First it was Germany, who in September 2015 reintroduced border controls within the Schengen Area. Austria and Slovenia quickly followed in a mere matter of days, throwing up restrictions against the free movement of people. Since then temporary border controls and checks have become the norm throughout most of the Schengen Area. Countries usually prone to more liberal policies have begun to adopt anti-migratory measures as their citizens emotionally respond to an increase in terror attacks and refugee inflows. Two months later in November, interior European ministers met to discuss the potential extension of these restrictions. Is the European project effectively over? Will restrictions continue to overtake headlines or is something brighter in the future?
What countries should be asking, however, is not whether or not these controls will continue, but rather why this anti-migratory sentiment is on the rise. Stress on the pre-existing refugee system, particularly the specifications of the Dublin Regulation, certainly plays a role. Current policy states that refugees are to be registered in the first country of arrival. This disproportionally puts the burden on southern European countries to strengthen their borders and to take on the socioeconomic pressures of stateless people. Because many migrants choose the dangerous Mediterranean route, the navies of these countries, such as Italy, must handle the treacherous task of saving these refugees.
Where is the extra funding from supranational European bodies to deal with this issue? So far: nonexistent. Is there a way of reforming the Dublin Regulation so that the burden isn’t so unbalanced? The EU Commission has proposed methods of change, but a plethora of misunderstanding and bureaucracy leads observers to believe reforms are not in the near future.
Perhaps the problem does not lie with funding. European countries worry that there is not sufficient control to the outside borders because fear of terrorist attacks. How much are European-based attacks, such those in Paris and Brussels, acting as a driving force? Taking a small look at the rise of right-wing parties within the European Union just over the past year points to a high degree of influence. Citizens can suddenly see the direct impact of fighting wars in highly unstable countries – and it seems they don’t like the outcome.
There is a maximum of two years in which European countries can extend border controls throughout the Schengen Area. So it is already concerning that countries like Germany and Austria are facing internal calls from right-wing and mainstream parties to extend these very anti-European politics. Most recently, Chancellor Angela Merkel stated her country’s intent to return Nigerian migrants who seek economic asylum. In 2016, ten thousand Nigerians left their country and attempted to reach Germany. However, given that they are not fleeing a war zone – the ordinary refugee-friendly Germany has opted to send them back. The rationale: to make more space for those refugees who cannot go home.
According to other players, the motivations are not as generous as they sound. Both Greece and Italy claim that the increase in border controls by other countries is an attempt to restrict migrant flows from border countries to their own. More and more, they find themselves alone and with a lack of substantive support by other European states. If discussion on the drawbacks of multilevel governance were to come up, here would a be a particularly clear example of how ineffective it can be.
The Italian Foreign Affairs Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, has responded by calling for a common European approach towards the inflow of refugees. The inter-European police task force (Interpol) is not enough, he claims. Instead, countries need to set up a cooperative civilian-military structure and adopt a common approach to strengthening the EU defence sector. It would be ambitious to claim that all states should simply set up laws that prevent prejudice towards migrant movement. Moreover, it would be unrealistic. European countries have yet to even set up common sanctions against Russia. Why would a common strategy towards an even larger conflict be expected?
Instead of focusing on the second-hand effects (i.e. border controls and migration), we should be thinking about how to deal with the actual issues and how European countries can handle them together. Defence is at the core of how state actors define sovereignty. This is why it is so difficult to convince countries to put aside a singular focus on their own security.
Unfortunately, Europe cannot afford to ignore the very real security threats facing it. Russian interference in Ukraine and the actions of non-state actors (ISIS, Boko Haram, etc.) are only two of the most well-reported phenomena that ought to concern lawmakers. The first reaction by countries may be to reestablish border controls, as have some countries. Recently, the RAND think tank released a report that stated it would cost over 20 billion EUR to end the Schengen Agreement. Surely, such money could be better utilised elsewhere. perhaps on increasing internal intelligence and defence cooperation.
Former Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, once said “more than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together.” Europe has come together before in its history to create the first successful supranational union of nations; it can and should do it again. Increased migration towards their borders represents not a challenge, but rather an opportunity to show the world what international cooperation can accomplish.
How does a country judge the worth of following sets of basic human rights? Is it possible that any country could survive the political and cultural fallout of leaving such an all-encompassing document and set of norms? Before Brexit, not many analysts – let alone political leaders – would imagine that any country could break free of the European Union. In the months since July 2016, however, expectations have shifted.
Recently elected Prime Minister Theresa May said, as early as that April, that it was time for Britain to leave the confines of European Union Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) no matter the results of the EU referendum. Six months later, she kept to that promise.
The Prime Minister’s argument for leaving this convention relies on a few key observations. According to the UK Conservative Party, the adoption of the ECHR restricts Britain’s ability to be sovereign. Furthermore, legal precedent dictates that the ECHR’s rule of law extends to war zones, making it all the more difficult to act independently without keeping these pesky restrictions in mind. The restrictions May refers to are a series of accusations made against members of the British Armed Forces during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Conservative Party, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has spent millions of pounds defending against these baseless charges. Let’s not forget that these charges are causing continual and needless trauma to brave soldiers, who have without doubt committed no wrongs.
Her solution to this problem is to instead adopt a British Bill of Rights (scrapping the Human Rights Act of 2000), which will assuredly include all of the rights covered in the ECHR without the external oversight. After all, why subscribe to a European standard of human rights when it’s much simpler to create your own set of rules?
Here’s the problem: If the main argument against the ECHR is that it restricts Britain in exceptional circumstances, countries are already allowed to deviate from the ECHR in times of war or public emergency. Certain rights cannot be derogated, such as prohibition of torture. That, however, has not stopped Britain placing a blanket ban on all prisoner voting while neither being in wartime or in a case of public emergency (Hirst vs. the United Kingdom). Not only does Theresa May assert that Britain will depart from following the ECHR in times of war, she wants them to withdraw all-together.
The Prime Minister is missing a key point. Choosing to follow the tenants of the ECHR does not restrict Britain’s sovereignty. While the ECHR and correspondingly, the European Court of Human Rights, do hold a sort of power over Britain – according to Charles Falconer, a member UK Labour Party, “there has to be a source external to a government determining what human rights are.” This choice is a willingness to give up a small amount of sovereignty in order to put trust in supranational organisations like the ECHR and EU to better be able to predict the outcomes of the global political stage. In a battle between unpredictability and monotony in international politics, uneventfulness ought to win out.
There is no guidebook that countries can follow when deciding whether the choice of giving up sovereignty has merit. In the 63 years since the ratification of the ECHR, there have certainly been human rights violations, genocides and wars. The ECHR, however, does not claim to bring about an end of violence. Instead, it aims to create a set of norms that all countries should follow in regards to human rights. If Britain does indeed leave the security and predictability of the ECHR, we again enter a world of post-Brexit uncertainty, one in which there are no obvious solutions.
Seventy-two years ago today, the United States became the first and only country to use nuclear weapons during warfare. The bomb “Little Boy” was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6th, while the bomb “Fat Man” was used on the Japanese city of Nagasaki three days later. Between both bombings, an estimated total of 129,000 Japanese citizens were killed, an indeterminable number more poisoned with radiation that would continue to affect the rest of their lives and those of their descendents.
The rationale for using these weapons almost a century later is still under consideration. Many argue that nuclear weapons were necessary because many more thousands would have died if the Americans had invaded Japan. Others claim that surrender was under consideration by Japanese generals and that the Emperor of Japan wanted peace.
Regardless of what side of the debate you fall, there is no questioning that these weapons cause damage stretching over generations. There is no defense against a nuclear bomb. We have yet to fully understand the impact that such weapons cause to not only the victims of these bombings, but also the damage done to the environment. Looking back all these years later, the question remains: are nuclear weapons a reminder of scientific achievement? Or, are they cause for remembrance of its victims? Thus, further provoking deep thought on the nature of weaponry and the extent to which countries will go to claim victory on a world stage fraught with uncertainty.
As discussions about nuclear war infiltrate the news and media, it is more important now than ever to remember that the impact of the first use, is still being felt.
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