members of the European Parliament will be back in the debating chamber in Strasbourg on Monday, 18 January 2016, with a full agenda of legislative proposals, reviews and situational oversight before them.

Monday

European Parliament

European Union, EP

Following a discussion on the Annual Report on EU Competition Policy, Members will begin the session by considering the stocks of Bluefin Tuna in the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Long overfished for its highly valuable and delicious flesh, the species is caught between a delicate balance of managing commercial exploitation and protection. The European Commission proposes inclusion of International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) recommendations in existing EU fisheries legislation (where they do not already exist), in a new regulation. Members are particularly keen to prioritise non-industrial and traditional fishing methods in the proposed recovery plan.

Whilst there will not be a vote on the matter this week, there will be a debate on Monday evening concerning emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles. Pollution in the EU from transport has fallen in recent years, but nevertheless NOx and particulate matter emissions (particularly from diesel fuel) continue to harm both the environment and Europeans’ health. It is now well-known that cars emit different levels of pollutants when driving on the road, as opposed to under laboratory conditions, and the Commission have proposed an implementing regulation on new tests that better reflect real on-road emissions. The draft is opposed by Parliament’s Committee for Environment, Health and Food, who consider the draft raises current standards, but does not address current levels of emissions.

Listen to podcast: Measuring on-road air pollution from cars [Plenary Podcast]

Tuesday

Tuesday morning will mainly be devoted to consideration of a joint Committee report on the Digital Single Market Strategy, for which the Commission is to deliver 16 legislative and non-legislative initiatives by the end of 2016. The wide-ranging proposals to create a more dynamic EU economy include a three pillar focus on boosting consumer and business access to digital goods and services, developing conditions in which digital networks will prosper, and maximising the benefits of the digital economy. Parliament would like to see more effort in promoting an entrepreneurial culture and innovative business models; equal consumer protection for online and offline sales; undeterred circulation of legally acquired digital content or services; and a clear strategy to address e-skills shortages, especially among young people. This last issue will also be discussed on Monday evening, when Members will hear a presentation of a report on skills policies to combat the high levels of youth unemployment in the EU, where 4.5 million young people aged 15-24 years old are unemployed.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło will visit the Parliament on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the structured dialogue initiated between the Commission and Poland under the 2014 ‘Rule of Law Framework‘ with regard to two Polish laws – on the powers of the constitutional court and on the management of state TV and radio broadcasters.

High Representative/Commission Vice-President Federica Mogherini will then update Members on a number of foreign policy issues. The first of these is the Colombian peace process. The conflict between the Colombian government and FARC rebels is the longest-running conflict in Latin America and has notched up three previous attempts to conclude a peace agreement. It appears that this time will be different, however, as the Colombian people are tired of the violence, and the social, historical and political context favours a definitive solution today. A sticking-point, however, may be the arrangements for reparations and justice for the estimated 220 000 people killed during the conflict and the many surviving victims of the violence.

Mogherini will then make a statement on the catastrophic situation in Syria, where the European Union, Russia, Iran, the USA and Turkey all have an interest in ending the violence. This will be followed by a further address on the delicate relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which, while posing a risk to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015) on Syria, also endanger the carefully brokered nuclear deal with Iran.

In the current high-alert climate, the Parliament is equally committed to defending EU citizens’ security and European values such as the protection of civil liberties. An important debate will take place on Tuesday afternoon on another aspect of EU law: strengthening the presumption of innocence in the EU. Despite international safeguards, numerous breaches of the principle by EU Member States have reportedly occurred: 26 violations between 2007 and 2012. The presumption of innocence is an essential element of the right to a fair trial. The Commission proposal before the Parliament seeks to ensure suspects and accused persons are presumed innocent until final conviction and that the burden of proof remains with the prosecution. The Parliament is keen to stress that evidence obtained by violating rights is inadmissible, that forcing individuals to make statements or answer questions should be expressly forbidden, as should leaking information to the press which could jeopardise a person’s right to a free trial.

Listen to podcast: Strengthening the presumption of innocence in the EU [Plenary Podcast]

Three proposals for revision of internal market measures will then occupy the rest of the evening. These harmonisation measures concern safety standards and labelling for items as diverse as cableways, gas fires and oven gloves. The measures on personal protective equipment, appliances which burn gas for fuel, and cableways such as ski lifts, are intended to make it easier for suppliers and safer for consumers by agreeing safety standards to apply throughout not only the EU, but also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Wednesday

On Wednesday morning, the new Dutch Council Presidency will present its programme for the coming six months, and Members will hear more about the priorities for improving and simplifying EU legislation, on measures to boost growth and jobs, and to encourage citizens themselves to participate in policy-making.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Parliament will welcome Laurent Fabius, President of the recent Paris Climate Conference COP21, who will make a statement on the Paris Agreement’s new framework for global climate action. While initial international reaction to the Paris Agreement was largely positive, some commentators note that huge efforts will be needed to overcome the gap between the ambition of the agreement and the emissions reductions pledged by the Parties.

Federica Mogherini will then return to the chamber to make statements on the humanitarian situation in Yemen, on the systematic mass murder of religious minorities by ISIS, on various Free Trade Agreements, and on the Mutual Defence Clause recently invoked by France, and the situation in south-eastern Turkey.

Thursday

Concluding this first session of the year, the agenda for Thursday is dominated, as is customary, by debates on breaches of human rights, including EU citizens in detention in India, and the situation in Ethiopia and North Korea. The Commission will also be questioned on its plans for negotiating trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand.

 


 

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/15/new-year-resolutions-reviews-and-regulations-january-plenary-agenda/

Taiwan’s political landscape ahead of elections

Written by Gisela Grieger,

Public opinion polls suggest that the 16 January presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan are likely to bring about a change in power. The ruling nationalist Kuomintang (KMT), which advocates stronger ties with mainland China is expected to lose the presidency, and possibly even its majority in the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s unicameral chamber, to the independence-leaning opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The DPP’s arrival in power could challenge peaceful and stable cross-strait relations and have wider security implications, since more than 1 100 short-range ballistic missiles on mainland China point to Taiwan whose security is guaranteed by the US.

Achievements of President Ma’s policy of rapprochement with mainland China

Ballot box with national flag on background - Republic of China - Taiwan

© niyazz / Fotolia

President Ma Ying-jeou, who will step down after two terms in office (2008-2016), has pursued a policy of rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), culminating in his historic meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in late 2015, seen as the PRC’s attempt to keep the KMT in power. Ma’s policy is based on the informal ‘1992 consensus‘, also known as ‘one China, respective interpretations’, agreed between the PRC’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the KMT, although the parties disagree on what ‘one China’ means. Issues of sovereignty and security were thus off their common agenda. Ma has translated the consensus into his ‘Three Nos policy’: no unification, no independence, and no use of force.

His pragmatic framework of ‘economics first, politics later; easy first, difficult later’ has resulted in the end of six decades of hostilities and the gradual normalisation of cross-strait relations. The consultation mechanism created for their management has facilitated official exchanges between the KMT and the CCP but has excluded the opposition DPP which so far is not accepted by the PRC as a dialogue partner, since it does not adhere to the ‘1992 consensus’. This has allowed the KMT to portray itself consistently as the only party that can deal with mainland China. Ma’s main achievements are the creation of regular postal, air and maritime traffic connections, flourishing cross-strait tourism, and the conclusion of 23 agreements, with the 2010 Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), an ‘early harvest’ tariff-elimination pact, at their core.

The limits of President Ma’s policy

Despite Ma’s track record in normalising cross-strait relations his pro-China policy has met with growing discontent from the Taiwanese people, particularly the younger generation which perceives it as bent excessively towards the PRC and as a main reason for widening socio-economic cleavages in Taiwan. Criticism centres on the big business bias of government policies which have scarcely benefited ordinary Taiwanese. Rising social inequality in Taiwan, with high youth unemployment, high housing costs, low wages and a sluggish economy, is associated with economic overdependence on the PRC and further increasing it with major economic and political risks. China’s economic rebalancing is regarded as entailing uncertainties for Taiwan’s largely export-driven economy. Growing economic reliance on Taiwan’s biggest trade partner also raises fears of creeping political unification through business deals rather than missiles or tanks.

Ma’s policy of emphasising a broader Chinese cultural identity has spurred a steady rise in Taiwanese identity, with large parts of the island’s population today considering themselves more distinct from mainland China than ever before. As President Ma’s term comes to a close, it appears clear that the PRC and Taiwan have become much closer economically but drifted further apart politically, with Taiwanese strongly attached to their democratic institutions, civil law system, the rule of law, and broad political freedoms. The PRC’s refusal in 2014 to accommodate the demands of Hong Kong’s largely student-led Occupy Central or Umbrella movement for more electoral freedom has increased worries in Taiwan about the PRC’s potential application of the ‘one country, two systems’ formula (as used in Hong Kong and Macao) on the island in the event of political reunification. Anti-PRC sentiment has been manifested in grassroots civic protests, including the Sunflower movement. In March 2014, students occupied the Legislative Yuan for several weeks calling for more transparency and legislative scrutiny of cross-strait pacts. The legislature decided not to ratify the 2013 Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) without a monitoring framework for cross-strait deals in place. In November 2014, local elections saw the KMT defeated by an unprecedented margin.

The three presidential candidates and their election prospects

Although three candidates are running for president: Tsai Ing-wen (DPP chair), Eric Chu (KMT chair), and James Soong (chair of the People First Party (PFP), a KMT spin-off), the latter is considered a spoiler who is not likely to win the presidential elections. All candidates are committed to promoting stable and peaceful cross-strait relations, with none of them having expressed extreme positions on independence or unification with the aim not to repel mainstream voters, who according to a September 2015 poll are predominantly in favour of a perpetual ‘status quo’.

Eric Chu, KMT chair, supported by the Taiwanese business elite and endorsed by the PRC, is associated with President Ma’s advocacy of ever closer economic integration with mainland China as the only way of securing peace and stability in cross-strait relations.

Tsai Ing-wen previously ran for the presidency in 2012, but was defeated by incumbent President Ma. Contrary to 2012, when Tsai emphasised her pro-independence stance embodied in the ‘Taiwan consensus’, she has tempered her position in the current presidential race to avoid the spectre of a return to contention and instability in the Taiwan Strait. But to critics, her concept of the ‘status quo’ of peace and stability has remained too vague and lacks credibility. Tsai differs sharply from Chu in her call for political reforms and redistributive policies which takes up demands from Taiwan’s vibrant civil activist movements, collectively termed the Third Force. She advocates a nuclear-free energy policy – against the KMT and a vocal nuclear energy lobby pointing to investors’ concerns about energy security. Tsai opposes the KMT’s economic policies of tax cuts, economic liberalisation and free economic pilot zones, proposing instead to launch ‘Asia’s Silicon Valley and a green energy park‘ to address brain drain as well as the lack of advanced technologies and innovation, which she has identified as key structural problems in Taiwan’s stagnant economy.

In a November 2015 poll, Tsai led by double digits as candidate for the presidency, with 48.2% compared to Chu (19.4%) and Soong (11.6%). Given similar results in more recent polls, Tsai has good prospects of becoming Taiwan’s first female president. Asked about their preferences for the next majority in the Legislative Yuan, 50.3% of respondents and 60.1% of young voters would favour the DPP gaining more than a majority of the total 133 seats, to prevent the next government from leaning further towards China.

Two likely scenarios and their implications

If the DPP wins only the presidency but the KMT secures a legislative majority in line with the current electoral system, this could result in a divided government since Taiwan’s constitutional arrangements do not favour a French-style ‘cohabitation’. This occurred during the 2000-2008 period when the KMT bypassed DPP President Chen Shui-bian and pursued its pro-China policy. If the DPP wins both the presidency and a large legislative majority, it could enact major domestic policy changes. Taiwan’s foreign policy space would then depend on the future direction of cross-strait relations and the geo-political environment determined by US-China relations. The DPP’s strict adherence – after its election – to its status quo pledge, considered a red line by the US, and the PRC’s constructive response to reaching common ground with a second-choice interlocutor would be crucial to managing cross-strait relations peacefully. The DPP’s dilemma would be that it could only obtain more policy space for its ‘new’ ‘go south‘ trade diversification policy by pursuing ever closer economic ties with the PRC which is a key element in its criticism of the Ma government. While alarmist analysts raise the possibility of a cross-strait crisis, including economic sanctions, suspension of communications or even ‘military coercion or force’, others forecast continuity in cross-strait ties, pointing to secret meetings of PRC officials with the DPP and the disconnect between official rhetoric and action. Both the US and PRC are expected to take steps to prevent cross-strait ties from regressing to pre-2008 tensions.


In its 16 December 2015 resolution on EU-China relations, the European Parliament took the view that ‘a gradual demilitarisation of the region would further facilitate the rapprochement of the parties’ and emphasised ‘that all cross-strait disputes should be settled by peaceful means on the basis of international law’. The EU adheres to the ‘One China’ policy, entertaining no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan although it engages in non-political relations with it as an economic and commercial entity distinct from the PRC.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/14/taiwans-political-landscape-ahead-of-elections/

European Commission: Facts and Figures

Written by Christian Dietrich and Giulio Sabbati,

The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. Under the Treaties, its tasks are to ‘promote the general interest of the Union’, without prejudice to individual Member States, ‘ensure the application of the Treaties’ and adopted measures, and ‘execute the budget’. It further holds a virtual monopoly on legislative initiative, as it proposes nearly all EU legislation to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

The College of Commissioners is composed of 28 individuals. The college which came into office in November 2014 has an explicit hierarchy created through the designation by the President of seven Vice-Presidents, heading ‘project teams’ of the other 20 Commissioners. The following pages set out the responsibilities, composition and work of the Commission and its leadership, both in the current Commission and in the past. They also shed light on the staff of the Commission’s departments, their main places of employment, gender distribution and national background. Finally, they provide a breakdown of the EU’s administrative budget and budget management responsibilities.

Download this briefing on ‘European Commission: Facts and Figures‘ in PDF.

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/14/european-commission-facts-and-figures/

Water in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Written by Elena Lazarou

Desert area - shortage of water

© Dario Bajurin / Fotolia

The Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza is one of the fastest growing in the world and its demand for water is increasing. Access and distribution of water in these territories has been an issue within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1967. In 1995, the Oslo II Accord adopted a quantitative approach to the water issue, detailing the quantities to be allocated to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, but did not sufficiently take into account the natural, political and socio-economic developments that have affected water supply and demand in the region since. Economic disparities, lack of substantial and sufficient infrastructure and of effective water resources management, compounded by pollution and climate change have led to disproportionate allocation of water and to substantial depletion and contamination of water resources.

Water consumption by Israelis and Palestinians reflects stark inequalities. Due to the allocations of trans-boundary water resources agreed upon under Oslo II, Israel currently controls approximately 80% of water reserves in the West Bank. Military conflict in Gaza in the summer of 2014 left over a million residents without access to water. The international community and the EU have expressed concern over the limited access to water in the West Bank and Gaza, and have become active on the issue of water management. Reports from the European Commission (EuropeAid) highlight that technical and humanitarian assistance on water issues has to go hand in hand with progress on the political front, in order for effectiveness to be maximised and for long-term results to be achieved.

The complete briefing on ‘Water in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict‘ can be found here.

Mountain and coastal aquifers

Mountain and coastal aquifers

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/14/water-in-the-israeli-palestinian-conflict/

The Balance of Competences Review in the United Kingdom, 2012-2014

Written by David Eatock

EU flag with UK flag in centre of jigsaw

© viperagp / Fotolia

Against a backdrop of continuing and often intense political debate in the United Kingdom about its relationship with the rest of the European Union (EU), the Coalition Agreement of May 2010, underpinning the 2010-2015 Conservative–Liberal Democrat government, stated that the new administration would ‘examine the balance of the EU’s existing competences’, in the context of an overall government commitment to ‘ensure that there is no further transfer of sovereignty or powers’ to the EU during that five-year parliamentary term. This process was taken forward in a formal ‘Review of the Balance of Competences between the UK and the EU’, which was launched in July 2012 and concluded in December 2014.

The UK government’s official communication to the House of Commons and House of Lords to launch the Balance of Competences Review (Command Paper 8415) used a broad definition of EU competence, covering ‘everything deriving from EU law that affects what happens in the UK’. The review was to seek to examine all the areas where the Treaties gave the EU competence to act (see box below), and to audit what the EU did and how this affected the UK. The whole process would be ‘comprehensive, well informed and analytical’, gathering evidence to help inform public debate. Whilst the review would be government-led, it would also involve outside experts, organisations and individuals who wished to feed in their views on the issues covered.

Read the complete breifing on ‘The Balance of Competences Review in the United Kingdom, 2012-2014

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/13/the-balance-of-competences-review-in-the-united-kingdom-2012-2014/

Measures to tackle youth unemployment, are they enough?

Written by Richard Freedman in cooperation with Marie Lecerf

EYE2016 with textThe figures are stark. More than 4.5 million young people (aged 15-24 years) are unemployed today in the EU. The EU youth unemployment rate is more than double the overall unemployment rate (20% compared with 9%) and masks big differences between countries: there is a gap of more than 40 percentage points between the Member State with the lowest rate of youth unemployment (Germany at 7%) and the Member States with the highest rates, Greece (50%) and Spain (49%).

Although youth unemployment has fallen somewhat – from more than 23% in 2013 to less than 21% today – the youth unemployment rate is still high in the EU. And, long-term youth unemployment remains at record highs.

Reducing youth unemployment: priority for the European Parliament

Tackling youth unemployment in Europe is a top priority for the European Parliament. The European Parliament is fully aware that youth unemployment has a profound impact on individuals as well as on society and the economy. Unless current trends are reversed quickly, today’s levels of youth unemployment risk damaging the longer-term employment prospects for young people, with serious implications for future growth and social cohesion.

Indeed in a resolution adopted by the European Parliament in July 2014, Members warn that there will be no significant sustainable economic growth in the EU unless inequalities are reduced, and recall that this starts with reducing unemployment, especially youth unemployment, and alleviating poverty. Specifically, Members underline the need to ensure wide and easy training, access to Internet, and digital skills development.

People who are neither in employment, nor in education or training, that’s NEET?

young man

luxorphoto / fotalia

What or who are NEETs? Young people who are neither in employment, nor in education or training – the so called NEETs require political attention as set out in this EPRS briefing on the EU’s youth initiatives. According to Eurostat, 7.5 million young Europeans between 15 and 24 are not employed, not in education and not in training (NEETs) and whereas, in the EU28 in 2012, 29.7 % of young people aged between 15 and 29 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Furthermore, the current limitation of the youth guarantee to age 25 does not take into account the over 6 million NEETs who are aged between 25 and 30.

MEPs want the Member States to take strong measures to fight youth unemployment, in particular through preventive action against early dropout from school, or by promoting training and apprenticeship schemes (e.g. by implanting a dual educational system or other equally efficient types of framework), to develop comprehensive strategies for young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) and to implement the national Youth Guarantee Schemes in full. Indeed, the Youth Guarantee is an approach to tackling youth unemployment which ensures that all young people under 25 – whether registered with employment services or not – get a good-quality, concrete offer within 4 months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed.The good-quality offer should be for a job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education and be adapted to each individual need and situation.

A lot is being done to try to tackle youth unemployment, but is it enough?

A series of important initiatives is being carried out to attempt to reduce youth unemployment:

  • the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) (see EPRS briefing), with a budget of €6.4 billion (half from a dedicated budget line and at least half more from the European Social Fund) the YEI is intended to support in particular young people not in education, employment or training;
  • a proposal to EU Member States to establish ‘youth guarantee’ schemes (EPRS briefing in French);
  • quality traineeships and apprenticeships, focusing on a better transition from school to work (EPRS briefing);
  • Youth on the Move dedicated to mobility of young people in Europe

A comprehensive list of briefings prepared by the European Parliamentary Research Service on youth unemployment is available here.

Have your say on how to reduce youth unemployment at The European Youth Event 2016

Unsurprisingly, reducing youth unemployment is one of the key themes at the European Youth Event in May 2016 (EYE 2016Strasbourg, 20-21 May 2016). There is a lot being done at the EU, national and local levels to create the conditions and investment necessary to reduce youth unemployment, but are these initiatives correct and what more can be done? Have your say during the EYE 2016!

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/13/measures-to-tackle-youth-unemployment-are-they-enough/

The Paris Agreement: A new framework for global climate action

Written by Gregor Erbach,

Celebrating agreement at the Paris Climate Summit

© IISD / Kiara Worth

The Paris Agreement was adopted on 12 December 2015 by the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It provides a framework for global actions to address climate change in the period after 2020.

The objective of the agreement is to maintain the increase in global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, whilst making efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. The agreement aims to ensure global greenhouse gas emissions peak as soon as possible, and to balance emissions and removals of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century. Furthermore, the agreement addresses adaptation to climate change, financial and other support for developing countries, technology transfer and capacity building, as well as loss and damage.

In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol, which commits only developed countries to specific reduction targets, the Paris Agreement requires all countries to prepare nationally determined contributions (NDCs), take measures to achieve their objectives, and report on progress.

In order to raise the level of ambition over time, Parties must submit updated NDCs every five years. Each Party’s new NDC must be more ambitious than its previous NDC.

Initial reactions to the Paris Agreement were mostly positive, but commentators note that huge efforts will be needed to overcome the gap between the ambition of the agreement and the emission reductions pledged by the Parties.

Find the complete briefing on ‘The Paris Agreement: A new framework for global climate action‘.

Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/12/the-paris-agreement-a-new-framework-for-global-climate-action/

The wider Middle East: between Iran and Saudi Arabia

Written by Clare Ferguson and Patryk Pawlak,

The escalation of the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia – just a few weeks after the two countries sat down at the same table for the first time to discuss the conflict in Syria – comes at a particularly sensitive moment.

Diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia – two powerhouses and main rivals in the Muslim world – have been downgraded or even severed by both sides in the past, and in this context, the latest decisions by Saudi Arabia and several other Gulf countries to ostracise Iran do not represent a radical change in their bilateral relations. Nevertheless, the present situation gives cause for concern considering the growing sectarian problems in the region.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have always been complicated. The 1979 Revolution in Iran and the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) helped to solidify historical antagonisms between the two countries, and have influenced their foreign policies. Teheran and Riyadh have increasingly traded hostilities since 2011, including through their Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni proxies.

Iran, a state with a Shia Muslim majority, stands accused of interfering in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other Gulf countries with significant Shia minorities. Meanwhile, Iran also accuses Saudi Arabia of anti-Shiite discrimination.

The branches of Islam

The branches of Islam

Although many of the beliefs and practices of the different branches of the Islamic faith are shared, leadership disputes within the Muslim community have gradually resulted in the formation of two main branches: the Sunni and the Shia. Furthermore, the Shia branch comprises a range of different groups, such as the Khawarij, Ahmadiyaa, and Imamiyya. Despite the many religious and cultural connections they share, different branches of the Islamic faith differ from each other in their interpretations of aspects of the faith, views on Islamic history, and conceptions of leadership. The range of commonalities and differences between these communities is particularly relevant today, when many conflicts in the Muslim world are depicted in sectarian terms.

Sunni Islam is by far the largest branch of Islam, having largely avoided fundamental divisions, and its followers therefore constitute 87-90% of the Muslim global population. Sunni Islam claims to represent the Muslim consensus concerning the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, and originated among those Muslims who deny Ali ibn Abi Talib as the Prophet’s sole successor. Sunnis do not believe that leaders of the Muslim community are infallible, and whilst Sunni institutions and individuals may be influential, there is no centralised religious authority, and only a vague hierarchy.

To the contrary, followers of Shia Islam – a minority in the world’s total Muslim population – believe that Ali ibn Abi Talib and his descendants represent the only legitimate succession to the Prophet Muhammad. Nevertheless, Shia Muslim believers themselves have disagreed over the leadership, leading to the emergence of numerous further communities. Understanding their origins and religious foundations – in particular in relation to the much larger Sunni branch – is essential for a better comprehension of developments in Syria, or the regional rivalries between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Good relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are crucial to the smooth implementation of the carefully brokered diplomatic undertakings of the past few months – in particular the nuclear deal with Iran and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015) on Syria.

The international community, including the Arab League, the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, all have an interest in seeing a de-escalation of the present conflict. Finding a solution which allows all parties to save face, whilst showing restraint and responsibility, is an urgent challenge for the coming months.

Quoted EPRS publications

Visuals

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Source Article from http://epthinktank.eu/2016/01/12/the-wider-middle-east-between-iran-and-saudi-arabia/