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Challenges facing India's democracy and economy

13-05-2020

India has a 70-year history of democracy, tolerance and rule of law, and a successful record of managing its patchwork of cultures and religions. In recent months, however, following the second consecutive victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party in the May 2019 general elections, this situation has been changing under the impact of an ever-increasing Hindu nationalist grip on society and politics. After Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, lost its autonomy ...

India has a 70-year history of democracy, tolerance and rule of law, and a successful record of managing its patchwork of cultures and religions. In recent months, however, following the second consecutive victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party in the May 2019 general elections, this situation has been changing under the impact of an ever-increasing Hindu nationalist grip on society and politics. After Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, lost its autonomy, the government adopted the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), allowing foreigners from six religious communities living in three neighbouring countries to apply for Indian citizenship at a faster pace. This new legislation has prompted protests and divisions across India, as, according to both internal and external observers, citizenship would be determined along religious criteria, which risks undermining the country's traditional secularism. The government's plan to launch a national register of citizens has further increased the Muslim community's fear of discrimination. Communal tensions flared into violence in late February 2020 in Delhi, claiming 53 lives. At the same time, India's economy is experiencing a severe downturn: even before the coronavirus outbreak started to have an effect, its growth was slackening and so was job creation, while at the same time unemployment is high, consumer confidence and spending are low, and trust in the banking sector is eroding as credit weakness and non-performing loans hinder its performance. Contrary to expectations, the Union budget for financial year 2021 has not tackled existing structural weaknesses or generated a large fiscal stimulus as an answer to the slowdown.

China's democratic neighbours and coronavirus: Protecting populations without lockdowns

06-05-2020

North-east Asian countries have deep and historical economic, human and cultural connections with China, based on their geographical proximity to the latter country, and were the first to be exposed to the coronavirus contagion after its initial outbreak. They were not caught unprepared, having dealt with the SARS and the MERS epidemics in recent times. South Korea and Taiwan, in particular, have successfully showcased a model characterised by minimal restrictions on economic activities and daily ...

North-east Asian countries have deep and historical economic, human and cultural connections with China, based on their geographical proximity to the latter country, and were the first to be exposed to the coronavirus contagion after its initial outbreak. They were not caught unprepared, having dealt with the SARS and the MERS epidemics in recent times. South Korea and Taiwan, in particular, have successfully showcased a model characterised by minimal restrictions on economic activities and daily lives, where safeguarding the health of the people has not had devastating consequences for the health of the economy, as witnessed in other parts of the world. They have also showed that it is possible to effectively manage the coronavirus threat transparently, without authoritarian methods. Their models, illustrating that it is possible to implement a successful – albeit sometimes unnoticed – alternative to a liberal laissez-faire model or to a drastic lockdown, could become precious assets for public diplomacy and soft power tools. Given the high rate of information and communications technology penetration in the region, it has been easier for the authorities to make use of big data and contact-tracing by smartphone in order to prevent the pandemic from spreading, as well as collect information on those infected. However, this approach has raised issues of privacy, especially as the details collected allow the identification of those infected and could possibly expose them to stigmatisation. Despite the coronavirus outbreak, South Korea is a healthy democracy. It successfully held a general election on 15 April 2020, giving substance to the statement made by the European Parliament's President, David Sassoli: 'Democracy cannot be suspended in the face of Covid-19'.

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.

Religion and the EU's external policies: Increasing engagement

12-02-2020

Religion has been emerging as a new dimension in the EU's external policies. This paper provides an overview of the principles, institutional set-up and policies underpinning the EU's approach to religious issues in third countries. Nine case studies meanwhile serve to illustrate the important role played by religion in the foreign policies of a number of different countries worldwide.

Religion has been emerging as a new dimension in the EU's external policies. This paper provides an overview of the principles, institutional set-up and policies underpinning the EU's approach to religious issues in third countries. Nine case studies meanwhile serve to illustrate the important role played by religion in the foreign policies of a number of different countries worldwide.

Hearings of the Commissioners-designate: Janez Lenarčič - Crisis Management

26-09-2019

This briefing is one in a set looking at the Commissioners-designate and their portfolios as put forward by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. Each candidate faces a three-hour public hearing, organised by one or more parliamentary committees. After that process, those committees will judge the candidates' suitability for the role based on 'their general competence, European commitment and personal independence', as well as their 'knowledge of their prospective portfolio and their communication ...

This briefing is one in a set looking at the Commissioners-designate and their portfolios as put forward by Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen. Each candidate faces a three-hour public hearing, organised by one or more parliamentary committees. After that process, those committees will judge the candidates' suitability for the role based on 'their general competence, European commitment and personal independence', as well as their 'knowledge of their prospective portfolio and their communication skills'. At the end of the hearings process, Parliament votes on the proposed Commission as a bloc, and under the Treaties may only reject the entire College of Commissioners, rather than individual candidates. The Briefing provides an overview of key issues in the portfolio areas, as well as Parliament's activity in the last term in that field. It also includes a brief introduction to the candidate.

India-administered Kashmir: current situation

13-09-2019

On 5 and 6 August 2019, the Indian Parliament approved the withdrawal of Article 370 of the Constitution, which had guaranteed Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, a high degree of autonomy. It also decided to split Jammu and Kashmir into two territories, both administered directly from Delhi. Meanwhile, the government deployed 46 000 troops, arrested regional political leaders and thousands of activists, suspended internet and communications across the valley, and shut down schools ...

On 5 and 6 August 2019, the Indian Parliament approved the withdrawal of Article 370 of the Constitution, which had guaranteed Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, a high degree of autonomy. It also decided to split Jammu and Kashmir into two territories, both administered directly from Delhi. Meanwhile, the government deployed 46 000 troops, arrested regional political leaders and thousands of activists, suspended internet and communications across the valley, and shut down schools and colleges.

India: environmental issues

10-04-2019

The entire south Asian region is threatened by climate change. Changes in average weather conditions are likely to create hotspots across the region and have negative impacts on living standards and gross domestic product (GDP). India is at the core of this trend: it ranks 14th in the last United Nations global climate risk index and in 2017 it was the second most-affected country in terms of casualties related to extreme weather. Air quality in Indian cities is quickly deteriorating and it is today ...

The entire south Asian region is threatened by climate change. Changes in average weather conditions are likely to create hotspots across the region and have negative impacts on living standards and gross domestic product (GDP). India is at the core of this trend: it ranks 14th in the last United Nations global climate risk index and in 2017 it was the second most-affected country in terms of casualties related to extreme weather. Air quality in Indian cities is quickly deteriorating and it is today worse than the situation in China: in the 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) global ambient air quality database, 11 of the 12 cities with the highest levels of small particulate – PM2.5 – are located in India. Air pollution goes hand in hand with poverty: in 2016 an estimated 790 million people (almost 60 % of the Indian population), still relied on biomass for cooking. Deforestation, water pollution, clean water shortages, and waste management are further issues of concern. The Indian authorities have taken several initiatives to tackle these issues. In 2008, the first national plan on climate change (NAPCC) outlined eight 'national missions' running up to 2017. India is a leader in the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. It is a founding member of the International Solar Alliance and has ambitious targets in terms of solar power energy. It has launched a national clean air programme (NCAP) to combat air pollution. Prime Minister's Narendra Modi government has launched several flagship initiatives on environment, including a clean cooking scheme, Clean India, Clean Ganga, and Smart Cities Mission. The EU supports Delhi's efforts on tackling its environment challenges. At their March 2016 summit, the EU and India agreed on two joint declarations: on an India-EU water partnership and on a clean energy and climate partnership. The joint declaration on partnership for smart and sustainable urban development signed at the India-EU Summit in October 2017 is the framework for EU support for India's urbanisation challenges.

India: taking stock of Modi's five years

10-04-2019

From 11 April to 18 May 2019, 900 million Indians are invited to take part in the world's biggest democratic event: the election of the 543 members of the Lok Sabha (lower chamber). Voting will be held across the country in seven phases and the result will be declared on 23 May. In 2014 the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) obtained the absolute majority in India's Lok Sabha, and Narendra Modi became prime minister. Enjoying a strong and undisputed mandate, Modi has generated expectations ...

From 11 April to 18 May 2019, 900 million Indians are invited to take part in the world's biggest democratic event: the election of the 543 members of the Lok Sabha (lower chamber). Voting will be held across the country in seven phases and the result will be declared on 23 May. In 2014 the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) obtained the absolute majority in India's Lok Sabha, and Narendra Modi became prime minister. Enjoying a strong and undisputed mandate, Modi has generated expectations of unleashing the country's economic potential and has adopted many flagship initiatives in a bid to change the country. In the last five years, India has overtaken China as the fastest growing economy, becoming the world's sixth biggest economy and a space power. Doing business in the country has become easier. Poverty has been reduced. The government succeeded in introducing major fiscal unification reform and a new law on bankruptcy. It failed, however to create the necessary stock of jobs for young people or to promote long-awaited labour reforms. The situation for farmers has worsened, and an overnight demonetisation hindered progress among small businesses and rural communities, while failing to bring real advances in the fight against corruption. State banks hold large stocks of bad loans and the government has increased pressure on the central bank and on its independence. Hindu nationalism and religious intolerance, pressure on freedom of expression, possible state intrusion into privacy, citizenship issues and other topics have been matters for concern in the area of human rights, although the country remains a robust democracy governed by the rule of law. Modi has increased the country's presence in the global arena, although the framework of India's relations with the major powers has not changed. Following two summits in 2016 and 2017, the EU and India have embarked on a road towards cooperation on non-trade issues. Trade has meanwhile stagnated and little progress has been made in negotiations on a trade and investment agreement.

Nepal, Bhutan and their neighbours: Two Himalayan countries landlocked between India and China

05-04-2019

Nepal and Bhutan are two poor landlocked Himalayan countries, sandwiched between a democracy and an authoritarian one-party state: India and China. After an authoritarian past, during the last decade, they have begun reforms in order to switch towards a democratic model. After a long and complicated path, Nepal succeeded in adopting a new constitution in 2015. Its first post-constitution government is run by an alliance of communist parties. In Bhutan, the king has successfully steered the country ...

Nepal and Bhutan are two poor landlocked Himalayan countries, sandwiched between a democracy and an authoritarian one-party state: India and China. After an authoritarian past, during the last decade, they have begun reforms in order to switch towards a democratic model. After a long and complicated path, Nepal succeeded in adopting a new constitution in 2015. Its first post-constitution government is run by an alliance of communist parties. In Bhutan, the king has successfully steered the country towards democratisation, as confirmed by the October 2018 general elections. While historically the two countries have nurtured solid relations with India, in recent years Beijing has expanded its footprint in the region considerably, challenging Delhi's traditional sphere of influence and increasing its sense of encirclement. In 2017 this led to a crisis referred to as the 'Doklam Plateau standoff'. There is currently a window of opportunity for Nepal and Bhutan to diversify their economic and security partnership and to rebalance their foreign policies between their two big neighbours. The EU has been supporting the two countries on their democratic journey and tripled resources for both countries' development for the 2014-2020 period. As they are among the world's poorest countries, Nepal and Bhutan benefit from the EU's 'Everything But Arms' scheme, which grants full duty free and quota free access to the EU single market for all products.

International Agreements in Progress: The EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) - A framework to promote shared values

22-01-2019

The EU and Japan share the same basic values, including on democracy, market economy, human rights, human dignity, freedom, equality, and the rule of law. Against a background of increasingly assertive neighbours, they are also putting emphasis on security issues. The EU has adopted a Global Strategy placing security and defence as a key strategic priority, and conclusions on 'enhanced EU security cooperation in and with Asia'. Japan has reformed its security policy, aiming at becoming a 'proactive ...

The EU and Japan share the same basic values, including on democracy, market economy, human rights, human dignity, freedom, equality, and the rule of law. Against a background of increasingly assertive neighbours, they are also putting emphasis on security issues. The EU has adopted a Global Strategy placing security and defence as a key strategic priority, and conclusions on 'enhanced EU security cooperation in and with Asia'. Japan has reformed its security policy, aiming at becoming a 'proactive contributor for peace'. In order to enhance their relations, in July 2018 the EU and Japan signed a binding Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) – to come into force following ratfication by all Member States – along with an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), negotiated in parallel. The SPA represents a framework strengthening the overall partnership, by promoting political and sectoral cooperation and joint actions in more than 40 areas of common interest. Once in force, the EU-Japan strategic partnership will become more operational. The agreement will facilitate joint EU-Japan efforts to promote shared values such as human rights and rule of law, a rules-based international system, and peace and stability across the world. It will allow EU-Japan security cooperation to reach its full potential. Second edition. The 'International Agreements in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the process, from initial discussions through to ratification.

Toekomstige activiteiten

03-06-2020
EPRS online Book Talk | One of Them: From Albert Square to Parliament Square
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EPRS
11-06-2020
CONT Public Hearing: Implementation of EU funds
Hoorzitting -
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11-06-2020
STOA Roundtable on Digital Sovereign Identity
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STOA

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