All posts by Leopold Traugott

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Libya & the EU’s Migration Dilemma

Migration issues will dominate a meeting of Europe’s leaders this weekend in Malta. With spring around the corner, and refugee numbers in the Mediterranean bound to rise once more, they are looking for a way to prevent the drama of 2015 and 2016 — for a way to keep numbers low.

The current Maltese EU Presidency brought forward the latest proposal, which sees the solution in a deal with Libya — or rather what is left of it — oriented on the previous agreement with Turkey. This idea is not only dangerous in itself, however, it is also a symptom of the EU’s general incapability to solve its overarching migration dilemma.

Since Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, Libya has failed to recover, and is still de facto at civil war. Proposing the employment of its conflicting militias as migration controllers, hence takes a special kind of chutzpah — something apparently possessed by Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. Whereas critics immediately pointed out the humanitarian price for such a deal, the final verdict came with a report from the German foreign ministry this week. The report stated that conditions in Libyan refugee camps were worse than concentration camps, with execution, rape and torture being common occurrences.

Continue reading at FreedomToday.

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Why An EU-Libya Deal Would Be No Good

Although the EU-Turkey deal caused seemingly endless troubles, everyone seems to agree on one thing: the deal worked. It managed to drastically bring down refugee numbers. For the new Maltese EU presidency, this seems justification enough to replicate it, just that this time the chosen partner is Libya.

With his new proposal, up for debate at the EU Council on 3 February, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is trying to tie up a deal that would make Libya one of the EU’s closest partners in migration control. However, the price of this partnership would be high. It would not only mean a final goodbye to Europe’s commitment to human rights, but it would create further tensions both inside and outside Europe.

The timing of the proposal makes sense, with Malta just assuming the rotating EU presidency, and the migration influx expected to start in the spring. In order to prevent what he calls a “new migration crisis”, Muscat claims Europe has to act quickly and decisively, with pragmatism taking precedence over idealism. In concrete terms, this means negotiating and funding a deal with Libya in which the Libyan coastguard, de facto dependent on whichever warring faction rules the coastline, would be responsible for turning around boats before they reach international waters. This is supposed to drive down numbers, and disrupt the business of smugglers. In return, reception centers would be opened in Libya, allowing asylum seekers to apply on the spot, with the lucky ones accepted receiving safe passage over the sea. Yet, what sounds reasonable in the beginning, is ultimately heavily flawed.

Continue reading at Vocal Europe.

Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, the president of Sudan, listens to a speech during the opening of the 20th session of The New Partnership for Africa's Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 31, 2009. The partnership's primary objective is to eradicate poverty in Africa and bring long-term and sustainable political, economic, and social change to the continent. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released)

Outsourcing European border security – ‘at the whim of foreign dictators’?

Martin Schulz recently travelled to Turkey for the first time since the country’s failed coup in July. One of the main talking points on the agenda was the continuation of the European Union’s refugee deal with Turkey.

While Schulz and Erdoğan discussed how to protect Europe’s borders to the east, Angela Merkel hinted at a plan to outsource the protection of the Union’s southern borders against refugees to the states of North Africa.

While these plans can be helpful in taking short-term pressure off the EU’s external and internal borders, they are also very dangerous. Not only do they make European states susceptible to blackmail, as we have seen already with Libya and most recently Turkey, but they might also be a hindrance to the creation of a stable and endogenous border protection through the EU itself.

The idea of outsourcing the nasty job to secure borders against refugees is understandably compelling, in particular for politicians who are faced with an increasingly restless electorate. It takes the pressure off them to agree on and implement their own mechanisms and instead allows them to pay others to do so.

They have to care less about refugee rights, because atrocities happening far away might create outrage on Facebook, but have little impact on the mood of their electorate. While this might help politicians get re-elected, it should not be what guides our politics.

Continue reading at Euractiv.

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A Marriage of Convenience

Relations between Turkey and the European Union have become increasingly tense in the aftermath of July’s failed coup against Erdogan.

Hence, when Russian president Vladimir Putin welcomed his Turkish counterpart in St. Petersburg this week, Western observers intently followed the meeting, fearing the two leaders’ first meeting in nearly a year could lead to a dangerous partnership of anti-Western autocrats.

Yet, the emergence of such a partnership is highly unlikely.

Relations between both countries are fraught, anti-EU and anti-Western sentiments cannot unite them in any meaningful or threatening way. One just needs to revisit their opposing stances on Syria to understand their intractable differences.

Last November, Turkey shot down a Russian airplane on the Turkish-Syrian border for violating Turkish airspace. In retaliation, Russia imposed sanctions on Turkey, hitting the country’s economy hard.

The sanctions were lifted a month ago, following a half-hearted apology from Erdogan and an apparent rapprochement between the two countries.

The tensions that led to the downing of the Russian jet remain, Moscow and Ankara have positioned themselves on opposite sides of the region’s crucial geopolitical question: the future of Syria.

Continue reading at EUobserver.

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Lessons on democracy from Brexit

It took British youth just hours to go to the barricades once it became clear that the decisive votes for Brexit stemmed from the country’s elderly. How could those who might not live to experience the full consequences of a Brexit be allowed to decide on it? As much as I sympathize with this sentiment of betrayal and loss, I cannot help seeing the irony in their behaviour: a generation that sees the state as the solution for nearly everything is shocked by how democracy can work against certain groups.

Democracy has brought great benefits to our societies. At the same time, democratic decision-making, whether through parliament or direct referenda, has always been about favouring a majority opinion over a minority. Taking away the rights of one group on behalf of another is not the antidote of democracy; it is endogenous. Contrary to popular narrative, democracy never meant freedom from being ruled; it just changed the rules of who is allowed to infringe and curtail on your freedoms. By handing these powers to a government that people could to a certain extent codecide on, it further legitimized this behaviour, styling it as self-rule, and thus as just.

It amazes me that people are now demanding an end to public referenda after their loss, or advocate the withdrawal of voting rights for the elderly. It makes me wonder where their sense of entitlement comes from. Maybe they would do good to reflect on the virtues and vices of democracy as a whole. A reflection might help them understand that the vices are not old people, but rather the general mindset that (electoral) majorities can dictate how others live their lives and infringe on their rights.

Continue reading at CapX.