Asylum Convention from Colonial era

Anna van Densky OPINION European suggestion to arrange illegal migrant ‘disembarkation platforms‘ outside the EU is a stillbirth, rejected by all Maghreb countries, insisting that the creation of migrant camps in not a solution for existing problems of Africa ravaged by conflict and poverty, but a translation of an existing difficulties into another form of challenge – ever-growing refugee agglomerations. Meanwhile European leaders insist on delivery upon ‘obligations‘ given by their ancestors towards asylum-seekers, however they prefer to ignore the fact that the entire international legislation on refugees dates from Colonial era – Geneva Conventions on Asylum 1951.

Looking at Kenya, one can imagine a scale of a problem of mass migration of population in modern Africa – huge numbers of people spending day after day,  year after year “camping” in tents. #Dadaab is an example of the failure even of the UN CHR to resolve problems of suffering from a conflict population through construction of permanent camps – the site hosting 300 000 Somalia refugees became an ever-growing hub attracting new arrivals, but failing to ensure return policies.

Refugee Convention 1951 is a genuine Colonial era document in the times when Africa had no single independent state, and the population of the entire continent was a half of European. Endorsing  Asylum Convention back in 1951 no one could imagine the entire populations of Africans would be moved to Europe, using the document created after the WWII for the devastated European continent. It was amended only once with a Protocol, declaring Convention ‘universal‘, but nobody outlined how the developed part of the world would host all asylum-seekers of the planet.

Refugee Convention 1951 remains a key legal document that forms the basis of international action. Ratified​ by 145 State parties, it defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.

The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is now considered a rule of customary international law.

However with the spread of radical Islamic terrorism, and subsequently the threat to ‘life and freedom’ menacing the entire populations of African countries, opens a broad gate to migrant flows, claiming right to shelter in Europe.

Today African populations are the fastest growing, representing a huge challenge for the young states themselves, where deprivation is massive – half of the Africans live in poverty, without access to basic human needs, such as nutrition, clean water, shelter.

However the intense work of different aid, development, and charities, infant mortality is declining, leading to demographic explosion. With current trends – on average five children per woman – Africa will become the most populated continent, home to six billion people by the end of the century. The EU concept of hosting ‘all in need‘ is a total illusion, even with reforming the EU Dublin regulation, and relocation migrants all over Europe – the simple arithmetics shows that 500 million European have no capacity to deliver in accordance to obligations of their ancestors: African population has been growing from 221 million in 1950 to one billion in 2009.

Nowadays realties indicate to the only possible direction to resolve problems of Africa – in Africa, not outside. In cooperation with African governments, but not in waging wars against them, as it happened in Libya, where the Western “lesson of democracy” caused an ongoing tragedy, destabilising life of the continent.

#Dadaab, Kenya

Dadaab arial

Brussels to explore reception of migrants outside EU

European Council calls  the Commission to “swiftly” explore the concept of “regional disembarkation platforms”, in close cooperation with relevant third countries as well as UNHCR and IOM. Such platforms should operate distinguishing individual situations, in full respect of international law and without creating a pull factor, the conclusions of the meeting of heads of states and governments read.

In order to “definitively break” the business model of the smugglers, preventing tragic loss of life, the EU Council considers necessary to eliminate the incentive to embark on dangerous journeys along Mediterranean. The new approach to the problem is based on shared or complementary actions among the Member States to the disembarkation of those who are saved in Search And Rescue operations.

The new strategy of reception of illegal migrants outside the EU territory reminds experts an Australian systems, functioning both direction – saving lives of illegal migrants in sea, and the same time protecting national borders.

However Italian Interior minister Matteo Salvini announced his interest to see the EU passing for concrete actions, namely against those NGOs who help  smuggling illegal migrants in Europe: “STOP human traffic, stop helping accomplices! #stopinvasion!”, he wrote in his microblog.

The discussion over the text of conclusions about migration went through the last night, representing a challenge to reconcile positions of Italy, and southern European countries at forefront of migration flows, and Visegrad Four group, supported by Austrian upcoming presidency, insisting that instead of the change of Dublin regulation and relocation of migrants through the EU, the support and solidarity among member-states can be introduced on goodwill basis. The reform of Dublin is left to next EU Presidency to deal with. Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has already announced a number of initiatives to curb illegal migration.

Anna van Densky, from EU Council, Brusssels

Putin: Russian military presence in Syria will last as long as necessary

President Vladimir Putin assessed Russian engagement in Syria as a “unique experience” for military, and an “important mission” aimed at protection of interests of Russian citizens, he underlined that those who sacrificed their lives defeating terrorism will be “never forgotten“. The President said that Russian military presence in Syria is fulfilled within the framework of international law, and the assistance in big-scale combat operation of the Syrian army in not needed any more, while the major focus has shifted towards political resolution of the conflict. The comments were made during ‘direct line’ emission.

Thousands of insurgents accumulated in Syria, and it was better to neutralize them there, than let them enter Russian Federation through Central Asian open borders, Putin continued. At present there is no more need in  large-scale combat operations, the President ensured, while the political resolution of the conflict is on the agenda.

However two Russian military locations – Tartus and Khmeimim Air Base  in Syria will stay as long as “beneficial and needed” to defend Russian interests in this “close to Russia region“.

The President explained that there are no permanent constructions on the territory of both Russian basis in Syria , and in case of necessity,  the military can be moved out swiftly.

The experience in Syria is a precious for our troops, but Syria is not a test site for Russian weapons“, Putin continued, “Russian specialists adjusted already functioning systems to in the field, in the combat situations”.

A significant number of Russian officers and generals had an opportunity to participate in missions in Syria, accumulating experience of combat operations, allowing to make one more step to “perfect our military“.

 

Juncker versus Italian corruption

Anna van Densky. OPINION. This week Brussels institutional  freedom of speech reached a new low, when the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has been confronted with the demands of withdrawing his comments on corruption in Italy.  During a public  exchange of views, the top EU executive referred to corruption and insufficient efforts as  the key obstacles,  blocking the development of the poorest regions in the south of Apennines peninsula.

Italians have to take care of the poor regions of Italy. That means more work; less corruption; seriousness,” Juncker said. “We will help them as we always did. But don’t play this game of loading with responsibility the EU. A country is a country, a nation is a nation. Countries first, Europe second”. These words caused the whirlwind of emotions from newly endorsed vice-prime minister Matteo Salvini, numerous political personalities, and even the president of the European Parliament (from Italian origin) Antonio Tajani, – all of them indignant about Juncker referring to the well-established facts. Yes, objectively speaking, there is a huge problem of corruption in Italy,  regarded as plague first of all by the Italians themselves.

According to the official statistics corruption, including political one, remains a major challenge, particularly in southern Italy, affecting Calabria, Campina, and Sicily, where citizens suffer from its consequences at most.  Transparency International   annual reports indicate Italy has been consistently assessed as one of the most corrupt countries in the Eurozone.  While 2017 Corruption Perception Index ranks Italy 54th place out of 180 countries. Scoring on a par with Montenegro, Senegal and South Africa. Yearly the crime of corruption causes Italians a damage of €60 billion .

However an attempt to smother Juncker with ‘politically correct’ banning from public debate the tensions in eurozone is not a unique episode in European political life, it is a chronic syndrome. A year ago then the chair of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem came under the fire for his criticism of abuse of solidarity by heavily indebted countries of the  EU south. The degree of indignation had  amounted to demands of resignation put forward by Spain and Portugal. However the most striking in rude tone was the comment from Italy: “He has missed a perfect opportunity to shut up,” former Italian Socialist Prime Minister Matteo Renzi wrote in a Facebook post. “The sooner he goes, the better.”

The entire calamity was caused by the Dutchman remarks to a  German newspaper: “As a social democrat, I think that solidarity is extremely important. But whoever benefits also has duties,” he added. “I can’t spend all my money on booze and women and then ask for your support.” It was the allegory implied to illustrate  the role of corruption and tax evasion in ongoing Greek financial crisis that caused the indignation, not the depressing reality. The Transparency International estimated Greek tax evasion figures between €11 – €16 billion per annum ‘not collectable’, and the corruption also played ‘massive role’ in an outbreak of financial crisis.  Dijsselbloem survived the criticism, so  did his corrupt foes.

One year later the situation of tensions between the north and south of eurozone reflected in Dijsselbloem polemics has not improved in a meaningful way, but instead of fighting grim realities of corruption, the Italian politicians almost unanimously prefer to put some makeup on a face touched by leprosy, while the northern societies reject to accept the trick, requesting accountability. Dijsselbloem then, and Juncker now said what millions of taxpayers in the north of Europe know and think, and silencing them one guarantees the rising pressure of their discontent, because they are the ones to endorse the checks.

Obviously, the expected contemporary modus operandi of the presidents of European institutions, reserving them a role of modern royals – smiling to cameras and shaking hands, plus signing big checks for charity – will not please the EU taxpayers from the northern countries. Being the donors to the southern economies,  where a portion of their transfers is systematically disappearing in the pockets of the corrupt, they are increasingly concerned about the profile of the recipients of their funds.

With the upcoming departure of the UK, the second net contributor to the EU budget, the monitoring of funds transferred from donors to recipients in the bloc will be much more keen. It is possible to smother the heads of the EU institutions by ‘politically correct’ reserving them a public role of mute modern royals, but it will hit back,  undermining the trust in EU institutions, unable to defend the European values.

Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’est pas d’éloge flatteur”, Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (“Where there is no freedom of blaming, there can be no genuine praise”).

Bruxelles, 3 june 2018

 

#Liège: ‘prisoners of believe’

Anna van Densky, OPINION It was in exceptionally gloomy day in Belgium in spite of the sunshine: two police agents stabbed and shot dead – Soraya and Lucile;  one passerby civilian – Cyril just 22 years old shot dead, and a number of wounded police agents – all  in the city of Liège – a ‘capital of Wallonia’, otherwise famed by its rich cultural history.

Today outside Belgium, Liège is well-known for its University, attracting students from all over the world, but for those who are fans of crime novels, Liège is celebrated for being a birthplace and a favorite setting for the stories of George Simenon, the third most popular writer in French language, a creator of the legendary character commissaire Maigret, the ideal detective, who mastered psychology.

The city has drastically changed since those days Simenon had been describing. There are no more squalid little streets, without lanterns, and shabby houses – a usual background for Simenon crime scenes, but in the modern surroundings  the profession of a detective is as much in demand as in  those days.

Contemplating on Liège shooting we expect many questions to be answered: why a certain Benjamin Hermans 36 years old, native of Rochefort, a small town next to Liège, decides to spend his short “family” leave from a prison for killing police agents, his compatriots, in name of the Great God of Muhammadans – Allah Akbar?..What makes him to socialize with Islamists in prison? Why he decides to convert to Islam? And why above it all, the administration of the prison, knowing him as an extremely violent and marginal character, accepts the risks to release him for “socializing” in town?..

There are no simple answer, but they needed to be found honoring the memory of the victims – Soraya, Lucile Garcia and Cyril. We also need the conclusions to avoid new losses in future. However, today everything is shrouded in gloom.

Are we all just “hopeless prisoners of what we chose to believe”?..

 

 

Zuckerberg promotes Facebook in Brussels

As bright as he his,  Mr. Zuckerberg appeared in the European Parliament Brussels for a short address, representing a mixture of advertising for his company and benefits it brings to the EU, and his intentions for future cooperation. Unlike any other CEO of a telecom company he has competences  to provide service and powers to decide if we are good enough to use it. A  very innovative approach, we have never experienced before: is post office allowed to inspect the content of our letters, before sending them? Are telecom operators encouraged to listen to our conversation and decide if we are entitled to remain the clients?…

But in case of the Facebook the MEPs encouraged Mr.Zuckerberg to filter content, banning the “fakenews” in spite of the absence of a legal definition, monitor the exchanges to define if it does not contain a threat.

Mr.Zuckerberg came to European Parliament with an aura of the Emperor of the World, who can make, and overthrow kings: he apologised for Analytica, but accepted the mission of filtering the Facebook content. Who is the judge? Mr.Zuckerberg himself?..

We do not expect the same people to construct the roads, maintain them and monitor those, who use them – ‘unbundling’ is the word for the policy requiring the division of powers. But in case of Mr.Zuckerberg it does not work: he is the one who provides the communication service, monitors the content, bans those, who he thinks are not entitled. Is the Facebook a modern service provider or an old-fashioned monopoly?

Imagine you are coming to a post office, where an agent is opening your envelope, reading a letter, and denying a further service, sending it into trash! That is what Mr.Zuckerberg does: he provides service, monitors the users, and bans those unwanted upon his own subjective criteria. The most striking  element of the entire endeavor is, that it is accepted by the otherwise democratic societies. Where is the division of powers? In case of Facebook, it goes a beggar.

EU perspective for Western Balkans

“The EU reaffirms its unequivocal support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. Building on the progress achieved so far, the Western Balkans partners have recommitted to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice, to reinforcing their efforts and mutual support. The credibility of these efforts depends on clear public communication” – says the EU Sophia Summit Declaration on Western Balkans.

“The EU is determined to strengthen and intensify its engagement at all levels to support the region’s political, economic and social transformation, including through increased assistance based on tangible progress in the rule of law, as well as in socio-economic reforms, by the Western Balkans partners” – the Declaration continues.

“The EU welcomes the Western Balkans partners commitment to the primacy of democracy and the rule of law, especially the fight against corruption and organised crime, good governance, as well as respect for human rights and rights of persons belonging to minorities. Their effective implementation of reforms rests on these foundations. Civil society and independent media play a crucial role in the process of democratisation.”