Secessionist movements and Euroscepticism: are they a problem for the European Union?

  • 30 September 2014

 

The result of the recent Scottish referendum on independence, one hand averted the risk of destabilization of the equilibrium, on the other hand also raised the issue of the spread of political parties and independence movements within the European Union.

Following the failed attempt of Scotland, Catalonia also can not pursue the road of independence. The Catalan referendum, which was to be held on November 9, has been blocked by the High Court, which upheld the appeal filed by the government in Madrid, temporarily suspending the referendum, waiting for the judgment within five months. A decision motivated by doubts of the referendum is unconstitutional because it infringes the principle of “indissoluble unity of Spain”, enshrined in the Constitution. According to The Premier Mariano Rajoy words, the referendum “attentive to the rights of all the Spaniards”.

All over the European Union territory, however, there are many parties that affirmed the recognition of the right of peoples to self-determination, as enshrined in international law.

This right is a Golden Rule (ius cogens) of international law and establishes the right of a people subjected to foreign domination to gain its independence, joining in another state or at least to be able to independently choose their own political system.

The European Nations that are facing this problem are:

  • Spain: the breakaway regions are Catalonia, Aragon, the Canary Islands, the Basque Country and Galicia.
  • Great Britain: the independence movements are present in Scotland, but also in Cornwall, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • France: fears separatists in Corsica, Brittany and New Caledonia.
  • Belgium: There are separatists between French and Flemish
  • Slovakia: Hungarian minority claim to the wrongs suffered by the peace treaties after the First World War.
  • Romania: has to face the presence of the Hungarian minority, the most important in terms of numbers.
  • Italy: the major claims of independence came from the Northern League and the independence movements of Sicily and Sardinia.

 

Another problem that the European Union is facing is the advancing consensus of Eurosceptic parties. The phenomenon is revealed by the results of the last European elections. The theory Eurosceptic, although not recently codified, today, has been established and widespread in a capillary way, within all member States of the European Union.

A cause can be identified in the climate of economic crisis and the difficulties that Europe is experiencing. This situation comports the increase of the critical elements, of the people discontent and, as a direct consequence, of the utterances of this malaise.

The opposition of the Eurosceptic parties primarily concerned the following issues: the process of European integration, the adoption of the euro as a unique currency and also the immigration policies.

According to the Eurosceptic, in fact, the process of European political integration directly strikes the essence of the concept of the sovereign state. These arguments are shared and supported by the political parties and nationalist movements, which-from always-manifest reluctance to accept the loss of state sovereignty, the basis for the Union creation.

Another problem concerns the excessive bureaucracy of the European Union within the European institutions. It would be wrong to slow down, hinder and – at times-block European initiatives.

Even within the Eurosceptic parties, however, there are discrepancies. Some, in fact, would like their state to come out by the European Union, while others aim to eliminate the European Union itself.

 

We analyse the main political parties and movements Eurosceptic (grouped by country):

–          Austria:

The Austrian Freedom Party (in German, invoking Österreichs, FPÖ) was founded in 1956, and it is nationalist and populist party. The party, led by Heinz-Christian Strache, on the one hand, emphasizes the necessity of creation of new labour policies (especially in favour of the workers) and, on the other hand, pursues an anti-immigration policy, accompanied by a campaign against the Roma population.

–          Belgium:

The New Flemish Alliance (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie in Belgium, N-VA) is a Flemish centre-right party, founded in 2001 – led by Bart De Wever. NVA claims the independence of Flanders, one of the three regions that make up Belgium. It also proposes some kind of federalism and economic proposals relating to the management of the EU budget. Among the Eurosceptic parties, the New Flemish Alliance is the party who had the most moderate program: it supports the Euro, the single market, a common defence and foreign policy at Community level.

–          France:

The Front National (National Front in French): a right-wing nationalist movement founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen and led today by his daughter Marine Le Pen, who is President. Among the proposals in its program’s it wants the return to national currencies, the implementation of protectionist policies, the abolition of the Schengen Treaty (the system of free movement -in EU territory- of citizens of States that have signed the agreement). The FN has a strong opposition about the Roma population presence.

–          Germany:

The Alternative for Germany (German Alternative für Deutschland, AfD) is a conservative party founded in 2013 by Bernd Lucke, an economist and professor of macroeconomics at the University of Hamburg. Lucke immediately proposed to hold a referendum to approve the transfer of sovereignty from the member states of the European Union, Germany’s exit from the Euro and the creation of monetary unions or alternative boundary parallel to the current one. Lucke has also spoken about energy policy, criticizing the willingness of Chancellor Angela Merkel want to shut down by 2020, all nuclear power plants operating in the country, arguing that such a choice could lead to an increase in energy prices.

–          Greece:

Golden Dawn, the far-right nationalist party, has campaigned hard Eurosceptic, more than any other party in Europe. Much of the policy proposals of the movement (who denies being a neo-Nazi despite having many connotations) focus on the issue of immigration and the will to get out of the Euro. In recent years, the political action of the Golden Dawn was organized mainly through a series of protests, succeeding in some cases to influence (albeit indirectly) the government’s choices: non-EU nationals residing in Greece cannot vote (nor were able to nominate) in the European elections, even if they were born and raised in the country, according to an amendment approved by Parliament election Greek.

–          Italy:

  1. Lega Nord (LN), founded in 1995 by Umberto Bossi. LN is against the bureaucratization of the EU and European integration. It also would be Italy’s exit from the euro as a unique currency and different (and more restrictive) immigration policies.
  2. Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), founded by former comedian Beppe Grillo, supports the need for Italy to exit from the Eurozone and a return to national currencies.

–          The Netherlands

  1. The Party for Freedom (Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV): founded in 2004 by Geert Wilders, who is still the leader. It is a right-wing party, the populist anti-European orientation. PVV opposes Turkish membership in the European Union. The biggest political success of the PVV was the rejection in 2005 of the referendum for the creation of a European Constitution. Geert Wilders wants the Netherlands brought out by the European Union and the European institutions considered as a real bureaucratic dictatorship. Geert Wilders is also known for its critical stance towards Islam and it was always very hard towards the citizens of Moroccan origin who are in the Netherlands (not immigrants), and has always had good relations with the governments of the state of Israel (an aspect that distinguishes it from the positions of other Eurosceptic parties).
  2. The Socialist Party has always opposed to membership of the country to the EU.
  3. The Reformed Political Party, the oldest political party, Dutch, Calvinist orientation and Eurosceptic.

In the Netherlands all the Eurosceptic parties have criticized the free trade agreement, proposed by the United States, because it would jeopardize the production of local industries for the benefit of multinational corporations.

–          United Kingdom

The UKIP was founded in 1993 by some members of the more conservative wing of the British Conservative Party. Among its major policy proposals are the withdrawal of the Maastricht Treaty and the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The leader of UKIP Nigel Farage, after being severely criticized by the other British parties, mainly as a result of a series of campaign posters as defined by many observers as racist, tried to mediate some of its positions: confirmed its intention to restrict access to a number of social benefits to about two million immigrants Community staying in the UK (mainly from the poorer EU countries such as Romania and Bulgaria), but has ruled to want to expel from the country. In addition, in the program of his party are asked to stop immigration for the next five years. The most discussed topic was that of labour in the party program concessions are offered in the labour market for British citizens, always at the expense of immigrants.

 

In any case, the Eurosceptic parties and movements have an impact on important political processes:

–          In 2005, the European Constitution was rejected in referenda held in France and the Netherlands

–          In 2008 another referendum in Ireland has rejected the European Treaty, which was to replace the European Constitution.

A defeat for the Eurosceptic, however, came with just the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (held in 2009). At that 67.1% of Irish voters expressed for yes giving the final go-ahead for the ratification of the Treaty.

 

Immigration in the Mediterranean: UN warning

  • 29 September 2014

The recent tragedy happened in the Mediterranean – the death of about 500 migrants after a shipwreck off the coast of Malta-could be considered as a mass murder. This was stated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein.

The request for governments, made by the High Commissioner, is to investigate about the incident in order to understand the traffickers’ real involvement and guilt. “The ruthless act of deliberately hitting a boat carrying hundreds of defenceless people – said Zeid – is a crime that must be punished.” The Neo-High Commissioner recalls, in fact, Egypt and other countries of North Africa and the European states, to make a concerted effort to bring to justice those traffickers. “If the stories of the survivors will be confirmed – said Zeid-, and seem too credible, we are faced with an act that amounts to a mass murder in the Mediterranean.”

The High Commissioner urges the Greek, Maltese and Italian authorities -in particular- to share information about the identity of the smugglers with the Egyptian authorities, which – he hopes – should immediately, started a full and thorough investigation.

“All countries – noted Zeid – would involve their own police forces and justice systems to investigate if the victims were their citizens, killed by criminal groups in their territory. Reaction should not be less decisive, only because the victims are foreign and the crime happened in the high seas. ”

The data of 2014 about immigration in the Mediterranean, provided by the UNHCR are chilling: more than 2,500 people drowned or disappeared attempting the crossing, of whom more than 2,200 since the beginning of June. There are 130,000 people arrived by sea in Europe so far this year, more than double the 60,000 recorded in 2013. In Italy they have reached more than 118,000, most of them rescued at sea in the naval operation Mare Nostrum. “It’s an unprecedented humanitarian crisis,” said Carlotta Sami, UNHCR spokesperson.

“It should not be left to only one country the task to cope with the massive influx of migrants,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric invoking an “international effort.” According to the UN, “there should be an international effort,” and in assistance to countries that receive migrants, or because “conditions of peace and prosperity will return to their countries of origin.”

In this regard, it should start next November 2014 the Frontex operation plus – the new EU-led program that aims to border control. The goal should be to have available, to patrol the Mediterranean, at least 10 ships and four aircraft.

 

 

Tunisia: the population perceives the importance of the European Union as a financial partner

  • 26 September 2014

Tunisia is among the countries covered by the Neighbourhood Policy of the European Union, and, through this instrument, receives -from the European Union- technical and financial assistance, and signing trade agreements. All of these incentives are tied to the respect of human rights and to the promotion of economic and political reforms.

The ENPI (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument) spread the results of a recent survey about Tunisia -made through a project of the European Union surveys of opinion. These results indicated that the European Union is increasingly perceived by Tunisian citizens as an important partner for the country.

The system of polls and media monitoring of the countries involved in the ENP (European Neighbourhood Policy) – neighbourhood barometer- is part of the EU-regional communication program funded by the European Union and has the objective of assessing the knowledge and perception of policy EU Neighbourhood, its activities and programs of cooperation.

Specifically, the study conducted in Tunisia -based 1,006 interviews conducted in May 2014- revealed that the number of Tunisians who consider the EU as an important partner in six months rose from 64% to 72%.

In addition, 64% of respondents believe that the EU and Tunisia share enough common values ​​to be able to cooperate, compared with 57% in the last Euro barometer. For 61% of Tunisians surveyed, EU support is very important for the development of their country (compared to 52% in the previous survey). Just over half of those asked (51%) saw the EU in a positive light, compared to just 13% for whom it conjured up a negative image.

The poll found that more than half (52%) of Tunisians trusted the EU – more than other international institutions like the Arab League (26%) or the UN (28%).

Almost three quarters of respondents (74%) felt that the EU entertains good relations with Tunisia, compared with 69% in the previous survey; share slightly lower than that of other countries of the Maghreb (78%).

The number of Tunisians who declared themselves generally satisfied with the life they lead rose substantially from 49% to 61%, though it was still lower than in other countries in the Maghreb (73%).

However, half of those asked still felt things were going in the wrong direction in their country, against 35% who thought they were heading in the right direction. Eighty-one per cent said the economic situation was bad, but more than half (54%) felt it would get better; 56% were still not satisfied with the way democracy worked in Tunisia, but the figure was down from 72% in the previous survey; 62% were satisfied across the broader Maghreb region.

 

 

 

Serbia and the economic crisis: the government wants to cut the public spending

  • 18 September 2014

According to a warning issued by the Serbian National Office of Statistics, industrial production in the month of August was lower by 13.1% compared to August of last year. In addition, in Serbia, industrial production decreased by 4.3% in the first eight months of the year compared to the same period of 2013.

But in the first eight months of the year the foreign trade is instead increased by 6.9% compared to the same period of 2013. Italy, in the period January-August, is confirmed as the first Country as far as concern Serbian export ($ 1.75 billion); the second Country is Germany (1.23 billion dollars) and the third is Bosnia and Herzegovina (862 million dollars).

As far as concern imports Italy is at the second place, with the Russian Federation ($ 1.58 billion), and behind Germany (1.64 billion dollars). The 64.2% of Serbia’s foreign exchange are with EU countries.

These data are the base for the announcement of the Serbian government of a plan to reduce drastically public spending.

The Serbian government has decided, in fact, to make a package of austerity measures aimed at restoring the economy of the Balkan country. Serbia, in fact, is facing a growing public debt, high budget deficits, unemployment above 20% and a widening of social inequalities.

The Prime Minister, the conservator Aleksandar Vucic, said that the country is no longer in a position to spend more than it receives. Serbia must, according to the prime minister, to “pass a painful measures but no more procrastination.” Vucic announced in particular cuts to pensions and wages in the public sector, generalized savings in public administration, a strong contrast to the underground economy, reductions in subsidies to public companies and a strengthening of the private sector. However the cuts will not include, however, pensions and salaries in the public sector of less than 25,000 dinars (about 210 euro). The public salaries that exceed this quota will be reduced by 10% -10.5%, while pension cuts will be progressive: between 25,000 and 30,000 dinars the reduction will be 3.1%, between 30 000 and 35 000 the reduction will be 6%, between 35 000 and 40 000 the reduction will be 9%. Pensions that exceed 40 thousand dinars will suffer deeper cuts, and those of 100,000 dinars (approximately € 840) will be reduced by 15% -16%.

Cuts in pensions and salaries in the public sector – said the prime minister – the state expects to get 400 million euro, which will rise to 700 million with other savings measures envisaged. “We need to save as much as possible, starting with the ministries, services,” said Vucic, according to which the austerity measures will also address energy consumption and fuel in the armed forces and police.

The government, he added, will reduce subsidies to the national gas company (Srbijagas) and the State Railways (Zeleznice Srbije), and hang them all to the great tycoons of the agricultural sector, keeping them only for small farmers.

Despite the seriousness of the economic situation and budget, Vucic, however, reassured international players about the fear of Serbian insolvency.

He states that Serbia is far from bankruptcy, suggested by some analysts and the media. “Serbia is solvent, and we have enough funds until next April, even without new debt,” he said.

These measures were welcomed by the Italian ambassador in Belgrade, Giuseppe Manzo. He has, in fact, commented on the package of cuts and save it as “a brave and positive step for the solution of the economic crisis.” Beef praised the progress of reforms undertaken by the Serbian government, reiterating its full support for Serbia’s European path by Italy, which is the largest economic partner of the Balkan country. “I think we should encourage the Serbian government to continue its work, through reforms and economic restructuring measures, which will benefit the citizens of Serbia and the advancement of Serbia towards the EU,” said the Italian ambassador.

 

 

 

Women’s rights in Tunisia

  • 13 September 2014

The Article 20th of the Tunisian Constitution, after the amendment adopted in January 2014, states: “Citizens -men and women- have the same rights and duties. They are equal before the law, without discrimination. The State guarantees the towns’ and citizens’ rights and individual and public liberties and provides them the means for a decent life. “

Gender equality is, in this way, enshrined in the Constitution and it is states without discrimination, for the first time in an Arab country. In fact, since 1956 Tunisia is the Arab country that guarantees more rights to women, but until the beginning of the year, there was no official constitutional provision.

Also, about the “representation of women” in the institutions, Article 34 of the new Constitution states: “The State shall seek to ensure equal representation of women in elected assemblies.” The woman is finally recognized as worthy of protection under Article 46 of the Constitution which requires the State to adopt the necessary measures to eradicate violence against women. In the fight against the mistreatment of women Tunisia in 2013 had already embarked on the development of a legal framework aimed at reducing gender-based violence, which defined by international standards.

Today, however, although the present Tunisian legislation about the delicate issue of equality between men and women is the most advanced in the Arab world, on a practical level this theoretical statement is often frustrated by daily practice. There are same problems in in family law: about the issues of equality in inheritance law; about equality of rights between parents regarding minor children; and about equality before the criminal court.

The gender situation has been investigated by the European Union, which published a full report on gender equality in Tunisia. The document, drawn up in cooperation between the EU and the Government of the Republic of Tunisia, aims to highlight gender problems in the country. EU Report provides an overview of the situation of women and men on the socio-economic and political, legal and legislative framework in relation to the issue of equality, institutional mechanisms, and it analyses the major public policies and interventions by the international community in support of gender equality in the country.

In EU report the description is supported by an analysis of the women integration into the policies and processes of development of Tunisian governance. The Report focuses on the obstacles to the full enjoyment by women of their rights. The European Union is committed to promoting gender equality, combating violence against women and girls, and the empowerment of women. Strengthening the promotion and protection of women’s rights is one of the key focus areas of the EU-Tunisia Action Plan 2013-2017.

There are other situation that appears encouraging: other countries of the Southern Mediterranean – primarily Morocco and Egypt- began a slow process of legislative progress in the field of gender equality. The Tunisian Neila Chaabane, Secretary of State for Women and the Family, said: “Tunisia will continue to be the first country in the Arab world in the field of women’s empowerment and family law. Will always imitated but never equalled.” She consider the Tunisian as a “visionary approach” in the Personal Status Code of 1956, which provided, she said, “the abolition of polygamy, the possibility of civil marriage and the prohibition of wife reject, recognition of the right to divorce,” even for personal convenience , for both partners,  with the exclusive jurisdiction of the court.

Since 1956, Neila Chaabane continues, “the rights of Tunisian women have not stopped evolving.” For example, she points out, the woman offers the Tunisian nationality to children born to a foreign father; has been deleted the woman duty of obedience; in 2007 the minimum age for marriage has been fixed at 18 years, whereas in the case of marriages of minors is also required the consent of the mother; There are financial guarantees for women in case of divorce. “Also – she continues – Tunisia has ratified almost all international conventions on women’s rights, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).” This Convention -the minister noted – “have greater legal force than national laws and are subject to constant monitoring by world public opinion.”

The new Constitution promulgated on January 27th 2014 “consolidated” and “expanded” women rights. The change in terms of regulation is also accompanied -observes Neila Chaabane- a cultural change, by the cultural change of traditionalist mentality of the past. The women emancipation, in fact, “which dates back more than a century ago, has become a reality and undeniable reality in Tunisia, tangible in all fields.”

The Secretariat of State for Women and the Family, however, has to admit that “gap between theory and practice, especially in equal opportunities in employment and access to public and political life” persist.  Chaabane makes concrete actions to eliminate this gap. This action concern in particular: the fight against social and cultural stereotypes to the active participation of women in public life and the economic independence of women in rural society in the fight against illiteracy.