EUROPEAN THINK-TANK REVIEW – XXIX. (September 2014)

Written by | Wednesday, September 24th, 2014
European Values

It is Politically and Morally Right for European States to Support Kurdish Forces in Iraq
Brendan O’Leary (LSE European Politics and Policy Blog)

In mid-August, the Council of the European Union welcomed the decision of EU Member States to supply Kurdish militias with weapons and ammunition, to help them stop the advance of the Islamic State [IS]. However, one question is on many Europeans’ lips, especially those opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq: is it right to arm the Kurds? The author of this piece argues it is the right thing to do on a political level, but morally as well. Support for the Peshmerga – Kurdistan’s armed forces – means that troops of other states, including Turkey, will not have to fight the militant Islamists first hand. If Western nations are keen on helping the Kurds, they should primarily do so with weapons, equipment and logistical support. They should also increase their imports of Kurdish oil and gas.

It must be noted that Turkey is expected to play the regional strongman on whom this deal stands or falls. Interestingly, the relations between Turkey and the Kurds have recently shifted from détente to rapprochement to a sort-of alliance. Turkey sees Kurdistan as a regional ally, a buffer state, and a conduit to make Turkey the energy export hub for the European Union. The Turks also appreciate that the IS threat created a unified pan-Kurdish front among the diverse militias of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq – a development which is unseen in the history of greater Kurdistan. Numerous signs indicate that the Kurds are prepared to face death rather than witness the extinction of the Lesser Kurdistan that now exists on the soil of what was formerly known as northern Iraq.

Future developments will likely follow one of two scenarios. One possibility is a deal between Kurdistan and Iraq over Kurdish sovereignty. The other is a breakup of Iraq into three regions along its ethnic divisions: Shia, Sunni, and Kurd. After the events in early August, when the IS was butchering the Yazidis in Sinjar province and the Peshmerga launched an offensive to retake Mosul, one thing is clear: the path toward Kurdish autonomy will not be easy.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2014/08/18/it-is-politically-and-morally-right-for-european-states-to-support-kurdish-forces-in-iraq/)

Zimbabwe EU Ambassador Blunders as Civil Society Trembles
Rejoice Ngwenya (Konrad Adenauer Stiftung)

For some time now, the EU has commanded respect of the people of Zimbabwe. It has been one of the few international institutions to dispute Robert Mugabe’s legitimacy as Zimbabwe’s ruler, and until recently held sanctions against his regime. At the same time, the citizens of Zimbabwe benefitted from the EU’s aid – especially in the realm of democratisation.

Therefore, it came as a surprise to many that the EU has taken steps to warm up and revive its relations with Mugabe’s government, despite damning reports from non-profit organisations about the regime’s ongoing human rights violations, corruption, and voting fraud. The EU seems to have stopped listening. Last month, the EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Ariccia even claimed that there was no governance crisis in Zimbabwe.

Expectedly, the country’s government expressed its gratitude for the Aldo Dell’Ariccia’s statement, while opposition groups and the media criticise it. However, they fail to keep three things in mind. First, Dell’Ariccia is a diplomat and wants to avoid open hostility between himself and his host country. Second, the foreign policy shift came from Brussels, and Dell’Ariccia was only fulfilling orders from above. And third, the EU is looking to a future Zimbabwe: it is building ground for relations with Mugabe’s successor.

However, the EU-Zimbabwe relations may also be criticised because the EU financial support, hitherto received by civic organisations, will now go to the government. The author of the article views loans to Zimbabwe as needless risk-taking. The sooner the EU realises that Mugabe and his henchmen only spend their resources for personal gain, the better.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://www.kas.de/simbabwe/en/publications/38577/)

The European Parliament: A Failed Experiment in Pan-European Democracy?
Stephen Booth a Christopher Howarth (Open Europe)

The European Parliament [EP] has received new powers with every new legislative reform of the European Community and later Union. The spirit behind this centralisation lay in the view that strengthening the EU’s only directly elected body will increase its legitimacy and, as a result, the democratic deficit will be reduced. However, this study finds no correlation between interest in EU affairs or awareness of the EP and voter turnout. In fact, as the EP’s powers continue to mount despite falling election turnouts, its democratic legitimacy is being undermined.

In this year’s European elections, each political faction named its candidate for the President of the European Commission as part of the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ process. Strongly opposed by the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, the process was embraced by Germany and other EU Member States. However, for various reasons, the authors argue that this attempt to bring the elections closer to the voter will be counterproductive.

The study draws several recommendations to reduce the EU’s democratic deficit. In general, some legislative powers should be restored to national governments. More specifically, a new ‘red card’ should be introduced, which would allow national parliaments to combine to permanently block Commission’s proposals. At the same time, the authors call for the introduction of a mechanism for national parliaments to reverse existing EU legislation. Also notable is the proposal to curtail the EP’s role to co-decide in order to stop MEPs from continually using their powers to demand more EU spending and vetoing trade deals with non-EU states ratified by national parliaments.
(The study can be downloaded here: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/Content/Documents/140513_European_Parliament_briefing.pdf)

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