Centre for European Reform

51 Artikelen
Achtergrond: Jay Huang (cc)
Foto: danor shtruzman (cc)

Schengen repareren is niet voldoende

Het oplossen van de problemen van het Schengengebied zal Europa’s vluchtelingencrisis niet verhelpen. Dit is een crisis in buitenlandpolitiek die overloopt naar binnenlands terrein; het zal zowel buiten als binnen Europa opgelost moeten worden.

In januari gaf de Europese Commissie Griekenland drie maanden om haar grenscontroles te verbeteren, en vluchtelingen en migranten effectiever te administreren, of schorsing te riskeren uit het grenzenloze Schengengebied. Grenscontroles zijn opnieuw ingesteld door zes van de zesentwintig Schengenstaten (Oostenrijk, Frankrijk, Denemarken, Duitsland, Noorwegen en Zweden).

Hongarije bouwde vorige jaar een hek om migranten die vanuit Servië aankomen buiten te houden. EU-ministers discussiëren over de vraag of men de Schengenovereenkomsten voor twee jaar moet opschorten.

De EU kijkt naar binnen voor oplossingen van haar problemen, terwijl het eveneens de blik naar buiten zou moeten werpen.

De vluchtelingencrisis is niet louter het gevolg van de tekortkomingen van Schengen. Overheden zijn overweldigd door de enorme aantallen immigranten, en zelfs met betere beleidsmaatregelen om migratie en grensbewaking te regelen, zouden ze worstelen om de massa’s die de korte trip van Turkije naar de Griekse eilanden maken beheersbaar te houden.

Wanneer vluchtelingen eenmaal de Griekse territoriale wateren bereiken, worden ze Europa’s probleem.

Zeker zijn er veel economische migranten die naar Europa komen om hier het geluk te beproeven, maar de meerderheid van degenen die het afgelopen jaar naar de Griekse eilanden en Italië zijn afgereisd, zijn echte vluchtelingen geweest.

Foto: Kaart: Center for Security Studies (cc)

Een Oost-Europees zooitje: associatieverdragen scheppen verantwoordelijkheid

In 2014 tekenden Georgië, Moldavië en de Oekraïne associatieverdragen met de EU, maar hervormingen zijn nu tot stilstand aan het komen. De EU moet de overheden van deze drie landen ertoe bewegen om méér te doen.

Europa’s Zuidelijke buren verkeren in een staat van chaos, met een burgeroorlog in Syrië en anarchie in Libië, die migranten en vluchtelingen naar de Europese kusten jaagt, waardoor weinig EU-leiders oog hebben voor wat er bij hun Oostelijke buren speelt.

Maar Europa kan de uitdagingen en kansen daar niet negeren. Er zijn beperkingen aan wat het met Armenië, Wit-Rusland en Azerbeidzjan aan kan vangen: het zou verbeterde relaties moeten bevorderen met de eerste twee; en het zou haar besten moeten doen te reageren op de onderdrukking en corruptie in de laatste. Maar haar prioriteit zou moeten zijn om hervormingsprocessen in Georgië, Moldavië en Oekraïne nieuw leven in te blazen, in verbondenheid met bevolkeren die snakken naar beter bestuur en een einde aan een nepotistische zakencultuur

Armenië, Wit-Rusland, Azerbeidzjan

In Armenië is voortgang in de betrekkingen met de EU in 2013 tot een halt gekomen toen Moskou op Yerevan leunde om toe te treden tot de door Rusland geleide Eurasiatische Economische Unie, in plaats van een associatieovereenkomst te tekenen met de EU. Sinds dat moment zijn de EU en Armenië echter onderhandelingen begonnen over een nieuwe overeenkomst, die beoogt zoveel mogelijk van het eerdere associatie-ontwerp te behouden. Armenië is voor Rusland afhankelijk voor haar veiligheid, maar de EU zou haar moeten helpen haar bewegingsvrijheid inzake buitenlandbeleid en handelsrelaties zoveel mogelijk te behouden.

Foto: UNHCR (cc)

Laat Europa het asielvraagstuk nu eens echt grondig aanpakken

ANALYSE - Europa kan de humanitaire crisis in de Middellandse Zee niet langer negeren. Als het de dood van nog meer vluchtelingen wil vermijden, zal het haar asielbeleid moeten repareren, haar aanwezigheid op zee moeten vergroten, en een sterkere rol in Libië moeten spelen.

Er is iets fundamenteel mis met Europa’s benadering van irreguliere migranten. Na de scheepsramp op de Middellandse zee, waarbij meer dan 700 migranten omkwamen, heeft de Europese Commissie een 10-puntenplan van aanpak over migratie onthuld. Dat bevat een aantal goede punten, maar het kan slechts het begin zijn.

Ten aanzien van migratie en asielbeleid loopt er een breuklijn tussen Noord en Zuid door de EU. Onder het verdrag van Schengen (waar het VK en Ierland geen deel van uitmaken) zijn alle leden verantwoordelijk voor de veiligheid van de buitengrenzen van de Unie. De veronderstelling is eenvoudig: in een gebied met vrije beweging zonder grenzen zijn de migratieproblemen van één lidstaat de problemen van de Unie als geheel. Maar de EU heeft al twintig jaar geen gemeenschappelijk migratiebeleid.

Dublinsysteem

Europa’s asielsysteem, het zogeheten ‘Dublin system’, heeft nogal wat frictie binnen de Unie veroorzaakt. Volgens dit systeem is de EU-lidstaat waar een migrant het eerste aankomt primair verantwoordelijk voor het verwerken van een asielaanvraag. Dit plaatst een onredelijke last op landen die aan conflictzones grenzen, zoals Italië, Griekenland of Malta. Deze landen, overladen met aanvragen, wijzen de overweldigende meerderheid daarvan af. Dus reizen asielzoekers naar andere landen, zoals Duitsland of Zweden. Hier hebben ze betere kansen op een succesvolle aanvraag; maar de lokale bevolking stoort zich aan hen als een toenemende last op de sociale voorzieningen. Noordelijke lidstaten willen een asielbeleid dat migranten in het Zuiden houdt, maar hen humaan behandelt, terwijl Zuidelijke lidstaten willen dat het Noorden in de lasten deelt door meer migranten te accepteren. De Middellandse vluchtelingencrisis toont aan dat dit systeem onhoudbaar is.

Foto: European External Action Service (cc)

Not flashy but effective: closer EU co-operation in defence investments

This month, European leaders will discuss how to strengthen EU military co-operation. It is the first time that defence has been on the European Council’s agenda since 2008 and EU officials had hoped the member-states would unveil bold initiatives to stem the deterioration of their armed forces. But governments remain wary of ambitious joint efforts in defence. So the best that can be hoped for is that the Council will endorse EU military reforms which are relatively modest, but easier for member-states to support. One of these should be closer co-operation in regulating private investments in European defence companies – somewhat technical and unspectacular but nonetheless useful.
European governments acknowledge that the case for EU defence collaboration is even stronger today than it was when France and the UK launched the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) fifteen years ago: the US will not always be able or willing to help Europeans stem violence in their neighbourhood, so European states must be capable of upholding regional security alone. And EU countries could save money through closer co-operation amongst their armed forces, and by more integration between their fragmented defence markets.
Over the last decade and a half, however, EU states have often disagreed about which parts of their neighbourhood threatened their security and how to respond. Many governments have been averse to putting their troops in danger. They have also been wary of pooling military capabilities without knowing where or how the equipment would be used. And since the outbreak of the economic crisis, governments have also worried that voters would be angry if they funded large joint equipment programmes when ministries of defence are cutting civilian and military personnel.
Foto: Eric Heupel (cc)

Britain is held back by its business culture, not the EU

ACHTERGROND - British ministers like to talk of the British economy being in a ‘global race’, and of the need for their countrymen to shape up and raise their game if they are to compete in the global economy. In practice, they mean less red tape, tax cuts for business, and reforms aimed at making it easier to hire and fire employees. Many Conservatives blame the regulatory burden on the EU, and want to either renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership or withdraw altogether. With the notable exception of Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cable, these ministers never mention business short-termism, and the British system of corporate governance that encourages it. Yet this is undoubtedly the most important reason for the UK now having the second lowest investment rate in the OECD (after Ireland, where investment is very volatile). The government wants to rebalance the UK economy towards investment and exports. This will require a reform of corporate governance, especially the incentives faced by executives.

Source: OECD

Damagingly low

British ‘short-termism’ has long been blamed for the country’s low levels of investment, especially in manufacturing where success requires long-term commitment to product development and distribution as well as to training. The issue received less attention during the boom years when debt-fuelled private consumption and (towards the end) deficit spending by government drove growth, but it hardly went away. There is no perfect correlation between the level of investment and the rate of economic growth – too much investment can be wasteful and unproductive, as was the case in Ireland and Spain in the run-up to the crisis. But Britain’s investment rate is clearly damagingly low. The country’s corporate sector became a net saver in 2002, and hence long before the onset of economic crisis. Profits have risen and investment has fallen, as the corporate sector – in a reversal of the normal order of things – has become a large creditor to the rest of the economy.

Foto: Dieter Zirnig (cc)

Ukraine edging towards EU?

ANALYSE - Ukraine, to its sorrow, has always been on the frontier between Russia and the rest of Europe. Its name even means “Borderlands”. For centuries it was partitioned between its neighbours. When it gained its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union it was politically and linguistically divided between the Ukrainian-speaking West and the Russian-speaking East. Many observers in the early 1990s expected it to fall apart sooner or later. The first line of its national anthem seemed grimly appropriate: ‘Ukraine has not yet died.’

Twenty years on, its independence and national identity seem more solid, even if many Russian politicians, from President Vladimir Putin to his arch-opponent Aleksey Navalniy, still talk of Russians and Ukrainians as “one people”. But Ukraine, and the European Union, now face a moment of decision: will Ukraine be the Russosphere’s border with the EU, or the Eurosphere’s border with Russia?Closer integration with EU

Ukraine seemed for a long time to be dodging this choice: President Viktor Yanukovych tacked between Brussels and Moscow after his inauguration in 2010. Now, however, with the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit a month away, Ukraine seems to be turning decisively towards the EU – ironically, partly because of Moscow’s pressure on it (described in Charles Grant’s recent CER Insight ‘Is Putin going soft?‘) to join the Russian-led Customs Union instead of signing an Association Agreement with the EU. Both government and opposition in Ukraine support closer integration with the EU, and opinion polls show that even in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine there is a majority in favour of EU membership (though this is not on offer at this stage).

Foto: CSIS PONI (cc)

Division and indecision over Syria

ANALYSE - The deal on chemical weapons reached by Russia and the United States marks the latest chapter in the West’s effort to stay out of Syria’s civil war. After Russia’s diplomatic initiative, a military strike has been avoided. The White House says that diplomacy backed by a credible military threat has succeeded, and European leaders claim that their appeal for a UN process was heard. Obama’s wish to avoid military solutions may have created new momentum for negotiations with Iran. But this moment of jubilation could be short-lived: a daunting task at the UN awaits; military action may still be needed; and transatlantic cohesion has been damaged.

For more than two years, US and European governments have successfully navigated developments that could otherwise have formed a casus belli and led to Western entanglement in Syria. In the summer of 2012, the Syrian military shot down a Turkish air force jet, and was accused by Ankara of lobbing mortars over the Turkish-Syrian border and staging car bombings in southern Turkish towns. The attack on a NATO member-state could have triggered military action against Syria, but instead the alliance showed restraint and sent German, Dutch and US air defence batteries to southern Turkey.Closest to military intervention

Foto: Eric Heupel (cc)

Continuity and change in Germany’s EU policy

However the Germans vote on September 22nd, Berlin’s attitude to the EU is not going to change much. The opposition Social Democrats call for a bit less austerity in Southern Europe but otherwise support most of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies. Nonetheless German policy on Europe is evolving – independently of the elections – in some important respects.Germany is making a new effort to revive its damaged relationship with France. It is moving towards accepting a full banking union, including a resolution regime, though not, for now, on terms acceptable to most of its partners. It is recognising – with some regret – that there will not be a significant revision of the EU treaties in the coming years. And it is increasingly critical of the European Commission and the European Parliament.
More relaxed about the eur0
The big strategic decisions on Germany and the EU are taken by politicians like Guido Westerwelle, the foreign minister, and Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister, and, above all, Merkel. But the key officials in the Chancellor’s office, the foreign ministry and the finance ministry are hugely influential on EU policy. That is not surprising, given that they – unlike most politicians – understand the technicalities of the EU’s inner workings.
Foto: World Economic Forum (cc)

Putin’s Russia: stability and stagnation

ANALYSE - After a week in Russia I concluded that Russia is very stable – perhaps too stable. President Vladimir Putin appears to want little political or economic reform, lest it lead to instability. Nevertheless, divisions are appearing in his entourage: some favour clamping down hard on the opposition, while others counsel softer tactics. Sometimes Putin backs one group, sometimes the other. On foreign policy, too, Putin seems to have two faces. The pragmatic Putin wants to work with the US in dealing with common problems. But another Putin views the US as a hostile power that is trying to destabilise Russia, and is happy to do things – like sheltering the fugitive Edward Snowden – that infuriate it.

In Moscow, both opposition leaders and the more liberal government officials agree that the need for political and economic change is greater than ever, but that the chances of serious reform are close to zero. After mass demonstrations in the winter of 2011/12, optimists thought the regime would attempt to win back the support of the middle classes by modernising the country’s governance. But these days nobody expects much to change.  Russia’s leaders worry that big economic or political reforms could upset vested interests, create losers and perhaps strengthen the opposition. The government has in fact attempted some reforms of the university, school and healthcare systems, in order to save money, but these have been unpopular. Reform of the pension system – which would mean curbing pension rights – has been mooted for over a decade but frequently put off. There always seems to be an excuse for postponing major reform.

Foto: Sébastien Bertrand (cc)

What is wrong with the European Commission?

ANALYSE - The authority of the European Commission is waning. Why?

The European Commission, a crucial EU institution, is beset with difficulties. It is popular with neither governments nor voters. Twenty years ago, many people looked to the Commission to set the EU’s agenda and take the lead in managing crises. But few people expect the Commission to play that role today.

Ever since the time when Jacques Delors ran the Commission (1985 to 1995), its authority vis-à-vis EU governments has been waning. The member-states – and especially the big ones – have sought to constrain an institution that they consider over-mighty.

The Lisbon treaty, in force since 2009, created two important institutional innovations: the permanent president of the European Council, a post now occupied by Herman Van Rompuy; and the European External Action Service (EEAS), a body now led by Catherine Ashton. Both of these carry out some tasks that the Commission used to do and have contributed to its sense of insecurity.

Focus on technical role

Paradoxically, the euro crisis has led to the Commission gaining unprecedented formal powers – on the surveillance of national economic policies – but further eroded its standing and credibility. National governments have provided the money for helping countries in trouble, so they set the terms for bail-outs. The Commission has had to leave the high politics to the European Council, and often to a few key governments, while focusing on its subordinate though important technical role.

Foto: Mikey (cc)

NATO and the costs of star wars

ACHTERGROND - Over the last decade, the US has spent tens of billions of dollars constructing a shield to stop nuclear missiles from North Korea or Iran reaching its soil. So far, the shield does not work. Fortunately for the Americans, neither Pyongyang nor Tehran has nuclear missiles that could hit the US. Unfortunately, however, America’s missile defence programme has upset China and Russia, two countries that do have nuclear arsenals that could reach its homeland. America’s European partners in NATO should try to convince Washington to scale back its missile defence ambitions for the next few years. Not only would this allow the US government to spend its shrinking defence budget on more pressing military needs. It would also improve European security by reducing tensions between NATO and Russia.

Rogue states

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has been increasingly worried about nuclear attacks by ‘rogue’ states. In 1998, a study group chaired by Donald Rumsfeld predicted that North Korea and Iran could field intercontinental ballistic missiles within five years. Today, however, Iran has neither intercontinental missiles nor a nuclear bomb. In March of this year, a report from the Pentagon’s intelligence agency (erroneously declassified) assessed “with moderate confidence” that Pyongyang could build a nuclear device that fits on a missile. But there is still no evidence that North Korean missiles are sophisticated enough to reach the US.

Foto: fresh888 (cc)

Out of range, out of mind?

ANALYSE - Should Europe play a role in the Korean crisis, and if so: what role would that be?

From London or Brussels, the situation on the Korean Peninsula can appear – in the words of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain – a “quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing”. On one side, a mad dictator (you only have to look at his hairstyle) with nuclear weapons and long-range missiles of doubtful reliability; on the other side, the country of Gangnam Style and Samsung. The nuclear weapons cannot reach Europe. And the big global powers, the US and China, are already engaged. Europe could leave them to sort things out, at best playing the role of Greek chorus in support of US policy (as a Western ex-official described it recently).

But that would be a mistake. Seasoned Korea watchers say that the current crisis is as serious as they can recall. Against that background, as the US flies B2 bombers over South Korea and Japan deploys ships with anti-missile defences, one could ask, as Stalin did of the Pope, how many divisions the EU has. But while it may not have armies there, Europe has interests and assets in the region. It should think about how to protect the former and use the latter. 

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