Category Archives: Current Column

This Column deals with current developments worldwide. Due to our global network of contributors we get insight into local issues, that might not yet have made the evening news.
Thereby we aim to provide a far-reaching understanding into issues that might normally pass you by.

The Status of Jerusalem

By Yara Naser Aldin, Advocacy Group Participant 2018

On December 6, the President of the United States, Donald Trump broke the seven decades of US policy on Jerusalem and officially announced the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Moreover, directed the state department to start the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This Decision is not the first. According to history; the United States implemented several acts that arguably violate the basic right of Palestinians to self-determination as well as international conventions.

The City of Jerusalem by Tarek Bakri

In 1948 the United States officially recognised Israel as a State, although the occupied Jerusalem wasn’t part of this Decision. In 1995 the US Congress published the so called “Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995” which calls for the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem before May, 1999. However, the act included a provision allowing the US President to sign “a six-month waiver if they deem it necessary” to protect the national security interests of the United States.

Every administration, Since the Bill Clinton presidency, has continued to sign the waiver every half year, despite promising during their presidential campaigns to move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Regardless, Trump ordered the state department to start the preparations of the transfer of the Embassy, he also signed the waiver for another 6 months. This was supposed to give the engineers and architects enough time to prepare the new Embassy.

According to the International community, the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1949 all the actions taken by Israel in Jerusalem are void and have no legal effect. According to the United Nations resolutions, the Israeli occupation could not arrange any rights or native sovereignty implications of the Palestinian people, because the occupation is not entitled to transfer sovereignty over Jerusalem to the occupying power, for temporary and limited-term.

The legal status of Jerusalem rests upon the General Assembly’s resolution 181 of 1947[1] which Israel relies on in order to proclaim the legality of its State. Shortly after, and as a result of the 1948’s war, the division of Jerusalem into “West” and “East” was set. Israel occupied the western part of Jerusalem while Jordan, expanded its jurisdiction to east Jerusalem. In the same year, the UN General Assembly issued another resolution reaffirming the international status of Jerusalem. However, in 1950 Israel ‎‎‎‎declared‎‎‎‎ Jerusalem (West and East) its capital and moved on to establish its government agencies in the western part, in violation of intern‎‎ational laws.[2]

Two Countries in Conflict by Joao Lucas Hilgert

Israel enacted the “Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel” in 1980, while the UN Security Council adopted and issued the 476 and 478 resolutions, which declared that the law is “null and void”. It called Israel, the occupying power, to tolerate the binding resolutions and international law. The Security Council ordered the (states that their diplomatic missions in Jerusalem should be withdrawn?). The status of the occupied Jerusalem has been the concern of several UN bodies and International Organisations. Security Council Resolutions 242, 250, 251, 252, 267, 271, 446, 1435,  2334 all called upon Israel to stop its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Further, the General Assembly has adopted hundreds of Resolutions confirming the importance of the fourth Geneva Convention, refusing any Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territories and supporting the fact that Israel’s rule on East Jerusalem is nothing but a military occupation.

The Border seperating Israel and Palestina

Trump’s speech and decision about Jerusalem in accordance to the US law, is based on the Jerusalem Embassy Act 1995, which declares that Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel. And thereby, he recognized the “undivided and united” Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Embassy act and the recognition violate International laws. The US Supreme Court stated that “the status of Jerusalem should be decided not unilaterally but in consultation with all concerned, or otherwise a unilateral declaration is damaging to the cause of peace and, therefore not, in the interest of the United States”.

The international Court of Justice in an Advisory Opinion in 2004 made the status and the position of Jerusalem clear by stating and reaffirming the illegality of Israel’s apartheid separation wall and settlements; as Israel was bound by the fourth Geneva Convention. Moreover, the Court and Human Rights treaty bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women; made it clear that Israel has the obligation to apply Human Rights Law in the occupied territories.

Palestinian Protesters by Tarek Bakri

Donald Trump’s recognition violates the rights of the Palestinians to security, housing, freedom of movement, to water and sanitation. Therefore, the rights of the Palestinians are threatened by the discriminatory and unlawful acts taken by Israel. As a consequence President Trump is helping Israel to secure these violations as his decision is nothing but a provocation to the integrity of international law institutions.

 

Please note that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Munich European Forum e.V.

Sources:

[1] UN Resolution 181,” http://www.1948.org.uk/un-resolution-181/, 1948.

[2] Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, “Trump’s Decision to Announce Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel: Motives, Implications, and Prospects”, December 2017.

Is Romania the new ‘sick man’ of the European Union?

By Stefania-Felicia Pavel, Secretary of the Munich European Forum

Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) anamnesis

At first sight, in the European Union, there seems to be a contagious democratic enfeeblement, a relapse of corruption to which Romania is not immune either. The dawn of 2007 ‒ Romania saw its bid to European Union accession coming to fruition. Simultaneously, it was established the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, a newly-minted tool meant to assist and assess the progress of both Romania and Bulgaria regarding judicial reforms and their mitigation of endemic corruption [1]. Back then, the CVM was seen as a panacea for the genetically-embedded democratic shortages Romania displayed. However, a decade later, and the CVM report of November 2017 [2] testifies that the effects of the corruption fight are either lax or lacking. In other words, Romania’s corruption is relapsing, engulfing the state and sickening the rule of law.

Stages of illiberal ailment

In the aftermath of the last CVM report, there was observed not only a stalemate in curbing corruption, but a worrying backslide. The independence of the judiciary and the anticorruption policies went down a slippery slope. The very push from the brink where Romania was perched comes from the Social Democrat Party, whose majority ruling in the Parliament since December 2016 generated the propitious conditions for the illiberal democracy ‘virus’ to take roots.

First sign of illness came with the Romanian government’s plan to amend laws that secure the independence of the judicial system. By large, these alterations affect the statute of judges and prosecutors, the structure of the judiciary, and the Superior Council of Magistracy. The amendments unduly empower the Ministry of Justice to oversee the entire judiciary, locking political control over the branches that ought to have unfettered independence. A prime example of the illiberal disease spreading was a night-time meeting on 22nd November 2017, when a special legal commission voted favourably on the amendment of Article 9 of Law 303/2004 [3].

They hereby decided that judges and prosecutors are required to refrain from making any public statement or taking any public action that denounces members of the legislative or executive branches. [4] Ergo, enhanced power was granted to the Government dominated by the Social Democrats. So, now they can excessively influence the judiciary. Unfortunately, this can result in an irreversible decay of judicial independence and, ultimately, the undermining of the separation of powers within the Romanian state.

Another scourge of the constitutional state was the ‘parliamentary coup’ against the judiciary.  This implied changes to be operated in the penal code and, respectively, the code of criminal procedure. All these modifications would render void corruption investigations of various members of the parliament. In the same vein, another potentially-lethal shot to the internal fight against corruption is the limitation of reporting on corruption cases. Other actions meant to weaken the anticorruption battle are the control on investigative journalism in general [5] coupled with the proposed decriminalization of some corruption offences. [6]

Experimental treatment from abroad

The internal derelictions of duty that impinged on the status quo of Romania raised mounting concern Europe-wide. The Romanian democratic malaise was also scrutinized by the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption monitoring body, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). GRECO sounded the alarm towards the snail-pace progress Romania registered with respects to preventing and countering corruption within the political echelons. From the initial prescription of a set of thirteen recommendations [7], Romania only partly enacted them via a too lenient conduct code for parliamentarians [8]. Moreover, it failed to overhaul the performance of the National Integrity Agency. Seriously concerned by the undemocratic tendencies, GRECO resolved to request reporting on behalf of the Romanian authorities on the progress to be registered by the end of 2018 [9].

A concurring vision was expressed in the Joint Statement of European Commission President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans. They too stressed that the resilience and irreversibility of the advancements attained through the CVM are the very prerequisite for the abolition of the Mechanism. They see the contentious justice laws as the litmus test of the Romania’s healing of corruption. Avowing its support to safeguard the independence of the judiciary and combat corruption [10], the European Commission it is not by any means promising a new lease of life to Romania’s democracy. However, it is willing to continue treating another ‘sick man’ of the European Union. Let’s all hope for a speedy recovery rather than a clinical death of democracy in Romania.

Please note that the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Munich European Forum e.V.

 

[1] European Commission. “Commission Reports on Progress in Romania under the Co-Operation and Verification Mechanism.” Press Release Database, 15 Nov. 2017, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-4611_en.htm.

[2] European Commission. “Report from The Commission to The European Parliament and The Council. On Progress in Romania under the Co-Operation and Verification Mechanism”. 15 Nov. 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/comm-2017-751_en.pdf.

[3] Law 303/ 2004 on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors, published in the Official Journal no. 826, 13 Sep. 2005, Bucharest, http://legislatie.just.ro/Public/DetaliiDocument/53074

[4] Lacatus, Corina. “Is Romania at Risk of Backsliding over Corruption and the Rule of Law?”. EUROPP – European Politics and Policy or the London School of Economics, 27 Nov. 2017, http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2017/11/27/is-romania-at-risk-of-backsliding-over-corruption-and-the-rule-of-law/.

[5] Deutsche Welle. “Romanian Judicial Reform: Critics Decry ‘Parliamentary Coup’, Threat to Democracy.” DW.COM, 24 Dec. 2017, www.dw.com/en/romanian-judicial-reform-critics-decry-parliamentary-coup-threat-to-democracy/a-41923648.

[6] Rankin, Jennifer. “Romania Braced for Huge Protests over ‘Big Step Backwards’ on Rule of Law.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 19 Jan. 2018, www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/19/romania-braced-for-huge-protests-amid-big-step-backwards-on-rule-of-law.

[7] Council of Europe. Group of States against Corruption. “Fourth Evaluation Round. Corruption Prevention in Respect of Members of Parliament”. Adoption: 8 December 2017, 78th plenary meeting, Strasbourg. Publication: 18 Jan. 2017. https://rm.coe.int/fourth-evaluation-round-corruption-prevention-in-respect-of-members-of/168077e159.

[8] Code of Conduct of Deputies and Senators. Adopted by the Romanian Parliament on 11 Oct. 2017. https://www.juridice.ro/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Codul-de-conduit%C4%83.pdf

[9] Council of Europe. Group of States against Corruption. “Decisions”. 78th GRECO Plenary Meeting, Strasbourg, 8 Dec. 2017. https://rm.coe.int/78th-greco-plenary-meeting-strasbourg-4-8-december-2017-decisions/168076f486

[10] European Commission. “Joint Statement of European Commission President Juncker and First Vice-President Timmermans on the Latest Developments in Romania.” 24 Jan. 2018. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-18-423_en.htm