Category Archives: Group 4

Egypt’s post-revolutionary elections to be held without international monitoring

Brussels – Egypt will witness its first elections after the revolution on November 28th. The elected representatives will participate in choosing a constituent assembly of one hundred members who shall be in charge of drafting Egypt’s new constitution.

By Amir Elshenawy

Despite the significance of Egypt’s coming elections, Egyptian authorities, represented in the government and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), made a decision not to involve international monitoring. On July 6 2011, Mr. Marc Franco, Head of EU Delegation to Egypt, announced that Egyptian authorities refused the presence of international monitoring on the parliamentary elections. He added “The elections are committed to be done in a democratic and fair atmosphere and under the supervision of judicial authorities.”

Although Egyptian authorities’ decision to prevent international monitoring on elections is already known since July 6, the EU has not announced yet an official response to that decision. The critical question is how the EU will respond to such a decision which makes it hard to guarantee that elections are free and fair, one of the main conditions the EU listed in its new Neighborhood policy to keep its support to neighbor countries.

Free and fair elections … Hard to guarantee 

Having free and fair elections is hard to guarantee, according to Nejad Elborai, Chairman of Egyptian United Group of Law, because they are going to be held within unstable circumstances. Elborai also adds the current indicators refer to no change coming in the horizon regarding the issue of observing elections.

Nejad Elborai, Egyptian attorney and human rights advocate

“Egypt’s civil society organizations (CSO) will monitor the coming elections in the same way they did before in 2000, 2005 and 2010’s elections,” Elborai expects.

Elborai adds there are severe restrictions on the way CSOs work beside accusations of them receiving funds from foreign institutions. That is in addition to serious threats to CSOs’ members’ lives and being put in front of military trials.

Ahmed Sameh, Director of Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies in Cairo, shares Elborai’s same fears, and he adds “All the recipes are available to create chaos, starting from absence of security, week government logistics to the coming elections and smuggling of arms from Libya.”

A claim to protect sovereignty

The United Group of Law and Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies are two of six organizations that signed a statement on July 24th 2011 condemning SCAF’s refusal to international monitoring and saying that step is a continuation of the approach followed by the executives during Mubarak regime.

Elborai described Egyptian authorities’ refusal to have international monitoring on the elections as an escape coming out of its fear to be internationally questioned about the expected violations within the electoral process.

While Sameh states that the first objective of institutions to monitor the elections, whether they are national or international, is to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and whether the elections were conducted in the framework of a democratic tradition or modern democratic transition.

Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, Member of the EU Working Group on the Middle East

“If Egypt wants to have free and fair elections, authorities there should have nothing to fear about sending observers to Egypt,” says Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, Member of the EU Working Group on the Middle East.

The above-mentioned two organizations draws attention in the statement that there is a deliberate confusion of the concept of international monitoring of elections and promoting it as a violation of national sovereignty.

“Egyptian authorities still follow the same Mubarak’s rhetoric in dealing with international monitoring and frame it in the public sphere as a foreign interference in Egypt’s national sovereignty,” Elborai affirms.

He adds international monitoring is a usual action the state calls for to ensure the neutrality and impartiality of the electoral process and confirmation of democracy, not constituting a loss of the concept of sovereignty, as some claim.

 EU and a state of silence

The EU has not declared any official response yet regarding Egyptian authorities’ decision to prevent international monitoring on the coming elections, the decision that goes back to last July.

“I am not quite sure how the EU will respond regarding that issue,” says Triantaphyllides, and he adds there are various actions might be taken but decisions have to be made first after discussions, which have not been taken place yet regarding that issue.

Triantaphyllides adds if a country accepts to have financial aids from EU and it does not allow the observers to go and monitor the elections, then these financial aids might be reduced or cut off, but he asserts that no decision has been taken yet in Egypt’s case.

While Elborai surprisingly wonders how the USA and EU have not taken any steps on the ground regarding Egyptian authorities’ decision to prevent international monitoring on the coming elections, and he also deeply condemns what he calls ‘EU’s shameful silence’ regarding this issue.

“Decision-makers in the USA and EU are a group of liars. All what they said and still saying about supporting democracy is a big lie. They have not taken any real steps that prove their good intentions. All is what they are seeking is their own interests,” says Elboraic.

Elborai adds the EU is supporting the SCAF like it supported Mubarak for 30 years, and he also states the EU’s decision-makers wrongly believe that the SCAF will serve their own interests, while they are creating a new dictator right now.

EU and supporting democracy in Egypt

Under the title “A New Response to a Changing Neighborhood,” the EU released new policies in dealing with its neighbors in the East and South of the EU on May 25th, 2011. According to the new plan, “EU support to its neighbors is conditional. It will depend on progress in building and consolidating democracy and respect for the rule of law. The more and the faster a country progresses in its internal reforms, the more support it will get from the EU”.

Marisa Matias, Vice-Chair of EU Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries

Marisa Matias, Vice-Chair of EU Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries including Egypt, declares that it is strange and not acceptable to concentrate only 11.1% of allocations to Egypt in supporting reforms in the areas of democracy and human rights, and she believes that area deserves much more money than other areas and it should be the first priority. She also adds that the EU has built its partnership with Egypt since Mubarak’s days until now upon economic orientation, not a political one.

“European neighborhood policy with Arab Spring countries needs an immediate change because it used to seek stability in these countries and close the eyes to oppression of peoples by totalitarian regimes, and it is still doing so,” stresses Matias.

Similar to Matias, Triantaphyllides believes one of the mistakes the EU made because it was following the United States’ policies was that it supported Arab totalitarian regimes for the sake of stability. He adds the EU policymakers used to say they support Mubarak’s regime because it has managed to build stable governments that were able to prevent violence and wars in the area.







The Baltic Sea sends warning signals

BRUSSELS – The Council of the European Union acknowledges that the current environmental  situation of the Baltic Sea is critical. It is considered to be one of the most polluted seas in the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), seven of the ten world’s largest marine dead zones are found in the Baltic Sea.

By Agne Grineviciute

“Poland is considered as the biggest polluter especially referring to phosphorus and nitrogen and thus contributing to the eutrophication,” acknowledges Anna Marzec, WWF representative in Poland. Eutrophication is probably the biggest threat to the Baltic Sea biodiversity because it encourages the growth of algae. The algae consumes oxygen, so that many species of fish and fauna suffer from the lack of oxygen.

Hopes for Poland

During the Baltic Sea Action summit in Helsinki last February, Poland has made some commitments. For example, to invest eight billion euros in wastewater management and to ban phosphates in Polish detergents by 2014. Anna Marzec explains:

“This process is still ongoing. But we still do not have, for example, legal phosphates ban, and we won’t have it earlier than it will be adopted for the entire EU. Polish ports are also not yet prepared to receive and treat waste water from ships.”

Interestingly, the European Commission’s proposal banning phosphates and phosphorus compounds in laundry detergents as well as domestic dishwashers and domestic washing machines was approved in the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee in June.

“On the 14th of November The Permanent Representatives Committee and the Council of Ministers also agreed with this proposal, with only two member states voting against,” says Bill Newton Dunn, the European Parliament’s (EP) rapporteur. But he also adds that the next stage is that the EP will have to vote to confirm this agreement in the mid-December plenary session and that the Council must also vote in favor.

“The most significant consequence of the Commission proposal is that it will automatically become law in all 27 member states. Poland voted in favor and so it will be law in Poland as well. Unfortunately, Russia won’t be affected,” Bill Newton Dunn concludes. Notably, this law could take effect only from 2015.

Eutrophication is the biggest threat to the Baltic Sea because algae cause the lack of oxygen. Photo: Vidas Dulke

According to the Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, Poland has already achieved a 50 percent reduction in nitrogen inputs and a 35 percent reduction in phosphorus inputs, as compared to the Polish reduction target set in the Baltic Sea Action Plan.

 “Where there is EU money, there is Russia”

The European Commission has also expressed its concern about this sea by launching the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region in 2009. The latter strategy is the first macro-regional cooperation in the EU. However, the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region has received some criticism. Opponents claim that it lacks an external perspective of how to work with Russia and ignores it as a key determinant for the potential success of this strategy. Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuanian MEP, who is a substitute of the Delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, has a different opinion.

Lithuanian MEP Vytautas Landsbergis thinks that Russia is not tend to invest in long term ecological projects. Photo: Vidas Dulke

“The criticism has come through the Russian lobbyists who are in all the EU institutions. Interestingly, when it comes to money, Russia has declared that it must participate in all the programmes as well as the distributions of money,” says MEP Vytautas Landsbergis.

He emphasizes that this document unites only the members of the EU. But he was in astonishment after he had seen the final version of the strategy:

“The statement had suddenly appeared which said that all the programmes must be done together with Russia”, recalls Vytautas Landsbergis.

Another controversial issue related to Russia and the Baltic Sea is the gas pipeline called the “Nord Stream”. Radvile Morkunaite, another Lithuanian MEP, was the coordinator of the international project “Save the Baltic Sea before it is too late.” The main aim of it was to stop the construction of the “Nord Stream” in the Baltic Sea.

Lithuanian MEP Radvile Morkunaite believes that if you want to save the Baltic Sea, you must begin with yourself. Photo: Vidas Dulke

“We finally agreed that the “Nord Stream” was a political decision. But we have attracted international attention and got some data, confirming that this pipeline increased toxicity, although representatives of the “Nord Stream” disagreed,” explaines Radvile Morkunaite.

Another threat that is worrying is a chemical weapon that had been buried by the Soviets in the Baltic Sea. It also contributes to the pollution because of the toxics.

“It is very important to get answers from the Russian scientists about the exact location of this weapon because the toxics penetrate into the water. If Russia wants to help reduce the pollution, it must reveal all the relevant data concerning the weapon,” stresses MEP Vytautas Landsbergis.

According to him, there is no dialogue between the EU and Russia because Russia always draws its own positive conclusions regarding pollution or just disregards the EU and collaborates with separate member states, in that way weakening the EU.

Positive signs of recovery?

HELCOM was established in 1974. Its aim is to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental cooperation among nine countries around the Baltic Sea. Monika Stankiewicz, Professional Secretary at HELCOM, expresses her concern:

“The Baltic Sea ecosystem has degraded to such an extent that its capacity to deliver goods and services to humans living has been hampered. None of the open basins of the Baltic Sea has an acceptable ecosystem health status”.

Despite that, she sees some positive signals such as decreasing trends of certain persistent organic pollutants like Polychlorinated biphenyls (it’s a man-made organic chemical that has a range of toxicity), DDT (it’s a synthetic pesticide) and dioxins because of banning of these substances.

“Our findings have shown that there is great potential for further reductions in the waste water sector. Implementing the more stringent requirements in the HELCOM recommendations would eventually make us closer to the overall nutrient reduction targets, especially for phosphorus and to a lesser extent for nitrogen, which are required to achieve a healthy Baltic Sea,” announced Lars M. Svendsen, Chairman of the HELCOM LOAD Group on the 5th of September during the meeting of HELCOM experts.

A WWF report called “Baltic Sea Scorecard 2011” is also hopeful. It states that “industrial hot spots are being cleaned up; municipal waste plants are being built and improved; farmers are looking for and implementing solutions to reduce excess nutrients; cod stocks are showing signs of recovery.”

Predictions for the future
The beautiful Baltic Sea could soon become the second Dead Sea if we don't act immediately. Photo: Vidas Dulke

When it comes to the future of the Baltic Sea, the interviewees have more or less similar opinion. For example, Radvile Morkunaite believes that algae blooms show that situation is sad and that’s impossible to clean up this sea.

“Now it’s important not to deteriorate the current position,” she mentions.

Another MEP, Vytautas Landsbergis, also thinks that the future of the Baltic Sea is very sad because of the huge amounts of nitrates form the fertilizers. What is more, Vytautas Landsbergis points out that he can’t see any improvement even in the global perspective because nobody even talks about stopping the pollution, only about reducing it.

“It is possible to save the Baltic Sea, but it requires political will and commitment from all relevant stakeholders,” believes Monika Stankiewicz.

HELCOM emphasizes that actions to improve the state of the Baltic Sea are costly but there is a great risk that non-action will result in even higher costs.


EU flies solo to reduce aviation emissions

BRUSSELS- The European Union’s controversial inclusion of international airlines in its emissions trading system (ETS) has received heated criticism. Political pressure continues to mount on the EU as the start date of aviations inclusion in the ETS fast approaches.

By Stephanie Bishop-Hall

Sitting in the gate lounge at an airport somewhere you stare blankly at the generic carpet made of geometrical shapes in bright and inoffensive colours. Around you people move with purpose, collecting bags or loved ones, talking loudly on the phone, looking tired or stressed. Now and then a voice stutters over the loud speaker, almost indistinguishable from the vacant sounds of movement that surround you.

When asked by the uniformed flight attendant to show your ticket, you remember how cheap it was: a discount ticket, half the normal price. No need to feel guilty about this trip. What you did not consider was the environmental impact of your cheap ticket and the aviation industry as a whole.

“Basically right now, buying a cheap ticket is one of the most environmentally damaging consumer products,” says Dudley Curtis, communications manager at Transport and Environment, a non-governmental organisation working from inside Brussels.

“Aviation is ten-times more polluting than road traffic but has none of the same regulations. It’s a sector that doesn’t even run on the same standards as every other industry,” Mr Curtis adds.

A model aeroplane soars below its shadow.


In the beginning

Following the creation of the Kyoto Protocol to tackle climate change in 1997 the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations, was tasked to work with developed nations to reduce aviation emissions. Fourteen years later, the organisation has not decided on a binding global measure to reduce the industry’s emissions.

In 2005, the European Union (EU) concluded that bringing aviation into the EU ETS would be the most cost-efficient and environmentally effective option for controlling aviation emissions. The proposal took eighteen months to be adopted and the ‘Aviation Directive’ became EU legislation.

How the ETS works:

From the 1st January 2012 all airlines flying to and from the EU will be required to monitor and report their emissions to the member state that issued their license. Under the EU ETS airlines will be given 85 percent of their emissions for free, and will have to trade or buy the remaining 15 percent at auction.


In protest over the legislation, the Air Transport Association of America, American and United Continental Airlines took their case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

In October this year Juliane Kokott, Advocate General of the ECJ, expressed a preliminary opinion that the EU’s inclusion of international aviation in its ETS was compatible with international law. This opinion is not binding and the courts decision is expected early next year.


Stationary model aeroplanes fly in front of the European Parliament buildings.


ICAO and the Chicago Convention

“The EU has no right to charge third countries,” says Jacqueline Foster, a British Conservative Member of the European Parliament and spokesperson for the Committee on Transport and Tourism.

The main basis for a legal argument against the inclusion of aviation in the EU ETS is a breach of the Chicago Convention, in which the purpose of ICAO is set forth. The argument lies in the description of ‘sovereignty’. Those bringing the case against the EU argue that forcing them to partake in the ETS impinges on their sovereignty as it is unilateral and they have not agreed to it.

The European Commission maintains that the legislation is not extra-territorial and does not hinder states from acting on their own territory. The Commission reiterates that within the ETS legislation there is a provision that exempts airlines from countries taking equivalent steps to cut emissions from aviation.

Mrs Foster expressed her belief that the EU is breaking the Chicago Convention. “It was decided without proper discussion with third countries,” she states.

On November 2nd of this year, under pressure from twenty-six nations including the US and China, ICAO agreed to adopt a non-binding working paper urging the EU to refrain from including flights by non-EU carriers in its ETS.

“ICAO has basically been a useless organisation when it comes to aviation environmental impacts. It [the working paper] is just a continuation of the unproductive nature of the industry,” comments Mr Curtis.

Tax revenue vs. the environment

There have been claims from within the EU that the measure is primarily a way to raise tax revenue.

“It’s not about the environment, the focus is on tax revenue,” Mrs Foster states emphatically.

Brian Simpson, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism was quoted at the 55th annual meeting of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines as saying:

“…Within the EU, governments are keen to press ahead because they desperately need the money. They won’t say that—oh no—they will claim it’s to help the environment, just as they do with Air Passenger Duty. But let’s be under no illusions here—both ETS and APD are being used as revenue streams for hard-up governments and not for environmental protection measures.”

A source from within the European Commission denies this claim, arguing that if the inclusion was in fact aimed at tax revenue the airlines would have to buy 100 percent of their allowances at auction.

A political struggle

“This a political fight more than it is a legal fight and it’s really about whether America wants to turn this into a major international dispute,” Mr Curtis says.
Earlier this year, an anti-EU bill was introduced into the US Congress which declares the EU aviation directive illegal and if passed by the Senate will prohibit any US airline from complying with the EU law. This would leave the airlines in an impossible situation where they will either break US or EU law.


The official stance of the European Commission on this possible development is one of no speculation.

Consumers will pay

The European Commission expects an increase in ticket prices as a result of the ETS. The Commission’s official figure is around a two euro increase on a transatlantic flight. It is understood that the Commission is not concerned about the effect the ETS could have on the tourism industry.

Jacqueline Foster disagrees: “the consumer will pay and it raises competition issues,” adding, “the EU is over-regulated and the end result will be on tourism industry.”

Flying into the future

Despite continued international pressure, the EU, led by Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, remains firmly behind the legislation.

Commissioner Hedegaard expressed in a speech made on the 10th November at the European Parliament Transport Committee meeting, “…We as EU stand firm in respect of this non-discriminatory legislation and express that we have no intention of amending it.”


Links for further reading:

The Chicago Convention

Latest European Environment Agency report on Transport, ‘Laying the foundations for greener transport’

European Commission, Climate Action, Aviation Policy

Gender gap complicates Turkey’s jump into the EU

The Turkey Assessment Group (MEP Morten Messerschmidt (left) and MEP Robert Ellis (right)) quoted Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan for saying: “Men are men and women are women. They can in no way be equal.” The Assessment Group received a correction from the Turkish Embassy in Brussels stressing that what PM Erdogan meant was that men and women can never be physically equal. (centre: Ms. Zeynep Dereli). Photo: Joan Jensen
BRUSSELS – The lack of equal rights for men and women in Turkey is seen as a serious problem for Turkey to become a conclusive  member of the European Union. A way of viewing the obstacles is through the empowerment of women as a means to combat the gender gap.

By Joan Jensen

According to the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index Report launched by the World Economic Forum on 1 November, Turkey enhanced its position in the past year. In 2010 Turkey ranked country # 126 out of 134 nations accounted for; in 2011 the gap had closed in to # 122 out of 135 countries. The report investigates differences between men and women in specific areas such as political empowerment and economic participation, per country.

To Mr. Morten Messerschmidt, founder of the Turkey Assessment Group in the European Parliament, this is good news, but not good enough:

“Whether Turkey should be a member of the EU or not is no longer a political issue. Everyone considers the hurdles so overwhelming, that the ongoing Accessions Negotiations with Turkey are actually seen as obstacles for obtaining a reasonable relation between Turkey and the EU,” Mr. Messerschmidt said.

The Turkish gender gap is also a topic in the recent Progress Report on Turkey, launched by the European Commission for Enlargement in October. It states that when it comes to gender equality and women’s rights in Turkey, there are still “major
challenges.” However, the legal framework in Turkey is broadly in place but the challenge is to convert the legislation into social reality, an EU official says. This means that the legislation has yet to be implemented consistently across the country.


FACTS: Gender equality and the EU

To enter the European Union a country must agree to and implement 35 chapters of EU legislation, the so-called acquis. Chapter 23 of the acquis stresses that: “Member States must ensure respect for fundamental rights and EU citizens’ rights, as guaranteed by the acquis and by the Fundamental Rights Charter.” The latter states that: “Equality between men and women must be ensured in all areas, including employment, work and pay.” The negotiations between the EU and Turkey about the adoption of chapter 23 of the acquis are still open, meaning the EU Council is not yet satisfied with the Turks on the area of fundamental rights.


Developers of human capital

Ms. Zeynep Dereli, founder of think tank ‘Turkish Policy Forum’ and now the Director of the Black Sea Energy & Economic Forum, was invited to a debate in the European Parliament by the Turkey Assessment Group. The topic to be debated was women’s rights and gender inequality in Turkey. Ms. Dereli argued that development of gender equality in her home country can only happen through the empowerment of women.

“Women need access to capital and we must create role models in business. Women are the developers of human capital,” Ms. Dereli said during the debate and stressed:

“We need to focus on micro financing and in that way increase female entrepreneurship. Women should take greater part in economics and politics. We must change the mentality and how you view women.”


The challenges

Of Turkey’s 73,7 million people, nearly half of them are women. Some 53 percent, or 19.357.000 women, are not in the labor force, according to TurkStat, the official Turkish Statistical Institute. More than 6 out of 10 in this group are housewives and their GDP is not registered since they perform unpaid house work, for instance child- and elderly care. This means that more than 11 million women’s labor and production in households is not officially registered and hence they do not make an official income. Ms. Dereli’s point is that these women should be empowered economically which would lead to a smaller gender gap.

In addition, the European Commission’s Turkey 2011 Work Report stresses that funds available to encourage women to become self-employed have been inadequate. This includes training courses that must be designed to avoid gender-based segregation of

However, there has been gender equalizing changes in the past years, Ms. Dereli stressed during the debate:

“Today women don’t need the permission from their husbands to find work or to start their own company. And now the Civil Law on maternity leave in Turkey gives the woman 16 weeks of paid leave plus an additional 6 months unpaid leave. This is
actually higher than the average European standards.”

In Turkey 9 percent of the formal labor force is unemployed; some 2,2 million Turks. In comparison, the unemployment rate for the EU as a whole is 9,6 percent.


FACTS: Turks and the EU

41% think that an EU membership is a good idea for Turkey

29% think that EU membership is a bad idea

48% believe that Turkey would benefit from EU membership

38% does not believe that Turkey would benefit from EU membership.

 Source: Eurobarometer, August 2011.

NGO: Gender inequality an image matter

The European Women’s Lobby association works to promote women’s rights and equality between men and women across the EU, including the three current candidate countries. The Turkish coordinator in the group is Dr. Simten Cosar, an associate professor in political science and international relations from the University of Baskent, Turkey. According to her, women’s rights advocates in Turkey are very much aware of the gender gap as an obstacle for Turkish EU membership:

“For the majority of the women’s rights advocates, international and transnational bodies (like the EU) offer the opportunity to pressure the decision-makers to consider gender equality as part of democratization. I believe the Turkish government is obliged to consider gender inequality mainly for its inter/transnational image,” she says and continues:

“Hopefully one day our decision makers will adopt laws that would pave the way for the achievement of gender equality in the country.”

Turkey was officially named a candidate country to the EU in 1999. The negotiations for membership, the Associations Negotiations, started in 2005 and are still ongoing.

The Permanent Delegation of Turkey to the EU was given the opportunity to comment on the subject, in specific whether the Turkish government accepts that the gender gap is an obstacle for EU membership. However, it has not been possible to get a comment prior to deadline of the article.

For further reading on Turkey and the EU’s enlargement strategy click here.