openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en What does Zika have to do with inequality? Everything. https://www.opendemocracy.net/rachel-schmidt/what-does-zika-have-to-do-with-inequality-everything <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/G_Ik6rFm3EseoMz-vk164MSkTPrHrlfeICMO-ZNM81k/mtime:1454798886/files/Schmidt_0.jpg" alt="" width="140" /></p><p>Women’s rights advocates are using fears around Zika to fight for better access to birth control, but in Latin America the issues run much deeper than that.&nbsp;<span><em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/rachel-schmidt/qu-tiene-que-ver-el-zika-con-la-desigualdad-todo" target="_blank">Español</a></strong></em></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr">In the Andean region of Latin America, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2893010/">over one million adolescent girls get pregnant every year.</a> Ecuador in particular has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in South America, <a target="_blank" href="http://jdc.jefferson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1032&amp;context=ph">with 21% of girls giving birth before age 18</a>. In addition, despite a substantial increase in the use of contraceptives, <a target="_blank" href="http://jdc.jefferson.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1032&amp;context=ph">adolescent fertility rates throughout Ecuador have actually increased</a>. And these high rates of teen pregnancy are especially problematic considering that late last month, officials in Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador and Jamaica <a target="_blank" href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35388842">issued warnings</a> for women to delay pregnancies until more is known about the Zika virus.</p><p dir="ltr">Most of the world has now heard of the Zika virus, a previously unfamiliar mosquito-borne illness that has sparked widespread media coverage and has now been designated a “<a target="_blank" href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2016/emergency-committee-zika-microcephaly/en/">Public Health Emergency of International Concern</a>” by the World Health Organization. Zika has not been a worldwide problem until now, as the symptoms are <a target="_blank" href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/">generally very mild and require no specific treatment</a>. But suspicions that the virus can have an enormous impact on fetal development, in particular causing microcephaly (babies born with tiny brains), are causing waves of panic and travel warnings across continents.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Yet in a region where access to birth control is restricted, abortions are largely illegal, and 50-60% of pregnancies are unplanned or </span><a target="_blank" href="http://www.unfpa.org/news/preventing-teenage-pregnancy-ecuador" style="line-height: 1.5;">due to sexual abuse</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, how is asking women to delay pregnancy for eight months or longer a reasonable recommendation? And what are these governments doing, if anything, to assist women in delaying pregnancy, or to address that so many of these pregnancies are in minors and often due to assault?</span></p> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Begins--> <div style="color: #999999; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; font-style: italic; text-align: right;"> <img width="444" src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/G_Ik6rFm3EseoMz-vk164MSkTPrHrlfeICMO-ZNM81k/mtime:1454798886/files/Schmidt_0.jpg" style="max-width: 100%; background-color: #ffffff; padding: 7px; border: 1px solid #999999;" /> <br />Press Association/Felipe Dana (All rights reserved) </div> <p style="color: #666666; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal;"> “In a region where access to birth control is restricted, abortions are largely illegal, and 50-60% of pregnancies are unplanned or due to sexual abuse, how is asking women to delay pregnancy a reasonable recommendation?”</p> <hr style="color: #d2d3d5; background-color: #d2d3d5; height: 1px; width: 85%; border: none; text-align: center; margin: 0 auto;" /> <!--Image/Credit/Caption Ends--> <p>Though the media and general public have concluded that Zika directly causes microcephaly, the scientific jury is actually still out on that one. Correlation, as we know, is not causation. But because the condition is so rare, and Brazil has already documented nearly 4,000 possible cases (404 confirmed as microcephaly) coinciding with a surge in Zika infections, <a href="http://www.wired.com/2016/02/the-zika-epidemic-is-real-a-link-to-birth-defects-may-not-be/">experts have concluded that it’s certainly better to err on the side of caution</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">But in Ecuador, there are many women—young ones in particular—who have no ability to heed this warning. As in many other Andean countries, adolescent fertility rates in Ecuador are much higher in girls than boys—in fact, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2893010/">most teen pregnancies are fathered by much older men.</a> Domestic abuse is a pervasive problem throughout the country, with non-profit groups reporting that <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3735382/">71% of women experience some form of intimate partner violence</a> during their lifetimes. One NGO worker that I interviewed estimated that 90% of the pregnant teenagers coming to her shelter had been sexually assaulted by a family member. There are also marked differences in socioeconomic status, where <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2893010/">52.3% of illiterate girls get pregnant, while only 11% with secondary education do</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class="mag-quote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">Zika, then, is not only a case of public health or &nbsp;even of reproductive rights. It<span style="line-height: 1.5; background-color: transparent;">&nbsp;is a case of inequality—inequality of power, access, income and education.</span></span>Zika, then, is not only a case of public health or even of reproductive rights, though it is certainly both of those things. It is a case of inequality—inequality of power, access, income and education.</p><p dir="ltr">To some, Zika may not seem like a human rights issue on first glance. Or if it is, it’s about illegal abortions or access to adequate birth control. Women’s rights groups are seizing this moment to lobby for better and stronger reproductive rights, and they are certainly not wrong to do so. In 2013, to help curb the alarming rates of teen pregnancies, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/04/qa-ecuador-guarantees-right-to-free-emergency-contraception/">Ecuador made the morning-after pill available without cost</a> or prescription in hospitals and health centres throughout the country. But to access this, girls need to know of its existence in the first place. Some of them may not even be able to get to the pharmacies at all. And given the fact that pregnancy rates are significantly higher in illiterate girls or girls with low socioeconomic status, it’s fairly safe to say that awareness and education are enormous hurdles in this effort to curb teen pregnancy.</p><p>But arguably this issue goes even deeper than that. <a href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/zika-warnings-spark-reproductive-rights-debate-in-latin-america/article28493628/">Men, for example, are not being told to do anything</a> to avoid spreading Zika, even though there is now strong evidence that the virus can be <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35478778">sexually transmitted</a> and even <a href="http://www.pressreader.com/canada/the-globe-and-mail-atlantic-edition/20160206/281513635193013/TextView">transmitted through saliva</a>. In the <i>machista</i> culture of Latin America and the imbalanced sexual relationships of older men with younger girls—and especially in situations of sexual abuse, or in gang culture where girls are often sexual property—men hold a lot of the power in preventing pregnancy and in transmitting this disease. But that discussion is largely absent.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">And then there are the parents to consider. One NGO worker, who chose to remain anonymous because this is still a “hotly disputed” issue, says that though abortions are still illegal, it is often the parents forcing them upon their daughters against their will. In addition, she reported that many mothers are aware of familial sexual abuse but encourage the daughters to keep quiet so that the family can have a place to live.</p><p dir="ltr">This is where it gets even more complicated. Teen girls in Ecuador may know about birth control, and they may even be vaguely aware of Zika and its risks, but even if they are able to prevent pregnancy (which many of them are not), a significant number of them actually want a baby. In my own research on young women in impoverished areas of Ecuador and Colombia, many of the girls mentioned to me that they wanted a baby so they could have their own family—so they could have someone who would never leave them and would “love them forever”. It seemed as simple as wanting a puppy: they were starved for affection and a baby was the best answer. Many of these girls romanticize the idea of pregnancy—even if it comes out of rape—and also want to prove that they can be better mothers than their own mothers were.</p><p>And this points to much deeper issues of violence, affection and family that simple birth control cannot fix. In a society that has so deeply failed its young people that girls believe having a baby will heal their own experiences of abuse, how is a government warning to delay pregnancy going to mean anything at all?</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/S2bnBGbzFvCN2wej0XUK1fRtoM-dg5ArTX6bF7mOO0Y/mtime:1431935954/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/dC7kM15HogVQn2hiq7xGVZNtqPoRyUGc9gNtqfKJBTg/mtime:1432110643/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/EPlogo-ogr-4_2.png" alt="" title="" width="300" height="115" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights"><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/mt84PvuUFRfErlW55EkOpcY-RGYkci9CMGvymzH5wHQ/mtime:1432110364/files/OpenGlobalRights-highlight4English.png" alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href=" https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights-openpage"><img src=" https://www.opendemocracy.net/files/openPagesidebox.png " alt="" width="140" /></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/greta-friedemanns%C3%A1nchez/improving-family-income-does-not-ensure-women%E2%80%99s-economic-em">Improving family income does not ensure women’s economic empowerment</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/barb-maclaren/to-empower-women-prioritize-their-social-and-economic-rights">To empower women, prioritize their social and economic rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/alex-choquemamani-ccalli/imprisoned-women-s-right-to-sexuality-in-latin-america">Imprisoned women’s right to sexuality in Latin America</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/shahra-razavi/there-is-no-women%E2%80%99s-empowerment-without-rights">There is no women’s empowerment without rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/juan-pablo-jim-nez/uneven-playing-field-inequality-human-rights-and-taxation">An uneven playing field: inequality, human rights and taxation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/jean-h-quataert/making-womens-rights-human-rights">Making women&#039;s rights human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/rochelle-jones-sarah-rosenhek-anna-turley/less-money-more-risk-struggle-for-change-">Less money, more risk: the struggle for change in women’s rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/angelika-arutyunova/from-aid-to-investment-funding-womens-rights-groups">From aid to investment: funding women&#039;s rights groups</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/josh-busby/human-rights-and-health-long-road-to-mainstream">Human rights and health? The long road to the mainstream </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/radhika-balakrishnan-james-heintz/how-inequality-threatens-all-human-rights">How inequality threatens all human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> openGlobalRights openGlobalRights openGlobalRights-openpage Rachel Schmidt Central and South America, & the Caribbean Tue, 09 Feb 2016 09:30:00 +0000 Rachel Schmidt 99626 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How international media failed Moldova’s protesters https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mihai-pop-oi/how-international-media-failed-moldova-s-protesters <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/wt_BinMG480vrlzbqE8As43mVQvQlKpfIQK2UOi7eMM/mtime:1455008931/files/popsoi.jpg" alt="" width="80" />There’s more to Moldova's protests than “pro-European” versus “pro-Russian”.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Moldova’s image as the poorest country in Europe is rivaled only by its obscurity. In rare outbursts of international media coverage — often related to human trafficking, arms smuggling or mass protests — Moldova is depicted as a pawn on the regional chessboard, caught in a tug of war between Russia and the west. There is no denying that, in a world of realpolitik, Moldova is indeed a playground. </p><p>Yet there is more to this intellectual inertia than meets the eye. The sheer lack of nuance and insight displayed by the international media with regards to the latest developments in Moldova is as disappointing as it is predictable. 
Much in the way of confirmation bias is at work here — the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions. People are usually unwilling and, at times, admittedly unable to comprehend complex phenomena, especially when simple mental shortcuts are readily available. </p><p>Professional journalists and political analysts pride themselves on preventing or minimising the influence of such biases on their work. This is easier said than done, particularly in today’s world of ubiquitous geopolitical expediency. Moldova is a case in point.</p><h2>Perils of European integration</h2><p>Since the so-called ‘Twitter Revolution’ of 2009, Moldova has embarked on a path of economic transformation and political democratisation — or so everyone thought. The post-revolutionary government took on a rather inspirational name, the Alliance for European Integration, which proved to be both a blessing and a curse. </p><p>Generous western financial assistance and political support locked the United States and European Union into the costly self-fulfilling prophecy of a ‘success story’. But the success failed to materialise, despite promising beginnings. Five pro-European governments succeeded each other faster than the public could keep up with, and they spared no effort in building an elaborate discourse of European integration both at home and abroad. One could not help but be mesmerised by the audacity of Moldova’s leadership that promised to <a href="independent.md/leanca-moldova-va-deveni-stat-membru-al-ue-in-2019/#.VrE8yPmLTIU" target="_blank">bring the country into the EU by 2020</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/9E5xMMric0xf2EOqtYJRsATla-iMC7B_58DldhEeygE/mtime:1455009922/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/moldova_EUprotesters.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7SNbWYA_kWBYSmG3T2XrQfHwh0pLh3YqTRTH67xiTPY/mtime:1455009906/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/moldova_EUprotesters.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Over 100,000 protesters took to the streets of Moldova's capital in September 2015 to protest the ‘stolen billion’. Photo courtesy of Maria Levcenco.</span></span></span><span>Naturally, high hopes developed among more gullible Moldovans and international development partners alike. But the signs of trouble appeared early on.</span></p><p>As early as 2011, there have been hostile takeovers of privately held shares in several leading banks, known as the raider attacks. Then came the infamous ‘Huntigate’ scandal of 2013 — a cover-up of a fatal accident during a lavish hunting spree attended by the top brass of the country’s judiciary, including the Prosecutor General. Finally, ‘the billion dollar bank heist’ left the country perplexed as to how one could steal the equivalent of 15 percent of GDP from three banks with impunity.</p><p>Once a poster child of Moldova’s European Integration, Vlad Filat, former prime minister and Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, ended up a scapegoat for the missing billion. Meanwhile, Filat’s archenemy the oligarch and senior vice president of the Democratic Party, Vlad Plahotniuc, became the sole decision maker in the country. </p><p>By hook or by crook, Plahotniuc was able to create a <a href="moldovanpolitics.com/2016/01/17/legality-vs-legitimacy-in-moldovan-house-of-cards/" target="_blank">majority coalition</a> (which oddly bears no name). It was rushed to a vote in parliament as protesters gathered outside and soon started demanding early elections. This clearly begs the question: how can international media refer to the current reincarnation of previous governments as pro-European? </p><h2>Monstrous coalition</h2><p>Reports from <a href="www.euronews.com/2016/01/20/moldova-protesters-storm-parliament/" target="_blank">Euronews</a>, <a href="www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35366194" target="_blank">BBC</a>, <a href="www.nytimes.com/2016/01/21/world/europe/moldova-protest-at-parliament.html?_r=1" target="_blank">New York Times</a> as well as <a href="https://www.rt.com/news/329590-protesters-storm-moldova-parliament/" target="_blank">Russia Today</a> all described the new government as ‘pro-European’ — much to the bewilderment of Moldovan civil society. In a very heartfelt piece <a href="https://alaiba.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/do-what-you-must-just-dont-call-this-government-pro-european/" target="_blank">on his personal page</a>, Dumitru Alaiba, a former economic and financial advisor to two prime ministers, urged international media and western politicians: “Do what you must, just don’t call this government ‘pro-European’. It is not Europe that they represent. And don’t call us, the people, pro-Russian either.” </p><p>Well-respected media institutions used a default template for covering Moldova, relying mainly on the fact that the new government presented itself as pro-European. A more astute analysis would indicate that the new government is ‘pro-European’ in name only. </p><p>After numerous Moldovan activists wrote public letters calling upon western media to take a more mindful view of the ongoing protests, a <a href="www.euronews.com/2016/01/24/moldova-thousands-rally-to-demand-early-elections/" target="_blank">change of tone</a> occurred. There is now a broad acknowledgement that protesters were, and are, a distinctly heterogeneous group. Admittedly, many of them are pro-Russian, yet a lot are as pro-European as they come. What unites them all is a genuine frustration with an ad-hoc “<a href="www.europalibera.org/content/article/27502089.html" target="_blank">monstrous coalition</a>” government and a desire for a more democratic and prosperous future. </p><p>This is largely missing from the international media discourse, caught in the cross fire between Russia and the west. Russia has capitalised on the growing anti-European sentiment in Moldova, and by supporting these ruling elites, western media and western politicians have only vindicated Kremlin’s propaganda. </p><h2>Another piece of the puzzle</h2><p>Russia’s postimperial syndrome is built on the belief that the west is containing its resurgence by creating a <a href="gorchakovfund.ru/news/18335/" target="_blank">belt of instability</a> in south-east Europe — a mantra that rarely departs from Russian TV screens. Moldova is seen as just another piece of the puzzle. Moscow has a clear agenda of trying to bring Moldova back into its orbit and does not shy away from making its intentions known either. </p><p>For instance, in the aftermath of the 2010 parliamentary elections, Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Russian presidential administration, attempted to broker a coalition deal between the Communists and the Democrats. In the 2014 campaign, Russia openly supported the Socialist Party.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The complexity of the Moldovan political landscape cannot be reduced to a mere east-west dichotomy</p><p>Russian media, which still holds a lot of sway over Moldovan public opinion, has been an indispensable tool in this process. Interestingly though, the rebroadcasting rights in Moldova for the most popular Russian federal TV channels are owned by so called ‘pro-European’ politicians, primarily Vlad Plahotniuc. He owns, among a few others, the Moldovan license for Russia’s flagship Channel One. Russian media coverage of protests in Moldova paints the EU in a negative tone, while reinforcing the message of Eurasian Economic Union as a better alternative. The aim of these reports may be as much to appeal Russia's domestic audience as it is to influence public perceptions in Moldova.</p><p>This sort of nuance is helpful in understanding the complexity of the Moldovan political landscape, which cannot be reduced to a mere east-west dichotomy. </p><p>The same is true for the protest movement. Many things that politicians had kept to themselves, such as allegations of blackmail and corruption, came to light only after mass protests erupted. However, for a long time, protesters could not set their differences aside in order to pursue a common goal: early elections. </p><p>Even when they finally did, the much heralded <a href="www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews%255BbackPid%255D=7&amp;tx_ttnews%255Btt_news%255D=45034#.VrFDqvmLTIX" target="_blank">unity of protesters across ethnic, linguistic, ideological and party lines</a> proved too good to be true. The nascent movement is constantly being undermined by infighting. </p><p>Besides, there have always been doubts about the independence of such political players as the socialist leader Igor Dodon, Our Party head Renato Usatii, and front man of the civic platform turned political party, Andrei Năstase. Hence, the real tragedy is that genuine popular protests are led by less than candid individuals. </p><h2>Bridging the divide</h2><p>Instead of helping to bridge this divide, both media and politicians have contributed to the increased polarisation of public opinion by presenting just one side of the debate, reinforcing the ever-present confirmation bias. </p><p>This development is particularly visible when it comes to Romanian or Russian news reports, as well as political commentary on developments in Moldova. Self-proclaimed leader of the Moldovan diaspora in Russia, Aleksandr Kalinin, posted a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/100000820160462/videos/1004686632901999/?fref=nf" target="_blank">Facebook video</a> calling upon Vladimir Putin to come and rescue the Moldovans from what he saw as an imminent takeover by Romanian and Ukrainian special forces.<br /><br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/xNq3bCjWyv74vq_58LR8LSqioRsPlMWYBaNn67UydVU/mtime:1455009294/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02779023.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/6dbr3PcRHTuKrEOb30B97yjI0tzzP5TwOhh4AheIno0/mtime:1455009240/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553429/RIAN_02779023.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest march in the Moldovan capital of Chișinău, January 2016. Photo (c): visual RIAN. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The response came in a leading Romanian newspaper from none other than a prominent Romanian analyst and former adviser to Romanian president Traian Băsescu, Iulian Chifu, who called the video an “<a href="www.evz.ro/diaspora-din-rusia-ii-cere-lui-putin-salvarea-republicii-moldova-de-invazia-romano-ucraineana-pulsul-planetei.html" target="_blank">official request</a>” to Putin. To his credit, Chifu went on to debunk Kalinin’s bogus allegations, but the latter was afforded much more attention than he deserved even in the aftermath of Crimea and Donbas.</p><p>The EU's former enlargement commissioner Štefan Füle is perfectly right when <a href="www.rferl.org/content/moldova-crisis-eu-lessons-explainer/27380231.html" target="_blank">he says</a> that: “We should be more active in addressing [pro-Russian] propaganda about what the Eurasian Economic Union offers versus what the EU offers a country like Moldova.” Undeniably, Russian media will continue to produce <a href="www.1tv.ru/news/world/300610" target="_blank">characteristically biased reports</a> about Moldova, but if western media want to have any claim to a higher moral ground they have to give up using simple shortcuts and produce accurate accounts no matter how tedious or inconvenient that may be. </p><p>Max Seddon’s recent <a href="www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b582ad2c-c424-11e5-b3b1-7b2481276e45.html#axzz3yOLUTLjC" target="_blank">article in the Financial Times</a>, for example, does just that. He reports that “In private, some European diplomats say they would welcome a pro-Russian government — if only so that the current coalition cannot further tarnish the EU. Says one: ‘Asking them to do reforms is like asking turkeys to prepare Christmas dinner.’” 

</p><h2>Who are the pro-Europeans now?</h2><p>No matter how ironic it may sound, a pro-Russian government is likely to be the only thing that can rehabilitate the European Union’s image in Moldova. The risks of a new government changing Moldova’s foreign policy course are minimal: it would be economically irrational and politically suicidal, since most of the burden of adjusting to the new EU-Moldova Association Agreement has been incurred, while the benefits are only kicking in. 

<br /><br />The new government cannot be called pro-European and, to its credit, it does not use the term. The coalition that Plahotniuc has put together literally has no name nor a coalition agreement. It relies on the program of the previous government despite being a “coalition of the willing”. Namely, the will of the 57 lawmakers being to preclude early elections and stay in power for another three years despite the sheer collapse of public trust after the infamous bank heist and the utter refusal to accept any blame either by the government or the parliament. </p><p>Moldova is a case study for state capture, though perhaps had Moldova been an EU candidate country, things would have been&nbsp;different via&nbsp;conditionality. The West has sacrificed democracy for geopolitical interests, which is usually a recipe for disaster down the road.</p><p>The sole threat of an imminent pro-Russian government is likely to galvanise and reboot the political system, albeit incrementally, with a new breed of upstanding young professionals exiting their comfort zones and entering the public domain to the benefit of their communities and their country — the alternative being a drift away from the values of democracy and the rule of law, all under the watchful eye of the international media.<br /><br /><em>If you enjoyed this article, please consider following oDR on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/openDemocracyRussia/?fref=ts" target="_blank">Facebook</a> or <a href="https://twitter.com/opendemocracyru" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/marina-shupac/all-eyes-on-moldova">All eyes on Moldova</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/corneliu-ciurea/why-united-opposition-in-moldova-is-impossible">Why a united opposition in Moldova is impossible</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/igor-burdyga/ukraine-s-media-plea-for-pluralism">Ukraine’s media: a plea for pluralism </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Mihai Popșoi Politics Moldova Media Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:31:39 +0000 Mihai Popșoi 99665 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Back from the dead and standing on Travellers’ Doorstep – the case of the EU PNR Directive https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/niovi-vavoula/back-from-dead-and-standing-on-travellers-doorstep-case-of-eu-pnr-dire <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This framework places the movement of travellers, including EU citizens, under constant monitoring, irrespective of the fact that they are a priori innocent and unsuspected of any criminal offence. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/asGXm0l8OU7XaCK5uB3ThyeTqwmRUUpBOA2yoUGaP6A/mtime:1454714275/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Braaaaaiiins.....jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/_orI0CLC9QQrYbEsEldDNyN_hmXN07q-zYM96w2cYKY/mtime:1454714266/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Braaaaaiiins.....jpg" alt="Zombies sketch." title="" width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zombies sketch.Wikicommons/Shannon Hayward. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>I trust every reader is familiar with the image of a zombie; a malformed, reanimated corpse with terrifying features, chasing down unsuspected people to drag them into its miserable semi-existence. After a few good scares, usually the story ends with someone brave enough to figure out its weakness and destroy it. </p> <p>This article focuses on an entirely different – but equally frightening– kind of zombie, namely the forthcoming Directive regulating the use of PNR data for law enforcement purposes; namely a system whereby airlines flying into the EU (and perhaps those flying on intra-EU flights) provide to state authorities a wide range of personal data on all their passengers for security purposes. </p> <p>I will first outline the historical background behind the instrument; then explain its key provisions, and examine the main fundamental rights challenges, in particular those related to privacy and free movement. As for the reason why a piece of EU legislation is paralleling a fictional creature, I guess you will have to keep on reading to find out.</p> <h2><strong>The EU PNR Directive in an era of globalized terror</strong></h2> <p>PNR data constitute records of each passenger’s travel arrangements and contain the information necessary for air carriers to manage flight reservations and check-in systems. Under this umbrella definition, a wide array of data may be included; from information on name, passport, means of payment, travel arrangements and contact details to dietary requirements and requests of special assistance. </p> <p>In the aftermath of 9/11 and under the direct influence of how the terrorist attacks took place, the Americans established irreversible links between the movement of passengers, border security and the effective fight against international terrorism. Strong emphasis was placed on prevention through pre-screening of passengers, crosschecking against national databases and identification of suspicious behaviours through dubious profiling techniques. </p> <p>The EU followed the example and by now has concluded three PNR Agreements, with <a href="http://register.consilium.europa.eu/doc/srv?l=EN&amp;f=ST%2012657%202013%20REV%201">Canada</a> (currently awaiting <a href="http://eulawradar.com/case-a-115-the-canada-eu-pnr-agreement-contrary-to-the-eu-charter/">litigation</a> before the CJEU), <a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:22012A0714(01)&amp;qid=1399557901722&amp;from=EN">Australia</a> and the <a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:22012A0811(01)&amp;qid=1399558974882&amp;from=EN">US</a> (the most notorious).</p> <p>What the EU is missing from its collection of PNR legislation is the development of a system to process its own air travel data (it is worth noting that at national level only a handful of Member States, including the UK, operates a PNR system). The first <a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/procedure/EN/2007_237">proposal</a> for a Framework Decision dates back to 2007. However, no agreement was reached until the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. A new <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/news/intro/docs/com_2011_32_en.pdf">proposal</a> was released in 2011, essentially mimicking the EU-US PNR model, at least as regards the types of data to be processed and the focus on assessing the risks attached to passengers as a means of preventing terrorist attacks or other serious crimes. </p> <p>In comparison to the proposed Framework Decision it constituted an improvement (for instance, it provided for a reduced retention period and prohibited the processing of sensitive data), however it was met with great skepticism by a number of EU actors, including the <a href="https://secure.edps.europa.eu/EDPSWEB/webdav/shared/Documents/Consultation/Opinions/2011/11-03-25_PNR_EN.pdf">European Data Protection Supervisor</a>, the <a href="http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/1786-FRA-PNR-Opinion-2011_EN.pdf">Fundamental Rights Agency</a> and the <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/article-29/documentation/opinion-recommendation/files/2011/wp181_en.pdf">Article 29 Working Party</a> arguing that it failed to respect the principles of necessity and proportionality.</p> <p>Eventually, it was <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+REPORT+A7-2013-0150+0+DOC+PDF+V0//EN">rejected</a> by the European Parliament in April 2013 on fundamental rights grounds. Nevertheless, the voting was postponed and the proposal was transferred back to the LIBE Committee. </p> <p>The EU PNR project was presumed dead until the Charlie Hebdo events in January 2015. In the wake of these attacks, the fight against terrorism, particularly in the context of the threat posed by foreign fighters, became a top priority resulting in pulling the proposal out of the EU drawer. On 17 February, the European Parliament’s LIBE Committee released its <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2F%2FEP%2F%2FNONSGML%2BCOMPARL%2BPE-549.223%2B01%2BDOC%2BPDF%2BV0%2F%2FEN">second draft report</a> essentially re-opening the dossier and committed itself to reaching an agreement by the end of 2015. It was official; the proposal was brought back from the dead. </p> <p>From that point on, negotiations moved speedily; between September and December 2015, five trialogue meetings took place. In the extraordinary JHA Council meeting of 20 November, immediately after the Paris terrorist attacks, the Council <a href="http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/jha/2015/11/20/">reiterated</a><em> </em>‘<em>the urgency and priority to finalise an ambitious EU PNR before the end of 2015’.</em> Indeed, on 4 December 2015 a <a href="http://statewatch.org/news/2015/dec/eu-council-eu-pnr-final-compromise-14670-15.pdf">compromise text</a> was agreed. A few days later, the Council confirmed the agreement and the Parliament is expected to vote in plenary session within the coming weeks. The deal is done. The zombie is released. But how dangerous is it?</p> <h2><strong>Anatomy of a zombie</strong></h2> <p>The EU PNR Directive will place a duty to airline carriers operating international flights between the EU and third countries to forward PNR data of all passengers to the Passenger Information Unit (PIU) established at domestic level for this purpose. Member States are given the discretion to extend the regime set out in the Directive to intra-EU flights, even to a selection of them (for a discussion see Council Documents <a href="http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-8016-2011-INIT/en/pdf">8016/11</a> and <a href="http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-9103-2011-INIT/en/pdf">9103/11</a>, partly accessible). </p> <p>Perhaps unsurprisingly, all participating States have declared their intention to make use of their discretion. This includes Ireland and the UK, which have expressed their wish to participate in the instrument. </p> <p>Once transmitted, the data will be stored and analysed by the Unit. The purpose will be to ‘identify persons who were previously unsuspected of involvement in terrorism or serious crime’ and require further examination by competent authorities in relation to the offences listed in Annex II of the Directive. </p> <p>Contrary to the Commission’s assertions that PNR data will be used in different ways – re-actively, pro-actively and real-time – the focus on prevention is central. The analysis entails a risk assessment of all passengers prior to their travel on the basis of predetermined criteria to be decided by the respective PIU and possibly involving crosschecking with existing blacklists. Furthermore, the PIUs will respond to requests by national authorities to access the data on a case-by-case basis and subject to sufficient indication. </p> <p>Nevertheless, processing should not take place on the basis of sensitive data that is revealing on race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, trade union membership, health, or sexual life. </p> <p>The initial retention period is six months, after which, PNR data will be depersonalised, meaning that the PIU is entrusted with the task of masking out the names, address and contact information, payment information, frequent flyer information, general remarks and all API data. </p> <p>They may still be used for criminal law purposes under ‘very strict and limited conditions’ (that is, if permitted to do so by a judicial authority or another national authority competent to review whether the conditions have been met and subject to information and ex-post review by the Data protection Office of the PIU). Finally, at the behest of the European Parliament, a Data Protection Officer will be appointed in each PIU in order to monitor the processing of PNR data. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>And the diagnosis is…mass surveillance </strong></h2> <p><em>i) Surveillance and privacy</em></p> <p>We should not hide behind our fingers; the zombie we are dealing with is aggressive and the challenges for privacy and data protection are acute (Article 8 ECHR and 7 and 8 EU Charter for Fundamental Rights). Both the ECtHR and the CJEU have categorically rejected the very idea of mass surveillance without any limitations and in a series of landmark judgments have developed a series of criteria of what constitutes a proportionate interference with privacy. Judgments such as <a href="https://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/dataprotection/Judgments/S.%20AND%20MARPER%20v.%20THE%20UNITED%20KINGDOM%20EN.pdf"><em>S and Marper v UK</em></a> or more recently <a href="http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&amp;docid=150642&amp;pageIndex=0&amp;doclang=EN&amp;mode=req&amp;dir=&amp;occ=first&amp;part=1&amp;cid=1499439"><em>Digital Rights Ireland</em></a> are key in this context. </p> <p>In essence, the EU PNR Directive allows the systematic, blanket and indiscriminate transfer, storage and further processing of a wide range of personal data of all passengers travelling in the EU. The involvement of the private sector in the fight against terrorism and serious criminality deepens, particularly if one takes into account that the duties to air carriers are extended to non-carrier economic operators (e.g. travel agencies). </p> <p>In addition, the inclusion of intra-EU flights within the scope of the Directive significantly expands the reach of surveillance. Indeed, back in 2011, it was noted that intra-EU flights represent the majority of EU flights (42%) followed by international flights (36%) and only 22% of the flight operate within a single Member State (Council Document <a href="http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-8016-2011-INIT/en/pdf">8016/11</a>). In this framework, the movement of the vast majority of travellers, including EU citizens, is placed under constant monitoring, irrespective of the fact that they are a priori innocent and unsuspected of any criminal offence. In fact, the operation of the PNR scheme signifies the reversal of the presumption of innocence whereby everyone is deemed as a potential security risk, thus necessitating their examination in order to confirm or rebut this presumption. Besides, there is no differentiation between risky flights and non-risky ones. </p> <p>Furthermore, the risk assessment will take place in an unlimited and highly obscure manner; while it is explained that sensitive data must not be processed, the Directive fails to prescribe comprehensively and in detail how the data will be analysed. The underlying rationale is the profiling of all passengers and the identifying of behavioural patterns in a probabilistic logic, but nowhere in the Directive is it indicated that this is indeed the case. </p> <p>Moreover, it is stated that ‘relevant databases’ may be consulted, however, it is not clear which these are. For instance, a possible examination on a routine basis of the databases storing asylum seekers’ fingerprints’ or visa applicants’ data (Eurodac and VIS respectively) will frustrate their legal framework resulting in a domino effect of multiple function creeps. </p> <p>Apart from the proportionality issues, the ambiguous modus operandi of PIUs may even call into question the extent to which the interference with privacy is ‘in accordance with law’ (Art. 8(2) ECHR) or in EU terms ‘provided for by law’ (Art. 52(1) EU Charter). According to settled case law of the ECtHR, every piece of legislation should meet the requirements of accessibility and foreseeability as to its effects (<em>Rotaru v Romania).</em> </p> <p>The lack of clear rules as to how the processing of data will take place may suggest that travellers cannot foresee the full extent of the legislation. In addition, with reference to the conditions of access by national competent authorities, the requirement that the request must be based on ‘sufficient indication’ seems to fall short of the criteria established in <em>Digital Rights Ireland</em>; the threshold is particularly low and may lead to generalised consultation by law enforcement authorities, while it is uncertain who will check that there is indeed sufficient indication. </p> <p>As for the offences covered by the scope of the Directive, although Annex II sets out a list in this regard, PNR data could still be used for other offences, including minor ones, when these are detected in the course of enforcement action further to the initial processing.</p> <p>Moving to the retention period of PNR data, you are invited to count with me the different approaches as identified in various EU documents; </p> <p>a) The 2007 Framework Decision envisaged an extensive retention period of five years plus, after which the data would be depersonalised and kept for another eight years;</p> <p>&nbsp;b) The proposal of 2011 prescribed a significantly reduced initial retention period of 30 days after which data would be anonymised and kept for a further period of five years (supported by the Parliament);</p> <p>c) In its General Approach, the Council called for an extension of the initial retention period to two years, followed by another three years of storage of depersonalised data (Council Document <a href="http://statewatch.org/news/2015/dec/eu-pnr-multicolumn-14740-15.pdf">14740/15</a>);</p> <p>d) According to the latter document, which depicts the state of negotiations right before the adoption of the compromise text, at that point the options for the retention period were either six months (which eventually prevailed) and one year.</p> <p>e) A more privacy friendly approach can be found in an Opinion of the Council Legal Service dated from 2011 according to which data of passengers in risky flights would be initially retained for 30 days and then be held for an overall period of six months (Council Document <a href="http://gruen-digital.de/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Gutachten-JD-Rat-PNR.pdf">8850/11</a> – in German). </p> <p>f) Equally some Member States supported a retention period of lees than 30 days (Council Document <a href="http://www.statewatch.org/news/2011/jun/eucouncil-eu-pnr-11392-11.pdf">11392/11</a>).</p> <p>These wide-ranging options – one could add here the retention periods of the PNR Agreements or those prescribed in centralised databases – seem to suggest that the chosen retention period may be as random as the number in which a ball lands in a roulette game and dependent on the negotiating power of the parties in the negotiating table or the nature of the mechanism. </p> <p>What appears to be proportionate for one institution may be disproportionate for another institution and vice versa. In the present case, it is welcomed that there are two sets of deadlines and more importantly re-personalisation may take place under limited circumstances. However, there is no indication why the chosen retention periods are proportionate. Furthermore, an approach suggesting a differentiation between risky and non-risky flights with different retention periods seems more balanced.</p> <p>One final comment regarding the timing of the agreement; as mentioned above, the proposal was vigorously negotiated in the last quarter of 2015, at the same time when the package on Data Protection reform (including a <a href="http://www.statewatch.org/news/2015/dec/eu-council-dp-dir-leas-draft-final-compromise-15174-15.pdf">Data Protection Directive</a> specifically designed to safeguard privacy in the context of law enforcement) was also under discussion. It is regrettable that although the institutions were invited to halt the negotiations until the package was adopted (even the Parliament supported this idea), the institutions chose to proceed nonetheless. </p> <p>In the end, all the instruments were finalised at the end of 2015. However, given the aforementioned problematic features of the EU PNR Directive, it is uncertain whether it was indeed reconciled with the new data protection legislative landscape.&nbsp; </p><p><em>ii) Surveillance and citizenship</em></p> <p>On top of the privacy challenges as highlighted above, another point of concern is whether the processing of PNR data, including on intra-EU flights, could infringe free movement enjoyed by EU citizens. Free movement is one of the four freedoms underpinning the ‘area without internal frontiers’ formed by the internal market and a fundamental right enshrined in Article 45(1) of the EU Charter. </p> <p>The Commission Legal Service found that the EU PNR does not obstruct free movement (see Council Document <a href="http://register.consilium.europa.eu/doc/srv?l=EN&amp;t=PDF&amp;gc=true&amp;sc=false&amp;f=ST%208230%202011%20INIT">8230/11</a> which is partially available to the public, but the outcome of the opinion is attested in Council Document <a href="http://statewatch.org/news/2015/dec/eu-pnr-multicolumn-14740-15.pdf">8016/11</a>). Nonetheless the Parliament managed to include a reference that any assessments on the basis of PNR data shall not jeopardise the right of entry to the territory of the Member States concerned (in Article 4). </p> <p>The extent to which this reference is sufficient is doubtful. According to Article 21 of the <a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32006R0562&amp;from=EN">Schengen Borders Code</a>, police controls performed in the territory of a Member State are allowed insofar as they do not have the equivalent effect of border control. Such an effect is precluded when, inter alia, the checks are carried out on the basis of spot-checks. In <a href="http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&amp;docid=80748&amp;pageIndex=0&amp;doclang=EN&amp;mode=lst&amp;dir=&amp;occ=first&amp;part=1&amp;cid=652137">Melki</a>, the CJEU found that ‘<em>controls on board an international train or on a toll motorway</em>’, limiting their application to the border region ‘<em>might </em>(…) <em>constitute evidence of the existence of such an equivalent effe</em>ct’ (para 72). </p> <p>By analogy, the focus on controls at the border area in the systematic manner that the Directive sets out could have the equivalent effect of a border check. The lack of any differentiation between risky and non risky flights (an approach that was also favoured by the Council Legal Service, Council Document 8850/11) and the fact that Member States are left entirely free to determine the extent to which they monitor the flights to and from other Member States could enhance the risk. </p> <p>Besides, given the focus on pre-emption, it is hard to imagine that when a law enforcement authority would consider that a person needs further monitoring, they would still allow them to travel. </p> <h2>C<strong>onclusion</strong></h2> <p>The EU PNR Directive is yet another example of how the counter-terrorism rhetoric has set aside fundamental rights concerns in the name of ensuring security. The storyline is an old one; after a terrorist attack occurs, numerous ideas – either incorporated in legislative proposals that have stalled or are too ambitious and controversial to be presented in the first place – feature in the EU agenda. The EU PNR was buried due to privacy concerns and was brought back to life when the circumstances matured. </p> <p>Soon national law enforcement authorities will put their hand into the passengers’ data jar and will deploy their surveillance techniques on an unprecedented and unpredictable scale. This zombie is out and is dangerous. However, it equally has a number of weaknesses and the present article attempts to highlight at least some of them. It remains to be seen who in this story will be the brave one to bring it down. </p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 460px; padding: 14px; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published in association with the <a href="http://www.law.qmul.ac.uk/research/centres/cjc/">Criminal Justice Centre</a> at the Department of Law, Queen Mary University of London. The CJC’s members are drawn from both the legal profession and academia, researching the impact of securitisation on human rights. The Centre is one of the coordinating institutions of the <a href="http://eclan.eu/en">European Criminal Academic Network</a>.</span></div></div><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties EU Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Internet Niovi Vavoula Tue, 09 Feb 2016 03:07:15 +0000 Niovi Vavoula 99621 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Privacy after social media: a reflection from healthcare and bioethics https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/richard-ashcroft/privacy-after-social-media-reflection-from-healthcare-and-bioethics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The standard ethical argument for confidentiality and data protection via consent turns on personal autonomy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/HWig-ma9b1LnNpY2x60LwmNmQMT3INgslLx9jUv4XtU/mtime:1454522212/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/shutterstock_165568787.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/IdqpLo2aNYiLyFOJ5ir2ZRZf2tKReYDaT1YasQtRPxM/mtime:1454522203/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/shutterstock_165568787.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shutterstock/ Gajus. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Talking about confidentiality in medicine used to be easy. There was a patient; there was a doctor; there were other people. What the patient told the doctor in confidence could not be shared with other people, without either the permission of the patient or some clear legal obligation which overrode that patient’s wishes. </p> <p>With the arrival of automatic data processing a new regime was overlaid on this traditional conception of medical confidentiality, ‘data protection’, but the model reinforced the central role of the consent of the ‘data subject’. Although consent could sometimes be inferred, or obtained in such a minimalist way that data subjects could almost consent unwittingly, in the case of sensitive data – such as medical information – explicit consent was necessary. <span class="mag-quote-right">There is a certain ritual element in the invocation of confidentiality and data protection and patient autonomy which barely reflects the reality.</span></p> <p>The standard ethical argument for confidentiality and data protection via consent turns on personal autonomy. We start from the presumption that the person is an autonomous agent, with her own beliefs, wishes and interests. These are so central to the identity and dignity of the person that personal decision-making is at the heart of all regulation and governance. </p> <p>Sometimes these concerns are articulated in slightly different language – the language of property (my personal data is <em>mine</em>) or the language of privacy (my autonomy is only protected when we recognize a zone of privacy which should not be trespassed upon). So strongly entrenched is this ethic of autonomy in our culture that when Onora O’Neill gave <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2002/">her BBC Reith Lectures in 2002</a>, one of her central topics was the excessive attention paid to autonomy (in this particular version) in contrast with other, equally important, moral values, notably trust and cooperation. <a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>Since this time, she has consistently challenged what she sees as a mistaken and damaging understanding of data protection.<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a></p> <p>But look again. The idea of confidentiality between doctor and patient being inviolate was never strictly speaking adhered to: think of all those scenes in classic literature where the relatives are told things by the doctor about the patient which the patient never learns. Think of the sheer impracticality of modern healthcare in which the patient is surrounded by teams of doctors, nurses, administrators and other health professionals. And think of the complexity of modern health systems which involve whole networks of organisations processing and sharing data for clinical, public health, managerial and financial purposes. There is a certain ritual element in the invocation of confidentiality and data protection and patient autonomy which barely reflects the reality. </p> <h2><strong>Backstage, thing of the past?</strong></h2> <p>As for healthcare, so for much of modern life. The image of personal life as being like a stage, on which we perform public roles which are open to scrutiny and comment, but which has a backstage invisible to and protected from that public gaze is under increasing pressure. One version of this which seems resistant to such pressure is the idea of the mind as closed to external scrutiny. In a real and practical sense, you have no idea what I am thinking, even when we converse. Yet philosophically this idea of the private self as authentic, coherent and private has been systematically dismantled, at the very least since Wittgenstein in the second quarter of the twentieth century, and arguably since Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature in 1740. It is arguable that it is in our public performances that our true selves lie, and that our most important assets are our personae, our reputations, our sayings and doings. <span class="mag-quote-left">It is arguable that it is in our public performances that our true selves lie.</span></p> <p>I am pressed to reflect on this by contemporary transformations in two areas: social media (from blogging to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and genomic medicine. The contemporary self seems to lie essentially in its projections in the world of social media, and in the traces we leave in it. The contemporary body seems to be becoming as real in the form of genomic sequence data, shared with researchers, health care institutions, pharmaceutical and life sciences companies and indeed with companies which offer genomic testing services for a range of uses from health screening to ancestry testing, linkages to a wealth of personal data-tracking applications (the machinery of the “quantified self”), for a small fee and the right to share data in various forms with other commercial and scientific organisations.</p> <h2><strong>Networked intimacy</strong></h2> <p>It is in this context in which we are really forced to ask whether our traditional concept of privacy is becoming redundant. Unlike the debates about surveillance and wire-tapping, where significant numbers of people remain angry that their data has been captured and monitored, mined and linked without any permission, and for motives they may not understand, or share, or trust, in health and in social media these concerns seem peculiarly old-fashioned. </p> <p>Crudely put – most of the many million users of Facebook neither know nor care what Facebook does with their data. An environment which on its face at least is about intimacy, albeit a networked intimacy in virtual space rather than a physical intimacy of material proximity, rests very largely on ignoring traditional social distinctions about families and friendships and boundaries and different genres of communication for different purposes. Tact and reserve – intimate performances of privacy – seem to dissolve.</p> <p>In this way we might feel that debates about data protection are themselves redundant – if I tell all my “500 closest friends” (think what that could mean!) or my 5000 Twitter contacts (“followers”) everything about my musical tastes, my reading, my political views, my sexual hangups and my emotional state – then why care if Facebook scrapes all this and aggregates it and processes it and shares or sells it in some form? And if that is my attitude to things which I have some deep emotional investment in – or think I do – then how do I feel about my genomic sequence data, something I have only the barest conception of, never mind actually caring about?</p><h2>The poetry of Twitter</h2> <p>Yet it would be wrong to think that we are moving from a privacy to a no-privacy society. Think again about state surveillance. We do retain an interest in our privacy as democratic subjects (the secrecy of the ballot box, for example). And our attitudes to privacy are patchy and inconsistent – but they are not empty and we are not giving them up wholesale. </p> <p>Instead what we are seeing is a transformation of our concepts of self, the domains of intimacy which we value, the kind of privacy we set store by. This is the central challenge for information governance, not only for privacy and democracy but also for privacy and sociability or intimacy. </p> <p>One place to look for a greater understanding of what is emerging is in the ways people perform the self in social media and in healthcare and other institutional settings. Rather than assuming we know what privacy is, and that we know what the norms are we need to embed in regulatory and enforcement practices, we need to take an empirical turn and grasp the new forms of privacy, the new ways people shape and protect it, both what they want to keep as secret, tactfully avoid, or share with only a few trusted intimates, and what they treat as public, and perform as self-presentation.</p> <p>Such investigation requires psychologists, sociologists, lawyers, ethicists, technologists and poets. From my own earliest days on Twitter I realised that if you want to understand what the medium can do, follow the poets: they are the people who best understand the performance of “speech” on Twitter. If we want to understand performance and emotional tone, I would start there.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Onora O’Neill <em>A Question of Trust: The BBC Reith Lectures 2002</em>. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a>In greatest detail in Onora O’Neill and Neil C Manson, <em>Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics</em> Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006</p> <div style="background-color: #f9f3ff; width: 460px; padding: 14px; float: right; margin-left: 14px; border-top: solid 3px #DAC2EA;"> <div style="margin-bottom: 8px;"><span style="font-size: 1.2em; margin-bottom: 8px;">This article is published in association with the <a href="http://www.law.qmul.ac.uk/research/centres/cjc/">Criminal Justice Centre</a> at the Department of Law, Queen Mary University of London. The CJC’s members are drawn from both the legal profession and academia, researching the impact of securitisation on human rights. The Centre is one of the coordinating institutions of the <a href="http://eclan.eu/en">European Criminal Academic Network</a>.</span></div></div><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conspiracy/suspect-science/harriet-washington/iatrophobia-explained"> Iatrophobia explained</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/leigh-daynes/doctors-of-world-how-we-discovered-gchq-was-spying-on-our-operations">Doctors of the World: how we discovered GCHQ was spying on us</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/david-lyon/precarious-privacy">Precarious privacy </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/tim-jordan/we-need-rebellious-information-politics">We need a rebellious information politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/matthew-rice/weve-come-long-long-way-together-building-coalitions-around-right-to-privacy">We&#039;ve come a long, long way together: building coalitions around the right to privacy </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/the-vacuum-cleaner/it%27s-gettin%E2%80%99-kinda-hectic"> It&#039;s gettin’ kinda hectic</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/francesco-ragazzi-rosemary-bechler/policed-multiculturalism-and-predicting-disaster">‘Policed multiculturalism’ and predicting disaster</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties digitaLiberties Can Europe make it? Civil society Culture Democracy and government Ideas Internet Richard Ashcroft Tue, 09 Feb 2016 02:35:02 +0000 Richard Ashcroft 99558 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Spanish politics: a numbers game https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/krystyna-schreiber-adri-alsina/spanish-politics-numbers-game <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Spain is currently in a political deadlock and Catalonia is the key for unlocking the situation, but only if a compromise can be reached.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/UhAGDmEhc0G2u0JoZymRaT6FKW3mV6ydYdw8W97Ruok/mtime:1454955504/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/556685/Screen%20Shot%202016-02-08%20at%2018.09.23_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/qjj2OyDlOc1pQlaziR7lxppSkr7r8idr45hVms5oEGw/mtime:1454955491/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/556685/Screen%20Shot%202016-02-08%20at%2018.09.23_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>La Meridiana Avenue of Barcelona during a mass demonstration calling for the independence of Catalonia on 11 September, 2015. Jordi Boixareu/ Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>176. This is the magic number in Spanish politics. Half+1 members of Congress, which is a 350-seat semicircle now plagued with as many as twelve different political groups. Or even fifteen, if you dare to count in the three regional-based confluences finally included within the Podemos “Confederal” brand that was unable to get a deal to obtain a separate group of their own.</p> <p>Spain used to be a game of two. The Popular Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE) would often rely on regional-based forces such as Convergència i Unió (CiU) in Catalonia to secure comfortable majorities either to the right or to the left. Jordi Pujol, president of Catalonia for 23 years and indisputable leader of CiU, was celebrated as a key negotiator and even named “Spanish Man of the Year” in 1993 by conservative newspaper <em>ABC</em>.</p> <p>Yet these times are long gone. Jordi Pujol is facing trial for alleged corruption and has vanished from the political arena, while his former coalition Convergència i Unió doesn’t even exist as such anymore. Many Catalans have turned their eyes to independence, and the Republican Left (ERC) and Democràcia i Llibertat (DiL, a coalition that engulfed part of the former CiU) are their new fierce representatives. They won’t settle for less than a Scotland-like self-determination referendum. Most importantly, as we shall see, they hold seventeen seats in Congress.</p> <p>With a downsized PP that won the general election in December 2015 with only 122 seats, the game of power has become a nightmare that may well soon lead to a snap election. Under Spain’s political system, Congress appoints the President by absolute majority – or by relative majority on a second vote that takes place 48 hours later.</p> <p>Yet, the sum of PP and the new centre-right party Ciudadanos (163 seats) or PSOE plus the number of leftist coalitions under the umbrella of Podemos (159 seats) simply don’t add up. Now, add the seventeen pro-independence MPs into the equation: the centre-right coalition would reach 180 votes, whereas the leftist pact would also get to the magic number of 176.</p> <p>What do either of the blocks need to unlock ERC and DiL’s votes? Probably setting a realistic calendar for a self-determination referendum would be enough. The United Kingdom and Canada did it, why can’t Spain do the same?</p> <p>To begin with, Spain can’t for the same reason PP and PSOE can’t seem to be able to strike a deal. “Compromise” is a rare word in Spanish politics. Actually, it doesn’t even have a valid Spanish translation, like John Carlin recently pointed out at <em>El País</em> newspaper. The unity of Spain, and even the existence of different cultural nations within Spain, is a taboo in Spanish politics. To admit that Spain is a plurinational state is seen as a threat to the Spanish nation and the possible beginning of its dissolution. The fact is that monarchs and dictators have not missed any effort over centuries to reassure the “Grand Spanish nation”, as Felipe VI only recently called his Spaniards in his Christmas-speech.</p> <p>When the Second World War ended, European democrats won over Mussolini and Hitler, but not in Spain, where dictator Francisco Franco held on to power for 40 years more. When Franco died in 1975, his entourage realised that the only way to guarantee their control over Spain was to make a treaty with the democrats. The Spanish transition allowed for a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward the military and high level bureaucrats, while guaranteeing impunity to judges and politicians (for example, Franco’s Minister Manuel Fraga Irribarne became the president of Alianza Popular, the predecessor of today’s ruling Popular Party).</p> <p>Having been oppressed for so long, the democrats embraced the chance and voted massively in favour of a brand new constitution. A parliamentary monarchy and a vaguely regionalist “Estado de las Autonomías” were installed (not only for Catalonia and Basque Country but for every region) and maybe there was indeed a chance of becoming the state that Spain had the potential to transform into.</p> <p>As opinion polls have consistenly shown, however, many Spaniards did not reject Franco’s principles, much less the absolutist concept of “only one nation”. It is 2016, and the Spanish Parliament keeps on blocking any official statement against Franco. Post-Franco bureaucrats made sure Madrid keep all checks in order by setting up a regionalist system where the regions get to spend only what the central government allows for, as there is no decentralisation in tax collection. Actually, the Autonomies may have turned out as a clever strategy to weaken the Catalan and Basque nations among all the rest of Autonomous Regions.</p> <p>The difficulties of finding a real federal accommodation that would respect the will of the Catalans and therefore allow for a conflict-free accommodation within Spain became evident when the politically appointed Constitutional Court dramatically cut back the Catalan Autonomous Statute in 2010.</p> <p>What is federalism? German scholar Walter Rudolf defined federalism as “a compromise between two extremes” and yet a compromise is precisely what Spanish politics seem neither willing nor able to reach. Compromise would mean recognising Catalonia’s parliament as an equal political player to Spain’s.</p> <p>To be fair, leader of Podemos and professor of politics Pablo Iglesias recognises the “plurinational reality” of Spain and the need for a self-determination referendum in Catalonia as the only way to make Spain progress.</p> <p>Neither PSOE, PP nor Ciutadanos consider this an option, however. In the last election campaign, while they did mention a potential modification of the Constitution, this was most probably a change in the opposite direction: all of them clearly rejected any asymmetric federal solution for the Catalan conflict. Actually, PP and C’s campaigned for the thinning of regional administration – meaning a stronger centralization of power. So, no matter what Podemos thinks, the fact is that true reforms of the Constitution to fit Catalonia into Spain, which require at least 2/3 of the votes in Congress plus popular referendums etc., seem impossible.</p> <p>Now, the key votes of the pro-independence Catalan MPs in the Spanish Parliament have an unusual role. They won’t support the left (PSOE) or the right (PP, Ciudadanos). They are in Madrid to negotiate a referendum and, if necessary, a win-win transition towards independence.</p> <p>If nobody is willing to compromise, Spain may be heading for a snap election and even more instability.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/fernando-betancor/spanish-fragmentation-continues-after-elections">Spanish fragmentation continues after the elections</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/boaventura-de-sousa-santos/podemos-wave">The Podemos wave</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Spain </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Spain Adrià Alsina Krystyna Schreiber Mon, 08 Feb 2016 18:20:08 +0000 Adrià Alsina and Krystyna Schreiber 99658 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Emergency politics are the wrong path for today's Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/brian-milstein/emergency-politics-are-wrong-path-for-todays-europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The recent calls in France to see its "state of emergency" extended are totally incompatible with the needs and realities of twenty-first century democracy. Here's why.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/9L24yp6TqNqNczAZG_cd-ogQpuGri-BdZGofwxPdhtI/mtime:1454941855/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/556685/PA-25383311.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/EDOYXuA0R1r7ViBlzRuqvOreUO5GNtrAAzcsKAAgEU8/mtime:1454941630/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/556685/PA-25383311.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="653" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A protester holds a banner reading: " Stop of state of emergency" during a protest in Paris on 30 Jan 2016. Christophe Ena / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>French Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently called for France’s state of emergency to <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35375303">remain in place</a> until ISIS has been eliminated. This is in addition to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/04/world/europe/france-state-of-emergency-paris-attacks.html">President Hollande’s push</a> to amend the French constitution while making some of the currently expanded police powers permanent. Most controversially, Hollande is proposing a measure that would allow the government to strip certain natural-born French citizens of their citizenship should they be convicted of terrorist-related activities.</p> <p>The present state of emergency is due to expire at the end of February; a war to fully eradicate ISIS is likely to take <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35375303">years</a>. Since the 13 November attacks in Paris, security forces have conducted <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/03/france-abuses-under-state-emergency">thousands of raids</a> in immigrant communities across France and placed hundreds under house arrest. Despite government claims to the contrary, there is <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20160111-france-november-13-paris-attacks-terrorism-charlie-hebdo-intelligence-security">little evidence</a> that these additional police powers have made a substantial difference. Meanwhile, human rights groups have documented massive abuses (see <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/03/france-abuses-under-state-emergency">here</a>, <a href="http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/upturned-lives-the-disproportionate-impact-of-france-s-state-of-emergency">here</a>, and <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16966&amp;LangID=E">here</a>), while <a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2016/1/30/thousands-in-france-march-in-rain-against-state-of-emergency.html">thousands are marching</a> to demand the end of these draconian policies.</p> <p>That such policies of exception will erode the democratic life of society is not a risk—it is inevitable. The idea of a “state of emergency” is predicated on a model of political militarisation ill-suited to the needs of Western democratic society in the twenty-first century. Such blanket curtailments of basic rights will endanger the democratic integration of residents and citizens of Muslim background at a time when such efforts at integration are as essential as they are fragile. </p> <h2><strong>“State of emergency” in an age of terrorism</strong></h2> <p>The idea of a state of emergency in France is designed as a less extreme version of the French “state of siege,” and both follow a <a href="http://www.transactionpub.com/title/Constitutional-Dictatorship-978-0-7658-0975-9.html">long tradition</a> of suspending constitutional liberties and procedures (in part or in whole) while granting extraordinary powers to the state in times of extreme peril. Like the ancient Roman “dictatorship” or British “martial law,” the “state of siege” was devised primarily for the tasks of fending off a large enemy invasion or putting down armed revolt.</p> <p>Even under the best circumstances, instituting such emergency measures can be <a href="http://www.cambridge.org/de/academic/subjects/law/human-rights/law-times-crisis-emergency-powers-theory-and-practice">a tricky matter</a> for modern democracies. The ability of states to enact such militarising measures without running roughshod over basic constitutional liberties has greatly depended, among other things, on the ability to easily identify the “enemy” and to say with certainty when it has been defeated.</p> <p>This was easier when states faced a uniformed foreign army. Even then, however, the record has been spotty, with a legacy that includes not only the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans">mass internment</a> in the U.S. of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II but also the indiscriminate branding of hundreds of thousands of Italian and German nationals as “<a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/23/local/la-me-italians-20100823">enemy aliens</a>.” A number of Jewish refugees fled the grips of Hitler’s genocidal machine only to find themselves in a <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a6651858.shtml">British</a> or <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_German_Americans#Deportation_of_Germans_from_Latin_America">American</a> internment camp for suspected Axis sympathies.</p> <p>As American policy after 9/11 made plain, waging a military war against terrorism is even more complicated. Not only is the “enemy” less clearly identifiable than in conventional interstate warfare, there is no clear way of knowing when it has been “defeated.” Emergency restrictions of constitutional rights invoked in the name of counterterrorism policy are bound to be less focused and more likely to become permanent.</p> <p>A decade and a half after 9/11, American forces remain mired in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Guantánamo Bay prison remains in operation and while the USA Patriot Act has been formally <a href="http://www.latinpost.com/articles/56930/20150601/nsa-rand-paul-usa-patriot-act-expires-what-happened-why-it-matters-whats-next.htm">allowed to expire</a>, the damage has already been done. In addition to fostering an atmosphere of <a href="http://www.ispu.org/pdfs/patriot%20act%20_2-04%20-%20with%20cover_.pdf">widespread discrimination and abuse</a> against residents of African and Asian background, the post-9/11 “national security state” opened the gates to new waves of state-sanctioned abuse against <a href="http://www.peoplesworld.org/african-americans-in-peril-under-the-patriot-act/">African-American</a> and <a href="http://www.socialjusticejournal.org/archive/95_31_1-2/95_09Jonas.pdf">Latino</a> communities. This includes near-open <a href="http://www.progressive.org/news/2015/03/188074/black-americas-state-surveillance">racial profiling</a>, <a href="https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/irrc_857_zayas.pdf">indefinite detention</a> of immigrants known to have no links to terrorism, and hundreds of <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3401567/">new state and federal regulations</a> targeting foreigners. These are all in addition to <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23123964">Edward Snowden’s revelations</a> that the US government had been secretly compiling databanks of private communications and personal information of American citizens.</p> <p>For all the violations committed in the name of America’s “War on Terror,” two things bear remembering: first, neither the USA Patriot Act nor any other piece of legislation authorised anything like the massive raids, house arrests or general bans on public protests instituted by the French state of emergency; and second, the US still had the luxury of knowing that most of the terrorist operatives it was looking for were coming from <em>outside</em> the United States. Of the nearly 800 inmates of the famed Guantánamo Bay prison camp, only <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaser_Esam_Hamdi">one</a> carried American citizenship, and <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/25/guantanamo-detainees-captured-pakistan-afghanistan">none</a> were apprehended on American soil.</p> <p>As <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/petra-g-mplov/let-s-not-make-paris-french-911">Petra Gümplová</a> notes, the bulk of terrorist action carried out in Europe over the past decade have been by so-called “homegrown terrorists.” If the cost of American counterterrorism policy has been endless war abroad, intrusions on privacy at home and a general climate of prejudice and paranoia, a comparable European “War on Terror” carried out through formal suspensions of rights can only entail a waging of war against its own population—and against its Muslim population in particular.</p> <p>As the Muslim population of Europe has been <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/17/5-facts-about-the-muslim-population-in-europe/">projected to reach 8%</a> over the next fifteen years, a strategy of war cannot be of benefit to European democracy. Ironically, this is reported to be exactly <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/12002726/The-grey-zone-How-Isis-wants-to-divide-the-world-into-Muslims-and-crusaders.html">the war ISIS wants to see</a>.</p> <h2><strong>States of emergency undermine European Democracy</strong></h2> <p>The idea of a “state of emergency” rests on a fundamental premise of the Western political tradition: the first question of politics is to establish and maintain order. In political philosophy, this premise is given its most vivid illustration in Thomas Hobbes’s <a href="http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3207/3207-h/3207-h.htm#link2HCH0013">famous description</a> of “a war of everyone against everyone.” Hobbes postulated that, without the coercive power of the state, society would disintegrate, reducing each person to an existence that is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.</p> <p>The lesson of Hobbes’s thought experiment is that the establishment of order by state power must be the <em>first</em> priority of political society and any other aspiration of society comes second: without order, no rights; without order, no justice; without order, no democracy.</p> <p>If Hobbes’s hypothetical war of all against all tells us why we must prioritise order over democracy, it also tells us why this priority of order is nevertheless consistent with it. Society as such will crumble without the State, therefore there is no group in society that could benefit from such a condition. The power of the state protects everyone equally because the risk of disorder is a danger to everyone equally. Since we are all in the same boat, the need to prioritise order over rights, justice, and democracy is still a collective good that serves all of us.</p> <p>But this story was always a fiction. Real societies are suffused with differences and inequalities, with different groups enjoying different levels of status, influence, power, and privilege. Historically these appeared along such divisions as rich versus poor, men versus women, Catholic versus Protestant, Christian versus non-Christian. Today, they increasingly appear along the lines of native versus “foreign,” a label that often persists beyond the first generation of immigrants to their children and grandchildren.</p> <p>Most of our liberal-democratic institutions were developed precisely to rectify these status imbalances and divisions: directly, through constitutionally regulated civil procedure, protections on free expression, association, conscience, and privacy, rights to political participation and representation, and prohibitions against discrimination; indirectly, through public services, health and education policy, unemployment insurance, pensions, and additional social policies geared toward ensuring that persons can enjoy the full benefits of being a member of society. </p><p>These guarantees and protections by themselves are not enough to secure equality—large imbalances persevere in every liberal-democratic society—but they at least give the less advantaged the minimal rights necessary to pursue greater equality as true members. They represent the commitment of a free state to an ongoing pursuit of an inclusive and democratic republic.</p> <p>Yet it is precisely these guarantees and protections that are negated by the doctrine of “emergency.” The emergency state asks us to surrender to its authority on the grounds that we are all invested in the security of our state as equals, while stripping us of the guarantees and protections needed to make us equals in the first place. The sacrifice asked by an emergency regime, by its very logic, cannot be equal for everyone. More often, it takes the form of those in power demanding the sacrificing of rights by the less powerful, many of whom have little to hold onto in society <em>but</em> those rights.</p> <p>A state can only be as liberal or as democratic as its willingness to protect and give voice to its most vulnerable members. At its best, the supposed “trade-off” of liberty for security buys security for the privileged with the liberty of the less so. In the case of Europe in general and France in particular, it will not even accomplish that. The march of globalisation and its ever-increasing flow of goods, ideas, and people across borders means that any advanced society worth its name will be an immigration society—one where large numbers of “outsiders” mingle and live side-by-side with traditional “insiders.” The future of European democracy depends on <a href="http://www.amnesty.eu/content/assets/REPORT.pdf">their acceptance and integration</a> as full and equal members of European society.</p> <p>The kind of “state of emergency” imposed in France is fundamentally at odds with this reality. It is a relic of the outdated image of a culturally unified and bounded nation-state whose main security threats came from other culturally unified and bounded nation-states. The Islamic State is not that kind of threat and the fight against homegrown terrorism requires the active cooperation and trust of those communities an emergency regime would alienate by depriving them of their own sense of public safety. This model of the nation-state has little place in the diverse democratic societies of today.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/nils-mui-nieks-rosemary-bechler/human-rights-at-world-forum-for-democracy-2015"> Human rights at the World Forum for Democracy 2015 </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/amandine-scherrer-didier-bigo/will-democratic-debate-over-counterrorism-gain-edge">Will the democratic debate over counterrorism gain the edge in battle? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/didier-bigo/paris-attacks-november-13-ending-cycle-of-vengeance">Paris attacks November 13: ending the cycle of vengeance?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? France Democracy and government Brian Milstein Mon, 08 Feb 2016 16:33:43 +0000 Brian Milstein 99649 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A law beyond improvement https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/tanya-lokshina/law-beyond-improvement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/8uGrZXH6S9yoSP8FvdT-PUkmpCocl0u76Emyto4RYoA/mtime:1432120633/files/u554943/%20040.jpg" alt="" hspace="5" width="80" align="left" /></p><p>Defining “political activity” may seem like an academic exercise, but in Russia, it is an existential one.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In May 2013, as Russia was craving positive international publicity before the Sochi Olympic Games, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, criticized Russia’s <a href="https://www.hrw.org/russia-government-against-rights-groups-battle-chronicle">“foreign agents”</a> law for the <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-europe-ngos-idUSBRE94J0S120130520">“chilling effect”</a> it could have on the country’s civil society. After meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Jagland <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-europe-ngos-idUSBRE94J0S120130520">told the media</a>: “I have expressed concerns about this [law], and I think it is very important... how political activity is being defined.”</p><p>Vladimir Putin, who had been back in the Kremlin for a year and had already unleashed a vicious campaign against critics of the government, did not disagree that the definition in question could benefit from some improvement. Almost three years later, the saga seems to be drawing to a close, and not in a good way.</p><h2>Vague definitions</h2><p>Defining “political activity” may seem like an academic exercise, but in Russia, it is an existential one. The definition is crucial to the law, which has become the centre piece of the government’s sweeping crackdown on free expression. Non-governmental groups are branded as “foreign agents”, which in Russia is the equivalent of “spy” or “traitor”, if they engage in “political activity” while receiving foreign funding.</p><p>The 2012 law’s definition of “political activity”, actions aimed at influencing the government or public opinion, was very broad and vague. The wording could cover all aspects of advocacy and human rights work. Putin’s international interlocutors hoped the solution would be to get the Russian authorities to narrow the definition so that it would exclude human rights and other advocacy work.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Sv1Jnrn2x4KGUhX4Z0_ai5qUGLLeU5dXfv8RpFMoZgo/mtime:1454944213/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/PA-15239185%20%281%29.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>2012: Moscow Memorial building is sprayed with graffiti 'foreign agent'. (c) Ivan Sekretarev / AP/ Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>The Kremlin proved generous with promises. Every the time issue came up, Putin and other high level officials kept reassuring their foreign partners that the definition </span><a href="http://www.bbc.com/russian/news/2015/10/151001_putin_ngo_law">would eventually be fine-tuned</a><span>. Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry kept designating more of the country’s vibrant independent groups as “foreign agents”, treating any type of government advocacy or public outreach as “political activity.”</span><span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="mag-quote-center">Close to 20 civil society groups across the country have stopped working.&nbsp;These groups have&nbsp;refused to identify themselves as something they clearly were not</p><p>At the start of 2016, the Russian Justice Ministry’s&nbsp;<span>“</span><span>register of foreign agents</span><span>”</span><span>&nbsp;includes more than 100 non-governmental groups, including leading human rights organisations.&nbsp;</span><span>Some of the groups on the list did not even have foreign funding, but the authorities argued that their members at some point in the past received foreign funds or were somehow associated with something foreign. </span></p><p><span>Dozens have paid hefty fines for failing to mark all their publications and online materials as “produced by a foreign agent organisation,” as the law requires. Close to 20 civil society groups across the country have stopped working, including St Petersburg's Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial and the Committee Against Torture. These groups have&nbsp;</span><span>refused to identify themselves as something they clearly were not.</span></p><p>Russia’s international partners haveremained hopeful that Russia would develop a new definition of political activities. Just two months ago, I was at a diplomatic dinner in Moscow and heard officials around the table refer to Putin’s repeated promises to clarify the term. “My sources are telling me it’s going to happen first thing next year,” one of them said.</p><p>And so it did. At the end of January, the Justice Ministry <a href="http://regulation.gov.ru/projects#npa=45477">issued a proposed, new definition of “political activity” to include in the “foreign agent” law</a>. This definition is very specific indeed. It says loud and clear that no matter whether you carry out legal or policy analysis, monitor the work of government institutions, do public opinion surveys, engage in research, petition government officials, etc. — as long as those efforts are aimed at somehow influencing the government or public opinion, they constitute political activity.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p>Instead of narrowing the definition, the ministry details the many ways in which it has been enforcing the profoundly flawed law for the past three years. This proposed definition is what Russia’s international interlocutors are getting in return for their long, patient wait. It is as if the government is saying: “You wanted a new, clear definition — we took a long time but finally elaborated one that we find particularly convenient for our purposes.” And there is little doubt by now, that those purposes are first and foremost about paralysing independent civic activity in the country.</p><p>International organisations and leading democratic governments should realise that it makes no sense to wait for good amendments to be written into this intrinsically bad law. They should not be asking Putin to tinker with it. They should say clearly, in one voice, that the law on “foreign agents” runs contrary to the government’s international human rights obligations and that Russia should do away with it.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexander-morozov/putin-s-politics-of-uncertainty-how-kremlin-raised-stakes">Putin’s politics of uncertainty: how the Kremlin raised the stakes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/nathalie-tocci/eu-russia-relations-towards-pro-active-agenda">EU-Russia relations: towards a pro-active agenda</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/emily-tamkin/russia%27s-senseless-investigation-into-baltic-independence">Russia&#039;s senseless investigation into Baltic independence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Tanya Lokshina Russia NGOs Justice Human rights Mon, 08 Feb 2016 14:51:23 +0000 Tanya Lokshina 99652 at https://www.opendemocracy.net San Salvador, not Caracas, was the world´s most murderous city in 2015 https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/robert-muggah-katherine-aguirre/san-salvador-not-caracas-was-world-s-most-murderou <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>With almost 200 murders by 100.000 inhabitants, probably San&nbsp;Salvador´s murder rate exceeds the violent death rate in many of the world´s most vicious armed conflicts. <A href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/robert-muggah-katherine-aguirre/san-salvador-y-no-caracas-fue-la-ciudad-del-mundo-" target=_blank><STRONG><EM>Español </em></strong></a><A href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/robert-muggah-katherine-aguirre/s-o-salvador-e-n-o-caracas-foi-cidade-do-mundo-com" target=_blank><STRONG><EM>Português</em></strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <P><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/i6Y-F6a3vxbQGxx_X0jNfA9l-ENbkVPo3ZEw_UZhMUQ/mtime:1454942929/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/San%20Salvador%29_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/vyHfBSLTeuBXP2jLBUCULQohwhgRWlNHTtXRT9XKwHc/mtime:1454942920/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/San%20Salvador%29_2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest against murders in San Salvador, capital of El Salvador. Foto: Salvador Melendez / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>&nbsp;</p> <P>&nbsp;</p> <P>In the world´s violence sweepstakes,&nbsp;El&nbsp;Salvador&nbsp;and its capital city, San&nbsp;Salvador, are the tragic victors. The city registered the highest homicide rate in the world in 2015. The number of murders almost doubled when compared to 2014. Specialists blame the collapse of a gang truce and the rise of paramilitary death squads. It is conceivable that San&nbsp;Salvador´s murder rate exceeds the violent death rate in many of the world´s most vicious armed conflicts.&nbsp;</p> <P>The figures are chilling.&nbsp;El&nbsp;Salvador´s official reported national murder rate in 2014 was 61.1 per 100,000. That same year San&nbsp;Salvador´s rate was around 119.2 per 100,000. Official government sources indicate that the rate shot up to around 103 murders per 100,000 in 2015. And in 2015,&nbsp;<A href="http://losblogs.elfaro.net/cronicasguanacas/2016/01/la-ciudad-m%C3%A1s-violenta-del-mundo.html">San&nbsp;Salvador´s homicide rate sky-rocketed</a>&nbsp;to 199.3 per 100,000 according to local sources there.&nbsp; </p> <P>There is a&nbsp;<A href="http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/why-san-salvador-not-caracas-is-the-world-s-most-violent-city">growing controversy&nbsp;</a>over the numbers. Specifically, a&nbsp;<A href="http://www.seguridadjusticiaypaz.org.mx/">Mexican think tank called Seguridad, Justicia y Paz&nbsp;</a>listed San&nbsp;Salvador´s murder rate as 108.54 per 100,000. But it´s prediction was based on an aggregation of 14 municipalities rather than just the municipality of San&nbsp;Salvador&nbsp;thus lowering the overall estimated homicide rate. More problematically, their estimate was calculated using data for January to August 2015. The group then estimated the remaining 4 months based on annual national estimates to round out the figure. They neglect the fact that the&nbsp;<A href="http://www.laprensagrafica.com/2016/01/20/nac200116homicidios">last few months of 2015</a>&nbsp;were especially murderous.&nbsp; </p> <P>The same&nbsp;<A href="http://www.businessinsider.com/caracas-the-worlds-most-violent-city">Mexican organization recently cited&nbsp;Caracas</a>&nbsp;(with a homicide rate of 119.87 per 100,000) as the most violent city in 2015. The group´s methodology was suspect at best, and was not surprisingly<A href="http://www.noticiasrcn.com/internacional-america/gobierno-venezolano-niega-caracas-sea-ciudad-mas-peligrosa-del-mundo">&nbsp;rejected by the Venezuelan authorities</a>. Their estimate was rendered on the basis of a sample drawn from a morgue servicing the capital and suburbs. It appears to include both intentional and some unintentional homicide, including car accidents. Local researchers associated with a&nbsp;<A href="http://www.ovs.gob.ve/">violence observatory in&nbsp;Caracas&nbsp;</a>believe that the homicide rate increased by 20% between 2014 and 2015.&nbsp; </p> <P>There are only a small number of other cities that have managed to exceed San&nbsp;Salvador´s homicide rate in recent history. Ciudad Juarez in Mexico hit a homicide rate of 275 per 100,000 in 2010 before murders dropped precipitously. The Igarapé Institute and CIDE in Mexico conducted&nbsp;<A href="http://f3magazine.unicri.it/?p=604">empirical research</a>&nbsp;there to understand why homicide then fell dramatically. Likewise, Medellin reached a total of&nbsp;<A href="http://www.stabilityjournal.org/articles/10.5334/sta.fy/">266 homicides per 100,000 in 1991</a>&nbsp;but then saw the rates plummet to below 30 per 100,000 by 2015.&nbsp; </p> <P>The homicide rates in these Latin American cities rival the number of conflict deaths per 100,000 in some of the world´s most violent wars. The methods for determining conflict deaths are of course different than those for counting homicide. That said, it is telling that&nbsp;Aleppo (Syria)<A href="http://syrianshuhada.com/Default.asp?lang=en&amp;a=st&amp;st=20">&nbsp;exceeded 220 conflict deaths per 100,000 people in 2015</a>, and the rate is likely higher today. Likewise, Bangui, the capital&nbsp;of Central African Republic, reached about 135 conflict deaths per 100,000 in 2013.&nbsp; </p> <P>The&nbsp;<A href="https://igarape.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/IAEG-Briefing-Note-Counting-Conflict-Deaths-October-2015.pdf">measurement of lethal violence</a>&nbsp;- whether homicide or conflict death - is an imperfect science. Nevertheless, careful measurement is essential to generate a true accounting of the burden of violence around the world. It is a political and moral imperative.&nbsp;El&nbsp;Salvador&nbsp;is suffering from a&nbsp;<A href="http://www.ultimahora.sv/index.php/es/nacionales/item/2261-el-salvador-cerrara-2015-con-pandemia-de-homicidios-afirma-medicina-legal">major crisis that is tantamount to outright warfare</a>. Guatemala, Honduras, and Venezuela are not far behind. An accurate measurement of the problem is the first step to doing something about it.&nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/carlos-rosales-ana-leonor-morales/emergence-of-social-cleansing-in-el-salvador">The re-emergence of social cleansing in El Salvador</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/sebastian-weinmann-hayek/crime-violence-and-political-gridlock-in-el-salvador-busi">Crime, violence and political gridlock in El Salvador. Business as usual</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> El Salvador </div> <div class="field-item even"> Venezuela </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Venezuela El Salvador Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics latin america Katherine Aguirre Robert Muggah Mon, 08 Feb 2016 13:17:32 +0000 Katherine Aguirre and Robert Muggah 99645 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Venezuela, where polarising is so easy https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/michael-penfold/venezuela-where-polarising-is-so-easy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <P>Politicians negotiate only when they are forced to. In a broken nation, the only thing that can make Chavism accept to negotiate with a tough opposition is social pressure. <A href="https://opendemocracy.net/michael-penfold/en-venezuela-lo-f-cil-es-polarizar" target=_blank><EM><STRONG>Español</strong></em></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <P>&nbsp;</p> <P><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Q68lf44TVWD1O4I23BMlri848B3mMsXN1S9pfIdu2e8/mtime:1454942095/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-19552735_0_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/HRkteyr8IuR1iWJ95KI3uqKv1B9UijueqzzNEMyyTPA/mtime:1454942079/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-19552735_0_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image; Fernando Llano / AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <P>Venezuela has been shut off from access to financing, just when it needed it most because of the balance-of-payments crisis, exacerbated by the dramatic fall in oil revenues and an inefficient economic policy that has increased exponentially the perception of risk in international markets.</p> <P>The depth of the external crisis is such that Venezuela is left with but one choice: attracting private capital. And this means dismantling the exchange and price controls, in addition to massively increasing the direct transfer of resources to the most vulnerable sectors in Venezuelan society through a substantial improvement in the quality and targeting of public spending.</p> <P>Any other option would mean to keep on subjecting the country to the external adjustment by quantity policies that its national government has been undertaking, which inescapably lead to rationing, controls and runaway inflation.</p> <P><STRONG>Impoverishment and sense of the vote</strong></p> <P>In the last three years, Venezuela has lost almost 15% of its GDP, and has experienced a drop in per-capita income that has resulted in a rapid impoverishment of the population. This is the origin of the current political crisis and the logic explaining the punishment vote against the government which the opposition managed to successfully exploit at the parliamentary elections in December, 6, 2015.</p> <P>Despite the fact that the economic basis for these electoral results is quite obvious, it is nevertheless surprising to see how the behaviour of both the government and the opposition after the elections is affected by some substantive errors: both sides continue to take refuge in polarisation as a means to maximize its chances of resistance (in the government's case) or to prompt the Executive’s exit (in the case of the opposition).</p> <P>Apparently, the voters who made the change possible are still being unheard.</p> <P>The government has clung to authoritarianism through exerting its control of the Supreme Court, violating the popular will instead of expanding its electoral coalition and modernizing its economic policies, and remorselessly insisting on the idea of keeping economic controls in place. The opposition has chosen to fix a date for the departure of Chavism and to try to symbolically dismantle the revolution.</p> <P>They are both addressing their core voters and flexing their muscles in preparation for a terminal conflict, but the fact is that the voters in December delivered a different message: they wanted to punish <EM>Madurismo </em>by producing a divided government and thus to force it to negotiate with the opposition at the National Assembly, so as to bring about a change in the Executive’s behaviour, especially in economic and human rights issues.</p> <P>If the Executive were not to change its behaviour, the voters gave the National Assembly the power of a two-thirds majority to produce a constitutional, democratic and electoral solution. What both parties had to do, then, was to agree on a standby period to confront the economic crisis and to open a space for political negotiation.</p> <P>This is what the country was expecting.</p> <P><STRONG>Conflict of powers</strong></p> <P>The government chose to precipitate a power conflict instead. It did so, first, by violating the rules for the selection of new judges; next, by using the Enabling Law to wrap up the autonomy of the Central Bank of Venezuela and to prevent the National Assembly from electing its board of directors; finally, by eroding the two-thirds majority in the new National Assembly through cautionary action before the Electoral Chamber, thus undermining the popular will of one of the least populated but most over-represented states in the country: the Amazonas state.</p> <P>Clearly, the decision of the Electoral Chamber creates uncertainty about the two-thirds majority, for it is not known if this majority is to be counted on the basis of the deputies present at the time of a vote, or on the basis of the number of seats in the National Assembly. If it is the number of seats, the 109 opposition deputies will no longer be enough to warrant the two-thirds majority. The Chavist leadership has thus used a deeply undemocratic means to override – temporarily - a credible threat by the opposition to push for a constitutional way out and renew public authorities.</p> <P>With this attack, the government achieved several political objectives: it prevented the future appointment by the Assembly of two National Electoral Council (CNE) members whose terms are due to end this year and whose appointment requires a two-third majority; it prevented the removal of Central Bank executives and the restoring of its autonomy to combat inflation; it avoided the likely removal of the newly appointed judges, for which the supermajority majority is also required; and it blocked any constitutional reform and the possibility of convening a National Constituent Assembly.</p> <P>That is to say, the government used its political power to limit in the short-run all possible constitutional solutions and to leave the Recall Referendum as the only available way out, which is something that does not depend on the National Assembly itself – for it requires a process of collecting signatures which is regulated and supervised by the CNE. While it is certainly true that a constitutional amendment to cut short the presidential term could always be pushed through, this is a legislative decision that would most likely be challenged by the Constitutional Court.</p> <P>In other words, the government reduced (at least temporarily, until final judgment by the Supreme Court, or new elections in the state of Amazonas) the number political options for resolving the crisis to just one: the Recall Referendum.</p> <P>Through the Electoral Chamber, the government managed to effectively undermine the credibility of the threat by the opposition to use the qualified majority, because it is no longer clear whether or not the opposition has, or does not have, this majority. At some point, the Constitutional Court is going to have to pronounce itself on this issue. The opposition retains, however, its three-fifth majority in the Assembly, which allows the possibility of removing the Vice President and the government ministers. And this is a threat that Chavism seems willing to live with.</p> <P><STRONG>Opposition errors</strong></p> <P>But the opposition has also proceeded too hastily in several areas, knowing full well that it is operating in a context where there is no independent judicial control of the government, where the Bolivarian revolution won over 42% of the votes at the parliamentary elections, where its own victory at these elections relied on attracting disgruntled Chavists who were willing to give its electoral alternative a try. Interestingly, after promising political change, the opposition, on the basis of a new internal alliance within the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), chose a parliamentary leadership that re-established the Fourth Republic spokesperson, arguing the need for a seasoned and practiced leader.</p> <P>Symbolically, this decision allowed the government to talk about restoration and to minimize the opposition’s promise of change, even though the opposition did manage to get on board an experienced political veteran.</p> <P>The opposition also decided to swear in its MPs at two different times, arguing formal reasons derived from the decision of the Electoral Chamber. The truth, however, is that, as it could not swear in all 112 MPs, the three Amazonian deputies were left in a vulnerable position.</p> <P>Internationally, it would have been very costly for the government to prevent the constitution of the National Assembly on January, 5, so it would have made political sense for the opposition to wage this battle from the start and not do it in two separate acts (which is what constitutional lawyers allegedly recommended). Chavism took advantage of this political weakness, and the MUD was forced to backpedal under the threat of contempt and legislative omission. It had no alternative but to do so, given the swearing-in scheme it had chosen.</p> <P>If it had chosen to swear in its 112 MPs as a block, at the very same time the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) members did, it would have been very difficult for the Electoral Chamber to divest the Amazonian deputies without <EM>de facto</em> dissolving the National Assembly.</p> <P>International pressure would have been enormous.</p> <P>The opposition chose to install itself before shielding politically its qualified majority and exposing the constitutional manipulation they were undergoing.</p> <P>Finally, instead of opening a space for dialogue, the opposition stated in its inaugural address that its main objective was to get the President out in six months and openly communicated its political agenda. Therefore, it appeared as unwilling to open a negotiation process, confirming the government’s suspicions.</p> <P>The hasty way in which the portraits of Simón Bolivar and Hugo Chávez were removed from the Assembly only confirmed that perception.</p> <P><STRONG>No fast track changes in the horizon </strong></p> <P>These events highlight two facts: first, change will not be speedy in Venezuela; and second, the conditions for a speedy collapse of the government are just not there.</p> <P>Rather, the incidents that took place in the vicinity of the National Assembly during the first week after its constitution seem to confirm that the democratic transformation of Venezuela will be a very complex affair indeed, both economically and politically.</p> <P>The truth is that there is no way out of the current situation without an agreement. To believe that there is a fast way out would be to repeat the same mistakes as the "Chávez, go away" phase and to underestimate the government’s capacity to institutionally and politically block all of the options that have been raised.</p> <P>Chavism was up and ready at each session, but it did not hide its disposition to violate the popular will and contradict its own laws – namely, the law according to which elected officials who have proclaimed cannot be challenged.</p> <P>It is hard to believe, however, that the current situation could benefit the government. Later on this year there will be governorship elections, next year there will be mayoral elections, and then presidential elections.</p> <P>The opposition is facing an election cycle that it can benefit from in the midst of a major economic meltdown. And the only option for Chavism is to make use of the system’s darkest subterfuges. But this does not by any means guarantee its political survival, and even less so its recovery at the polls.</p> <P>Even if the opposition does not manage to remove President Nicolás Maduro, Chavism is in a dead end street and can only bet on delaying the inevitable.</p> <P>In any case, the Venezuelan population will clearly not have the same patience as politicians in facing this electoral cycle and in coping indefinitely with this power conflict.</p> <P>The economic crisis is such that it is a political imperative to find a way out. The social pressure will be mounting and it will force the government to accept some negotiation.</p> <P>The appointment of Aristóbulo Istúriz as Vice President is a clear sign that the government is also bracing for that possibility, knowing full well that it cannot block things indefinitely. Both the opposition and the government have to move in two areas: negotiation or a recall referendum.</p> <P>In order to negotiate, the opposition needs to force the executive into sitting at the table (the former two-third majority threat, which is now uncertain). The only credible threat it now has is its capacity for social mobilization and protest in a context of economic downturn - an issue that, interestingly, divides radicals and moderates within the MUD.</p> <P>If negotiations with the government fail (or never actually happen), the opposition has no choice but to activate the recall referendum and face all the obstacles that the government will put in the way.</p> <P>The recall referendum path can start from April, 14, this year, but in order to make it more expeditious and to overcome the barriers that are bound to be erected, the MUD will depend on its mobilisation capacity - that is, its street power.</p> <P><STRONG>A necessary negotiation in a broken nation </strong><STRONG>&nbsp;</strong></p> <P>In theory, a potential negotiation with the government would imply an agreement on several issues: the economy, electoral rules, political amnesty and institutional renewal.</p> <P>For Chavism, a key issue in any negotiation will be a constitutional reform for changing the current election schedule, including the elimination of the recall referendum and the postponing of the governorship and mayoral elections, to share the political cost of an economic stabilization program, and to obtain an amnesty to be shielded from any future lawsuits.</p> <P>For the opposition, it is essential to cut the presidential term of office from six to five years, to annul unlimited re-election, to grant an amnesty to political prisoners, and institutional renewal.</p> <P>Agreement on these issues is not only possible. It would also undoubtedly be the best for the country. But usually politicians negotiate only when they are forced to. And the only thing that can make Chavism accept to do it is social pressure.</p> <P>A country with a budget deficit exceeding 18% of its GDP, with four different exchange rates, more than a 10% decline in economic activity in 2015, and inflation at more than 270% (no official figures available): we are talking about an almost broken nation.</p> <P>To this should be added the shortage of more than 70% of pharmaceutical drugs, and of more than 65% of food staples, which make the daily life of Venezuelans complex and miserable.</p> <P>This year Venezuela needs more than 16 billion dollars to cover its needs and pay for its commitments. And this, without access to capital markets and with its sole financier, China, entering a deepening crisis.</p> <P>Given the scale of the Venezuelan economic crisis, it is obvious that the only option is a political agreement which would enable to confront the major macroeconomic imbalances and to promote a massive program to attract investment and undertake the necessary social transfers.</p> <P>This agreement requires political guarantees for both sides, which is something that inevitably involves some tradeoffs.</p> <P>After the formation of the National Assembly, a few weeks have been enough to realize the obvious: how easy it is to polarise and how hard it will be to reach a solution that works for all.</p> <P>This article was previously published by <A href="http://lalineadefuego.info/" target="_blank"><EM>Lalineadefuego</em>.</a></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Venezuela </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> DemocraciaAbierta Venezuela Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Ideas International politics latin america Michael Penfold Mon, 08 Feb 2016 13:02:38 +0000 Michael Penfold 99642 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It's time to make the progressive case for staying in the EU https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/caroline-lucas/its-time-to-make-progressive-case-for-staying-in-eu <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Britain's exit from the EU wouldn't liberate us from neoliberalism. Only joint struggles across borders can do that.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/2w42jZ9Nh-N8HVBE6JtNAqUmoP0T3VxeRJ_j79G-rOQ/mtime:1454935149/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/C%20fave%2023%20RESIZED.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/n0X051DHY7mtb8VZAUjUkl1Lkq7UhemfzyESk9ELIjA/mtime:1454934970/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/C%20fave%2023%20RESIZED.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Caroline Lucas/Green Party</span></span></span></p><p>I can understand why some people on the left are sceptical about the EU. Anyone who cares about environmental and social justice only has to take a cursory glance at what's happening in our continent to realise that the EU isn't always beneficial to&nbsp;progressive policies here in Britain. </p> <p>A closer look, however, reveals that the picture is not black and white. Whilst, at present, the EU too often reflects the current British government’s zeal for privatisation and deregulation, historically there is a lot to celebrate. Even&nbsp;today, our EU membership offers us protection from the Tories' worst instincts. And&nbsp;– crucially – the EU offers us a way of working across borders to make things better and to achieve social and environmental progress, which simply would not be possible if the UK were to walk away.</p><h2><strong>TTIP – A taste of things to come if Britain was to go it alone</strong></h2> <p>One cause for scepticism is the transatlantic trade deal, TTIP. This epitomises everything that’s wrong with the EU – and with neoliberal politics in general. Back room decisions, handing power to corporations, and threats to our rights at work and public services.&nbsp;</p> <p>But those who hope that leaving the EU would make Britain's trade policy&nbsp;fairer are, to be frank, fooling themselves. The UK has already&nbsp;<a href="http://leftfootforward.org/2015/07/the-uk-government-is-the-real-villain-when-it-comes-to-terrible-trade-deals/" target="_blank"><span>signed a number of bilateral deals</span></a>&nbsp;that subject both sides to the dreaded&nbsp;<a href="http://www.globaljustice.org.uk/tags/isds" target="_blank"><span>investor state dispute mechanisms</span></a>&nbsp;(ISDS) which allows companies to sue states for risking their 'future profits'.</p> <p>Indeed the Tory Government is a major driving force for TTIP – and David Cameron is one of the deal’s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/no-we-cant-protect-ourselves-from-ttip-by-leaving-europe-heres-why-a6853876.html" target="_blank"><span>top cheerleaders.</span></a>&nbsp;With MEPs and German MPs able to access TTIP documents, the buck stops with UK Ministers for the shameful situation that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-questions-answers/?page=1&amp;max=20&amp;questiontype=AllQuestions&amp;house=commons%2Clords&amp;member=3930&amp;keywords=transatlantic" target="_blank"><span>politicians in Westminster cannot</span></a>.</p> <p>If we left the EU, then we could be left with what pro-Brexit MPs describe as the ‘<a href="http://www.euractiv.com/sections/uk-europe/wto-preferable-eu-say-uk-eurosceptics-312274" target="_blank"><span>WTO Option’</span></a>. What then? Well if recent trade deals are anything to go by, and with the Tories still in charge, we could then expect the roll out of multiple TTIPs on steroids as Britain negotiated trade deals with countries across the world.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mounting pressure from citizens, campaigners and progressive politicians across Europe has successfully forced the EU to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20151202IPR05759/All-MEPs-to-have-access-to-all-confidential-TTIP-documents" target="_blank"><span>open up</span></a>&nbsp;TTIP to more scrutiny. Eventually, our MEPs will vote on the final deal. If we want to stop the rot of&nbsp;damaging trade deals, it's our responsibility to&nbsp;make sure our elected representatives know that they will not get away with waving TTIP through.</p> <h2><strong>The attack on Greece – right wing Governments enforcing austerity</strong></h2> <p>Another concern for people on the left is Greece and the tragedy which has unfolded there.&nbsp;The imposition of austerity on the country – and the deep damage it’s caused – was certainly enough to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/16/greece-progressive-reform-europe-david-cameron" target="_blank"><span>make me think twice</span></a>. But to lay the blame simplistically on the EU&nbsp;is short-sighted. The real villains are the right wing European governments at the top table. With the European Council made up of ministers from each EU country, it often simply reflects the prevailing currents in European politics. The imposition of austerity in Greece should not be surprising when you look at Merkel’s right wing government in Germany or indeed the slash and burn policies of the Tories here in Britain.</p> <p>That’s not to say, of course, that institutions like the European Central Bank or the EU council aren’t anti-democratic – they are. But to give people a real say in Europe we need to prise open the doors of power, not throw away the one structure which has the ability to regulate the excesses of the cross-continental market.</p> <p>Brexit would do nothing to help the Greek people. We need more pan-European solidarity, resistance, and collaboration – not less.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Environment – cross-border challenges need cross-border solutions</strong></h2> <p>Not infrequently, I'm furious that EU environmental and climate policies don't go far enough. But it's important to remember that some of our dirtiest power stations have been closed thanks to EU directives. Our&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/caroline-lucas/eu-referendum-climate-change-environment_b_9147716.html" target="_blank"><span>beaches are cleaner</span></a>, our&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/nov/19/eu-court-rules-uk-government-must-clean-up-dangerous-air-pollution" target="_blank"><span>air less polluted</span></a>&nbsp;and, as Mike McCarthy put so eloquently recently,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/nature-studies-the-environmental-case-for-staying-in-europe-a6847216.html" target="_blank"><span>our wildlife is far safe</span></a>r because of EU rules. Only last week the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eurosite.org/en-UK/2016/02/02/meps-adopt-report-mid-term-review-eu-biodiversity-strategy-eu-law-needs-stronger-implemen" target="_blank"><span>European Parliament</span></a>&nbsp;backed stronger action on protecting nature. To me it’s obvious that being part of the EU makes sense when it comes to protecting our environment.&nbsp; </p><p>Pollution and environmental degradation don't respect national borders. As an environmentalist, I'd rather be working hard to make sure EU decisions deliver bolder cross-border solutions than spending the next three years scrabbling around to salvage scraps from the Nature Directives.</p> <h2><strong>Doing things differently – a new EU</strong></h2> <p>Ultimately, walking away from the EU would put at risk our&nbsp;<a href="http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=82" target="_blank"><span>rights at work</span></a>, our environment and our ability to influence the rules that will continue to affect us. Added to that is the profound risk that Brexit poses to our multicultural and multinational society. But if we’re going to stay in the EU we also need a vision of how we can do things differently.</p> <p>The EU will only change if we work together with people from across the continent to make it do so.</p> <p>This week activists, campaigners and politicians from across the continent&nbsp;<a href="http://diem25.org/" target="_blank"><span>gather in Berlin</span></a>&nbsp;to discuss how we'll win Europe back for the people. For a start that means&nbsp;<a href="http://diem25.org/" target="_blank"><span>democratising the EU structures</span></a>&nbsp;– making top meetings like the EU Council open to the public through livestreaming, giving more power to elected politicians over unelected Commissioners, and ending the culture of secrecy. It means further clamping down on corporate lobbyists – something that’s already begun in the EU and which Westminster could learn from. And it means thinking big about EU policies that would make all of our lives better such as cross-border minimum wages (set differently for each country but ensuring that everyone earns enough to get by on where they live). Much is still to be decided – but these talks are a solid start.&nbsp;</p> <p>On Wednesday the movement for a different kind of EU comes to Britain as a new&nbsp;<a href="https://outlook.office.com/owa/org" target="_blank"><span>pro-EU campaign</span></a>&nbsp;launches in London. The progressive case for British membership of the EU, which has been side-lined for too long in a debate dominated on both sides by big business, is about to be made loud and clear.&nbsp;</p> <p>If you care about social justice and our environment – and want to make the EU better for all of us – I urge you to join the movement to make another Europe possible. &nbsp;</p> <p><em><a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dontwalkaway-the-progressive-case-for-staying-in-the-eu-tickets-21041646130">Sign up</a> to come to Wednesday’s event.</em></p> <p><em>Tweet: #DontWalkAway</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/caroline-lucas/postcapitalism-is-it-what-we-greens-have-always-been-arguing-for">Postcapitalism: is it what we Greens have always been arguing for?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Caroline Lucas Mon, 08 Feb 2016 12:39:07 +0000 Caroline Lucas 99641 at https://www.opendemocracy.net