pondělí 11. dubna 2016

EU visas for US, Canada citizens?

     Few days ago, almost two thirds of voters in a country which lost 193 of its people in the tragedy of MH17 flight voted in favour of Russia - the country most likely responsible for the shoot down of that plane. The Dutch referendum resulted in refusal of EU-Ukraine agreement, the simplest action to show support for Ukraine´s EU-oriented policy, and shown the world how desperate the situation in Europe is: Europeans are not willing to identify themselves with fundamental principles of European Union project and they have yielded to temptation of an isolationism vision - the idea that closing of the old national borders will ensure the security and prosperity. Throughout the history, this vision has never worked. When talking about wrong European approach towards Ukraine, I have an electorate on my mind - due to my opinion, voters are causing damage to the old continent by supporting Russian policy. But European politicians are doing the same in other areas...

     Mina Andreeva, a spokesperson for the European Commission said that:

"The objective here is to achieve full visa waiver reciprocity for citizens of all member states and this is a priority for the European Union."

So what does this mean? It means that European Union is considering introducing visas for US and Canadian citizens even for a short stay in EU. Few days after a hard hit to Ukraine, the country EU is fighting for with Russia, EU is also considering to hit its closest and historical allies. For an outer observer, it must look like a theatre of the absurd.

    The problem is that visa policy of the 28-nation bloc is following one-for-all-all-for-one approach. As travellers from Poland, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania need visas to visit USA and Romanians and Bulgarians need visas also to visit Canada, EU took off to fight. But while the unified visa policy is a necessary tool for the Schengen area without internal borders, it makes little sense for EU as a whole. On October last year, A session of the European Council for Justice and Home Affairs postponed the decision on accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area. In other words, the European union itself understands that these countries need to do some work prior achieving the same level as majority of other member countries. Therefore, is it really fair to penalize United States or Canada for the same view? I don´t think so. Similar situation is with Croatia and Cyprus. Both countries are working on the accession, but are not members yet.

US passport probably won´t be enough to enter the EU

    Therefore, the only country for which the EU should really fight is Poland which is Schengen area member since December 2007. On the other hand, US visa policy is pretty clear and well defined. If Poland doesn´t meet US requirements, we can´t be surprised that visas will be required for Polish to enter the United States. I admit that in this case, EU is in complicated situation, it should follow its own policy in the situation which is required by a strict interpretation of its own rules but which is hardly understandable by a common sense. Taking present global situation into account, it is clear that the damage caused if this solution will really go through will be done primarily on EU itself. It will only weaken our position as it will weaken our relationship with our most important allies. During the ongoing hybrid war with Russia and during the entrance of new super-powers into global stage, this is incredibly stupid. I´m not calling on complete abandonment of our rules, I´m calling to making them based on common sense. In this particular case (Polish one), I want EU officials to use other diplomatic means (including this issue in TTIP negotiations, presenting this issue during bilateral meetings of officials from all Schengen countries with their US counterparts etc.). Europe wants to be a significant (at least) local power so it should start to act like one. We should realize what priorities we have and make them guide for our common foreign policy. By not doing so, we are only hurting ourselves, undermining our own position in this dangerous new world.

čtvrtek 7. dubna 2016

Dutch Referendum Resulted in Another Hit to European Union, Boost to Moscow

In 2013, Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign association agreement with EU. It was the starting shot of a long crisis which includes lasting war and Russian annexation of Crimea. The European Union was still there to assure Ukrainians that it will do the best to get Kiev out of the sphere of Moscow´s influence. Signing of the association agreement which was at the very beginning of the crisis was thought to be almost automatic step in European effort to show Moscow that Europe is here to play an important role as well. 27 of 28 EU member countries have already ratified the agreement. But during the last step, things get "little bit" complicated. This time, frost doesn´t come from Kremlin but from.... the Netherlands.

It all started almost as a joke, the group of Dutch euro-sceptic bloggers decided to test a new Dutch law about referendum. In the Netherlands, it is possible to arrange the referendum about European matters if 300 000 sign a petition. It happened and yesterday, the country went to voting rooms.

On Thursday morning, 80% of all votes was counted. So far, turnout is 32% which exceeds 30% requirement for referendum validity and 61% voted for NO to the EU-Ukraine agreement. One can easily imagine hilarity in the halls of Kremlin and the feeling of betrayal in Kiev.

EU is fighting for survival, European parliament in Strasbourg (public domain picture)
Dutch voters probably used the referendum to express their negative feeling about EU in general despite appeal of Dutch PM Mark Rutte who urged voters to vote about Ukraine, not about EU. But low turnout increased the influence of euro-sceptics who had stronger motivation for voting. The result is not obligatory for Dutch government but it can be hardly imagined that politicians will go against it, especially as the general election is approaching.

First reactions to the referendum outcome already came from Ukraine, EU and the Netherlands:

"It looks like the Dutch people said NO to the European elite and NO to the treaty with the Ukraine. The beginning of the end of the EU" Geert Wilders, leader of the euro-sceptic Freedom party

"The ´no´ camp won convincingly" Mark Rutte, Dutch PM

"Ukraine would continue moving towards the EU despite the resounding rejection" Petro Poroshenko, president of the Ukraine

"The accord cannot just be ratified. We have to take into account this 'no' vote" Diederik Samsom, the Labour Party leader of the Dutch ruling coalition

"Dutch exit polls seem to indicate big No to EU vote. Hooray!" Nigel Farage, UK Independence Party

The outcome clearly shows that euro-sceptic tendencies are present all around Europe and the EU must change fundamentally (and quickly) if it wants to survive. At this moment, majority of Europeans is not really identified with the EU concept and its fundamental and general values, therefore they are not willing to sacrifice anything to defend them. This is huge problem which can end with the EU disintegration. It seems that EU´s change from pure free-trade zone to the community covered by some common values was not understood by the people of Europe. Top of that, the result can be taken as a boost for "Brexit" supporters as the referendum about UK´s withdrawal from EU will be held in just 80 days.

středa 6. dubna 2016

Most Executions Since 1989

    In 2015, at least 1634 people were executed all around the world as a result of their sentence to death according to Amnesty International (AI). This number is highest since 1989 (year-on-year rise was +573 executions compared to 2014, it is 54%) and the truth is that the reality is even worse as the numbers from China are not public. In China, number of executions is a matter of state secret. It is widely believed that thousands of people were executed in China, which makes the most populated country in the world to be leader of the chart also in this controversial field.

     Except China, most executions were realized in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Countries like China, Iran or Saudi Arabia are using death penalty to punish crimes like drug dealing, corruption or even adultery and blasphemy. However, this type of criminal behaviour is not meeting law standards of the most serious crimes which are punishable by death according to international law. 

Countries with the most executions realized in 2015
Number of executions in 2015
Saudi Arabia
United States

     In Iran and Pakistan, people younger than 18 years of age can be executed as well. In 2015, at least four kids (completely proper word in this case) were killed in Iran, five in Pakistan.

     On the other hand, four countries (Madagascar, Fiji, Kongo and Surinam) abolished the death penalty and Mongolia decided to do so in 2016. Therefore, for the first time in history, the majority of world´s countries (102) do not have a death penalty in its law system.

     It can be said that those countries which are using the death penalty extensively are closed and politically isolated with authoritative regimes. It can be applied to China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. These four countries are responsible for significantly more than 90% (because of lack of Chinese data, this number is only a rough estimation) of world´s executions. Than there is a large gap between Saudi Arabia on fourth place and the United States on fifth place.