In the opening session on 12 October on “The EU’s sustainable development strategy”, Mrs; Antonia Carparelli, deputy Chief of Cabinet of European Commissioner Wallström, looked back at the EU’s strategy as developed in Göteburg three years ago, and concluded that despite the short time-frame, a lot has been realized. However, she also indicated that here is room for improvement. The strategies for obtaining electricity from renewable sources, for bio-safe fisheries and for ecological transport, for example, are not on the right track. Mr. John Hontelez, Secretary-General of the European Environmental Bureau, was more sceptical. He noted, amongst other things, that it is a pity that the EU is still not systematically taking sustainable development into account in all its policy areas.
On 19 October, Former Belgian Minister of Public Health Magda Aelvoet gave a compelling lecture on “Sustainable Development and Political Union”. Mrs. Aelvoet, who also used to be Member of the European Parliament recently served as a member of the EC Roundable on “A Sustainable Project for Europe”. She gave an overview of the roundtable’s findings (the Strauss-Kahn report) and regretted that the Union’s sustainable development policy does not embrace poverty alleviation. It also lacks effectiveness in implementation. According to Mrs. Aelvoet, a long way lies ahead of us, yet some achievements are worth mentioning. On environmental issues, for instance, the EU sees to it that environmental clauses are included in its regional and bilateral free trade agreements. Unlike the US, the EU also funds sustainable assessments of the countries concerned (the assessments made by the US are limited to the effects on the US only). The lecture ended with an interesting debate over questions raised by respondent Dr. Marc Pallemaerts and by the audience.
On 26 November, H.E. Ambassador Kazuo Azakai, Japan’s permanent representative to the EU, demonstrated Japanese-EU leadership and cooperation in preserving the global environment; today, he claimed, Japan is the most energy efficient developed country. He argued that through government regulation and industry innovation, a dynamic “top runner” approach has developed, in which manufacturers make sure their products catch up with the best energy efficient performers. As such, Japan is working hard to deliver on the Kyoto Protocol. In the light of recent events, he also welcomed Russia’s steps to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
The lecture series on the EU and Sustainable Development takes place every Tuesday until 14 December, on the campus of the VUB, Building D, room D.0.02.
Focus on Research: EU Policy toward Regional Integration in Sub- Saharan Africa: Formulation, Implications and Implementation.
It is increasingly trite to state that modern nation-states need appropriate capacities to deal with the challenges of the post-Cold War world, not least, countries of the South. Greater integration between states has become one of the main tools in addressing certain contemporary conundra. Such problems range from collaboration in aspects of sustainable development (a safer environment), through cooperation in securing favourable terms of trade amongst a majority of the world’s states, to political engagements in facing social scourges - be these the fight against terrorism or HIV/AIDS. The European Union epitomises inter-state cooperation at its acme – better still, regional integration at its apogee.
Little wonder it is keen on enhancing similar (not identical) projects in other parts of the globe, such as Africa and Latin America. Relations between certain member states of the Union and Sub Saharan Africa go back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. But in modern times the relations are usually viewed through the lens of the Agreement that binds the European Community and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of countries (ACP). This agreement is known as the Cotonou Agreement signed in 2000. One of the fundamental principles ordained by the said agreement is regionalisation (Article 2). Article 35 takes the issue of regional integration a step further as it edicts that economic and trade cooperation shall build on regional integration initiatives of ACP states, bearing in mind that regional integration is a key instrument for the integration of ACP countries into the world economy. As such, Cotonou heralds a novel dimension (regionalism) to North-South Cooperation that is in itself one of the sheet anchors of what African leaders desire given that regional cooperation (that will ultimately usher regional integration) is one of the fundamental arms of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Regional bodies are thus perceived by the EU as an apposite media via which Economic Partnership Agreements can be negotiated (Article 37 of the Cotonou Agreement).
There is no question that, at face value, regional integration is an attractive concept. The experience of the EU is instructive. Yet whether or not such an experience is exportable is, to say the least, moot. African continental and sub-regional groupings, to wit, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) are some of the state blocs that have attempted to use regional integration as a tool for economic growth, economic development and political cooperation. However when facts are juxtaposed with expectations, the results have been limited. The ratio of intra-regional trade to external trade in all the said regional bodies has not been significant with UEMOA (L’Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine) chronicling the best score (15%). Neither has regional integration limited the canker of poverty. Social indicators in all the regions as revealed in the EU’s Strategy Papers for 2002-2007 mirror dismal figures. Political cooperation at the regional level has not been successfully mobilised in addressing the problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Northern Uganda or in Sudan, just to name a few.
After close observation of the relationship between the EU and Sub- Saharan Africa (as normatively encapsulated in the Lomé and Cotonou Treaties) the main question that one might be compelled to ask is: To what extent is regional integration the panacea or the problem in fostering development in Sub-Saharan Africa? If it appears to be the solution to some of Africa’s problems then the next issue is to diagnose the manner in which the EU responds to regional processes on the continent. We examine such salient issues as the reasons behind the Union’s reactions and the beneficiaries thereof. In other words is the EU capitalising on African regions as a tool for market access or as a forum for exhibiting its altruism? Another issue of significant moment is to investigate the degree to which regional integration as reflected in the Cotonou Agreement is consistent or otherwise with International norms (The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, WTO GATT rules, UNDP initiatives, The UN Charter Provisions that build on Regional blocs for security purposes, etc.
Behind these questions are embedded some of the hypotheses which we hope to empirically corroborate. First, regional integration in Sub-Saharan Africa may not always be the cause of Africa’s current deficits. Secondly, the manner in which the EU relates (and hopes to relate) to the extant regional groupings is not ostensibly reminiscent of unconditional altruism. Thirdly, the formal relations between the EU and African regional blocs could be inconsistent with certain international norms and standards.
Relevance and Importance of the Research
The timing of the project could not have been more appropriate given that negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreements are ongoing. These run until 31 December 2007. Thus we are in a transitional period which gives one the opportunity to gauge the direction that EU/African relations has taken and will take for the foreseeable future. As elucidated in our hypotheses, regional integration may not always be the bane of Africa’s aspirations. An investigation that allows one to measure the extent to which regional integration could add value to African state-centric efforts to stave off poverty, insecurity and pandemics, is to our mind, crucial. Moreover the study will enable us to collate EU policies to international law thereby allowing us to judge how both regimes could mutually illuminate each other in an ultimate bid that supplements African efforts in forging ahead.
Conference on Human rights protection in Africa
In collaboration with the Research Group on Human Rights (HUMR) of the VUB, the Institute for European Studies is organising a conference on “Human Rights protection in Africa: a new court, new instruments and new developments - a European reflection”. The conference takes place on Wednesday 17 November, from 16:00-18:30 on VUB campus, Building D, room D.2.01. Participation is free of charge.
Human rights violations in Africa are omnipresent. Even if there is international concern, critics point to the lack of genuine interest in the Western World. The end of the Cold War and the new focus on national interest account for a growing ‘Who cares about Africa’ attitude in public opinion and policy making circles. Does this attitude characterise the European position and, if so, can Africa manage human rights violations on its own?
The Conference will focus on new legal and political developments demonstrating Africa’s capability and growing willingness to play a more active role in addressing massive human rights violations on the continent. Some of the first cases brought before the recently installed International Criminal Court (The Hague) are indeed initiated by African states. There is also new and important case law originating from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Moreover, on 26 December 2003, the 15th African state ratified the Protocol to the African Convention on Human Rights, which means that in the near future a new African Court on Human and peoples’ Rights will be installed. Finally, there is the recent adoption of the Protocol Establishing an African Peace and Security Council creating new opportunities for the more effective settlement of conflicts.
Paying attention to these important developments, the conference will address the following questions:
This international Conference will bring together international renowned scholars as well as African and European policy makers. The Conference will be held in English. The conference papers will be published in the IES Book series. The key-note speech will be delivered by Rachel Murray, author of various books and articles on human rights in Africa. This lecture will be followed by a double reply, one focussing on the African perspective - by Mutoy Mubiala (United Nations, Geneva -, and a second identifying the position of Europe - by Joerg Volker Ketelsen (European Commission). Two speakers contributing to the IES Conference Book - Paul De Hert and Roelof Haveman - will give a short presentation of their written contribution, both highlighting important new developments with regard to African Human Rights Law.
UNU-CRIS Director Luk Van Langenhove will be moderating, inviting the audience to ask questions to the speakers. The full programme can be found here.
Belgium Leads Europe in Cleaning Up Electronic Waste
Filip Geerts, President of RECUPEL ICT, the Belgium Electronic Waste Take operator, kicked off the Brown Bag lunch series at the IES on Environmental Product Regulation. On 13 October, Filip spoke about “Lessons from Belgium for Europe on Waste Electrical and Electronical Equipment (WEEE) Take Back”.
The European Union (EU) agreed to rules on the take back of waste electrical and electronic products in 2002. This legislation comes into force in August 2005. This EU action in response to, amongst other countries, Flemish legislation in 1994 and Belgium-wide actions in 2002, to require the recycling, re-use, and recovery of waste electrical and electronic equipment.
Today, Belgium is showing the rest of Europe some of the best and most innovative solutions to the problem of delivering a better environment. Already, Belgium exceeds the EU take back requirement targets set for the end of 2006 by 100%.
Belgium’s innovative solution for WEEE take back
is a partnership between companies and government. Working in partnership,
RECUPEL - made up of 1700 member electrical and electronic companies
- runs a “not for profit” take back scheme.
The series of talks is organised thanks to the support
of the Belgian Federal State Science Policy Department. They are funding
a 2 year project on “The role of public authorities in integrated
product policy: regulators or coordinators?”, carried out by IES
researcher Aaron McLoughlin in collaboration with researchers from the
VUB Department of Political Science and the Environmental Law Research
Centre (CEDRE) of the Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis. The
project is headed by IES Senior Researcher Prof. Dr. Marc Pallemaerts.
Issues of International Legal Trade Policy and Implementation: Challenges for the World Trade Organisation
In collaboration with the Institute for European Studies and the University of Hull, the Department of Economic Law of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is organising a colloquium on “Issues of International Legal Trade Policy and Implementation: Challenges for the World Trade Organisation”. The conference takes place on the VUB’s Medical Campus on 22 and 23 November, and is supported by the Brussels-Capital Region; Cameron May Publishers Ltd, the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs – Belgium, and the Fund for Scientific Research – Flanders.
For registration, please contact:
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Mrs Shirley De Meue
Mrs Ann Maertens
Phone: + 32 (0)2 / 629.26.38
For substantive questions on the colloquium, contact
Prof. dr. Koen Byttebier (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kim Van
der Borght (K.van-der-Borght@hull.ac.uk).
The fee includes: participation in the colloquium, two lunches, all coffee/tea breaks, closing reception, documentation, a copy of the book by Koen Byttebier and Kim Van der Borcht (eds.), Jan Wouters and Servaas Van Thiel (ass. eds.): “WTO Obligations and Opportunities: Challenges of Implementation” (Cameron May, 2004).
Students (proof required) of the University of Hull and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel can attend the colloquium for €20 (different conditions apply - places are strictly limited).
The full programme can be found here.
IES News in Brief
IES Researcher Véronique Hameeuw recently started her magistrate starge at the Federal Department for Justice. Consequently, she will complete her research on “Curruption in/and Business”, which is in its 3rd and final year, on a part-time basis.
During the months of September and October, Dr Giovanna Bono undertook face-to-face interviews with Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and European Affairs Committees of the British and Italian Parliaments. She also undertook face-to-face interviews with British and Italian MPs from different political groups who are members of the above-mentioned committees. This research is part of a comparative project on the roles of parliaments in scrutinizing EU external security engagements. The research is financed in co-operation with the British Academy, the European Commission’s Human Potential Research Programme and the Peace Studies Department at Bradford University (UK).
IES Researcher Johan Kaes has recently finished his MA study in Intellectual Property Law at the Centre for Intellectual Property Rights (KUB). He will obtain his cum laude diploma on 17 November.
IES Researcher Koen Van den Bossche accompanied his promotor, Prof. Dr. Erik Franckx, to Tallin, Estonia, where he spoke on “Protection of marine environments in a European legal perspective” at the conference on Protection of the marine environment in the Eastern Baltic Sea. The conference was co-organised by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the University of Tartu.
Between 15 September and 15 November, Nathalie Wolfs has been assisting the IES in its administration and logistics. Nathalie, who studies Communication Sciences, has been a great help to our secretariat, especially as a helping hand in the organisation of the recent lecture series. IES wishes her every success in her future studies.
On 10 February, taking questions after delivering a speech at the VUB, Guy Verhofstadt said that, “If we [in the European Union] have one historical responsibility, it is towards the African continent.” Yet that responsibility appears to lie lightly on our shoulders, and the Union is, in various ways, taking actions that could prejudice our ability to extend appropriate development aid to Africa.
On 1 May this year, ten countries joined the European Union, bringing the total of Member States to twenty-five. In the run-up to enlargement, the Community provided these states with increasingly large amounts of aid. OECD figures show that in 1995, the EC disbursed 610,9 m$, or 12.9%, of its total aid to the central and east European countries. By 2001 that figure had risen to 1,472.3 m$, or 67.3%, of total aid disbursements.
Meanwhile, the amount going to the least developed countries plummeted. In 1995, Community aid to the least developed countries, (35 of the 49 LDCs are in Africa), was 33.1% of total Community aid, (1565.1 m$) dropping to 22.6%, (996.3m$), in 2000. This figure rose slightly in 2001.
Why was this? In 2000, the European Commission explained in a Communication on its development policy that, “In relative terms the emphasis of Community aid on the poorest nations has diminished. This is due to a globalisation of Community policy and to new external priorities.” The ‘new external priorities’ are not specified, but would appear from the aid figures to be the accession and other Eastern European countries.
The reduction in Community development aid to the poorest countries has happened despite the provision in the EC Treaty that Community development cooperation policy “shall foster” the “sustainable economic and social development of the developing countries, and more particularly the most disadvantaged among them.” (Italics added).
Is the situation likely to improve following accession? The ten new members have a history of giving humanitarian rather than development aid, largely to their neighbours to the east, and they have little interest in Africa. Their combined GDP will represent just 5% of total EU GDP, they will constitute 20% of the EU population, yet have a significant ten out of twenty-five seats on the EU Council.
In theory, a bigger single market could provide a greater market for the developing countries. But the resulting trade diversion could be more disadvantageous for them. It would not be in the financial interest of the new Member States to favour the further reform of the Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, which is commonly acknowledged to be necessary and which could significantly help the developing countries. Similarly, as almost half the new Member States are net sugar producers, it is unlikely they will be interested in reforming the EU’s sugar protocol, (though awaited WTO rulings may force the Union’s hand regarding the reform of sugar export subsidies).
There is a further danger. When the European Convention,
(the group set up to consider what amendments should be made to the
various policies in the EC Treaty), delivered its controversial Draft
Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe last year, it maintained
the provision that would require the Community to foster sustainable
development in the developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating
poverty, but deleted the specification that the primary aim of poverty
eradication should apply in particular in low income countries. This
was contrary to the recommendation of the Convention’s External
Action Working Group. There was no voting in the Convention, with decisions
being reached by (disputed) consensus. Such a change would leave the
Community free to devote more development aid to middle-ranking countries
with poor minorities, which would provide a better economic return than
aid to the least developed countries, and could more easily enable development
aid to be used for foreign policy purposes.
Does it matter? Should we continue to worry about this “historic responsibility”? Of course, for it is far more than a historic matter. We have a moral, humanitarian duty to do better than this. More than one billion people, one in six of the world’s population, still survive, or fail to, on one euro or less per day, many of them in Sub-Saharan Africa. And the comparative situation is worsening: in 1960, the world’s richest 20% had an income 30 times higher than the 20% poorest. By 1995, this was 82 times higher.
What could be done? The UK’s Department for International Development is campaigning for an increase in Community development cooperation aid to the poorest countries. It contends that middle-income countries such as those in Eastern Europe need not be abandoned: the best way to help such countries is to provide technical expertise, improve their access to trade, help private sector development and provide affordable loans when extra money is needed.
It is unfortunately too late to amend the draft constitutional treaty to ensure that it would contain a provision that development aid should be focused in particular on the least developed countries. In June, the European Heads of State or Government agreed on a final text for a draft European constitution. They did not restore to the draft the provision that the primary aim of Community poverty eradication efforts should be focused in particular on low income countries. It remains possible, nevertheless, that the Community will continue its tentative steps towards regaining the levels – or at least the proportions - of aid going to the poorest countries which it was achieving ten or more years ago. However, it is a shame that, if ratified, the draft European constitution will see the end of acknowledgment by the European Union at the highest legal level that it has any greater obligation or commitment towards the least developed countries than towards those with lower levels of poverty.
Until the Community demonstrates by word or action that it accepts such an obligation, it cannot begin to achieve its aims as stated in the somewhat purple, but comfortingly aspirational Presidency Conclusions to the European Council meeting in Laeken in 2001: “... Europe needs to shoulder its responsibilities in the governance of globalisation. The role it has to play is that of a power...wanting to change the course of world affairs in such a way as to benefit not just the rich countries but also the poorest. A power seeking to set globalisation within a moral framework, in other words to anchor it in solidarity and sustainable development.”
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IES Welcomes New Researcher
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To PILC Professors, alumni, students, colleagues, friends, ...
My first years at PILC – I was still very young and inexperienced – were very hard, but were also the most enjoyable ones. All students then were of my own generation, so we hardly missed any of the famous PILC parties. But I grew older - the students remained young. I became more and more a ‘link’ between students and professors.
I went through very hard times after my daughter became parallised following a severe accident, but professors, colleagues and students gave me the strength to continue my job.
Most of all, PILC had a warm and understanding director. Without Professor De Schutter there was and would have been no PILC. I had the occasion to work for this exceptional man, who gave me the space, encouragement and flexibility, and who was available for ‘his people’ in difficult times.
I have always liked my job and I have tried to help and to find solutions to problems as much as possible. I may not have succeeded in all cases, but at least, I tried. PILC gave me the opportunity to learn to know all of you, coming from all parts of the world, from different cultures and religious backgrounds and with different customs.
PILC had its happy and enjoyable times, but PILC also had its sad moments. Some of you had a hard time to adapt, some of you were homesick, but everything mostly worked out fine and, more important, beside obtaining a degree, everyone found a lot of friendship - several even found their partner.
PILC also gave a lot of value to my life and I want to thank all of you for everything you meant and still mean to me. I know I will miss PILC, but leaving PILC does not mean that I am going to sit at home, doing nothing.
Since 1997, I am a member of the Board of Administrators of the ‘vzw Eindelijk’, an association that has been working for many years to obtain recognition for a group of brain-injured people, needing constant treatment and therapy. It took us several years to get the approval of the authorities to start a day-care centre for brain-damaged people. I will now devote more time and energy to help with the realisation of the goals we hope to achieve.
I wish all of you success in your professional and in your family life, I wish you health and happiness and I wish PILC to remain as it has been for all of you in the past three decades. I wish the new PILC ‘crew’ Professor Servaas Van Thiel, Director and Marleen Van Impe, secretary, success in the coming years.
I want to thank you all for your kind words and congratulations at the occasion of my so-called ‘retirement’, I want to thank you for the presents, but most of all I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of PILC.
I hope that, occasionally, you will find the time to contact me by mail at my home address or by e-mail (email@example.com) and I promise I will get back to you.
Stw op Vilvoorde, 127, B-1745 Opwijk.
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New IES Lecture Series on Migration
The Institute for European Studies is organising a lecture series during the first semester of 2005 to address one of the most topical and pressing subjects of the day, namely about the social effects of migration on the countries of the European Union. The objective is to bring more clarity to public discourse on the topic and to inform as wide an audience as possible an academic, public sector or non governmental audience.
One of the biggest challenges facing our societies is the integration of migrants in order to make them productive citizens adjusted to the conditions of their host countries. In Western European countries, the foreign born population is around 8% of the total (with the exception of Luxembourg which is over 40%). However, this figure hides more dramatic differences. There are cities where immigrants constitute more than half the population and even where it is less, there are districts where schools and public housing can seem overwhelmed by immigrants. This means that the dominant immigrant culture can be “alien” and seem highly threatening to the local population.
In addition, high concentrations of immigrants or asylum applicants can be the source of budgetary problems for local authorities. If a substantial number of school pupils do not speak the local language then obviously remedial lessons are necessary. Public housing is often not available in sufficient quantity and higher cost temporary housing must be found. Immigrants can also pose particular medical problems. In other words, the social infrastructure has to be adapted to meet their needs.
However, there are deeper and more difficult problems to solve. The ban on head-scarves for school girls in France and Belgium and the arguments for and against – liberty of expression and religion as opposed to the complete education of all pupils of whatever origin – has caused a political soul searching. This clearly illustrates the difficulties of integration namely how far immigrants or indeed non-immigrant minorities can keep themselves separate and yet participate fully in society.
Is it, as some would suggest, sufficient that all parts of society subscribe to the core values of the country in which they live – rule of law, democratic process, universal education - and, within those norms practice their own religion or continue their own customs? How can we sustain the enrichment process that such diversity brings whilst at the same time encouraging the social cohesion that is needed to ensure harmonious relations between groups of people of different backgrounds? Is such diversity desirable? In other words, what kind of society do we want to live in? Can we choose or are we in Europe already bound into an inevitable process of diversification?
The series will also consider who the main actors are in this process and by inviting speakers from different countries make comparisons of differing practices. For example, the United States and Canada adopt very different attitudes to the integration of newcomers.
How far should the State intervene, what is the role of non-governmental organisations and religious groupings? What is the impact of multiculturalism on national policies relating to immigration, citizenship and foreign policy? How far can citizens have dual loyalties to the country of origin and the host country? Is it realistic to try to mould views on these issues that can be very personal without intruding on individual rights and privacy.
Also, the difficulties are different for first and subsequent generations of migrants. Children can often be the catalyst for the integration of parents, especially women, who may have difficulty with the national language? What can be done where parents try to enforce customs (such as arranged marriages) that go against the practice of the majority culture?
Finally, the series will address the question of whether
there are workable approaches other than multiculturalism and whether
other social models might be more suitable to European conditions. Full
programme of the series will be available online at
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Autumn Lecture Series
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