Following the US decision to withdraw troops from Northeast Syria and upon separate agreements with the US and Russia, Ankara established what it calls a safe zone in the area between Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. Even if spanning a smaller territory than envisaged, Turkey aims with its safe zone to impede Kurdish autonomy in Northern Syria, on the one hand, and to return refugees who have increasingly become a domestic policy challenge for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP thereafter), on the other hand. Turkey’s plan for repatriation signals that its interests align with European interests in refugee return. Given concerns about the safety of refugees, voluntary nature of return, and Ankara’s attempts at demographic engineering, Europeans should not support a Turkey-led repatriation to Syria without conditions.
■ The December 2018 Global Compact on Refugees reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to refugee protection – yet willingness to accept refugees is in decline globally.
■ No progress has been seen in the search for viable modes of responsibility-sharing. With the exception of Germany, all the main host countries are middle-income or developing countries.
■ In a situation where more people are forced to leave their homes than are able to return every year, the more affluent countries must shoulder more responsibility. That would mean pledging more resettlement places and increasing public and private funding to relieve the poorer host countries.
■ Aid organisations regularly find themselves faced with funding shortfalls. As the second-largest donor of humanitarian and development funding, Germany should campaign internationally to expand the available financial resources and improve the efficiency of their use.
■ None of the new funding ideas will master the multitude of demands on their own. New and pre-existing financing instruments should therefore be combined.
■ The German government should collect experiences with the different funding approaches in its new Expert Commission on the Root Causes of Forced Displacement (Fachkommission Fluchtursachen). The Global Refugee Forum, which meets for the first time in December 2019, provides an opportunity to start a discussion on new ways of mobilising the required funds for international refugee protection.
The Arctic’s melting ice not only acts as an early warning system for the world’s climate, but also makes this region an indicator of change for international security policy. The Trump administration sees the Arctic primarily as an arena of competition between great powers. This could both benefit and harm the region. A greater engagement on the part of the USA would be welcome, but if it comes with an attempt to exclude other states, this would damage the high level of cooperation that has held sway in the Arctic thus far. US Arctic policy has become a variable that is dependent on great-power rivalry. The resulting polarisation of relations makes it difficult to find the necessary common solutions for coping with the changes caused by global warming.
In December 2018, 152 United Nations (UN) member states adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The document sets out 23 objectives that guide countries of origin, transit and destination in how to deal with the challenges arising in the context of international migration and forced displacement. If practical progress is to be made in the management and organisation of global migration flows, this requires a twofold commitment – internal and external – on the part of the states involved. The German government – just like other governments interested in effective, sustainable and coherent migration policies – should use the Compact to identify further needs for internal reform and to win international partners for strategically selected key issues. The Compact’s review process, the core of which is the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF), provides an opportunity for both.
In early August 2019 the president of Mozambique and the leader of the largest opposition party signed a new peace agreement. This has revived the peace process between the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) and the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), which has been in power since 1994. Great challenges remain, such as the disarmament and reintegration of RENAMO fighters.
■ Europe’s foreign and security policy needs to become more effective. To this end, the executive autonomy of European governments should be maximised, and legal constraints from EU law minimised – this view is only seemingly plausible. Only an EU foreign and security policy anchored in the rule of law based on the EU treaties is realistic and sustainable.
■ The EU is under pressure to meet human rights standards on the one hand, and demands to limit migration on the other. Three trends are evident: First, the EU is making new arrangements with third countries to control migration; second, it is using CFSP/CSDP missions to secure borders; third, the EU agencies Frontex and Europol are increasingly operating in the EU neighbourhood.
■ Current trends in EU foreign and security policy pose a challenge to the protection of fundamental rights. For example, CSDP missions such as the EU operation “Sophia” in the Mediterranean are largely exempt from judicial review by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
■ Lawsuits have already been filed with the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court against Italy and the EU for aiding and abetting human rights violations in Libya. Anyone who does not respect international law also threatens the rule of law at home. This also applies to the EU.
■ The EU should resume the process of formal accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. The legal limits and performance of the EU’s foreign and security policy would be made clearer. The German Council Presidency in 2020 should place the rule of law at the heart of European foreign and security policy.
The latest dispute between Japan and South Korea over compensation for former Korean forced labourers appears to be following a familiar pattern. Historical spats between two most important democracies in Northeast Asia – especially over the phase of Japanese colonial rule – are nothing new. But the tensions run deeper this time, and mutual mistrust has hit unseen heights. Japanese frustration has grown markedly, with Tokyo feeling duped by Seoul. While there have always been tussles over diverging interpretations of history, current domestic and regional developments are an exacerbating factor. Now leaders in both capitals are publicly questioning whether the other side still shares similar core values and strategic goals. The growing rift could easily affect the regional balance of power, weakening America’s position as ally of both Japan and South Korea.
Proponents of active, offensive cyber operations argue that they could have a deterrent effect on potential cyber attackers. The latter would think twice about attacking if a digital counter-attack might be the consequence. The idea that offensive cyber capabilities should have a deterrent effect was one reason why the new US cyber doctrine was adopted in 2018. The same assumption is implicit in the debate about cyber counterattacks (“hack backs”) in Germany. Yet these assessments are based on a superficial understanding of deterrence. Cyber deterrence by the threat of retaliation works differently than that of nuclear deterrence. Problems of attribution, displays of power, controllability and the credibility of digital capabilities increase the risk of deterrence failure. Thus, the German cyber security policy would be well advised to increase its “deterrence by denial”, cyber security and the resilience of its systems.
As a traditional frontrunner in international climate policy, the European Union (EU) is under great pressure to meet global expectations. In 2020, it must present its long-term decarbonisation strategy to the United Nations. Political attention has so far focussed on the lack of consensus among the Member States on whether they should adopt the European Commission’s proposed goal of “greenhouse gas neutrality” by 2050. Two aspects of this decision have hardly been debated so far – first, the question of whether this will herald the end of differentiated reduction commitments by Member States, and second, the tightening of the EU climate target for 2030. National governments and climate policymakers will have to take both issues into account.
Oliver Geden, Felix Schenuit
Negotiations on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) are always lengthy, complex and conflictual. This applies to the MFF 2021–2027, which is expected to have a financial volume of around €1.3 trillion. As usual, the negotiations revolve around political priorities, the expenditures determined for each of them, and the distribution of the financial burden among member states. This ongoing process is hampered by the forthcoming Brexit, as the UK has so far contributed substantial amounts to the Union’s budget. Furthermore, there are new tasks for the EU which require additional resources, such as the establishment of a defence union, increased protection of the EU’s external borders, and the stabilisation of the euro zone.
Since the European Commission presented its proposal for a pragmatic reform of the EU budget on 2 May 2018, the member states have been negotiating a comprehensive package. However, cohesion in the coalitions of net contributors and net recipients is dwindling. The delicate negotiation framework makes the course and results of the search for consensus more difficult to foresee, and the actors less predictable. Due to the increasing uncertainty, all participants expect Germany to play a balancing role. Many countries hope that Germany, as the strongest economy and the largest net contributor, will provide additional resources to facilitate a successful conclusion of the negotiations on a new MFF. The German government therefore needs clear and firm ideas about the fields in which it wants to modernise EU policies and to further Europeanise and communitise them.
Dr Peter Becker is Senior Associate in the EU / Europe Division at SWP.