Tag Archive: France

EU Arctic Aspirations Stonewalled Again

For the second time, the Arctic Council has deferred an EU application to become an observer on the multilateral Arctic forum. The Arctic Council was formally established through the Ottawa Declaration in 1996. The impetus behind the Council’s inception was the need for an intergovernmental  forum in which Arctic states could cooperate in matters mutually beneficial for the region.

The European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, has argued that the EU “has a stake in what happened in the Arctic”, and “is an Arctic actor by virtue of its three Arctic states, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden.” The EU has not shied away from speaking about its Arctic interests. In June 2012, the Commission proposed a three point Arctic policy, the most salient of which is the sustainable development of resources.

It is undeniable that the EU has a stake in the future of Arctic development. It is estimated over 90% of Europe’s oil production and 60% of its gas production comes from offshore operations occurring in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea. Moreover, an estimated 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30% of its undiscovered gas reserves are lying within the Arctic seabed. Additionally, proponents of EU accession have argued that climate change is a trans-boundary issue, and thus, will adversely impact European weather patterns and fish stocks.

There have been two primary arguments against the EU attaining permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. First, the Heritage Foundation has repeatedly asserted that the EU is a “supernational” organization and, therefore, does not meet the criteria to join the Arctic Council as an observer. Second, the Canadian government has opposed EU observer status since the EU submitted its first application in 2009.

Canadian opposition began in May 2009 when the European Parliament voted 550-49 to impose a seal trade ban throughout the European Union. A Canadian Inuit group challenged the ban, but the General Court of the EU dismissed the appeal. Additionally, similar challenges have been brought before the European Court of Justice, but they also resulted in dismissal. Consequently, this lack of success in the European courts inspired a Nunavut-based group to begin the “No Seal, No Deal” petition calling on the Canadian government to reject the EU’s application for full observer status.

This second argument may carry more weight with the Arctic Council than the former. Following the announcement of the EU’s deferral, Leona Aglukkaq, the new Canadian chair of the Arctic Council, pointed out that one of the criteria that observers must meet is to demonstrate respect for the traditional ways of life of the indigenous people of the North.

The EU’s interests in the Arctic are not disappearing any time soon. Recently, Italy joined EU member states: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as observers on the Arctic Council while Finland, Sweden, and Denmark all have permanent membership. Hopefully these EU Arctic actors will keep the EU’s best interest in mind until relations are able to thaw with Canada.

French President Wavering On Action Towards Syria

United States President Barack Obama is not the only international leader facing pressure concerning the proposed attacks on Syria.  French President Francois Hollande is also facing pressure from the French public, French Parliament and the European Union about taking military action against Syria.  Less than a month ago on August 21st, Hollande insisted that urgent action be taken against Syria without waiting for the report from the United Nations.  Yet, this past Friday, September 6th, Hollande now says he wants to await the findings from the United Nations before taking any action.  It appears that European diplomats from the European Union have struck a deal with Hollande.  In exchange for waiting for the United Nations to release its report, the European Union will provide more political support to France if it takes military action against Syria.  It appears that France, like many other European nations, needs the report from the United Nations before it can take any legitimate action against Syria that would be supported by the European Union.  France is just one of the few countries that expressed support for such action, as evident by the fact only ten (10) countries joined the United States in signing onto the G-20 statement (France, the U.K. and Spain were the only European nations).



The EU Sovereign Debt Crisis: Some Legal Causes

A lot of attention surrounding the EU sovereign debt crisis has ostensibly focused on the allocation of blame to Member-States individually, often leaving out the EU institutions themselves. Responsibility for the current financial situation does in large part reside with the more indebted EU states such as Greece, Spain, Italy, and Ireland. However, there are additional causes that also deserve some of the attention.

The Treaty of the European Union (TEU) created the Eurozone and the European Central Bank (ECB). This final level of economic integration completed the three stage monetary and economic union that began in 1990. As the introduction of the Euro drew near, legitimate concerns were being raised by Member States regarding the economic stability of this new Eurozone. In response, the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) was adopted in 1997. A specific resolution of the SGP, formally recognized as Council Regulation (EC) No 1467/97, implemented a targeted deficit reduction procedure for member-states that possessed excessive debt, imposing a deficit limit, an overall debt limit, and empowered the ECB to levy fines for non-compliance. However, the SGP has been inadequately enforced since its adoption. Such inadequate enforcement of the SGP may very well underlie the troubling economic situation the EU finds itself in today.

The most striking example of this questionable attitude toward the SGP came in November 2003, when the European Council (EC) chose not to implement recommendations of the European Commission (Commission) pursuant to the national budgets of two Member States. France and Germany’s national did not conform to SGP standards and the EC decided against enforcing SGP deficit reduction procedures previously agreed upon. This controversy eventually arrived at the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The Commission raised the issue that the EC’s failure to enforce the SGP’s debt re-structutring mechanisms against the Member States of Germany and France. Although the ECJ did rule against the EC for its refusal to pursue the SGP’s enforcement mechanisms, the checks and balances between EU institutions have been called into question and the authoritativeness of the SGP has been seriously undermined.

For example, the ECJ stated that the EC “cannot break free from rules laid down by Article 104 TEC and those for which it set forth for itself in Regulation No. 1467/97(SGP)”. Article 104 of the Treaty of the European Community (TEC) codifies the discretion of EC to assess a Member-State’s debt [104(6)], make recommendations on remedying that debt [104(7)], and the procedures for non-compliance [104(9)]. However, the SGP subsequently stipulated additional procedures to be implemented against a Member State in the case of non-compliant debt structure. The ECJ opinion alludes to an interesting question regarding the scope of the relationship between Art 104 TEC and the SGP. Understandably, however, they remind the parties that such a question “had not been presented”.

As Professor Larry Eaker of the American University of Paris has explained, this ECJ decision has potentially created a troubling conflict between the broad discretion afforded the EC in matters of economic and monetary policy, as expressed in Art. 104 TEC, and the monetary restrictions that were envisaged in the SGP. It would seem that the subsequent addendum of the SGP to the TEC would resolve this conflict just as a matter of chronology, but things are often never that simple.

The ECJ’s decision prompted subsequent legislation by the European Commission that intended to correct issues raised in the 2004 Commission v. Council case. But the conflict between the EU institutions and Member States is certain to continue, given the lack of resolution concerning the scope of the SGP.


France and the Ban on Mercedes’ Use of (Il)legal Hydroflurocarbons

In response to the Kyoto Protocol, EU member states have begun an initiative to reduce the amount of hydrofluorocarbons emitted by the air-conditioning systems in automobiles, so that they can be in compliance with the necessary reduction in greenhouse gases required by the Protocol.  The EU has created Directive 2006/40/EC to ensure the uniformity of the effort and to avoid impeding the free movement of commerce between member countries.

Last week France’s administrative court overruled a ban on German engineered Mercedes automobiles for non-compliance with the EU ban on R134a.  The court held that banning the sale or registration of cars being sold with R134a as a coolant for the air-conditioning system could not be upheld when the ban was called into place because of suspicions that Daimler, the parent company for Mercedes, was circumventing technical rules for registration of cars using air-conditioning chemical R134a.  Article 5.4 of the Directive states that after January 1, 2011 member states will not be allowed to approve new cars that are to fitted with air-conditioning systems that will emit a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of higher than 150.  R134a has a global warming potential of 1430.  France was concerned that Mercedes had registered cars prior to 2011 with R134a, but then, attempting to comply with regulations decided to switch to R1234yf, which is the only chemical that meets current Directive requirements.  However, after testing, Daimler found that R1234yf was combustible at a lower temperature than R134a and decided against using R1234yf in their vehicles, and returned to using R134a.

The Directive notes that at the time it was enacted, there were currently no cost-effective alternative chemicals on the market to replace R134a.  The Directive also noted that the time tables should be re-evaluated when a suitable replacement is discovered, as it may take longer to implement than originally hoped.

Several car companies are now looking for alternatives or putting off the switch to R1234yf until the risks involved are further defined.  Currently there are only two manufacturers of R1234yf, Honeywell and DuPont, and they are urging the speedy implementation of the EU Directive.  DuPont is confident that the risk associated with R1234yf is “nearly a million times lower than the risk related to car fires from all potential causes, and the risk is well below those commonly considered acceptable by the general public and regulatory agencies.”


Antiquated and Sexist Laws

France has received a great deal of unwanted attention in recent weeks after the French government finally revoked an antiquated law banning women in the French capital from wearing pants. The ban had been in place since 1800 following the French Revolution when women were demanding to wear pants pursuant to a movement for equal rights. In response, the law was enacted so that women were required to receive special permission from the police to “dress as men” in Paris. One commentator explains the purpose of the law: “[B]anning women from trouser-wearing was thus an effective way of banning them from the rank and file of the revolution–and of keeping them, basically, in their place.” Some exceptions were later allowed so women could ride bicycles or horses. In 1946, the ban remained on the books even after women were declared equal to men in the French Constitution. However, the law has been completely unenforced in recent decades. Nevertheless, France’s Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, officially lifted the ban on January 31, 2013. In a statement, Vallaud-Belkacem wrote: “This ordinance is incompatible with the principles of equality between women and men, which are listed in the Constitution, and in France’s European commitments.”

Antiquated and sexist laws are not unique to France. Indeed, there have been many unenforced sexist laws on the books throughout the United States. For example, New Jersey finally revoked three archaic and sexist laws in 2011. One of the repealed laws required a man and woman to wait at least 72 hours to get married unless the man was arrested for “bastardy, rape, fornication or of having had carnal knowledge of an unmarried female, and the accused person consents to marry such female.” The New Jersey Law Revision Commission aptly described the statutes as “a demeaning relic.” Perhaps the Star-Ledger Editorial Board sums up the situation best: “[L]aw should be a living document that reflects the times, our beliefs and our values. And when we don’t like what the words say about us, we should change them…”

Proposed Eurozone Bank Highlights Straining Solidarity in European Union

As the Eurozone crisis persists, the European Union is exploring dramatic options to stabilize the economic crisis which threatens to irrevocably fragment it. An article in the Economist documents the ‘continued need for wavering private banks to be bailed out by their national governments. A proposed measure to mollify the banking emergency is a ‘banking union,’ which would inject failing banks with capital, alleviating the burden of weaker member states. On September 12, the European Commission put forth a proposal for a ‘Single Supervisor Mechanism’- a preliminary step towards this hypothetical banking union. Under this Mechanism, the European Central Bank would supervise all banks within the banking union, allowing it to uniformly apply a single set of rules across the European Union market.
However, this proposed Single Supervisor Mechanism magnifies the tension between preserving national autonomy and the stated principle of solidarity at the core of the EU. The economic disaster has brought to the forefront the opposition of economically sturdy and powerful member states such as Germany to be held accountable for delinquent states such as Greece and France. In the instant case, as described by the Guardian, the news of such a EU banking union has furthered mutual distrust between Germany and France. Germany has essentially accused France of attempting to shift its own perceived financial irresponsibility to the EU, whereas France views Germany’s hesitance towards the proposed banking union as proof that it seeks to retain undue influence apart from the Union. Essentially, Germany wants to maintain control over the majority of its banks.
This dynamic highlights a power struggle between member states (mainly Germany) and the EU governing apparatus. As noted by the Economist, important questions remain, especially regarding the scope of the European Central Bank and whether it will have the power to probe any bank, or to issue or revoke banking licenses. Such questions understandably concern Germany, which does not want to see its domestic influence dissipate because of weaker member states such as France.
As economic uncertainty reigns, the fault lines of the European Union may continue to be exposed further. Germany’s potentially hostile reaction to having its own authority weakened by struggling member states may undermine the delicate balance between sovereignty and solidarity on which the EU is dependent.

Necessary Power? The Development of the European Union Military

The Common Security and Defense Policy, CSDP, could be said to have had its historical beginnings with the signing of the 1947 Treaty of Dunkirk. The treaty was signed by France and United Kingdom after World War II due to a possible with German threat. This treaty of ‘Alliance and Mutual Assistance” might be the first of its kind between European countries in an attempt to bind together in warding off enemy attacks.

In 1999, after the initial Dunkirk Treaty and through other treaties, meetings, and agreements  among the 27 Member States of the European Union, EU, the European Security and Defense Policy, ESPD, was established.  The goal of the ESPD was to ensure the security of Europe in the globalizing world and to formulate a united European international security strategy in order to deal with the growing threats facing the EU. Further, another goal was to support the EU’s “Common Foreign and Security Policy.” These growing dangers might be too much for a single Member State  to face alone. Unlike its predecessor, the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI), the ESPD included Member States of the EU that were not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. In so doing, the ESPD, first, fell under the jurisdiction of Europe and second, created the first united Military strategy of the EU because non-NATO Member States of the EU were allowed to become members. In 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon came into force/effect. That effect brought with it a change in name of the “united strategy” from the ESPD to the CSDP.

Before its renaming in 2009, the ESPD carried out its first mission in 2003 following the 1999 declaration of intent of the Member States for the ESPD. This mission consisted of EU troops watching over the country of Macedonia due to tensions of different ethnic groups due to the consequence of the Kosovo War. Since then the EU military have completed missions in Africa, Asia, and Europe. These missions range from  humanitarian (Africa) to peacekeeping (Europe). The 27 Member States that make up the EU military have a combined military budget of 194 Billion Euros  for military expenditures and over 5 million military personnel (active and reserve). In fact, the CSDP has been compared  to the national strategy of the United States’ military.

The United States, unlike the EU, is one country. The EU consist of nations with their own military power, budget and personnel. Furthermore, the 27 Member States each have their own Heads of States who make decisions that, although helps their national interest, must conform with the standards of the EU, because failure to do so would destroy the purpose of the EU. However, there is much to be seen when a Member State has every right to abstain from a mission but is not allowed to do so. It would be interesting to see what the remedy to that dilemma would be. After all, the EU was created for a common market, but whether a unified military was a rightful side-effect of such is still left to be seen.

The EU’s Involvement in France’s Roma Row

The French government has continued to generate considerable controversy over its eviction of Gypsies (known as Roma) from their makeshift camps throughout the country. At least five camps in the Paris area have been demolished as well as camps in Lyon and Lille. The French raids have left hundreds of Roma, including many children, homeless after many of their possessions were seized and no arrangements for temporary housing were made. Human Rights Watch estimates that the number of Eastern European Roma in France has remained stable at around 15,000 despite the expulsions. Many of the Roma do not speak French and are highly distrustful of the government stemming from a long history of discrimination. The last major Roma eviction in France occurred in 2010 when many Roma were evicted to Romania and Bulgaria. The 2010 evictions resulted in sanctions by the European Commission. During the recent presidential campaign, President Francois Hollande had promised that any evictions would include the promise of “alternative solutions.” Critics, however, argue that alternative solutions have not been offered. The Socialist government defends the latest eviction efforts by arguing that demolitions are necessary for public health and safety. Indeed, most of the camps lack electricity and running water.

Despite serious concerns over discrimination and freedom of movement, the EU remains seemingly unresponsive in dealing with the situation. The EU claims that it is closely monitoring the situation to ensure that the evictions are consistent with the EU’s rules regarding the free movement of people. France’s Interior Ministry claims that the camps were demolished in accordance with EU legal guidelines. The 2010 evictions of the Roma led to deeper poverty and worse conditions than before. In addition, the 2010 evictions reinforced a climate of fear and intimidation felt by many Roma communities.

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