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Armenia and Azerbaijan on the brink of war

06-10-2020

Armenia and Azerbaijan are bitterly opposed over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-backed separatist territory that international law recognises as part of Azerbaijan. The fighting, which began in September 2020, is the worst since 1994, when a ceasefire ended a two-year bloody war. With Turkey openly backing Azerbaijan, there are fears that this could trigger conflict with Russia, Armenia’s main ally.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are bitterly opposed over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-backed separatist territory that international law recognises as part of Azerbaijan. The fighting, which began in September 2020, is the worst since 1994, when a ceasefire ended a two-year bloody war. With Turkey openly backing Azerbaijan, there are fears that this could trigger conflict with Russia, Armenia’s main ally.

Russia, arms control and non-proliferation

29-09-2020

Multilateral non-proliferation treaties have curbed the spread of the world's dangerous weapons. The international security order also builds on a series of bilateral agreements between the two leading nuclear powers, the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States (US), mostly concluded towards the end of the Cold War or soon afterwards. Although the multilateral treaties are still in place, the bilateral elements have mostly come unstuck. In 2019, the US pulled out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear ...

Multilateral non-proliferation treaties have curbed the spread of the world's dangerous weapons. The international security order also builds on a series of bilateral agreements between the two leading nuclear powers, the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States (US), mostly concluded towards the end of the Cold War or soon afterwards. Although the multilateral treaties are still in place, the bilateral elements have mostly come unstuck. In 2019, the US pulled out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and it is probable that the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the last remaining major bilateral arms control agreement, will expire in 2021. Russia's systematic violation of its arms control commitments is partly to blame. Other factors include increased US unilateralism and the failure of both sides to adapt the system to changing realities such as China's rise as a military power. Russia is investing heavily in its nuclear forces and developing new and more powerful weapons. Its arsenal is equal to that of the US and in some areas it may even have at least temporary superiority, partially compensating for weaknesses in terms of conventional weapons. As geopolitical tensions rise, arms control has become more necessary than ever. However, it seems unlikely that the US, Russia and possibly China will manage to conclude a new generation of agreements. The implications are not yet clear: neither a major shift in the military balance nor a new arms race are expected, but the lack of formal constraints creates uncertainty.

Geopolitical implications of the COVID-19 pandemic

29-09-2020

Since the Coronavirus began its spread across the world, many analysts have speculated about its impact: would it merely accelerate previously-existing trends, or would it prove to be a geopolitical ‘game-changer’, creating a world profoundly different than before? The answer is much more complex than either or: the world during and after COVID-19 will have elements of both, the old and the new, the known and the unknown. This study explores both dimensions of the pandemic’s impact: how does it affect ...

Since the Coronavirus began its spread across the world, many analysts have speculated about its impact: would it merely accelerate previously-existing trends, or would it prove to be a geopolitical ‘game-changer’, creating a world profoundly different than before? The answer is much more complex than either or: the world during and after COVID-19 will have elements of both, the old and the new, the known and the unknown. This study explores both dimensions of the pandemic’s impact: how does it affect the geopolitical context it erupted into, and what possibility space does it open up? The first section assesses the geopolitical trends antedating the pandemic and measures its present and expected impact on them, while the second section lays out the space for action and change created by the disruption. In the third section, the interplay of trends and uncertainties is explored in three scenarios set in 2025: Strategic Distancing; Europe in Self-isolation; and Lockdown World. The study finds that European foreign policy is entering an era of re-definition in which the European Parliament should play a crucial role. This means outlining the elements of strategic autonomy, but also streamlining them with each other. As such, classical foreign policy needs to join forces with other policy areas such as environmental and technological matters, trade, strategic communication – and of course, health. In that sense alone, the pandemic is already proving to be a game-changer.

Външен автор

Florence GAUB, Lotje BOSWINKEL; EUISS

The poisoning of Alexey Navalny

21-09-2020

EU-Russia relations hit a new low in August 2020, after Alexey Navalny, one of Russia's leading opposition activists, was poisoned by a banned nerve agent. Although the perpetrators have not yet been identified, the attack has to be seen in the context of repression and growing discontent against Putin. In response to this clear breach of international law and human rights, the EU is considering additional sanctions against Moscow.

EU-Russia relations hit a new low in August 2020, after Alexey Navalny, one of Russia's leading opposition activists, was poisoned by a banned nerve agent. Although the perpetrators have not yet been identified, the attack has to be seen in the context of repression and growing discontent against Putin. In response to this clear breach of international law and human rights, the EU is considering additional sanctions against Moscow.

Outcome of the European Council video-conference of 19 August 2020

25-08-2020

The European Council video-conference meeting of 19 August 2020 was called by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, due to the increasingly worrying situation in Belarus after the recent national elections. As Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, summarised, the European Council decided to convey three clear messages from the meeting: i) the EU stands with the Belarussian people; ii) the EU will place sanctions on all those responsible for violence, repression ...

The European Council video-conference meeting of 19 August 2020 was called by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, due to the increasingly worrying situation in Belarus after the recent national elections. As Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, summarised, the European Council decided to convey three clear messages from the meeting: i) the EU stands with the Belarussian people; ii) the EU will place sanctions on all those responsible for violence, repression and the falsification of election results; and iii) the EU is ready to accompany the peaceful democratic transition of power in Belarus. While mainly focusing on Belarus, the Heads of State or Government also discussed two further issues during the video-conference meeting. First, as regards the tense situation in the eastern Mediterranean as a result of increasingly hostile Turkish activity, the European Council expressed its full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, recalling and reaffirming its previous conclusions on the illegal drilling activities, and called for de-escalation. Second, on the situation in Mali, EU leaders expressed their deep concern over the events in the country, which have a destabilising impact on the entire region and on the fight against terrorism, and called for an immediate release of prisoners and restoration of the rule of law.

The EU and Russia: Locked into confrontation

28-07-2020

Following the post-Cold War reset of the 1990s, EU-Russia relations have become increasingly tense. Although initially seen as a pro-Western reformer, since the start of his first presidency in 2000 Vladimir Putin has shown increasingly authoritarian tendencies, and his efforts to assert Russian influence over post-Soviet neighbours threaten the sovereignty of those states. Russia's 2008 war against Georgia led to no more than a temporary cooling of relations with the European Union (EU). However ...

Following the post-Cold War reset of the 1990s, EU-Russia relations have become increasingly tense. Although initially seen as a pro-Western reformer, since the start of his first presidency in 2000 Vladimir Putin has shown increasingly authoritarian tendencies, and his efforts to assert Russian influence over post-Soviet neighbours threaten the sovereignty of those states. Russia's 2008 war against Georgia led to no more than a temporary cooling of relations with the European Union (EU). However, its 2014 annexation of Crimea caused a more permanent rupture. Responding to Russian aggression in Ukraine, the EU adopted hard-hitting sanctions. In 2016, the EU decided to base its Russia policy on five principles, which remain as valid as ever in 2020. They are: insistence on full implementation of the Minsk Agreements on eastern Ukraine as a condition for lifting sanctions against Russia; efforts to strengthen relations with Russia's former Soviet neighbours; greater EU resilience to Russian threats; selective engagement with Russia on certain issues such as counter-terrorism; and support for EU-Russia people-to-people contacts. After six years of deadlock, French president Emmanuel Macron is among those calling for renewed EU-Russia dialogue. Improved relations between Ukraine and Russia following the election of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in spring 2019 raised hopes of a solution to the Donbass conflict, which is still the main obstacle to better relations between the two sides. However, there is still no sign of a breakthrough.

Constitutional change in Russia: More Putin, or preparing for post-Putin?

27-05-2020

In January 2020, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, opened the constitutional debate by outlining a series of amendments that, according to him, aimed to improve the balance of power and adapt the Constitution to the changes that had taken place since 1993, when the original text was adopted. With Putin's fourth and – as it seemed till recently – final presidency due to end in four years, observers speculated that the proposed amendments were intended to give Putin options for continuing to rule ...

In January 2020, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, opened the constitutional debate by outlining a series of amendments that, according to him, aimed to improve the balance of power and adapt the Constitution to the changes that had taken place since 1993, when the original text was adopted. With Putin's fourth and – as it seemed till recently – final presidency due to end in four years, observers speculated that the proposed amendments were intended to give Putin options for continuing to rule the country from behind the scenes, beyond 2024. Events took an unexpected turn in March 2020, when lawmaker and former cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, tabled a last-minute amendment. Her proposal envisaged re-setting the clock for presidential terms, allowing Putin to stay on as president for another 12 years, should he choose to do so. Shortly afterwards, the bill was rubber-stamped by both houses of the federal parliament, and all of Russia's 85 regional parliaments. Altogether, the amendments revise nearly one-third of the Constitution's 137 articles. Apart from presidential term limits, they also clarify the role of Russia's main institutions, with some additional powers for the parliament. Reflecting growing nationalism and suspicions of liberal Western influences, other provisions bar senior government figures from holding foreign citizenship or bank accounts, give the Constitution primacy over decisions made by international bodies, and affirm traditional values. Socioeconomic changes include annual indexation of pensions and a guarantee that the minimum wage will not fall below the poverty threshold. Before they can come into effect, the amendments must first be approved by a nationwide vote on a date yet to be scheduled. Surveys suggest that public opinion is divided on the changes; as the economy deteriorates due to the coronavirus crisis, there is a growing risk of a 'no' vote, which would be an unprecedented setback for Putin.

Coronavirus and international sanctions: Should sanctions be eased during the pandemic?

20-05-2020

The coronavirus pandemic has raised concerns that international sanctions may be exacerbating the risk of a humanitarian crisis. In March 2020, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on world leaders to waive restrictions on food and medicines that are affecting the world's most vulnerable countries. Especially since the suffering caused by the international trade embargo against Iraq in the 1990s, the European Union has sought to design its sanctions for maximum effect at the least ...

The coronavirus pandemic has raised concerns that international sanctions may be exacerbating the risk of a humanitarian crisis. In March 2020, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called on world leaders to waive restrictions on food and medicines that are affecting the world's most vulnerable countries. Especially since the suffering caused by the international trade embargo against Iraq in the 1990s, the European Union has sought to design its sanctions for maximum effect at the least possible humanitarian cost. Usually it does this by targeting restrictions at key individuals or organisations, and in some cases sectors, rather than a country's economy as a whole. Critics of sanctions claim that US-imposed trade restrictions have prevented Iran from purchasing essential medical supplies needed to fight the pandemic. They also argue that EU and US sanctions make desperately impoverished Zimbabwe and Sudan even more vulnerable than they would otherwise be. Both the European Union and the United States defend their policies, but acknowledge the importance of humanitarian exceptions. Although the European Union has not said that it will lift any of its restrictive measures, it has offered various forms of support to several sanctions-hit countries.

Discriminatory Laws Undermining Women’s Rights

20-05-2020

This paper provides insight into the current situation and recent trends in the abolition or reform of discriminatory laws undermining women's rights in countries outside the European Union (EU). The paper aims to provide a nuanced understanding of processes through which legal reforms take place. Among the factors that have proven to facilitate legal reform are the ratification of international human rights treaties, feminist activism, legal and public advocacy by women’s rights and other human ...

This paper provides insight into the current situation and recent trends in the abolition or reform of discriminatory laws undermining women's rights in countries outside the European Union (EU). The paper aims to provide a nuanced understanding of processes through which legal reforms take place. Among the factors that have proven to facilitate legal reform are the ratification of international human rights treaties, feminist activism, legal and public advocacy by women’s rights and other human rights non-governmental organisations (NGOs), political dialogue, and increased women's representation in decision-making processes. Incremental steps supported by the EU towards the abolition of discriminatory laws across all legal categories, EU engagement with a broad range of stakeholders at both national and local levels, programmes supporting the gathering of gender-disaggregated data across all sectors and the publicising of data to draw attention to gender inequality in law and practice, among others, can all contribute towards successful reform of discriminatory laws. Striking the right balance between funding programmes that mainstream gender and funding dedicated to gender-targeted programmes, together with the increased use of country gender profiles, are essential in order to achieve quality legal reforms.

Външен автор

Mr. Paul DALTON, Ms. Deniz DEVRIM, Mr. Roland BLOMEYER, Ms. Senni MUT-TRACY

Russia and the coronavirus crisis

22-04-2020

Official data suggest that Russia has been less affected by the Covid-19 pandemic than most other countries so far. However, the authorities’ slow response and the poor state of the healthcare system risk aggravating the situation. For Vladimir Putin, the crisis has at least made it easier for him to push through constitutional changes potentially giving him 12 more years in power. Moscow is also accused of taking advantage of the crisis for geopolitical ends, for example by spreading destabilising ...

Official data suggest that Russia has been less affected by the Covid-19 pandemic than most other countries so far. However, the authorities’ slow response and the poor state of the healthcare system risk aggravating the situation. For Vladimir Putin, the crisis has at least made it easier for him to push through constitutional changes potentially giving him 12 more years in power. Moscow is also accused of taking advantage of the crisis for geopolitical ends, for example by spreading destabilising disinformation targeted at Western countries.

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