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Before addressing this workshop’s theme directly, I would like to offer perhaps ceremonial but nonetheless sincere apologies for any words I might mispronounce. I will do my absolute best to express my view on the concerned topic in a clear and relevant way and hope that this address will meet your expectations. The very title of our workshop raises questions: how is the world changing? And how are we supposed to define and evaluate the strength of our Union? Do we refer to our military strength in a world of constant crisis and increasing tensions? Or are we rather referring to our strength in a more general way, therefore including social and cultural notions, as well as economic and structural factors? Recent events in our contemporary history, such as the rise of international institutions and the fall of the USSR, led us to think that our socio-political model, what we often refer to as liberal democracy, would in the future go unopposed and thus, that we had entered the era of post-strength: we had nothing to conquer, nothing to defend. But we were partly mistaken and those certitudes we had, those certitudes we carefully built and looked after, now represent the first obstacle that we, as progressives, need to overcome. To some of us progressives, strength is a dirty word, so deeply linked to centuries of barbarity, violence and martial crimes that we felt as if turning our back on this very notion would be enough to gain the moral high ground. Yet, other thinkers from our ranks thought differently and dared express a paradoxical evidence of theirs: the less we’re willing to use our strength, to more we should improve it. Does the Union need to improve its strength from a quantitative point of view? Apart from NATO’ arbitrary goal of dedicating 3% of one nation’s GDP to its military budget, one can hardly accurately define the limit below which strength begins shrinking. But there definitely are things to improve from a qualitative point of view, especially in term of industrial cooperation, strategic thinking, and interoperability of our forces. And yet, there’s still one more thing that I ought to say to this assemble: our Union IS strong. And it needs to use its strength. Not to invade countries, not to conquer lands, not to submit people, but to defend its own interests. We now have to deal with a US president turning into a warmonger-in-chief; we now have to deal with countries considered “western” leaving international institutions and disregarding international agreements without having to suffer any kind of diplomatic or political retribution. More than anything else, those realities are to be met with a European response: The Union needs not only to be strong, but to act in a strong, independent way as well. If not, History will severely judge us: we will enter history books as “the power who refused to be powerful” and peoples will only remember this: we could have changed the world – but we refused to.

5 days, 3 hours ago in EU Cohesion Policy

Although almost 30 years have passed since its inception, the Dublin Regulation continues to be a dysfunctional mechanism. Its implementation has seen significant violations of asylum seekers’ fundamental rights, episodes of rejection, and massive financial and administrative costs for EU Member States. Moreover, the Regulation does not comply with cornerstone of asylum law, namely the principle of non-refoulement. For this reason I firmly believe that it must be replaced with a new legal instrument as soon as possible. Looking at the details, it is clear that excluding asylum seekers from the freedom of movement has always been the leitmotiv of the Regulation. This is laid bare by the development of the Regulation over the last three decades. In particular, the hierarchy of criteria enshrined in its various versions remained essentially unchanged. In a nutshell, from the 1990 Convention to the last 2016 Dublin IV proposal, responsibility has mainly sat with the country which had played the greatest part in the applicants’ entry or residence within the territory of the EU. The choice of asylum applicants has generally had zero consideration, or been brought in as an afterthought, only if all other criteria were inapplicable. Another proof that the mechanism is essentially one of monitoring, is evidenced by the drafting of the documentation of the Dublin system by European institutions primarily to prevent asylum seekers’ abuse of the right to asylum. This goal is explicitly stated in the 1986 Conclusions of the President of the European Council, in the 1990 Schengen Implementing Agreement, in the 1990 Dublin Convention, and in all subsequent Dublin Regulations. To this end, the Dublin IV proposal even introduces strict obligations for asylum seekers to lodge their applications in the first state of entry and to remain there while this is pending. Moreover, the proposal establishes that if asylum seekers do not comply with these duties, the assessment of their claims may be quickened – that means assessed more roughly – and they may lose the vast majority of their benefits. It is clear that this regional mechanism primarily aims to limit individual rights, rather than safeguard those in need. As a result it turns out to be an instrument of protection from, rather than for, asylum seekers. Consequently, beyond being numerically ineffective, the massive stress put on the limitation of asylum seekers’ movement turned the Dublin system into an unfair mechanism for both refugees and Member States. It is unfair for Member States because in the vast majority of the Dublin cases the responsibility lies with the first EU country in which asylum seekers arrive. This puts a tremendous burden on those few countries that, for mere geopolitical reasons, are more likely to be the EU ports of entry. As a result, the Dublin Regulation dramatically intensifies the disparity between the Dublin units’ standards of safeguarding: while the protection provided by some states lives up to European standards, other countries are not able to satisfy asylum seekers’ basic needs. This led the Regulation to establish an unfair system for asylum seekers too. In such a mechanism, the possibility of obtaining refugee status depends mainly on the member state in which the asylum seeker lodges his or her application, rather than on their need for, and right to, international protection. Moreover, the Strasbourg and Luxembourg courts’ judgments lay bare the severe violations of fundamental rights that this instrument entails. As a result of the Dublin transfers, numerous individuals have not had access to an effective legal remedy to challenge their transfers; while others faced – or risked facing – inhumane and degrading treatment such as episodes of refoulement. Moreover, they may also infringe customary international law and numerous other agreements such as the Refugee Convention, the CAT, the ICCPR, et cetera. Based on these findings, it is undeniable that the Dublin Regulation does not comply with the principle of non-refoulement. This lack of compliance is fairly peculiar if it is considered that, according to EU law, the Dublin rules are based on a total and absolute respect of the principle of non-refoulement. Yet, in practice, this compliance is inexorably undermined by the principle of mutual trust. Mutual trust plays a pivotal role in the field of asylum because it is the principle that legitimizes the Dublin transfers. In other words, it is the rationale that justifies the control and restriction of asylum seekers’ movements. Hence, it is not surprisingly that it has been conceived as the conditio sine qua non of the EU Member States cooperation. Interestingly, although the Dublin regulation does not oblige Member States to take the safety of other partners for granted, Member States massively rely on this principle. This means that they accept the Member States’ formal compliance to international agreements as sufficient proof about the future treatment of the individuals transferred. Yet, this work showed that this bogus presumption has led to to the infringement of asylum seekers’ rights in numerous occasions. Even the Strasbourg court starkly condemned the automatic application of the principle recognizing its refutability. Yet, as demonstrated by the resumption of the Dublin transfers to Greece, Member States continue to underpin and preserve this presumption, whatever it takes. Summing up, the will to limit asylum seekers’ freedom of movement led to the establishment of a regional system of deflection legitimized by the principle of mutual trust. Given the lack of harmonization between Member States’ practices, the system continues to entail severe violations of the principle of non-refoulement. To focus on this principle is crucial because it is the closest mechanism to a right to asylum currently available under international law. Hence, relying on a formal understanding of mutual trust, Member States are undermining the cornerstone of asylum seekers’ protection. In light of these considerations, I think that the principle of non- refoulement can be compared to what Hannah Arendt defined as the right to have rights. In fact, the infringement of the principle deprives asylum seekers of a broader set of rights of which they can benefit only if they are not sent back to their country of origin. As Arendt stated, it prevents them from living in a place where they opinion are significant and their actions are effective. In other words, violating this principle, the Dublin Regulation is denying asylum seekers their right to be members of political communities and, consequently, their entitlement to a wider set of fundamental rights. This is the reason why lack of compliance with this principle is undoubtedly the most serious flaw of the Regulation. In conclusion, it is evident that European institutions have failed to radically reform the structure of the Dublin system and to tackle its core problem; Member States’ automatic reliance on the erroneous premise of mutual trust. In order to impede further violations of the principle of non-refoulement, I do believe that mutual trust needs to be radically reconsidered. Firstly, a system based on an axiomatic understanding of the principle can no longer be upheld. Thus, a transition from a formal reading of trust to a substantive one needs to be implemented as soon as possible. This should require Member States, in transferring asylum seekers, to analyze the peculiar characteristics of the applicant’s case and the specific guarantees provided by the receiving state. In other words, as held by the ECtHR, sureties must be put in place that the applicants shall receive a fair treatment. This would enable human rights to be safeguarded in a broader manner and those countries that are already shouldering a massive burden would not have to bear the responsibility of further applications. Secondly, and most importantly, I believe that there is a need for further radical transition. The European asylum system needs to undergo its own Copernican revolution. This means that the cornerstone of the Dublin system must shift from the principle of mutual trust to a mechanism to safeguard asylum seekers’ rights. The current pretense deploys a mechanism that does not have these rights at it center. This is tantamount to analyzing the solar system with a ptolemaic model. It just cannot work. Asylum seekers’ rights must become the pivot of a new European system of asylum; a system that, finally, aims at protecting individuals rather than at deflecting them.

1 week, 3 days ago in Migration

Dear Friends, right now we have around 27 member states in our European Union and probably even more different softwares for administration in all the different national and supranational institutions, with a lot of effort in working together most efficiently with sending documents, verifying, signing, giving it trhough the different hierarchies and everything very intransparent. The idea is to create one hollistic administration software to digitalise the whole administrative software, making it absolutely transparent be it for succesors, supervisors, researchers or the public, being absolutely secure to stop fraud and corruption. The magic word is blockchain, which is made possible through the assumed many different big servers in European capitals. The bockchain technology is said to be not to hack and through the whole digitalisation there is no possibility to commit corruption or fraud through e.g. manipulatng a stamp. The clerks will no longer need to match two documents by eye or to print and sign and scan and upload, everything can be done by one click, which is compatible in the whole of Europe. A unified system would not only generate a more efficient and secure administration, but also a path dependency which makes the advantages of the EU already evident on a pure practical level and makes the lived Europe more visible. The details of blockchain are a little technical, but as this was introduced to me for the purpose of making the administration of an African country more transparent and efficient I developed thousand ideas of how else to use it. This technology is truly reforming when not even revolutionary and yields endless possiblities. It would be great if we could together think further and elaborate more possibilities, especially if there is an expert on IT, administration and blockchain. Greetings from Bonn, Thabo

2 weeks ago in Digital Europe
Profile photo of Thabo Thabo

THE EUROPEAN UNION BECOMES A DRIVER FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN EUROPE AND BEYOND Why and how? In a scenario where sustainability sits firmly at the heart of the European project,the EU27 will prioritise the interests of citizens, in the EU and beyond. Europe will have a strong focus on Europe’s core social values – democracy and participation, social justice, solidarity and sustainability, respect for the rule of law and human rights, both within Europe and around the globe. Citizens seek economic, social and environmental wellbeing. Economic wellbeing in the form of prosperity for all, starting with redistribution of wealth. Social wellbeing in the provision of quality, inclusive and affordable public services, the promotion of cultural diversity and a caring society. Environmental wellbeing residing in a healthy natural environment that sustains all life on Earth and protects our soils, waters and air, provides nutritious, healthy food and where climate change is minimized. As a result of this focus, the EU27 will ensure a better health and quality of life for its citizens. This will increase public trust in European institutions. It will move away from the current focus where commercial and corporate interests are all too often prioritized over the public interest. Decisions are made in the public interest and transparent, accountable and inclusive institutions will be the norm. The EU27 will ensure that policies agreed by the Member States are fully implemented and enforced. Scandals like Dieselgate, which caused tens of thousands of premature deaths, will not be repeated. By 2025, this means: Delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the principles and Sustainable Development Goals: leaving no one behind, living within Europe’s fair share of our planetary boundaries, and putting respect for human rights at the core of EU and national policy-making. The full implementation of the Paris Agreement by decarbonising our economy, enhancing energy efficiency and accelerating the just and sustainable transition to clean and affordable renewable energy, based on the principles of climate justice, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The notion of ‘Better Regulation’ implies that all EU policies, laws and regulations are focused on ensuring policy coherence for sustainable development and on enforcement of high standards for jobs, health, safety and the environment, delivering tangible benefits to all citizens and the regeneration of environmental capital. Policy coherence as a key objective will result in an end to negative externalities of domestic policies for the Global South and the phasing out of perverse public subsidies, especially for unsustainable food production and fossil fuels. Companies and their subsidiaries outside the EU and throughout their supply chains are under a legal obligation to assess, mitigate and prevent negative environmental and human rights impacts of their business activities globally. International trade is recognised as a means to achieve social, environmental and economic objectives, not an end in itself. A positive agenda for trade and investment agreements will be designed primarily to advance wellbeing and the public interest instead of cost reduction for companies. Europe will raise the bar for all other regions and actively discourage a race to the bottom. Through strengthening representative and participatory democracy and ensuring civic space for people’s participation beyond elections, citizens can better engage with the European project and shape a positive European vision for the future. The EU27 and the Member States will consider education as a public responsibility that offers lifelong learning for all in order to develop active citizenship, critical thinking, social inclusion, cultural diversity and an understanding of sustainable development and human rights. Gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights will be priority in all EU policies and practices, both domestically and externally A just transition to a green and socially fair economy, in which our human and natural resources are cherished, within the planetary boundaries. A European Social Model provides full protection to all workers, all consumers and all generations of people living in the EU. Effective and coordinated taxation measures ensure that all companies pay appropriate taxes and contribute to national public budgets for socio-economic wellbeing. The EU27 will effectively fight tax evasion and close down European tax havens. Pros and cons: Europe reinvents itself and better communicates the benefits, rights and protections it delivers to citizens. Acceptance of and trust in European institutions will increase as citizens experience the benefits of European cooperation. Policy silos are dismantled, incoherencies and contradictions are resolved. All policies and programmes are contributing to the sustainable development agenda. IMPACT ON POLICIES Capacity to address citizens’ concerns and democratisation The EU27 will introduce new methods to increase the influence of citizens and civil society on key European policy issues and give them a bigger role in EU decision making, to strengthen transparency, participation and accountability. Climate and a healthy environment Common standards are set that bring citizens clean air and water, renewable and community based energy, safe and healthy food. Ambitious measures to phase out fossil fuels and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, including from the Global South, are implemented, leading to a fair share (sufficiency) in the use of natural resources. Social and inclusive policies All European citizens and residents enjoy the same level of protection, based on international human rights. Income gaps are narrowed, equality goals are achieved, wellbeing is improved and health disparities decrease within and between countries and across generations. Trade policies Trade policies become more transparent and contribute to the achievement of social and environmental objectives, including global climate agreements, the protection of the health and well-being of citizens, and are consistent with fundamental rights. Foreign policy, migration and international cooperation Europe assumes a leading role in ensuring a human-centered response to global migration, for the benefit and protection of all those involved. It contributes its fair share, both as a donor and as host for refugees, ensuring equal and fair access to services for all. The EU continues to be a key donor to implement its commitments to the protection of human rights in its international cooperation. The EU actively supports binding rules on human rights for its businesses that are operating overseas. Budgets The EU Budget lives up to its potential to catalyse sustainability, economic justice and wellbeing, to maintain and restore our natural resources and biodiversity. It includes participatory spending tools as well as strong accountability mechanisms. In other words, there will be a budget for the people. More progressive tax policies and a tax shift from labour to environmental use. ILLUSTRATIVE SNAPSHOTS Trade, regional development and food policies incentivise local, national and regional governments to develop sustainable and locally distributed energy and food production systems: local production for local needs. International trade prioritises sustainability principles. An EU Enforcement Agency monitors the implementation of EU laws and quickly responds if needed. Amongst other tasks, this body actively monitors emissions from a wide range of products (cars, household appliances, etc.) for conformity with the agreed standards and applies effective sanctions in case of breaches of the regulations. EU budget and indicators: a new definition for economic progress in the EU is published regularly which goes beyond reliance on GDP and guides and measures impact of spending on the sustainable wellbeing of all citizens and their environment. All spending lines are fully sustainability- proofed, resulting in more targeted spending, and greater linking of resources with performance of Member States and regions in achieving the EU’s 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Energy, climate and social policies: the EU27 introduces a fund to make 50 million houses in Europe energy neutral, thereby lowering living costs for citizens, stopping energy poverty and drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. New and effective civil society participation improves democracy, governance transparency and trust of EU citizens in building a positive and sustainable Europe. Europeans consume healthier food produced by reformed European agricultural systems and they enjoy widely restored European nature and increasing green spaces in the cities. Europe’s ecosystems are sufficiently protected and restored to deliver socio, economic and health benefits. Nature based solutions are at the center of Europe’s development. Free movement: the EU guarantees effective free movement to all people living in Europe. EU accessibility legislation will be adopted to ensure the 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe who currently cannot use mainstreamed products and services can participate on an equal basis with others as consumers in the internal market. Brussels, June 2017


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