Notes on European political culture




Privacy by design

Atelier ‘Privacy by design, Maison des sciences de l’homme, Paris, 23 March




EU rådgiverforsamling om 7RP

EU rådgiverforsamling om 7RP, Oslo, Gardermoen




The Lisbon Treaty: Europe’s Changing Security Landscape

The Lisbon Treaty: Europe’s Changing Security Landscape, The Fair Observer, 15 October. Link here.




A necessary naïveté (in Norwegian)

From Morgenbladet 5 August 2011

Den tidligere lederen til det franske høyreradikale partiet Front National Jean-Marie Le Pen skal ha sagt denne uken at én årsak til terrorangrepet 22. juli var at nordmenn har vært ”naive” om terrortruslene de står overfor. (Aftenposten 31.07). Med dette mener han trolig at nordmenn har vist et uansvarlig mangel på innsikt og erfaring overfor det forferdelige som kunne skje. Hvor ellers kan man kjøre en bilbombe opp til Statsministerens kontor for så å sprenge den i luften? Eller spasere uhindret rett under soveværelset til Kongerikets statsoverhode?

Le Pen og andre stemmer i debatten mener at Norge har levd med falske illusjoner om mulige terrorfarer. Hadde nordmenn vært mindre ”naiv”, sier kritikerne, så ville de ha satset mer på pålitelige, harde, beskyttende sikkerhetstiltak. I Norge er vi vante til å leve med ubevæpnete politi, ingen form for paramilitær tilstedeværelse, fravær av militærlignende sikkerhetstiltakk omkring regjeringsbygninger og Slottet, og relativt minimal overvåkning sammenlignet med andre land i verden. Er det ”naivt” å mene at vi er trygge uten de harde sikkerhetstiltak mot terrorangrep vi ser andre steder i verden?





What is societal security?

[Speech held for the European Security Research Programme Workshop Security research and Europe’s societal challenges: What do citizens want?, Oslo, 8 June 2011].

Among the many successes of the European Security Research Programme is the growing wisdom and insight into what security actually means in our day. Most prominently this can be seen in the growing awareness of the importance of society in the security equation.

European research in the framework programmes has long been aware of the important link between science and society. Indeed the last few programmes have developed a dedicated rubric for this function alone.

Yet among the new insights that have emerged through the first half of the 7th Framework Programme is the meaning of security in society and the notion that security is in fundamental ways societal.

What does this mean? An answer to this question begins by asking another, even simpler, question: What does it mean to make Europe secure?





Universal exceptionalism

Exceptionalism is the new word of order in European migration policy.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi met on 26 April to propose a fundamental reform of the Schengen border-free area: a national exception to a hard-won European accomplishment: The Schengen Area. The Area, which permits visa-free circulation accross internal borders is second only to the introduction of the euro itself among Europe’s most profound political accomplishments.

Two weeks earlier France had threatened to close its internal border to Italy as a consequence of Italy’s decision, judged by most observers to be self-evident, to grant Tunisian boat-migrants asylum-seeker status in Europe.

As a response to the French-Italian shoving-match, the Commission published a politically deft communication setting out the option of member-state level border measures ‘as a last resort in truly critical situations, until other (emergency) measures have been taken to stabilise the situation at the relevant external border section either at European level, in a spirit of solidarity, and/or at national level, to better comply with the common rules.’ It was debated hotly in plenum in the Parliament last week.

(The Schengen arrangement actually already contains loopholes for extraordinary border-closing measures, designed as a response to football hooliganism.)

Now Denmark has joined the re-natioanlizing bandwagon, suggesting that it will strengthen its own national customs controls and at the same time taking a strong position against further expansion of the Schengen Area. In a memo published yesterday, Home Affairs Commissioner Malmström encouraged restraint.





The International Community recreates itself

The International Community’s role in the crisis in Libya changed dramatically when NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced on Saturday that NATO Allies ‘have decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya under the United Nations Security Council Resolution’ (see announcement here). The step, he continued, ‘proves NATO’s capability to take decisive action’. Fogh Rasmussen explained that NATO had already in the previous week put together ‘a complete package of operations in support of the United Nations Resolution by sea and air’. The Secretary General in effect suggested that NATO would take over leadership in principle that de facto is exercising.

Security Council Resolution 1973 was in many regards momentous and without precedent. It builds on principles developed but never fully implement in the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. Born in the 2001 report of an intergovernmental commission, it central provisions have survived in the fine print of a number of UN resolutions and documents. The doctrine essentially asserts that states have a responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, etc. and that where they fail to take action on this responsibility, or are themselves the actual cause of these sufferings, then the responsibility falls to the International Community. Though the resolution does not mention the doctrine, it specifically evokes its language.

The immense challenge that immediately unfolded was a practical one. Who is to implement? Who will apply the no fly zone called for in the Resolution? Who will protect the citizens as required in the Resolution? In the Resolution it is ‘Member States’, ‘acting national or through regional organization or arrangements’ to ‘to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country who are under threat or attack’. The Resolution ‘authorizes’, but does not require Member States to act, nor does it specify which Member States should implement.

Arguably this ambiguity plays an important role in making political action possible. Without it, many potential participants in an international action would remain reluctant. The International Community is self-organizing. That is its virtue and its bane. In its response to the Resolution it is a certain International Community, not necessarily the International Community that rises to the challenge. Which one?





Club Europa in Lampedusa

A completely unique conjuncture of events has brought a new wave of undocumented migration to Europe and with it a new wave of principled challenges to European responses to it.

There is widespread awareness in Europe and elsewhere of the tidal change set off by the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia. Now overshadowed by hyper-mediatized events in Egypt, the ousting of Tunisia’s longstanding president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 was in some ways more decisive and dramatic than events in Egypt, though less networked. It is however Egypt, long-time ally of the United States, neighbor to Israel, perhaps the closest we can find to an Arab super-power, stole the show with its facebook ousting of Hosni Mubarak.

Yet while the mass manifestations of democratic aspirations in Egypt lead Euro-Americans to wipe a tear of self-affirmation, the democratic aspirations of Tunisians has quickly morphed into a security threat to Europe. Built on lofty principles, the European Union talks the talk, and is once again called upon to walk the walk of migrant and human rights.





Junk Europe

In a matter of days Hungary becomes the new princess of Europe, taking over the rotating EU presidency from Belgium. As Reuters reports, Moody’s credit rating agency downgraded Hungarian sovereign debt to near junk status from Baa1 to Baa3. Fitch Rating, (the second of the top-three global credit raters, together with Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s) also signaled it would lower Hungary’s credit rating to the edge of ‘junk debt status’.

According to the BBC, these new assessment come as a consequence of measures taken by the Hungarian Parliament itself–the aim of cutting the deficit in order to put it in line with the EU’s fiscal requirements–will likely have the reverse effect, sending the country on an unsustainable fiscal path.

As if by financial affinity, Hungary will take over the EU presidency from Belgium, who held the rotating post from July 2010 has, its own political challenges The Belgian political blocks have not succeeded in forming a viable and enduring government since 2007. In the latest round, Belgium has been entirely without a government since April, when the most recent coalition collapsed.
As a consequence, Standard & Poor’s, based in the US, lowered its outlook on Belgium’s credit from ‘stable‘ to ‘negative‘ and warned that the credit rating would be further cut within 6 months, if the government crisis were not resolved and measure not taken to address its relatively high public debt.





Rapid reactions in Greece

European history was made on Thursday as the EU Rapid Border Intervention Team (RABIT) was deployed for the first time every in its history. The team, one of several operated by Frontex, the European Border Management Agency, created in 2007, was deployed on the request of the Greek government in order to help to stop the increasingly high numbers of irregular immigrants crossing into Greece–and the EU–from Turkey. (Reports by EU Observer and European Voice). As Frontex Exective Director said, ‘Frontex stands ready to assist Greece by activating the RABIT mechanism in this urgent and exceptional situation’ (Frontex announcement).

The move seems in part provoked by the release of a UN report only a few days before describing the conditions of undocumented detainees in Greece as ‘catastrophic’ and documenting episodes of torture and ill-treatment by police.

According to Frontex, more than three-quarters of the 40,977 people intercepted while trying to enter into without proper documents into the EU in the first half of 2010 entered across the Greece-Turkey border.