Inter Press Service » Europe http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 28 Jun 2016 19:08:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Little Englandhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/little-england/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=little-england http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/little-england/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 19:26:09 +0000 Zarrar Khuhro http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145843 By Zarrar Khuhro
Jun 27 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Sometimes you just have to lie back and think of England. But how can one think of England without thinking of Shakespeare? And when you think of Shakespeare, how can you ignore Macbeth, his most Scottish of plays, and in particular the line: “we but teach bloody instructions, which being taught, return to plague the inventor”.

zarrar_Finally, how can one think of that line in the context of Brexit and not consider the dramatic irony that a power, famous for dividing and ruling, stands divided by its own ruling?

That irony certainly isn’t lost on those of us who live in the much-partitioned parts of the world, with jokes like ‘the real Brexit was in 1947’ doing the rounds along with snide offers to repay colonial favours by helping divide up what’s left of the Empire with neat little lines and the quintessential disputed areas. Somewhere in an otherworldly bungalow, Mountbatten’s ghost is likely shuddering at all this schadenfreude.

Of course, this is less a partition than a parting of ways, but one that carries with it the promise of partitions to come. While the petition to declare London as an independent city-state is only semi-serious, Scotland is another matter entirely.

The Scots overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and are now considering another referendum on whether to remain in the UK. In that great glen in the sky, William Wallace is probably raising a toast.

Scotland brings us back to Macbeth, and in particular the dismissal by his wife: “stand not upon the order of your going, but be gone”. There’s a sliver of that in the statement by the EU leadership for the UK to leave the union “as soon as possible, however painful that process may be.”

Brexit carries with it the promise of future partitions.

Then there’s the theatre of the absurd as a terribly hung-over UK woke as if after a midsummer night’s dream. It is there in David Cameron resigning due to a defeat in a referendum he did not even need to call. It is found in the tragicomic fact that hours after the referendum result came in, the top two googled questions in the UK were ‘what does it mean to leave the EU?’ and ‘what is the EU?’

Then there’s the family, ripe for lampooning on reality TV, who all voted to leave but who are ‘disappointed’ because now — and only now —“the facts are coming in”.

Facts didn’t stand much chance here anyway, with the Brexit camp playing on fears and shouting false promises loudly and often enough for them to be taken as the truth. Just take the strutting and fretting Nigel Farage, who immediately backtracked on his campaign pledge that leaving the EU would free up £350 million to be spent on the National Health Service — a promise that was emblazoned on his campaign bus and which he now calls a ‘mistake’.

Then there’s the media coverage which, according to a detailed Reuters study, was “heavily skewed in favour of Brexit” and you have a coup that Goebbels might have nodded at with approval.

He would also no doubt be amused that the UK had inflicted on itself what it had fought two wars against Germany to avoid: a united Europe with England on the outside. This scenario has been England’s strategic nightmare for centuries, preventing it from coming to pass the foremost plank of its continental policy — the pursuit of which occupied its greatest minds and claimed an even greater number of lives.

Over at the Kremlin, glasses must be clinking as Czar Putin toasts the first real splintering of the Western Alliance that has thwarted Russia’s ambitions for nearly a century now. After all, the EU was the political manifestation of European unity, just as Nato is the manifestation of its US-backed military might — and Nato was created to keep the Russian empire’s Soviet incarnation in check. Ironically, this moment comes mere weeks after Putin’s poking fun at how “200 Russian fans could beat several thousands of the British” in clashes during the Euro cup. Well, in football terms, this was England playing England with England losing thanks to an own goal.

There will be joy among the autocratic and generally anti-democratic the world over, who have already latched on to the vote as proof that giving people a say in how they are ruled is a silly idea, really.

There will be similar cheer in militant camps and right-wing party headquarters alike, a shared delight at the apparent dismantling of what they see as a corrupt and decadent construct.

Granted that referendums are always about more than what’s printed on the ballot paper. This was also a protest vote, a vote of fear, anger and — quite possibly — ignorance; granted that this may end in a reforming of the EU and perhaps even the eventual return of the UK. But before that happens, Lady Britannia will have to wake and realise that the handsome prince she dallied with the night before is, in fact, a fool with a donkey’s head.

The writer is a journalist. Twitter: @zarrarkhuhro

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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From Grexit to Brexit: Eurosceptics Claim their -Exithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/from-grexit-to-brexit-eurosceptics-claim-their-exit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=from-grexit-to-brexit-eurosceptics-claim-their-exit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/from-grexit-to-brexit-eurosceptics-claim-their-exit/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 18:46:17 +0000 Editor sunday http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145839 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
PARIS, , Jun 27 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

AFP – It started with “Grexit” — the long trumpeted but never realised axing of Greece from the European Union. It was then reborn as “Brexit” as Britain started down the — this time voluntary — path of leaving the bloc.

The “-exit” formulation was coined by two economists from US financial giant Citigroup in February 2012 to describe the possible of departure of Greece from the EU.

It has now taken on a life of its own on social media, with eurosceptics across the continent all clamouring for their own vote on EU membership: – “Frexit “: French far-right leader Marine Le Pen called for a “Frexit” shortly after the results of Britain’s membership referendum were announced. “Victory for Freedom! As I have been asking for years, we must now have the same referendum in France and EU countries,” she declared on Twitter.

– “Nexit “: “Now it is our turn,” trumpeted Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-Islam far-right Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, after Britain opted out of the EU. Wilders has promised to make a referendum on a “Nexit” a central plank of his party’s election campaign.

– “Oexit “: Austria’s version comes from Oesterreich, the country’s name in Austrian. And the idea is gaining ground in a country where far right party leader Norbert Hofer came within a hair’s width of being elected to the largely ceremonial but coveted post of president last month. “Outstria” has been suggested as an alternative.

– “Swexit “: The far right Sweden Democrats have floated the idea of a “Swexit”, with opinion polls suggesting support for leaving the EU stands at 31 percent.

– “Fixit “: Although the English version doesn’t quite hold the right connotations, a petition calling for a Finnish exit has garnered thousands of signatures.

– “Dexit “: The phrase has emerged in the Danish press, where the populist Danish People’s Party (DPP) has been calling for a renegotiation of its EU accords.

– “Gerxit “: It has appeared in French- and English-language media, but the idea of a “Gerxit” has little traction back at home in Germany. Though right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party Frauke Petry did describe “Brexit” as a warning to the EU. “If the EU does not abandon its quasi-socialist experiment of ever-greater integration then the European people will follow the Brits and take back their sovereignty,” he said.

– “Italexit “: A bid to leave the EU has also not gained much ground at home in Italy, a founding member of the union — apart from with the country’s most prominent far-right politician, Matteo Salvini. “Cheers to the bravery of free citizens,” the leader of the anti-immigration, anti-EU Northern League wrote on Twitter. “Heart, head and pride beat lies, threats and blackmail. THANKS UK, now it is our turn #Brexit”.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Will Brexit Have Political Ramifications at UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 16:22:50 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145834 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/will-brexit-have-political-ramifications-at-un/feed/ 1 Brexit – Perceptions and Repercussions in the Americashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-perceptions-and-repercussions-in-the-americas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-perceptions-and-repercussions-in-the-americas http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-perceptions-and-repercussions-in-the-americas/#comments Mon, 27 Jun 2016 13:12:17 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145831 Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Jun 27 2016 (IPS)

The hopes of many of those who confidently expected the British electorate to vote, by a slender margin, for the country to remain in the EU have been dashed. All that is left to do now is to ponder the causes and background of this regrettable event, and consider its likely consequences, especially for relations with the United States.

In the first place one must point out and – and this is a general criticism of the present British political system – that Prime Minister David Cameron was hugely irresponsible to steer his country into this risky adventure. It has resulted in the worst calamity to befall Britain in the last half century and has inflicted severe damage not only on the EU but also on all the countries of the North Atlantic rim.

Cameron went out on a limb, thinking to secure total control over the country for his Conservative Party for the next several years. Next he pursued a surrealist referendum campaign agenda, seeking to persuade the public to vote to remain in the EU, against the Brexit proposal that he himself had engineered. He relied on the advantages and special privileges promised to the UK by the EU if the British people voted to remain.

Brussels had already warned that the EU would not grant Britain any further concessions or benefits over and above the conditions that apply in common to all EU members. It pointed out that Britain was in fact already a privileged partner, having opted out of the common currency (the euro) under a special agreement that did not even fix a timescale for its putative future membership of the euro area.

London also retains full control of Britain’s borders, having declined to sign the innovative Schengen Agreement which abolished many internal borders and introduced passport-free movement across the 26 Schengen countries.

The EU has indeed done everything in its power to keep the UK government and people happy and flaunting their prized British exceptionalism.

And now the fateful moment is at hand. The effect on Europe has been devastating. The one possible advantage for the EU – which has discreetly remained unvoiced – is that of ridding itself of an awkward partner, a dinner guest with an unfortunate habit of drawing attention to itself in negative ways. Britain slammed the brakes on progress towards fuller European integration and was a temptation to other recalcitrant EU countries to follow its bad example.

Recently concerns were raised in Washington over the Brexit referendum.

President Barack Obama himself did his best to urge Britons to stick with the EU when he visited London in April.

Cameron, and the people who voted for the UK to leave the EU, have done Obama a disservice. Britain’s image in the United States will deteriorate to unprecedented depths. The vaunted special relationship between the U.S. and Britain will no longer be an effective force underpinning one of the strongest alliances in recent history.

The first victim of the debacle may be the approval process for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union, which is already looking shaky, at least for the immediate future.

The TTIP was meant to replicate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an ambitious deal to cut trade barriers, set labour and environmental standards and protect corporate intellectual property. The TPP was signed in principle by twelve Pacific Rim countries including the United States, and now awaits approval by legislators in each of the countries.

The rise of populism and anti-free trade sentiment is reflected in speeches by both U.S. presidential candidates, and is likely to slow down what is now viewed as “excessive globalisation”. There is a return to a style of nationalism that exerts control over economic as well as political initiatives.

The next U.S. president will find it difficult to advance their country’s alliance with London on defence issues. The UK will have freed itself from what was already problematic military cooperation with Europe, and only its link with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) will endure. Some European NATO partners will be cautious about developing joint operations with a fellow member they view as uncommitted to agreements within the EU.

In the matter of trade per se, Washington will not take kindly to the new position of the City of London once it has lost its enviable status as a financial hub embedded in the EU. Siren songs from other European capitals solidly anchored in the soon-to-be expanded European community will be hard to resist, especially if European leaders adopt policies to strengthen the euro zone.

In Latin America, Brexit will be read as a confirmation that supranational practices and thoroughgoing integration are no longer a priority for the UK. The referendum result sends the message that national sovereignty is now paramount. All the time and effort the EU has spent over the years to promote the advantages of the European model of integration, based on the strength of its treaties and the effectiveness of its institutions, will be regretted as a sheer waste of time and energy.

An alternative “model of integration” based on the U.S. agenda, favouring one-off arrangements or treaties limited in scope exclusively to trade issues, will prevail over the already weakened European model.

The Caribbean region has strong historical and cultural ties to Britain. It will suffer from a less secure bond with the UK and will incline more closely to Washington.

The continent of the Americas, which is closest to Britain from the point of view of history and culture as well as in political and economic terms, will thus find itself further apart from Europe than before.

Joaquin Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Centre at  the University of Miami.  jroy@Miami.edu

Translated by Valerie Dee

 

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The Brexit Shock – Now All Is Up in the Air!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-brexit-shock-now-all-is-up-in-the-air/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-brexit-shock-now-all-is-up-in-the-air http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-brexit-shock-now-all-is-up-in-the-air/#comments Sun, 26 Jun 2016 06:03:00 +0000 Jan Oberg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145827 The author is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.]]>

The author is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.

By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden, Jun 26 2016 (IPS)

The UK, Europe and the rest of the world will be affected. But there has been no planning for this anywhere.

It’s now all up in the air what this Brexit vote will be the starting point of. All we can safely predict is that we are in for interesting times!

Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

Why did it happen?

Arrogant corporate and other elites continuously enriching themselves against all common social sense and ignoring the legitimate needs and concerns of ordinary citizens, women in particular – so, class and gender.

So too that more highly educated people tended to vote for Remain and older people voting Leave – more interesting sociological analysis here.

Interestingly, the whole art world supported Remain – and now fear for the effects of Brexit on Britain’s cultural development.

An EU that has failed to create a new, better way of doing politics, merely growing its original democratic deficit – so, lack of real democracy.

An EU that has had a woefully inadequate, cynical response to a refugee crisis caused by leading EU member states’ warfare – so, (mis)management and lack of leadership.

Significantly, the leading Muslim Association of Britain, MAB, supported Remain with the argument that ”Exit from the EU runs the risk of perpetuating rifts in British society, which would increase levels of hate crimes against British Muslims.” So, Islamophobia.

A general sense (but sometimes denial) of insecurity about the future all over the Western world, a deep sense of failure, loss, sense of risk of war in Europe and the fact that the rest of the world is moving ahead and will surpass the West; a sense that of the West lead by the the US getting relatively weaker and lacking leadership – so, psycho-political-civilisational insecurity.

A fall-back to ”me and my home” and closing the doors to the wider world world’s problems – nationalism, xenophobia, right-wing, neo-nazism populism and all the things many of us hoped had visited Europe for the last time – so, populism/nationalism/regression.

What could it lead to?

An exit domino effect in a number of countries – referendums and eventually a quite small EU or no EU.

A punishment by Germany and other EU of the UK for leaving, depending somewhat on whether the post-EU Britain will not only move out of the EU but also closer to the US.

It could also, in the best of cases, lead to a re-think throughout the EU and a real effort to do things differently – but unlikely given the EU is already in crisis and lack visionaries in politics.

A referendum in Scotland, further reducing the unitedness of the Kingdom.

A reshuffling in the global economy – London being so much of a global financial centre. Where will the banks and investors go now? What will China do that had London as it’s major hub?

A tumbling of the British £ and turmoil on the financial markets, weakening of the US$?

A Britain in deep economic crisis – or perhaps starting out on a new course with a great future, speeding ahead of the average EU?

A Britain that ties itself (even more) to the US in security political terms and an increasing conflict between those two and EU/NATO countries – spelling the dissolution of NATO.

What does it signify?

That democracy works – and that it doesn’t. The referendum instrument is an utterly democratic method – as Switzerland continues to prove to the world.

But then, is it wise that such an important decision can be made with such a small majority? Wouldn’t it have been reasonable to demand, say, 2/3 majority for Leave?

To ignore now what over 48% wanted isn’t good. But, anyhow, nobody trusts politicians nowadays and perhaps the effects will be smaller than most fear today.

That the – Western centre – doesn’t hold anymore. Such an important country leaving the EU is a blow beyond imagination to the entire idea of that Union.

Basically that the West is getting weaker and while trying to ’divide and rule’ it is fragmenting from inside.

The EU is getting weaker in spite of still being the largest economic bloc in human history. Because of the rise of other economies, the 28 countries accounted for 30% of the world’s total output in 1980 and 16,5% in 2015. With the UK leaving, the EU loses 15% of its GDP.

That the EU construction and Lisbon Treaty, written up by three old men, was wrong and outdated from the outset and lacked every potential to appeal to the diverse citizenry throughout Europe, particularly the younger ones.

That there is no vision and strategy; no one – no one! – seems to have the faintest idea about what will happen now – as Ken Livingstone, London’ former mayor, expressed it on Russia Today the morning after.

Be sure that Brexit on June 23, 2016 will be remembered as a turning point. And be sure that, while we do not know what will happen after Brexit, it’s not a message of good things to come for the already crumbling, vision-losing Western part of our world.

”May you live in interesting times” as the English say, considering it a curse. The Chinese – to whom this phrase is often falsely attributed – expresses it differently: ”Better to be a dog in peaceful time, than to be human in a chaotic (warring) time.”

Both probably meaning that our time is more fraught with insecurity than ever…

 
Jan Oberg’s article was published on 24 June 2016 in: TFF – Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. Go to Original.

The statments and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do nt necessarily represent those of IPS

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Brex’it, So Be’it; And Then What?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-so-beit-and-then-what/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-so-beit-and-then-what http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-so-beit-and-then-what/#comments Sun, 26 Jun 2016 05:19:41 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145824 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]> Source: TRANSCEND Media Service

Source: TRANSCEND Media Service

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, Jun 26 2016 (IPS)

The vote turned out like the two referenda held in Norway in 1972 and 1994. And much for the same reason: Protestant break with Rome–Catholic, imperial–Henry VIII made himself head of the Anglican Church in 1534.

Religion was not the only reason, there are Protestant Nordic members of EU, closer to the continent and closer to Russia. World history, a short while after Pope Francis-Patriarch Kirill also made world history, bridging the Catholic-Orthodox 395-1054 gap.

The Disunited Queendom is now London with surroundings; England. The implications are enormous, for UK-GB and the British Isles in general, for EU and Europe in general, USA and the world in general. The US Trojan horse decided to leave the EU on 23 June 2016.

UK-GB and the British Isles in general.

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Goodbye United Kingdom, UK, we may get United Ireland, UI, instead.

Goodbye Great Britain, GB, we may get Scotland in EU instead.

Welcome to Britain of England-Wales, if they care for that vocabulary.

Welcome to new-born England, 23 June being the Day of Independence.

Independence? Washington, having lost its inside EU ally, will soon remind London of their “special relationship” as unsinkable aircraft carrier also doing the killing job–maybe some wanted that.

And yet. England had the whole Global Establishment, if there ever was one, mobilized to pressure them to remain. They did not. There is something very impressive in that, however bad the campaign.

And yet. There is something to those British Isles, a shared and twisted history between Anglo-Saxons and Celts–Vikings, Normans–an enormous impact on the world now torn to pieces, torn into new pieces.

Maybe time has come for something this author proposed in an NGO encounter at the Houses of Parliament on Northern Ireland-Ulster right before the Good Friday Agreement: CBI, a Confederation of the British Isles, with United Ireland, Scotland, England-Wales and smaller islands.

EU and Europe in general.

On the possible positive side is EU independence of the USA, not choosing US foreign-military (and university system!) policy instead of working out its own. EU can now follow France-Germany in a Ukraine they know much better than the USA.

They nay one day meet Russia in some “European House”–may Gorbachev see that before he passes away–and they may one day, hopefully soon, have a European Parliament recognizing Palestine as a state, making it clear this is not anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, but pro the other Semitic, pro-Palestine.

On the possible negative side is Germany winning the two “world wars” in Europe over who shall run Europe: Germany or England-France.

Germany had visions of something close to an EU with economic center in Brussels and political in Berlin. After 1945 it was France, not England that stretched out a hand to beaten Germany, the 1950 coal and steel handshake that morphed into the Treaty of Rome (what a bad choice of name).

France will have to do that again, but this time not from the strong position of being on the winning side of a war, but the weak position of being in layer 3 of the present 5 in EU with Germany on top and Greece at the bottom, the Nordics no 3, then the Latins, then Eastern Europe.

This pyramid has to be flattened; many of the exit movements derive their momentum from that sad EU reality.

But also from a boring EU in spite of having to its credit, “acquis” open borders, the euro, a Europe with war held unthinkable.

Could some of that come from not being masters in their own house, always listening to His Master’s Voice?

Could healthy regionalism inspire a new deal, like healthy nationalism could for England? Freed from fighting US wars, liberated to build peace all over, like in EU?

Making an ever stronger or weaker union? Maybe stronger in peace policy. And maybe with the euro as common, not single currency, and not pressing members into a solidarity with no historical basis?

USA and the world in general.

This might be one more wake-up call for the USA, at a time with everybody but Hillary already awake.

Talk about NATO as out of date, Europe and the Middle East taking care of their own affairs, wars as non-affordable, as counter-productive, some awareness that there are other victims than Americans in the wars, had been unthinkable, unspeakable. But old addictive habits are hard to change.

That opens for a possible widening slit between USA-England and EU-Europe. There is a model: the split between the West Roman (Catholic) and East Roman (Orthodox) empires in 395, the former lasting about 81 more years, the latter more than a thousand.

This time the religious split would be between evangelical-protestant in the West and catholic-orthodox in the East, with a smart federation at the border, Ukraine, as a possible solution. A major test.

Another: defensive defense against IS brutality, negotiations with them, recognizing their right to have an IS when Europe has EU, and a Caliphate when Christianity has Vatican and the Patriarchy(ies).

Learning from Islam about togetherness and sharing, how to overcome loneliness and alienation, admitting that the West needs to learn.

And China? Learning from them like they do from the West, inviting them to join the world from “between heaven and earth”.

The world in general? Moving away from states, toward regions. Be a good, caring Mother of regions, sharing solutions and problems generously with other regions around the world.

With Latin America-Caribbean, Anglo-America–maybe with Mexico as MEXUSCAN–the African Union, the European House, SAARC, ASEAN. And the three badly missing ones in Asia: West Asia with Israel and Palestine, Iraq and Syria; Central Asia with Afghanistan, and Northeast Asia with the two Chinas, the two Koreas, Far East Russia and Japan now at nuclear logger-heads.

EU: a wake-up call! Don’t despair, grow, and help the world.

 
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 June 2016: TMS: Brex’it, So Be’it; And Then What?

The statments and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessariliy represente those of IPS.

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Making Sustainability Part of the Corporate DNAhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145814 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/feed/ 0 Brexit and EUexithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-ueexit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-and-ueexit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-ueexit/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:12:42 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145815 Roberto Savio, is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News. ]]>

Roberto Savio, is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

The Europeans went to bed Thursday night, with exit polls giving a comfortable margin of victory for those who wanted to Remain. The following morning they awakened to find that the real result was the opposite.

Specialists in polling say that this happens when electors do not feel comfortable to say how they will rally voters because they are not comfortable, on a rational level, with what they will do. In other words, voters act because of their guts, not because of their brain.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Brexit was really based on gut feelings. It was a campaign of fear. The “Leave” campaign was about the Turks massively invading Great Britain, because of their admittance in the EU (totally false); that Great Britain was paying to the EU 50 million pounds a day (again, a false figure). But the central question raised, especially by Boris Johnson, was: we are not free any longer… Let us get our independence.

And he went to compare the EU to the Nazi Germany who wanted to take over Europe. Of course, his intention was simple: get prime minister David Cameron to resign and take his post. A good example of idealism.

This cry for independence stirred the nationalist nerve of the nostalgia of the imperial times… We are facing enormous tides of foreigners coming if we stay in the EU, and we have no control on our borders, etc. The fact that Great Britain in fact had got from the EU already the control of its frontiers, was totally lost.

But beside this specific trait of British identity, the reasons for Brexit were common to the xenophobic, nationalism and populism tide which is spreading all over Europe. The Brexit campaign did contain all three, plus an emerging fourth factor: the revolt of people against their elites.

The “Remain” campaign had all of them; from the leaders of the Tory and Labour party to all the industrial and financial sectors, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the European Central Bank, from Obama to Merkel, from the elite media (Financial Times, the Economist) to the Soccer League. Their campaign was also of fear: if we get out we will lose markets, our deficit will increase, and our welfare system is at risk.

What now finally analysts are beginning to grasp is that rational arguments are not important any longer. Fear is more important. And anything that smacks of elite and establishment creates an iconoclastic reaction, which is to throw away the icons of the elite. This call for a change is now a new factor of politics all over Europe.

A good example is the town of Turin, where a few days before the Brexit a honest, efficient and respected outgoing mayor Piero Fassino (who did a good job), lost to a young woman without any prior experience. People feel an urge to throw away all the old, because clearly it has failed to address their needs.

It is to soon to predict a dismembering of Great Britain, with Scotland calling this time for its independence. Brexit was decided by England, where a considerable number of citizens suddenly feel a reawakening of their identity.

It is the same call of Marie Le Pen in France (another lost empire), which has opened a debate about French identity, and the need to not get diluted by multiculturalism, immigrants, especially Muslim, and get again the control of the borders, out from the domination of the European Union.

Next year, we have French and German elections. Le Pen is now the leader of the largest party in France, And it will be difficult to keep her out of power. Then elections in Germany will see a rise of Alternative fur Deutschland (AFD), which makes re-appropriation of German identity and sovereignty the basis for leaving Europe.

All the xenophobic right wing parties have expressed their enthusiasm for the Brexit, which is going to give them more push. Brexit comes after the Austrian elections, where the right wing lost for few votes. If elections were held today in the Netherlands, its xenophobic party would be the largest. And in total symmetry, Donald Trump has expressed his enthusiasm for the Brexit.

One of the few positive elements of Brexit is that there is now a growing chorus on the fact that globalisation has not kept its promises.: wealth for everybody.

On the contrary, it has created a dramatic social inequality, with few people having the bulk of national wealth, and many left out. According to OECD statistics, Europe has lost 18 millions of middle class citizens, in the last 10 years.

The fact that bankers were unanimously voicing for “Remain”, had quite the opposite effect on those 27% of British citizens who have difficulty to reach the end of the month, while they see over 1.000 bankers, and 1.500 CEO make more than 1 million pounds a year.

Now even the IMF is publishing studies on how social inequality is a draw to growth, and the importance of investing in welfare policies of inclusion and equal opportunities.

This is happening, some could say, because reaction to globalisation does not create only right-wing waves. With the feeling that all those in the system are ignoring their problems, new mass movements are coming from the left, like Podemos in Spain or Bernie Sanders in the US.

In the coming elections in Spain, the traditional social democrat party, PSOE, risks to be after Podemos. In Italy few days ago, after winning the provincial elections, the 5 Star movement now looks to take over the national government, held by a social democrat party, the PD. After two years in power, the young Matteo Renzi looks already an old establishment figure.

The EU suffers the same problem. Everybody talks of its marginal role in the world, of the fact that the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels live detached from reality and dedicate themselves to discuss rules on how to pack tomatoes, indifferent to the problems of the common European citizen.

We should pause to reflect that this is the same kind of criticism we hear about the United Nations. International organisations can only do what their members allow them to do. The EU is a supranational organisation (the only in existence), yet all the political power is in the hands of the Council of Ministers, where governments sits and take decision.

The Commission is left to implement these and the bureaucrats (the same number of those who run the town of Rome), have autonomy to decide the size of tomato packaging. Then the same national government that has taken the decisions, finds it convenient to denounce the EU inefficiency, and complain that there is an European external policy. This irresponsible game is now seeing the concrete result in Brexit, and governments should think now carefully about continuing on this double standard path.

Anyhow, the king now is finally without clothes. Europe is disintegrating, and a very large responsibility falls on German shoulders.

Germany has been blocking any attempt to create European economic and welfare measures, because they do not want to pay for the mistakes of the debtors countries, Greece, Italy, and the south of Europe. The Economy minister of Germany, Wolfgang Schauble, even went to attribute to Mario Draghi, the BCE governor, 50% of the success of the xenophobe Alternative fur Deutschland in the last elections. Draghi , was doing a policy in the interest of Europe, and not of the German voters. Germany is by far the most powerful country in the EU.

It is ironic to know that all the important posts in the EU bureaucracy have been taken by the British and Germans. In fact, those who control the bureaucracy and the debate on tomato packaging come from those two countries. And chancellor Angela Merkel is considered the one who runs the EU. In fact, the fateful agreement with Turkey on refugees, was decided by the German chancellor, without even consulting France

Now Germany has to decide: or continue on its path to germanize Europe, or to become again a European Germany, as it was when it’s capital was Bonn. Germany has consistently ignored all European and international calls for playing a different policy in the EU. She has refused to increase spending, to share funding of any initiative on European bonds or any measure of socialisation of the crisis.

But it would be a mistake to think that this is due to the peculiar personality traits of Schauble. The large majority of German citizens share the belief that they should not pay for the mistake of others. To be fair, the German government has never tried to educate them on European needs. And now, may be it is too late….

Therefore, the coming elections will be difficult for the government. An ever more insular party, the AfD is expected to have a large increase, and the two traditional parties are very worried. Merkel will try to take away some of the AfD banners further reducing her European policy. What is she Going to do now after the Brexit?

Attempt to start a Europe on two speeds, with Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary and all other Eurosceptics left out? Or she is ready to change her self-centred policy and play a real European role, in spite of AfD rise? Europe now depends clearly on Germany. Here we will see if Merkel is a states-person or just a successful national politician.

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To Be Fixed, Europe Needs a Wrecking Ballhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/to-be-fixed-europe-needs-a-wrecking-ball-3/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=to-be-fixed-europe-needs-a-wrecking-ball-3 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/to-be-fixed-europe-needs-a-wrecking-ball-3/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 22:38:25 +0000 David Ignatius2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145810 By David Ignatius
Jun 24 2016 (Manila Times)

One-time shot exclusive for The Manila Times
WASHINGTON: Imagine a young Margaret Thatcher, a politician who deeply mistrusts the political establishment and identifies on a gut level with the frustrations of the middle class. That’s shorthand for what Britain will need as it picks up the pieces after Thursday’s “Brexit” referendum.

DAVID IGNATIUS

DAVID IGNATIUS

Friends of Britain (and Europe, too) need to stop pretending that support for withdrawal from the European Union is simply a product of xenophobic right-wing nationalism. Nearly half the country supports a British exit, according to pre-referendum polls, and these people are not all deluded reactionaries.

The European Union is unpopular in Britain for the same reason it is in many other parts of Europe: It’s seen as the project of a financial and political elite that often operates without regard for public sentiment. Nationalism may be a tarnished, retrograde sentiment, but the fact remains that many people feel deeply attached to their countries.

This patriotic feeling can’t be expunged. But it should be modernized. And that’s where a modern Maggie could do wonders. Think of a restless, mildly rebellious British politician who could find common cause with like-minded Europeans who are tired of being lectured by Brussels.

Thatcher took a wrecking ball to an earlier generation of entrenched, elite opinion in Britain. When she became prime minister in 1979, Britain was still encased in a class system that maintained the conservative status quo at both ends—the power of the aristocratic Tory elite and the Labor Party trade-union bosses, who in tandem resisted any reforms that might challenge their power.

Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter, despised this status quo. She defied a bitter 1983-84 strike by the National Union of Mineworkers where previous prime ministers, Labor and Tory, had caved. She deregulated the financial sector, in what was called the “Big Bang,” restoring the City of London to global primacy.

Britain in recent years has seemed to be slipping backward. David Cameron, the conservative leader, is an Old Etonian who, in form and function, is a latter-day embodiment of the Tory elite. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, similarly, is a throwback to the left-wing, union-cosseted yesterday of his party.

The most hopeful aspect of the Brexit debate is that most young British people seem to be instinctively European. They have grown up in a global economy where people move from job to job and country to country. A June 13 poll by ICM for the Guardian found that 56 percent of voters aged 18 to 34 want to remain in the EU, while just 39 percent favor leaving. By contrast, 55 percent of those over 65 favor withdrawal.

Other surveys make the same point: The older people get in Britain, the more they mistrust the EU. That’s the biggest danger of the pro-Brexit campaign, beyond the economic damage it has risked. It would tie the country’s future to the oldest, most conservative cohort of its population.

The EU leadership in Brussels deserves its bad reputation. Lacking the instruments of real governance, the Eurocrats have nibbled around the edges with rules and regulations that imply a common destiny but leave to others the hard questions, such as border security and fiscal discipline.

Germany sits uneasily atop this shaky enterprise. The Germans are lucky to have a chancellor who, no matter how wealthy and privileged her country may be, still acts like the Lutheran pastor’s daughter who was raised in East Germany. Asked once what was distinctive about Germany, she gave this sturdy, if unlikely, answer: “No other country can build such airtight and beautiful windows.” Her power comes in part from her ability to appear ordinary.

Europe is only beginning its process of change. A senior German official told me a few months ago that the strange thing about the Brexit vote was that “the best case and the worst case are so close together.” What he meant was that Germany understands that Europe’s institutions must change, regardless of whether Britain is in or out.

EU purists may still dream of a tighter federalism, but that would involve a surrender of national power that nobody, least of all the Germans or French, really wants. What’s more likely is a core EU that runs at German speed, and allows the periphery some of the leeway that Cameron won for Britain in the negotiation that preceded the wretched Brexit campaign.

Rather than crying crocodile tears for the old version of the EU, modernizing politicians in Britain and on the continent should be thinking about change. It’s time for “Maggie redux.” Bring on the wrecking ball.

©2016 THE WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Brits Shouldn’t ‘Brexit’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brits-shouldnt-brexit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brits-shouldnt-brexit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brits-shouldnt-brexit/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 16:53:25 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145778 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Jun 23 2016 (Manila Times)

Today the British will vote in their “Brexit” referendum whether to stay in or exit from the European Union.

The United Kingdom applied for the first time to join what was then called the European Economic Community, in 1961. The Brit movers for membership were afraid their country would get politically isolated from Western Europe. At that time the USA’s and its allies’ Cold War with the Soviet Union was still ablaze.

UK’s bid for EEC membership had strong US support but the French Government (with Gen. De Gaulle as President) vetoed it in 1963 and also the second British application in 1967. Only on Jan. 1, 1973 did the UK (along with Denmark and Ireland) get to join the EEC.

At first opposed to EEC membership, the UK Labour Party wanted to renegotiate the membership but settled for a referendum to determine if the people of Britain really wanted to remain in the EEC. In the referendum held in 1975, 67 percent of the Brits voted to remain.

These days, polls show only a slight majority of the British public to be in favor of remaining.

This is because the Brits are doing very well compared to the countries of the EU, whose only solidly rich country is Germany. Europe seems to be in one kind of economic crisis after another.

The problem of refugees flooding into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa has become too much for the EU countries to bear. It has caused anti-immigrant militancy among the poor in nearly every European country. Terrorist ISIS bombings in Paris and Brussels and false-alarm news of new attacks are agitating Europeans, who have lost their former sense of security.

These tensions in the continent have made the anti-Europe side in Britain restive. For decades now they have been calling for their country’s exit from the EU.

Today’s Brexit referendum, if won by the Yes side, would still have to be ratified by the British parliament. The majority and ruling Conservatives would not dare go against the winning public vote.

But for all the mess that Europe is in, it is still in the British people’s best interest to stay in the EU and keep it whole. For if the UK exits it, some other countries, also fed up with having to bear the continent’s troubles and having to share their wealth with the poorer European countries that are always in need of aid, would promptly follow the British lead. Europe would then break up.

The UK would also lose a lot of the economic advantages it has in the continent as an EU member. For one, a lot of the British products that are sold in Europe tariff-free would cost more to EU customers. And it is, despite any cultural protests from Frenchmen, looked up to as the country that is EU’s political leader, and shares EU’s economic leadership with Germany.

It is not true, as Brexit proponents argue, that Britain would become stronger by leaving the EU. It would instead become weaker. And it would begin to face problems in dealing with countries in Europe—as an outsider.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:09:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145759 Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”

The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.

In fact, while last year their number exceeded 60 million for the first time in United Nations history, a tally greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, the Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.

The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced, putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent, the report adds.

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck


Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Is So Loud…

On this, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed that meanwhile, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, he said, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.

For his part, Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President, alerted that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

The UN General Assembly’s president warning against the rising wave of extremism and hatred, came just a week after a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ strong statement before the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016).

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,” the High Commissioner on June 13 warned.

De-Radicalisation

Against this backdrop and the need to find ways how to halt and even prevent the growing waves of extremism of all kinds, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on June 23 organised a panel themed Deradicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremism.

IPS asked Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy, Board Member of the Geneva Centre, about the concept of this panel he moderated.

“Violent extremism, which sprang up in what might be perceived here as remoter parts of the world during the last part of the XXth century, has spread its dark shadow worldwide and is henceforth sparing no region… And with it, wanton deaths and desolation.”

He then explained that unregulated access to lethal weapons in some countries make matters worse. Violent extremism fuels indiscriminate xenophobic responses. “These in turn feed the recruitment propaganda of terrorist groups competing for world attention.”

According to the panel moderator, it seems at first sight that conflict is intensifying. “In fact what is happening is that it has changed its nature from more or less predictable classical inter-State or civil conflict to a generalisation of unpredictable ad hoc violence by terrorist groups randomising victims and outbidding one another in criminal horror.”

Thus casualties are not more numerous than was the case in the past, with some important exceptions such as Algeria during the Dark Decade of the ‘nineties, said Jazairy.

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab


“Yet their impact is greater because attacks spread more fear among ordinary people and reporting on these crimes is echoed instantly across the world. The danger of polarisation of societies is thereby enhanced and peace is jeopardised.”

This meets the ultimate goal of terrorist violence, he added, while stressing that such violence has ceased to be simply a national or regional challenge. “It is now of worldwide concern. A concern that calls for immediate security responses with due respect for human rights of course.”

Jazairy explained that the panel has been intended to contribute to the maturing of such strategies and to rolling back violent extremism, xenophobic populism fuelled by it and that the latter in turn further exacerbates.

Understanding the Genesis of Violent Extremism

According to the panel moderator, understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not tantamount to excusing it despite what some politicians claim. It is a precondition to providing a smart and durable policy response, rather than a dumb crowd-pleasing short-term knee-jerk reaction, he added.

“True there is no single explanation to the emergence of violent extremism… Street crime in overpopulated cities may be its incubator.”

On this, Jazairy explained that in the South, high rates of youth unemployment and shortfalls in the respect of basic freedoms together with inadequate governance may be relevant considerations. In the North, he added, glass ceilings and marginalisation of minority groups and the desire of youths feeling powerless to develop an alternative identity and to become all-powerful, may also be at issue.

The former head of a UN agency then warned that understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not a philosophical debate as it ties in with the issue of how to “de-radicalise”.

In Belgium, he said, it has been claimed that condemnations in absentia of home grown terrorists that have joined Daesh (Islamic State) has pushed some to not return home with a group of others for fear of the penalty, thus radicalising them further.

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African Fisheries Plundered by Foreign Fleetshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/african-fisheries-plundered-by-foreign-fleets/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 12:24:12 +0000 Christopher Pala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145753 Artisanal fisheries are being hit by subsidised, foreign vessels. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

Artisanal fisheries are being hit by subsidised, foreign vessels. Credit: Christopher Pala/IPS

By Christopher Pala
WASHINGTON, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

In 2011, Dyhia Belhabib was a volunteer in the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver when she was asked to participate in the Sea Around Us’s project to determine how much fish had been taken out of the world’s oceans since 1950 in order to better avoid depleting the remaining populations of fish.

Belhabib had studied fisheries science in her native Algeria, so she was initially asked to oversee the Algeria component. She ended up leading the research in 24 countries. And though she was an expert and an African, over the next five years, the world of African fisheries took her from surprise to surprise, many of them disquieting, just like Voltaire’s Candide. And echoing Pangloss, who repeats “All is for the best in the best of possible worlds” to a Candide dismayed at the state of the world, the Food and Agriculture Organization insisted the world catch was “practically stable.”

“The most depressing thing for me was the realization that African countries got no benefit at all from all the foreign fleets,” she said. “In fact, the fishing communities suffered a lot, and in most places, the only people who made money were the government officials who sold the fishing licenses.”

The study found that the global catch was 40 percent higher than the FAO reported and is falling at three times the agency’s rate. But under this picture of decline, Belhabib uncovered a dazzling array of cheating methods that highlighted the low priority most governments place on fisheries management – and implicitly on the health of the people who depend on the sea for most of their animal protein.

When Belhabib started with Algeria, she was puzzled to see that the government reported to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) that between 2001 and 2006, it had fished 2,000 tons of bluefin tuna on average, and yet reported to the FAO that it had caught almost none. Belhabib discovered that for once, the FAO’s zero catch was not a metaphor for “We have no data,” as the study found in many countries. In fact, undeterred by the fact the Algerian fishermen didn’t know how to fish tuna with long-line vessels, the government had simply bought some boats and sold their quotas to countries that did, notably Japan and Italy.

The next country she tackled was Morocco, which took over the Western Sahara in 1975 over the objections of its nomadic people and the international community. The territory has unusually rich waters and two-thirds of Morocco’s catch comes from there. The study estimated the local value of the catch since 1950 at 100 billion dollars, but since it was almost entirely sold in Europe at twice the price, the real value of the catch was 200 billion dollars.

Had the Moroccan government insisted that foreign fleets pay 20 percent of that value, as the EU claims it does today in Morocco (in fact, the study found it pays 5 percent), it could have received a revenue stream of one billion dollars a year, which, had it gone entirely to the Western Sahara, would have doubled the GDP per capita of 2,500 dollars a year for its 500,000 people. Under the current agreement, the EU pays 180 million dollars for access to all of Morocco’s waters, or 120 million dollars for access to the Western Sahara’s waters. How much actually goes to the territory is unclear. Other nations pay far less.

Mauritania has a fleet of locally flagged Russian and Chinese large trawlers that haul in whole schools of small blue-water fish called sardinella. The coast is studded with idle processing plants built to turn them into fish meal, which is used as animal feed. Belhabib discovered that the ships were reporting to the government only a tiny fraction of their actual haul – some of it illegally taken from neighboring countries and selling the rest for higher prices in Europe. “The authorities had no idea,” she said. “They thought their fleet were landing and reporting their whole catch.”

In Senegal, which unlike Mauritania has a strong tradition of fishing, President Macky Sall expelled the Russians in 2012 because their ships had depleted the populations of sardinella, infuriating many Senegalese. “The Russians just got licenses in Guinea Bissau and went back to Senegal and continued to fish, though not as much,” Belhabib said.

The Senegal reconstruction also documented how the European bottom-trawlers severely depleted the country’s near-shore. As population pressure increased demand for cheap fish, the number of artisanal fishermen soared, and many went to work up the coast in Mauritania, where few people fish. But a conflict in 1989 with Mauritania resulted in the expulsion of thousands of Senegalese fishermen, even as the industrial fleets were increasing their catch off both countries, most of it stolen.

Out of desperation, hundreds of Senegalese fishermen and dozens of canoes over the past decade have been boarding Korean and Portuguese converted trawlers that drop them off near the coasts of other countries. There, they illegally drop baited hooks into underwater canyons out of the reach of bottom trawlers where large, high-value fish can still be taken. These spots, marine biologists say, have served as marine reserves, places where coveted, overfished species could reproduce unhindered – and are now being depleted too, pushing the stocks closer to collapse.

Belhabib’s team also discovered to her horror that subsidized European Union fleets had flocked to the waters of countries weakened by civil war, notably Sierra Leone and Liberia, increasing their stolen catch when the people needed cheap protein most.

They found that South Africa made no attempt to control or even report the extensive fishery in the rich waters off its Namibian colony; in 1969, for example, 4.8 million tons of fish worth 6.2 million dollars were caught, but only 13 tons were reported to the FAO. Today, Namibia has the best-managed fishery in Africa after effectively banning foreign-flagged fleets

Finally, examinations of illegal fishing determined that Spain, whose seafood consumption is double the European average, steals more fish than any other nation, followed by China and Japan.

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Case for Overcoming the Ostrich Syndromehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/case-for-overcoming-the-ostrich-syndrome/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:30:09 +0000 C R Abrar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145707 refugee_day__

By C R Abrar
Jun 20 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The final week of May 2016 was a grisly one. More than 700 asylum seekers and migrants died as three boats attempting to carry them to Italy sunk in the Mediterranean, and the death toll for the year crossed 2000. A week ago, Unicef reported a doubling of the number of unaccompanied children arriving as asylum seekers this year. The report also highlighted that these children are subjected to sexual violence, forced prostitution and other forms of abuse.

UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, informs that, of the 157,574 arrivals in Europe in 2016, 90 percent were from the top 10 refugee producing countries of the world — fleeing war, violence and persecution in their countries of origin, and were in need of international protection. A breakdown of the total reveals almost 90 percent of the cases were from three countries: Syria (49 percent), Afghanistan (25 percent) and Iraq (14 percent). These figures debunk the myth that most are economic migrants, who have left their own countries by choice in search of economic opportunities.

The magnitude and nature of the global refugee situation has changed considerably over the last few decades. It has become increasingly ‘protracted, politicised and complex’. This has made the task of finding a durable solution further challenging.

Evidence is replete that states are not only reluctant to uphold ethical standards of refugee protection, but also that they are actively contributing to the erosion of the principle and practice of asylum. Refugees are increasingly been seen as subjects of charity. There is little acknowledgement that the principle of non-refoulement, the cornerstone of international refugee protection, is now a provision of customary international law, binding even on states that are not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Over time, many Western states, particularly those of Europe, have introduced measures to reduce the number of individuals seeking asylum in their territory through non-arrival policies, diversion policies, an increasingly restrictive application of the 1951 Convention and a range of deterrent policies, such as detention of asylum seekers and the denial of social assistance; on the other hand, some states, like the UK, have openly advocated for dismantling of the 1951 Refugee Convention and instituting of a new international refugee regime, premised on containing of refugees within their region of origin.

This two-facedness of the western states has placed significant burden on asylum countries of the South, especially of Africa and Asia. This, in turn, has led some of the Southern countries to close off their borders to prevent arrivals, push for early and unsustainable return of asylum seekers to the country of origin and, in a few instances, forcibly expel entire refugee populations.

There is little recognition that protracted refugee situations do not remain confined to the host states of the South and have major regional and international implications. A UNHCR commissioned survey on Somali refugees has indicated that the absence of durable solutions and effective international protection in the first country of asylum is a major motive for secondary migratory movements to Europe and elsewhere.

There is a propensity in most quarters to view the refugee problem as a humanitarian problem. However, protracted refugee situations require more than humanitarian engagement. They entail meaningful and sustained engagement of peace, security and development actors. A comprehensive and holistic approach is perhaps the only way forward.

Thus while there is an urgent need to work out creative solutions to the global refugee problems, the international community appears to be hanging on to the old approach, premised on the concept of national security. This has been evident in Europe’s pursuit of Operation Sophia in dealing with the current refugee inflow. The next part of this essay will explicate how ill-conceived the strategy was.

In October 2014, Italy abandoned its ‘search and rescue’ Mare Nostrum operation that prevented mass drowning of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean. This resulted in an increase in the number of deaths of migrants trying to seek asylum in the continent. The demand for re-launching of the operation was met with stiff opposition and, on April 23, 2015, the European Council adopted a British-drafted resolution vowing to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy (refugee) vessels”. This was a palpable shift from humanitarian commitments to a military solution. It is worthwhile to note that British fascist Nick Griffin made the proposal five years earlier.

The European border agency Frontex reported that since its adoption 14 vessels have been destroyed and 69 ‘suspected smugglers’ were apprehended. The strategy was modelled to impede the human smuggling syndicates and limit the opportunities for would be refugees to flee to Europe. There is a little evidence that the new strategy worked at all. In the period from September 2015 to January 2016, the marginal drop of 9 percent in the Mediterranean flow was supplemented by the opening up of the ‘Balkans route’ to Europe. In order to minimise ‘significant financial loss’, the human smugglers amended their business model and replaced expensive wooden or fibre-glass boats by cheap mass produced Chinese inflatable rubber dinghies that have less carrying capacity and are more limited by sea conditions. In addition, as the borders became more challenging to navigate, migrants turned to more sophisticated smugglers to facilitate their crossing.

All these led the UK House of Lords EU Committee to observe, “The Mission (Sophia) does not… in any meaningful way deter the flow of migrants, disrupt the smugglers’ networks, or impede the business of people smuggling on the Mediterranean route”. The House of Lords report quotes Amnesty International’s Steve Symonds that the EU’s reinforcement of external borders policing had brought about “the movement of ever larger number of people around different routes by different journeys, usually at greater danger and cost to them, and so of greater profit to smugglers”. The opening sentence of the report quoted Peter Roberts of the Royal United Services Institute, “migrants in the boat are symptoms, not causes, of the problem”.

The challenge, therefore, for the international community is to acknowledge that refugees constitute an overwhelming bulk of the flow and they are fleeing protracted conflict conditions that needs urgent political solution. Pursuing unworkable policies would only be acting like an ostrich.

Recently displaying a life jacket used by a Syrian girl who died while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos to a group of youngsters, Pope Francis explained, “Migrants are not a danger – they are in danger”. It’s time the policy makers of Western nations paid heed to the pontiff.

The writer teaches International Relations at the University of Dhaka. He writes and researches on rights and migration issues.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Fences and Walls: A Short-sighted Response to Migration Fears?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/fences-and-walls-a-short-sighted-response-to-migration-fears/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 14:16:09 +0000 Andrew MacMillan and Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145688 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Andrew MacMillan, former Director of Field Operations. ]]> Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the town of Idomeni. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Andrew MacMillan and José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

European nations from which millions once left to escape hardship and hunger – Greece, Ireland, Italy – are today destinations for others doing the same.

Many people are on the move. The really big numbers relate to rural-urban migration in developing countries. In 1950, 746 million people lived in cities, 30 percent of the world’s population. By 2014, urban population reached 3.9 billion (54 percent).

By comparison, about 4 million migrants have moved into OECD countries each year since 2007.(*) And 60 percent of Europe’s 3.4 million immigrants in 2013 came from other European Union member states or already held EU citizenship. Those from outside amounted to less than 0.3 percent of the EU’s population.

Conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, along with the breakdown of law or of freedom in Libya, Eritrea, Somalia and South Sudan, have catalyzed a surge in asylum seekers – whose numbers climbed to 800,000 in OECD countries alone in 2014 and who, under international law, must be protected.

Growing apprehension in some recipient countries has led to calls for fences and walls to cut migrant flows. Barriers, however, are costly, can be circumvented, and are all too reminiscent of the restrictions on liberty from which many migrants are seeking refuge.

The urge for a better life is the main driving force for migration, both local and international. People are “pulled” by the belief that better prospects exist elsewhere. As mobile phones and internet access have reached the remotest corners of the world, such beliefs have proliferated.

For those countries wishing to reduce cross-border migratory pressures, the best option is probably to address the root causes. This entails actions that foster peace and security where there is conflict and oppression. It also implies closing the widening gaps in living standards, both between nations and between rich and poor in the countries that economic migrants are leaving.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO/Alessandra Benedetti

Some destination countries have cut social security allowances for new arrivals in a bid to reduce their attraction. But more fundamental policy shifts in wealthier societies towards deterring their own people’s most conspicuous consumption behavior are needed. This will not be easy. It could involve having consumers meet the full costs of the environmental and social damage incurred in the production and use of what they buy.

Extreme poverty is found mainly in rural communities, where most internal migration begins. Poverty is not simply a matter of low incomes but also of limited access to adequate housing, clean water, energy, decent education and health services. On almost every score, rural people are worse off than city dwellers and also more vulnerable to shocks. Paradoxically, the incidence of hunger and malnutrition is highest in the very communities that produce much of the world’s food.

Urbanization seems bound to further widen these gaps. Cash remittances sent by first-generation local and international migrants to their relations back home help, but are usually modest in scale.

Policies to eliminate rural poverty must respond to locally expressed priorities for improved access to infrastructure and public services, including competent and honest local government institutions. They also need to include social protection programmes, ideally based on regular and predictable cash transfers to the poorest households, ensuring that all people are, at the very least, able to eat healthily and cope with periods of shortages.

The European Union has endorsed the principle of addressing the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe and, at a November 2015 summit in Malta, declared that investing in rural development is a priority. However, the EU’s nearly 30 members approved only EUR1.8 billion in extra resources. This is trivial, given the scale of poverty. It is about a quarter of what they offered Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe.

Andrew MacMillan

Andrew MacMillan

Much greater funding is warranted. This is explicitly acknowledged in last September’s unanimous endorsement by all governments of the UN-brokered Sustainable Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and hunger by 2030. Apart from being morally correct, this will reduce the conflicts that often drive international migration in the first place.

The link between the reduction of extreme deprivation and peace was acknowledged by FAO’s founders in 1945 when they wrote:
“Progress towards freedom from want is essential to lasting peace, for it is a condition of freedom from the tensions, arising out of economic maladjustment, profound discontent, and a sense of injustice which are so dangerous in the close community of modern nations.” (**) FAO today is guided by these principles in its ongoing work in rebuilding food security and creating greater resilience in countries torn apart by conflict.

Remittances and aid can help reduce inequalities but a more sustainable way of closing the urban-rural gap is offered by fairer trading in food, the main saleable output of most rural communities. When consumers begin to pay food prices that reward producers fairly for their investments, skills, risk exposure and labour, and for their responsible stewardship of natural resources, the market can become the main vehicle for eradicating the extreme deprivation and hunger that “push” migration. (***)

This move towards fairer food prices would be a first step towards harnessing the great power offered by the processes of globalization to create a world in which all people know they can, through their work, lead a decent life even when they choose to live where they were born.

 

(*) See OECD (2015), International Migration Outlook 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris

(**) See United Nations Interim Committee on Food and Agriculture, The Work of FAO, Washington DC, 1945

(***) Contrary to most predictions, the food price rises of 2008 and 2011 reduced extreme poverty in the long term in both rural and urban communities. See Headey, D., Food Prices and Poverty Reduction in the Long Run, IFPRI Discussion Paper 01331, Washington DC, 2014

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Xenophobia: ‘Hate Is Mainstreamed, Walls Are Back, Suspicion Kills’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:43:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145697 With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers…”

Hardly a statement could have portrayed more accurately the current wave of hatred invading humankind, like the one made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“… Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces, which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions, which act as checks on executive power, are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods.” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned.

In his address to the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016), the Human Rights Commissioner warned, “As the international community’s familiar customs and procedures are much in evidence… And yet the workable space in which we function as one community – resolving disputes, coming to consensus – is under attack.”

Zeid explained, “The common sets of laws, the institutions – and deeper still, the values“ which bind us together are buckling. And suffering most from this onslaught are our fellow human beings – your people – who bear the brunt of the resulting deprivation, misery, injustice, and bloodshed.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

He the recalled, “We are 7.4 billion human beings clinging to a small and fragile planet. And there is really only one way to ensure a good and sustainable future: ensure respect, resolve disputes, construct institutions that are sound and fair and share resources and opportunities equitably.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner referred to the millions of stranded refuges and migrants, saying that globally, many countries have distinguished themselves by their principled welcome to large numbers of desperate, often terrified and poverty-stricken migrants and refugees.

“But many other countries have not done so. And their failure to take in a fair share of the world’s most vulnerable is undermining the efforts of more responsible States. Across the board, we are seeing a strong trend that overturns international commitments, refuses basic humanity, and slams doors in the face of human beings in need.”

‘Europe Must Remove Hysteria and Panic’

The only sustainable way to resolve today’s movements of people will be to improve human rights in countries of origin, “ he said, while stressing that “Europe must find a way to address the current migration crisis consistently and in a manner that respects the rights of the people concerned – including in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement,” which was sealed on March 22, 2016.

“It is entirely possible to create well-functioning migration governance systems, even for large numbers of people, with fair and effective determination of individual protection needs. If European governments can remove hysteria and panic from the equation – and if all contribute to a solution…”

According to Zeid, in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy. “Torture, summary execution and arbitrary arrests are assaults on the people’s security, not measures to protect security. It is a mistake to imagine that attacking the people’s rights makes them any safer or more content.”

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee

“The antidote to the savagery of violent extremism is greater rule of law,” he said and added that “the best way to fight terrorism, and to stabilize the region, is to push back against discrimination; corruption; poor governance; failures of policing and justice; inequality; the denial of public freedoms, and other drivers of radicalization.”

De-Radicalisation

Radicalisation, or rather de-radicalisation, is precisely the focus of one of the panels organised within the current session of the Human Rights Council.

 Idriss Jazairy

Idriss Jazairy

In fact, on June 23, 2016, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue has organized the event under the auspices of the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the UN Office in Geneva. The panel will be moderated by highly respected Algerian diplomat and former head of a UN agency Idriss Jazairy, Resident Board Member of the Geneva Centre.

The panel organisers recall that “violent extremism had been until 2001 mainly in the lot of developing countries such as Uganda where a Christian mandate was usurped by the Lord’s Resistance Army to attack civilians and force children to participate in armed conflict, Sri Lanka, where the first suicide attacks originated, and Algeria where more Muslims were killed during a decade than Europeans worldwide ever since, through an evil manipulation of the precepts of Islam.”

Outside observers, they add, tended to belittle the impact of such violence considered as local incidents, at times preferring to ascribe it to “militants” responding to deficits of democracy and governance in the targeted countries.

During the last phases of the Cold War, violent extremism was condoned in some quarters as a weapon against communism, the panel concept note recalls, and adds that the recruitment of new cohorts of violent extremists was given added impetus by the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, the collapse of Iraq and Libya and the wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

“These developments, or lack thereof, occurred mainly in Muslim countries thus exacerbating violent extremism associated with this region and leading to an intensification of Islamophobia elsewhere, especially in Europe and North America.”

It remains, as underlined by the joint co-chairs conclusions of the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism (7-8 April 2016), that “violent extremism or terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

 A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA

A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA

The reaction of the international community was slow in taking shape in the UN if only because of political differences in terms of acceptance of a common definition of terrorism, says the panel’s concept note.

In a key remark, the organisers warn, “The very lexicon of international affairs is being manipulated to provide knee-jerk reactions that nurture ideologies of racist and xenophobic parties in the advanced world. It also provides a propitious climate for explosion of violent extremism around the world.”

In Europe, over 20 million Muslims have lived for decades as citizens in harmony with followers of other religions as well as with non-believers and have been contributing to the wealth of their countries of residence, the panel organisers recall.

“They are now being targeted by virtue of their identity, not their deeds. They are alone to suffer from fear-mongering and the rise of xenophobia for diverse minority groups in different parts of the world. One needs in this context to understand better the causes and means by which violent extremism is perpetrated and spread.”

The focus has been so far on how to roll back radicalism and on fighting violent extremism by all possible means without a full understanding of the root causes of such violence, says the panel’s concept note.

“The roll-back of violent extremism calls for an in-depth approach informed by the genesis and evolution of radicalisation, its link with citizenship and possible tipping point into violence… There also needs to be a better understanding of short-cuts to violent extremism that do not transit through radicalisation.”

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What If Turkey Drops Its “Human Bomb” on Europe?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 22:26:05 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145685 Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 19 2016 (IPS)

Will the rapid–though silent escalation of political tensions between the European Union and Turkey, which has been taking a dangerous turn over the last few weeks, push Ankara to drop a “human bomb” on Europe by opening its borders for refugees to enter Greece and other EU countries?

The question is anything but trivial—it is rather a source of deep concern among the many non-governmental humanitarian organisations and the United Nations, who are making relentless efforts to fill the huge relief gaps caused by the apparent indifference of those powers who greatly contributed to creating this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

These powers are mainly the United States, the United Kingdom and France who, supported by other Western countries and rich Arab nations, led military coalitions that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and who, along with Russia, have been providing weapons to most of the fighting parties in Syria.

Ironically, these four powers are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Neither the above posed question is about a mere, alarming speculation. In fact, Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan has recently made veiled, though specific threats to the EU, by warning against the consequences of Europe continuing to fail the two key commitments it made in exchange of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement —also known as “the shame deal”–, which the two parties sealed on March 22 this year.

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

The deal is about Turkey taking back the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who fled to its territories mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and crossed from there to EU bordering countries like Greece. Once “re-taken”, the EU said it would “select” an undetermined number of asylum seekers, mainly Syrians.

In exchange, the European Union promised to pay to Ankara three billion euro a year, starting in November 2015, to share only a relatively small part of the big financial burden that Turkey has to face by providing basically shelter, food and health care to the repatriated asylum seekers. Turkey currently hosts three million refugees.

The EU also promised to allow Turkish citizens to access its member countries without entry visa, also as part of the “shame deal.”

The tensions between the EU and Turkey were made clearly visible on the occasion of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which Turkey hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016, covering a big portion of its cost.

The WHS was meant to highlight the fact that human suffering has now reached unprecedented, staggering levels as stated to IPS by Stephen O’ Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), as well as to call on world leaders to mobilise the much needed resources to alleviate this human drama.

For this, the UN submitted to the WHS a set of shocking facts: the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War II, and experiencing a human catastrophe “on a titanic scale” as stated on IPS by the WHS spokesperson Herve Verhoosel: 125 million humans in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.

The UN also quantified the urgently needed resources: more than 20 billion dollars needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts.

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

And stressed that unless immediate action is taken, 62 per cent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all human beings could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030.

In spite of these staggering facts, none of the leaders of the most industrialised countries–the so-called Group of the 7 richest nations (G7), nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, attended the World Humanitarian Summit.

The sole exception of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had reportedly gone to Istanbul to meet Erdogan over the growing political tensions rather to participate in the Summit.

This absence of the top decision-makers of the richest countries has been widely criticised, starting with the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon who on May 24 publicly decried it. Also Turkish president Erdogan expressed deep disappointment at such political boycott by world leaders.

Moreover, in a press conference at the closure of the WHS on May 24, Erdogan revealed that Europe had not met its promises as it had not provided the committed financial resources, nor kept its compromise to let Turkish citizens enter the EU without visa as from June this year.

He then expressed strong indignation, rather fury, over the set of 72 new conditions the EU has suddenly imposed on Ankara in exchange of suppressing the entry visa requisite for Turkish citizens. These conditions imply, among others, that Ankara changes its current anti-terrorist laws.

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

All this moved Erdogan to warn that of Europe does not honour its part of the refugee deal, the Turkish Parliament will not ratify it.

This simply means that Turley would not only stop allowing refugees to be forcibly returned to its territories, but that it would also permit more and more of them to cross its borders to the EU countries.

In the mean time, more and more organisations have been accusing Europe of sealing an immoral, unethical and, above all, illegal refugee deal with Turkey. But meanwhile Europe has been turning rapidly, dangerously towards far right parties and movements that are feeding hate, xenophobia and islamophobia.

Also meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees and migrants are arriving to Europe, many of them drowning at sea, prey to inhumane practices and manipulation by smugglers.

Humanitarian assistance organisations such as Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, the UN Children Fund, UN Refugee agency, among many others, have been warning that a growing number of unaccompanied children—estimated in 1 in 3 refugees and migrants, are crossing Mediterranean waters and European frontiers.

Only two days ahead of the World Refugee Day, marked on June 20, the UN secretary general visited the Greek island of Lesbos, which has become migrants’ entry point to Europe. There he called on “the countries in the region” to respond with “a humane and human rights-based approach, instead of border closures, barriers and bigotry.”

“Today, I met refugees from some of the world’s most troubled places. They have lived through a nightmare. And that nightmare is not over,” Ban told non-governmental organisations, volunteers and media.

The “human bomb” is ticking at Europe’s doors amidst an inexplicable passivity of its leaders.

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Not Politically Correct Reflections on Brexithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/not-politically-correct-reflections-on-brexit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-politically-correct-reflections-on-brexit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/not-politically-correct-reflections-on-brexit/#comments Fri, 17 Jun 2016 15:55:29 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145667 Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 17 2016 (IPS)

Allow me a rare personal anecdote. In 1965 I met Lord Hume, who had just left the post of Prime Minister and we had a mutual sympathy. Lord Hume invited me for lunch at the Chamber of Lords. Over an extremely delicious rump of Scottish lamb, I asked if I was allowed to ask a complex question. I explained that I had started my professional career as a Kremlinologist, which had served me well in following British foreign policy. One day London was looking to Europe as its compass, and another day, to Washington. All this on the basis of small signals, difficult to detect. Could his Lordship explain to me how to address this dualism?

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Lord Hume’s answer was that only a British citizen could understand the dualism, and therefore, I should try to be British for five minutes. Then he asked me “Dear fellow citizen, do you prefer to be second to Germany or second to the United States?”

That dualism explains why the British, more than other Europeans, have looked on in dismay at the decline of Europe in the international scene, and the pivot of President Obama who has made Asia his priority. Obama’s exhortation against Brexit in his last visit to London, stirred considerable debate. Boris Johnson, the most visible proponent of Brexit,even said that Obama, having been born of a Kenyan father, is not qualified to advise the UK.

But Brexit is only the insular British version of the current world’s implosion under fear and greed. Any debate in the referendum on Europe’s vision or values or identity is simply non-existent. In England the debate is fear against greed. The Brexit camp has launched a campaign based on fear. Fear of immigrants, fear of losing control of its borders, fear of being subject to the whims of Brussels (widely seen as those of Merkel, therefore of Germany). Contrary to any reality, the Brexit campaign is now about the threats of 70 million Turks able to enter Great Britain and rape women. The fact that there is no chance that Turkey will join the EU in the foreseeable future, is ignored. Dominic Raab, the justice minister who is backing Brexit said “ There is more evidence on how EU membership makes us less safe. This puts British families at risk”. The British tabloids have launched an unbelievable campaign. Britons could lose control of their coastline. Their country could be merged with France. And Brussels Is going to veto the use of the kettle, the indispensible instrument for the daily tea. One recent study found that of 982 articles focused on the referendum, 45% were about leaving, and only 27% in favor of staying. Boris Johnson, who has written in two books how it is important for the UK to be part of Europe, and boasted of his family’s Turkish ancestry, has now jumped on the Leave camp, with the clear aim of replacing Cameron as Prime Minister, where the current one will have to resign after losing the referendum. Cameron was the inventor of this referendum, so his destiny is linked to it. The fear campaign runs the same arguments and rhetoric of Trump, Le Pen, Salvini, Wilders, who are all supporting Brexit. It has no specific British flair.

If fear is the argument to “Leave Europe”, greed is for the Stay in Europe camp. In fact, it is also a fear campaign. But it does not talk of safety, borders and immigrants. It talks about money. How much money Great Britain would loose if excluded by the common market ( Wolfgang Schauble,the German Minister of Finance, has declared that there would be no way that London would have special arrangements like Norway). Cameron made a speech about the crisis of pensions for its citizens. The financial sector, companies and the economic sector have all been financing the Stay campaign, indicating the economic damage it would entail to leave Europe. Cameron has got the international economic system, from the IMF to the World Bank, from the OECD to the G7, demonstrating how Brexit would damage not only Britain, but also all of Europe and the global economy. But the damage would be in any event, much greater for Britain.

The problem is that those arguments do not go far with the Brexit people. Like supporters for Trump, Le Pen and so on, polls show that they are the ones who feel neglected and left out, who are fearful about their families and their jobs, and have lower level of education and incomes.

According to YouGov, the polling group, the Remain campaign’s strongest geographical area of support remains Northern Ireland, which receives large amounts of financial aid, and Scotland and London, two rich regions. The more you move to the less prosperous regions, like East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside, or areas of large immigration, like East Anglia, the more you find support for Brexit. And age groups confirm this also. Over 60, less educated, the large majority is for Brexit. And those under 25 think the opposite. The memory of the Second World War, and thus, the main reason for European integration, was to avoid new wars ravaging Europe, has now gone.

It is impossible to say who is going to win. The two camps are so close, that every poll brings different and contradictory results. And during my recent visit, I was impressed by how the fear campaign was having success. Nobody would listen to the evidence: The Turks were coming.

There is no doubt that Brexit will accelerate the process of disintegration of Europe. Next year there are elections in France and Germany, and Le Pen is now poised to win. The right-wing populist, nationalist and xenophobe parties are growing. Just look at the Italian elections, where the 5 Star movement is heading towards phenomenal increase. Nigel Farage, the UKIP anti-Europe leader, has just declared to the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera”, that Beppe Grillo and he are going to bury Europe. Poland and Hungary will be happy to continue in their nationalist path, and so will Eastern Europe. The Nordic countries will be tempted to follow Norway: not inside the EU, but with a special agreement for trade and finance.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have considerable interest remaining in Europe so it is generally considered that they will probably detach from England, to be re-admitted into the EU. The lack of an active campaign by the PM of Scotland, Nicola Surgeon, has been interpreted as a Machiavellian manoeuvre to have Brexit win, and be able to call for a new independence referendum. That will be the end of the United Kingdom, and England would lose its main historical conquests. Only small Wales would remain, to save the phrase “United Kingdom”.

There is no doubt that England will seriously suffer. To be cut out from a market of 500 million people will have serious consequences for its crucial financial sector, and many international companies will probably move out of London to remain inside Europe (Edinburgh is a serious candidate). And a diminished England will have much less international weight, starting with the United States.

What then is the positive side of Brexit? While I do not see any for Britain or Europe, this could have a great influence on the tide of history. It could give birth to a new Europe, much more homogenous, formed by what could be called the Carolingian Europe. Charles the Great, in the 8th century, was able to unify most of Europe, and made France and Germany the basis of the kingdom. As Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, he also brought the south of Europe into the Empire. That Empire was based on the values of Christianity, with the strong support of the Pope. This new Europe will have to discuss foundational values to be viable, beyond its economic basis. And the errors made during this present version of “Europe”, will have to be discussed and avoided in the new one. Eventually it could become attractive to those who have left, who will have mean while found out that integration is a crucial issue in our globalized world.

But more relevant, the turmoil and decline of England after Brexit, will be a extraordinarily message to other European countries. It will show that populism, nationalism and xenophobia, that the European integration was supposed to consign to the dustbin of history, can be useful tools for winning an election, but not to run a country. The England of the past will never come back, and reality will creep in. When England invaded China, to oblige its citizens to buy opium from the British Empire, there were 30 million British, and 323 million Chinese. Today Britain has over 60 million people, immigrants included, and China 1.374 millions. England was supposed to be a cradle of democracy. If a campaign of fear can win in a supposedly civilized country, it means more education must be done for a vibrant democracy.

There is only one problem in this scenario of hopeful thinking, and it is the Germany to which Lord Hume was referring 50 years ago. His dominant Germany, from which the only way to be free was to become second to the US, will be in place and more reinforced by the end of the Great Kingdom, and the exit of Poland and other countries. Today’s Germany is not the Germany of Bonn, cofounder of Europe, with European statesman like Konrad Adenauer, Helmut Schmidt, Helmut Kohll, placing Europe at the top of their priorities. Today’s Germany Is the Germany of Berlin, with politicians basically intent to achieving German priorities. They will have to solve a fundamental problem: they want to run or do they want to integrate? And Brexit would have the advantage of also bringing this issue to the fore..

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Unfounded Debt Fears Block Economic Recoveryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unfounded-debt-fears-block-economic-recovery/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unfounded-debt-fears-block-economic-recovery http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unfounded-debt-fears-block-economic-recovery/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 13:58:46 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145649 Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development. ]]>

Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jun 16 2016 (IPS)

Debt anxieties are not new, often fanned by political competition. But so is a double dip recession due to premature deficit reduction. For example, to seek re-election, President Roosevelt backed down from his New Deal in 1937, promising that “a balanced budget [was] on the way”. In 1938, he slashed government spending, and unemployment shot up to 19 per cent.

Deficits and debt

Many countries had huge public debts when World War II ended. Despite such anxieties and calls for drastic spending cuts, governments continued to spend. Had they caved in, Europe would not have been rebuilt so soon. As governments continued with massive expenditure to rebuild their countries, economies grew and the debt burden diminished rapidly with rapid economic growth. Clearly, debt is sustainable if government expenditure enhances both growth and productivity.

When the debate about deficits and public debt was raging during the Great Depression, Evsey Domar, growth theory pioneer, noted, “Opponents of deficit financing often disregard … completely, or imply, without any proof, that income will not rise as fast as the debt… There is something inherently odd about any economy with a continuous stream of investment expenditures and a stationary national income.”

After the 2008-2009 financial meltdown brought many OECD economies to a standstill, there was a brief revival of fiscal activism. Many OECD governments initially responded with large fiscal stimulus packages, while bailing out influential financial institutions. Major developing countries also put in place well designed fiscal stimulus packages including public infrastructure investment and better social protection.

Hence, there were sudden increases in debt/GDP ratios, mainly due to large financial bail-out packages and some fiscal activism. But with the first hints of “green shoots” of recovery from mid-2009, fiscal hawks stepped up their calls for winding back, sounding dire warnings about ballooning deficits. They argued that rapid fiscal consolidation would boost confidence, particularly in the finance sector, creating an expansionary impulse.

Thus, the affected countries undertook rapid fiscal consolidation measures with large cuts in public expenditure, especially in the areas of health, education, social security and infrastructure. Yet, their debt-GDP ratios continue to rise as they struggle to reignite growth. Meanwhile, the IMF has admitted that its initial fiscal consolidation advice was based on erroneous ad-hoc calculations.

Overwhelming recent research findings, including from the IMF, indicate that discretionary counter-cyclical fiscal policy in recessionary periods augments and catalyses aggregate demand, encourages private investment and enhances productivity growth, instead of raising interest rates and crowding-out private spending.

Optimal debt-GDP ratio?

The fixation with a particular debt-GDP ratio lacks any sound basis. The 60 per cent debt-to-GDP ratio, used by the European Commission and the IMF as the upper threshold for fiscal sustainability by 2030, was simply the median pre-crisis ratio for developed countries and the median debt-GDP ratio of EU countries at the time of the Maastricht Treaty. Similarly, the 3 per cent budget deficit rule of the EU happened to be the median budget deficit ratio at the time of the Treaty. None of these ostensible bench-marks imply optimality in any meaningful, economic sense.

Public debt in Japan soared to well over 200 per cent of GDP over two and a half decades of deflation. Yet, interest rates have remained low for many decades. In 1988, Belgium had the highest public debt, and Italy’s debt rose above 100 per cent of GDP during this period. Neither of them experienced spiraling inflation or very high interest rates as ‘austerity hawks’ claim will happen when government fiscal deficits rise. Meanwhile, studies of public finance in the United States do not find any significant relationship between debt-to-GDP ratios and inflation or interest rates during 1946-2008.

However, real interest rates may be adversely impacted by whether the debt is denominated in domestic or foreign currencies. In other words, a sovereign country should have the option to monetize debt. The problem arises when that option does not exist, as with countries in the Euro zone. This is clear from the contrasting experiences of Spain and the UK during the recent rapid public debt build-up.

The UK public debt-GDP ratio was 17 percentage points higher than the Spanish Government debt (89 versus 72 per cent) in 2011. Yet, the yield on Spanish government bonds rose strongly relative to the UK’s from early 2010, suggesting that international bond markets costed Spanish risk much more than UK government bonds.

As a member of a monetary union, Spain does not have control over the currency in which its debt is issued, while UK public debt is mostly in its own currency, as in the US and Japan. Therefore, much of the problem in the Euro zone is not really about high public debt or deficits. Rather, it is rooted in the currency union that limits its members’ policy space with regard to money creation and exchange rate policy. Hence, the only way they can improve what is seen as competitiveness is by cutting wages!

Then and now

Since 2014, even the IMF has changed its stance. In its October 2014 World Economic Outlook, it advised that “debt-financed projects could have large output effects without increasing the debt-to-GDP ratio, if clearly identified infrastructure needs are met through efficient investment”.

There is, of course, one difference between now and the 1930s. The finance sector and rating agencies are much more influential and powerful now than then. Democratically elected governments have become hostage to money-market investors who shift money from one place to another in search of quick profits.

Governments should not be driven by superficial diagnoses of complex economic issues by rating agencies. The record of rating agencies before the 2008 global economic crisis was abysmal, and the US Congress has seriously debated whether they should be prosecuted. Trying to win their confidence is futile, and trying to anticipate them is hazardous, but they nevertheless hold finance ministries and central banks to ransom.

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Brexit and Its Economic Fallouthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-its-economic-fallout/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-and-its-economic-fallout http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/brexit-and-its-economic-fallout/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 15:33:00 +0000 Abdullah Shibli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145633 By Dr. Abdullah Shibli
Jun 15 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The United Kingdom is now in the midst of a Shakespearean dilemma, “to stay or not to stay”. Voters will decide in a referendum on June 23 whether to stay in the European Union or to break the four decades old relationship they forged, i.e. opt for “Brexit” as it is popularly known. If the majority decides to leave, it will have implications for Britain across the spectrums, political, economic, and social. While in the last referendum on this issue in 1975, an overwhelming 68 percent of the electorate had decided to stay, this time the margin will be narrower, one way or the other. Britain’s departure from the EU will also undoubtedly set a bad example for advocates of Customs Union, an economic arrangement of sovereign countries set up to facilitate trade and economic integration through trade.

While there are many issues relating to the current mood of disillusionment with Britain’s ties with EU, they are not all economic. The most important ones are: immigration, excessive EU regulations, budgetary contributions, loss of sovereignty, and EU social policy. However, all of them have economic side-effects, including the non-economic ones, immigration and EU’s regulatory influence. Prima facie, Brexit appears to be a dramatic move; nonetheless most analyses show that the most important long-term impact could be minor in terms of GDP and unemployment rate. As one meta-analysis points out, the decision to leave the EU appears to be mainly a political consideration about sovereignty and self-determination.

From the policymaker’s perspective, the most important lesson is that the forecasts on GDP are very uncertain. Nine out of ten economists surveyed indicate that in the short-run the economy will experience a downward adjustment, but the loss of income is small. But in the long run, there is a potential for greater loss, and the risk of bigger losses is large.

Fortunately, Britain is not in the same shoes as Greece, since the former has its own currency – the pound sterling – and has not embraced the Euro. It has also been doing much better than its EU partners in recent years. However, EU is Britain’s most important trading partner, accounting for half of all UK exports and imports. UK exports to the EU correspond to almost 15 percent of national output (GDP). Eurosceptics, i.e., those who believe that membership in EU is hurting the UK, counter that “membership of the single market imposes too many regulations on Britain in exchange for too little opening of European markets and that Britain’s trade with countries outside Europe would be higher if it left”.

Unfortunately, should Brexit occur, the UK will need to negotiate a new trade relationship with the EU, and outcomes will depend on the terms of the subsequent trade arrangement and the regulatory framework that it adopts once it is free of EU’s regulatory framework. And there are many alternative trade regimes that have been circulating in the research and media world to capture the short and long-term economic impacts in the post-Brexit world. A sampling of these include joining the European Economic Area (EEA, like Norway), entering into a Customs Union (like Turkey), negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (that eliminates export tariff barriers, like Canada), and the Swiss model (continued bilateral negotiation). Some of the core metrics include GDP growth, trade volumes, inflation, household spending, employment, property values, and assets prices.

A quick survey of economic forecasts based on quantitative models indicates that Britain might benefit or lose from breaking up with the EU. However, the most important conclusion seems to be that the magnitude of the economic impact is hard to predict. Any divorce lawyer will tell you that. Most domestic relationships don’t go sour for economic reasons, rather due to social or personality conflicts. But, any breakup affects both parties and other family members. Britain’s mood until June 23 is captured by a song “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the English punk rock band The Clash written in 1981. The latest opinion poll indicates that there is a greater than even chance that the Brits will decide to leave, unless Prime Minister Cameron can get the voters out in droves.

The writer is an economist, and writes on public policy issues for this newspaper.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Thousands of Minor Refugees Stranded Alone in Greecehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/thousands-of-child-refugees-stranded-alone-in-greece/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thousands-of-child-refugees-stranded-alone-in-greece http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/thousands-of-child-refugees-stranded-alone-in-greece/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 13:15:08 +0000 Apostolis Fotiadis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145520 Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border where a makeshift camp had sprung up near the town of Idomeni. The sudden closure of the Balkan route left thousands stranded. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border where a makeshift camp had sprung up near the town of Idomeni. The sudden closure of the Balkan route left thousands stranded. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Apostolis Fotiadis
ATHENS, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

Closure of the Western Balkans route has trapped tens of thousands of refugees heading to Central and Northern Europe in Greece, including many unaccompanied minors who either escaped from war zones after having lost their relatives, or were sent ahead in hopes of helping their families follow afterwards.

While the Western Balkans corridor remained open, many minors opted to declare they were adults or register as relatives of other refugees transiting the country to avoid being put in protective custody and reception facilities.

According to a May 31 report by Save the Children, more than 1.2 million refugees have headed to Europe since 2015 – the continent’s “biggest wave of mass migration since the aftermath of the second world war.” They come mainly from conflict-torn countries like Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea.

The problem has worsened since the beginning of February, when European countries limited the number and profile of those let through. The formal closure of the route a month afterwards boosted the number of refugees stranded in Greece to 57,000, according to UNHCR. The U.N. refugee agency estimates more than 30 percent of them are minors.

Kiki Petrakou, a social worker with the National Center for Social Solidarity, a state agency involved with the system of transferring minors to specialized accommodation centers around the country, says the number of requests for hosting unaccompanied children rose sharply in the first three months of this year.

“The numbers we are called to manage have multiplied. From January to March 2016, we have had 1,210 requests while during the same period last year they were only 328,” Petrakou told IPS.

Up to the end of May, there have been 1,875 cases, 1,768 boys and 107 girls. “It is likely the numbers will keep increasing while authorities and organisations identify more of these kids throughout the reception camps,” said Petrakou.

So far 1,269 children have been sent to reception centers and another 629 requests are pending. But with inadequate facilities, some children must be placed temporarily in protective custody in police stations or reside in reception facilities for refugees in the Greek islands where conditions are tough and sometimes even hazardous.

Kostantinos Kolovos, a social worker involved with the management of a hosting facility operated by the NGO Praksis in the middle of Athens, says there have been a few isolated cases of children mistreated by authorities.

The center he works at currently hosts 28 minors of various ages and ethnic backgrounds. According to Kolovos, a crucial factor in whether a child receives adequate protection or falls through the cracks of the existing system is access to accurate information.

“Children are misinformed by smugglers who have their own interest in perpetuating the vicious circle of exploitation or ignore basic information regarding protection and rights available to them,” he says.

Consequently, many times they attempt to avoid being sent to official facilities or run away after a few weeks and try to survive on the streets."We pass information to kids about where to seek basic services and food so they don't resort to doing something bad for just 10 euros." -- Kostantinos Kolovos of the NGO Praksis

“We also do street work programmes so we can pass information to kids about where to seek basic services and food so they don’t resort to doing something bad for just 10 euros,” Kolovos says.

Abuse and harassment is not uncommon for minors who have completely fallen out of the protection network and are on the streets. Even those hosted in various emergency reception camps set up by the government around the country are not entirely safe.

Katerina Kitidi, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Athens, told IPS, “UNHCR is deeply concerned by media reports about survival sex, including sexual exploitation of minors, in sites accommodating refugee populations. The authorities should proceed to an immediate and thorough investigation whenever such reports occur.”

According to UNHCR, safeguarding the security of the sites and their inhabitants should be a key priority in all areas, both in the mainland and the islands.

“The danger of survival sex and other types of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is closely linked to the living conditions in areas accommodating refugees. Many sites were not set up to prevent or respond to such risks. For this to be achieved, one clearly needs well-lit and gender segregated WASH (water-sanitation-health) facilities and sleeping areas, as well as private facilities for women and children. In addition, one needs skilled personnel in SGBV monitoring and response, more female translators and investment in the provision of psychosocial aid” Kitidi told IPS.

But so far most of this kind of support to vulnerable populations and unaccompanied minors remains scarce or simply entirely unavailable throughout the reception camps.

A report published last week by the German organisation Pro Asyl regarding detection and protection of vulnerable populations in refugee camps around the Attica region includes interviews with many unaccompanied minors.

The majority of them, the report ‘Vulnerable Lives on Hold’ found, were not followed up with by authorities after being sent to the camps, had no accurate information regarding their own case, and had limited or nonexistent access to protection or asylum services.

“A very high percentage of them is estimated to be admissible for family reunification or relocation,” Pro Asyl noted.

But many, especially those in the islands, might have to wait a long time before having their cases processed while the asylum system struggles to cope with priorities set by the EU-Turkey statement. Under this agreement and according to the EU Asylum Directive, Syrian and other nationals who crossed the Aegean after Mar. 20 could be returned to Turkey on the basis that Turkey is considered a safe third country for them.

Petrakou says the acute need to increase the capacity of the unaccompanied minors’ reception system is not being met. Some new locations  have been created in various Greek cities over the last few months and have been immediately integrated into the reception system. But the 584 referral positions available are too few in light of the rapidly growing size of the problem, and meanwhile the threat of exploitation and abuse for unaccompanied minors is as big as ever.

Child trafficking trends in the context of migration and asylum analysed in a European Commission progress report last month show strong evidence that the ongoing refugee crisis “has been exploited by criminal networks involved in trafficking in human beings to target the most vulnerable, in particular women and children”.

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