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Global and regional governance: Initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic

01-04-2020

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 to be a pandemic, confirming the global impact of the disease. Across the world, regional and global international organisations are stepping up coordination to confront the medical crisis and mitigate its effects on economies, societies and individuals.

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 to be a pandemic, confirming the global impact of the disease. Across the world, regional and global international organisations are stepping up coordination to confront the medical crisis and mitigate its effects on economies, societies and individuals.

India's parliament and governing institutions

11-03-2020

India is the biggest democracy in the world. With a population of 1.35 billion in 2018, India was also the world's second most populous country, and is projected to overtake China by 2027. Like the European Union (EU), it is a pluralistic, multi-faith, multilingual (with 22 recognised languages), and multi-ethnic country. Secularism has been enshrined in the Constitution. India's 1950 Constitution provides for a quasi-federal setup: powers are separated between the central union and the 28 state ...

India is the biggest democracy in the world. With a population of 1.35 billion in 2018, India was also the world's second most populous country, and is projected to overtake China by 2027. Like the European Union (EU), it is a pluralistic, multi-faith, multilingual (with 22 recognised languages), and multi-ethnic country. Secularism has been enshrined in the Constitution. India's 1950 Constitution provides for a quasi-federal setup: powers are separated between the central union and the 28 state governments. Competences are allocated according to administrative level, between the Union, states or 'concurrently'. The prime minister possesses the country's effective executive power. As 'Leader of the House' in the lower chamber, the prime minister also holds decisive power in deciding the House's agenda. However, the real power of initiating legislation belongs to the government, and the Parliament has no say on foreign affairs. India's Parliament is bicameral: it includes the Lok Sabha – the lower house – and the Rajya Sabha – the upper house. The two houses are equal, but the Lok Sabha dominates in deciding certain financial matters and on the collective responsibility of the Council of Ministers. General elections take place for Lok Sabha members every five years. The last elections took place in May 2019, when Narendra Modi was re-elected as Prime Minister. The Rajva Sabha is a permanent body consisting of members indirectly elected by the states, and it is not subject to dissolution. India has a common law legal system. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal, headed by the Chief Justice of India. It arbitrates on any dispute between the Union and the states, as well as between states, and on the enforcement of fundamental rights. It has powers of judicial review over legislation adopted by both the Union and the states.

A new approach to EU enlargement

11-03-2020

The Thessaloniki Summit (2003) opened the door to a European future for the Western Balkans. However, since then progress towards EU membership has been slow. The countries of the region have struggled to implement economic and political reforms, and the rule of law remains particularly problematic. The 2018 Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans gave new impetus to the enlargement policy, offering the six countries of the region a 'credible strategy' through enhanced EU engagement and indicating ...

The Thessaloniki Summit (2003) opened the door to a European future for the Western Balkans. However, since then progress towards EU membership has been slow. The countries of the region have struggled to implement economic and political reforms, and the rule of law remains particularly problematic. The 2018 Enlargement Strategy for the Western Balkans gave new impetus to the enlargement policy, offering the six countries of the region a 'credible strategy' through enhanced EU engagement and indicating 2025 as a possible accession date. In June 2019, and again in October 2019, the Council postponed the decision to open negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, despite the positive recommendation from the European Commission and the agreement of the European Parliament. By delaying this decision, the European Union was sending an ambiguous message to the region, reducing its credibility and potentially fuelling nationalistic rhetoric, whilst opening the door to the influence of third-country powers, in particular China and Russia. These problems have sparked a debate which has led to a fundamental re-think of the EU's enlargement policy. In February 2020, European Enlargement Commissioner, Olivér Várhelyi, announced a revised methodology. The new approach aims to strengthen the process. It improves tools to push reforms forward, notably in the areas of the rule of law and the economy. It makes the accession negotiations more credible, more predictable, more dynamic and guided by a stronger political steer. The candidate countries need to deliver on the reforms they promised and the EU needs to deliver when they do so. The criteria will be made clearer and more concise on what is required. Dynamism also means that related issues will be negotiated together in clusters. This can speed up the process. However, if there is backtracking, the process can go backwards with chapters reopened and the level of negotiations scaled back. The Commission's new proposals also envisage further integration of Western Balkan countries into EU policies, programmes and markets, which would deliver some of the benefits of EU membership even before accession. These proposed changes, together with the updated report of the Commission on Albania and North Macedonia pave the way for a decision of the Council, on opening accession negotiations with these two countries, before the EU-Western Balkans summit, to be held in May 2020 in Zagreb, Croatia.

Trade and competitiveness policies in the European Council

10-03-2020

In recent years, international trade has gained increasing visibility on the European Council agenda. A high level of economic interconnectedness and the ineluctable rise of emerging economies on the world stage, notably China, have highlighted differences across economic systems and divergences over the impact of certain policies and practices in the global economy. Moreover, the United States administration's pursuit of an 'America first' foreign policy has been accompanied by a trade policy aimed ...

In recent years, international trade has gained increasing visibility on the European Council agenda. A high level of economic interconnectedness and the ineluctable rise of emerging economies on the world stage, notably China, have highlighted differences across economic systems and divergences over the impact of certain policies and practices in the global economy. Moreover, the United States administration's pursuit of an 'America first' foreign policy has been accompanied by a trade policy aimed primarily at reducing trade deficits with partners. The existential threat which the World Trade Organization now faces, as the core of the multilateral trading system, has compounded growing trade tensions and translated into a highly unstable global environment. The European Council has reacted to these developments promptly, with the last three years seeing the adoption of measures to strengthen the European Union's capacity to address such challenges. It has placed high emphasis on the need for the EU to be able to defend itself against unfair trade practices, through strengthened defence instruments, greater surveillance of foreign direct investment, and broader access to public procurement markets abroad. The objectives set out in its Strategic Agenda for 2019-24 reflect a need for a more assertive and united European Union on the global stage, able to tackle the technological and environmental challenges of the coming decade.

EU-Turkey relations in light of the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis

09-03-2020

Approximately 3.6 million refugees have entered Turkey since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011, the highest number in the region. Despite on-going international and European Union financial and humanitarian support, this ever-increasing refugee presence has resulted in heightened social tensions in Turkey. In the 2019 local elections, the loss of the Istanbul mayoralty by the governing Justice and Development (AK) party was perceived as a major setback for the 'imperial presidency' ...

Approximately 3.6 million refugees have entered Turkey since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011, the highest number in the region. Despite on-going international and European Union financial and humanitarian support, this ever-increasing refugee presence has resulted in heightened social tensions in Turkey. In the 2019 local elections, the loss of the Istanbul mayoralty by the governing Justice and Development (AK) party was perceived as a major setback for the 'imperial presidency' of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Istanbul's new mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu (Republican People's Party, CHP), played a leading role in nurturing aversion for Syrian refugees, stating that Turkey was managing the refugees badly and that 'people are unhappy'. Some Turkish politicians also regard refugees as a security threat – a trend that has grown since September 2019 when the Turkish military began Operation Peace Spring in north-east Syria, with the aim of containing the Kurds and creating a 'safe zone' to which Syrian refugees could return. The Turkish military operation in Syria, as well as the Turkish incursion into Libya, and other geostrategic issues, such as gas drilling disputes with Cyprus, have led relations between the EU and Turkey, already tainted by the drop in democratic standards since the failed military coup in 2016, to deteriorate further. Repeated threats by Erdoğan that Turkey would 'open the gates' and let the refugees enter the EU materialised on 28 February 2020, when Turkey opened its borders with Greece, setting the scene for a new refugee crisis. A swift European response, with the presence of the presidents of the main EU institutions in Greece on 3 March 2020, demonstrated the unity and will to face this critical situation together. Past experience, in particular the 2015 refugee crisis, has however highlighted the weaknesses in the internal and external dimensions of the EU's migration policy. The current crisis is both a stress-test and an opportunity for the EU to clarify its own strategic position in order to develop a new consolidated geopolitical blueprint for the whole Mediterranean and Middle East that would not only tackle the ambition and behaviour of regional powers such as Turkey, but also place the EU on an equal footing with other global powers active in the region.

Georgia: Challenges and uncertainties for 2020

04-03-2020

Georgia is gearing up for parliamentary elections in October 2020. The 'Georgian Dream' party, in charge since 2012, has strived to implement the reforms called for in the Association Agreement with the EU. However, the government has failed to fulfil its promise on electoral reforms and is facing mounting opposition. The High Representative (HR/VP) is expected to make a statement on Georgia during the March I plenary part-session.

Georgia is gearing up for parliamentary elections in October 2020. The 'Georgian Dream' party, in charge since 2012, has strived to implement the reforms called for in the Association Agreement with the EU. However, the government has failed to fulfil its promise on electoral reforms and is facing mounting opposition. The High Representative (HR/VP) is expected to make a statement on Georgia during the March I plenary part-session.

Ukraine: The Minsk agreements five years on

04-03-2020

Six years after the beginning of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the Minsk peace agreements to end the fighting have yielded limited results. Despite some progress in late 2019 – including prisoner swaps and new peace talks – fighting in eastern Ukraine continues.

Six years after the beginning of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia's illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the Minsk peace agreements to end the fighting have yielded limited results. Despite some progress in late 2019 – including prisoner swaps and new peace talks – fighting in eastern Ukraine continues.

Continuing political crisis in Venezuela

03-03-2020

One year after Juan Guaidó's self-proclamation as interim President of Venezuela, the political crisis affecting the country is far from over, as shown by the government's latest failed attempt to neutralise the opposition forces in the National Assembly. The legislative election announced by Nicolas Maduro for 2020 will not improve the country's political situation unless it is accompanied by a free and fair presidential election.

One year after Juan Guaidó's self-proclamation as interim President of Venezuela, the political crisis affecting the country is far from over, as shown by the government's latest failed attempt to neutralise the opposition forces in the National Assembly. The legislative election announced by Nicolas Maduro for 2020 will not improve the country's political situation unless it is accompanied by a free and fair presidential election.

Military mobility: Infrastructure for the defence of Europe

25-02-2020

To 'unite and strengthen Europe' is one of the goals expressed by the newly elected President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Her predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker, believed that only 'a strong and united Europe can protect our citizens against threats internal and external.' European infrastructure that enables connectivity and ensures a rapid response in case of a crisis is a prerequisite for these visions. Since 2017, awareness has been increasing about the obstacles preventing ...

To 'unite and strengthen Europe' is one of the goals expressed by the newly elected President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Her predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker, believed that only 'a strong and united Europe can protect our citizens against threats internal and external.' European infrastructure that enables connectivity and ensures a rapid response in case of a crisis is a prerequisite for these visions. Since 2017, awareness has been increasing about the obstacles preventing armed forces from moving effectively and swiftly across borders in crisis conditions. The measures taken to correct this strategic vulnerability are known under the term military mobility. Existing regulatory, administrative, and infrastructure inconsistencies and impediments across the territory of the European Union (EU) significantly hamper military exercises and training. Military mobility aims to harmonise rules across EU Member States and to explore the potential of a civilian-military approach to infrastructure development. Through measures such as funding dual use transport infrastructure, and simplifying diplomatic clearances and customs rules, the European Commission aims to improve military mobility across as well as beyond the EU, in support of missions and operations under the Common Security and Defence Policy. The unique EU contribution is its ability to leverage existing policies in the civilian realm to create added value for the military. This goal can be achieved only if a whole-of-government approach is applied, which in turn requires close collaboration between different bodies at the EU level, between them and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and between them and various actors at the Member State level. So far, military mobility has enjoyed a high degree of commitment from all stakeholders, which has in turn ensured swift policy implementation. It is becoming increasingly clear that military mobility is an essential piece in the EU's ambition to become a stronger global actor.

Australia: Economic indicators and trade with EU

24-02-2020

Australia was the world's 13th largest economy in 2018, with growth in gross domestic product (GDP) at 2.9 %. It has a strong and dynamic relationship with the EU. Negotiations for a free trade agreement between Australia and the EU were formally launched in June 2018. In 2018, Australia was the EU's 19th largest trading partner, with a 1.2% share of the EU's total trade. Further information on EU-Australia trade relations, such as the composition of trade between the two partners, can be found in ...

Australia was the world's 13th largest economy in 2018, with growth in gross domestic product (GDP) at 2.9 %. It has a strong and dynamic relationship with the EU. Negotiations for a free trade agreement between Australia and the EU were formally launched in June 2018. In 2018, Australia was the EU's 19th largest trading partner, with a 1.2% share of the EU's total trade. Further information on EU-Australia trade relations, such as the composition of trade between the two partners, can be found in this infographic, which also provides an economic snapshot of Australia.

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