EU Moves Toward Agreement on Sharing Responsibility for Migrants and Refugees
Source: Human Rights Watch
July 25, 2019
After a year of disputes and ad hoc solutions to resolve stand-offs that have stranded people on rescue ships for weeks off European coasts, there finally appears to be progress towards a European Union-coordinated approach to receiving migrants arriving by sea. But the tragic deaths of at least 150 people in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast today underscores the need for EU governments to do much more.
At a meeting of EU interior and foreign ministers, convened by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris this week, 14 EU countries endorsed “in principle” a France-Germany proposal for a “temporary solidarity mechanism” for swift disembarkation at the closest safe port and relocation of people rescued in the Mediterranean. Eight countries – Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxemburg, and Portugal – said they intended to move forward with a new system. With many details lacking about implementation of such a mechanism, a follow up meeting announced for September in Malta will hopefully provide more clarity.
Building consensus will not be easy. France, Germany, and others say only certain asylum seekers should be relocated, while those not in need of international protection should remain in the country where they are disembarked. Italy – whose interior minister Matteo Salvini pointedly refused to participate in the meeting and dismissed its outcome – and Malta argue everyone should be relocated. Resolving this will require decisions on how to fairly carry out any preliminary assessments upon disembarkation and how to genuinely share responsibility among EU countries for people arriving irregularly.
Participants at the Paris meeting also addressed the dire situation in Libya, reportedly endorsing a call to Libyan authorities to “put an end to their policy of systematic detention” of refugees and migrants. Macron emphasized that appeal in his public remarks. This is vital, as is the stated commitment to increase and accelerate resettlement in EU countries of refugees evacuated out of Libya.
In the same breath, however, EU governments – including France – continue to insist on supporting the Libyan Coast Guard and demanding all ship captains obey its instructions. If EU governments are serious about taking a rights-respecting course, they should swiftly enact policies supporting European rescue at sea, safe disembarkation, and protection upon arrival at EU ports, and ensure that no one should be returned to Libya, given the serious risks to their lives and rights.
EU policy experts recommending limiting AI surveillance
June 28, 019
The European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG) on Wednesday released a second reportabout artificial intelligence (AI) development and deployment, specifically aimed at “maximising  benefits whilst minimising and preventing  risks.”
The report includes 33 recommendations for the EU, focusing on four domains: AI helping in general society, in the private sector, in the public sector, and in academia.
Using the recently-termed concept of “Trustworthy AI,” the EU is aiming for goals that include a single European market. This type of goal, though, requires complementary legislation among its Member States to enable “lawful, ethical, and robust AI-enabled goals and services.”
In addition to lofty recommendations, the report also describes specific protections for humans and our society. Despite potential government interest in a “secure society” that relies heavily on AI, the report urges caution regarding the “mass surveillance of individuals.” Individual privacy and freedoms should be maintained.
As technology continues to improve, the report also recommends the introduction of a “mandatory self-identification” system, which would require deployers of AI systems to “disclose that in reality the system is non-human.”
Transparency will continue to be a concern as AI becomes more entrenched in the daily activities of the modern world. The AI HLEG, though, is confident that early implementation of ethical guidelines will help prevent abuses
EU approves new copyright laws in blow to online sharing platforms
April 15, 2019
The Council of the EEU announced on Monday that it has adopted a new set of copyright laws that holds online platforms liable for user uploaded content.
The law was adopted by the European Council on Monday after it was approved by the European Parliament last month.
The directive introduces a new right for press publishers for the online use of their publication. “Authors of works incorporated in the press publication will be entitled to a share of the press publisher’s revenue deriving from this new right.”
Additionally, the rules clarify the legal framework within which online sharing platforms, such as Facebook and Google, operate.
Such platforms will in principle have to obtain a license for copyright protected works uploaded by users unless a number of conditions provided for in the directive are met. Right-holders will therefore be able to better negotiate the conditions of the exploitation of their online works and be remunerated for the online use of their content by these platforms.
Still, the directive allows users to generate and upload content freely for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche.
Following the signature and publication of the directive in the Official Journal of the EU, member states will have 24 months to enact the new rules into their national law.
EU launches new infringement proceedings against Poland over judiciary reforms
April 03, 2019
he European Commission on Wednesday launched infringement proceedings against Poland by sending a Letter of Formal Notice regarding its new disciplinary regime for judges.
The notice alleges that the new regime “undermines the judicial independence of Polish judges by not offering necessary guarantees to protect them from political control, as required by the Court of Justice of the European Union.” Poland has two months to reply.
The Commission alleges that Poland has failed to meet its obligations under Article 19(1) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which preserve the right to “an effective remedy before an independent and impartial court.” The Commission alleges that Polish law “allows to subject ordinary court judges to disciplinary investigations, procedures and ultimately sanctions, on account of the content of their judicial decisions.”
In addition, the Commission alleges that Poland’s regime does not ensure that a court can decide in first instance on disciplinary proceedings against ordinary court judges, because it gives the power to the President of the Disciplinary Chamber to determine the disciplinary court of first instance to hear a given case, “on an ad-hoc basis and with an almost unfettered discretion.”
The Commission is also of the opinion that Poland has failed to fulfill its obligations under Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which ensures courts’ right to request preliminary rulings from the European Court of Justice.
The EU’s concern about Poland not adhering to EU’s principles on rule of law is increasing. Last December the European Court of Justice ruled that Poland must “immediately” suspend the national legislation which lowered the mandatory retirement age for its supreme court judges.
EU parliament passes clean energy measures
March 27, 2019
EU parliament on Tuesday approved new rules to create a Europe-wide market for electricity that is cleaner, more competitive and better able to cope with risks.
The Clean Energy for All Europeans package empowers European consumers to become active players in the energy transition and creates the first national energy and climate plans. Among its rules, the legislation provides that consumers receive smart meters, dynamic pricing and the option to switch provider more quickly. Additionally, state aid to fossil-fuelled power plants will be phased out and measures have been enacted to prevent electricity blackouts.
The rapporteur on the internal market for electricity, Jerry Buzek, said the electricity market reform should make the sector more competitive across EU borders and support the transition to cleaner electricity. “It gives more power to consumers and protects the energy-poor. It is good for the environment and good for the wallet.”
By allowing electricity to move freely to where it is most needed and when it is most needed through undistorted price signals, consumers will benefit from cross-border competition. “This will drive the investments necessary to provide security of supply, whilst decarbonizing the European energy system.”
Following this parliamentary approval, the Council of Ministers of the EU will have to formally approve the texts of the Directive and three Regulations, after which the new laws will be published in the Official Journal of the Union.
EU approves rules for user copyright infringement
March 26, 2019
The European Parliament on Tuesday approved the new Copyright Directive for online platforms, holding them liable for user uploaded content, except for materials such as memes, GIFs and hyperlinks to news articles.
The Directive aims to apply copyright law to the digital age, as well as to ensure that the internet remains a space for freedom of expression.
Under the new Directive, internet platforms will be directly liable for user uploaded content for any copyright infringement. News publishers will have rights to negotiate deals on behalf of its journalists for news stories used by news aggregators. In addition, the Directive protects the uploading of protected works for quotation, criticism or review, which means that GIFs and memes will continue to be shareable.
Non-commercial websites, such as Wikipedia, and open source software platforms, such as Github, will not be affected by the Directive. Start-up platforms, in contrast to the established ones, will be subject to lighter obligations.
Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel welcomed the outcome in a joint statement: “today’s vote ensures the right balance between the interests of all players—users, creators, authors, press—while putting in place proportionate obligations on online platforms.”
If the member states approve Parliament’s decision and accept the text, they will have two years to implement the new rules.
EU passes resolution suspending Turkey’s admittance
March 15, 2019
The European Union adopted a non-binding resolution Wednesday against Turkey’s accession as a member of the EU. The resolution passed in the European Parliament by 370 votes in favor, 109 against with 143 abstentions.
The assembly noted past and ongoing human, civil, and due process rights violations committed by Turkey. The body expressed concern over Turkey’s lack of respect for minority religious and cultural rights. It mentioned the state’s “shrinking space for civil society,” its arrests and suppression of journalists, its dismissal of dissident academics, as well as the treatment of Middle Eastern migrants within its borders. The body noted that Turkey’s government has abused the due process rights of its own citizens under the guise of terrorism suspicions. It has also intimidated its own citizens abroad and abused Interpol arrest warrants to extradite its own nationals back to Turkey.
The European Parliament also mentioned Turkey’s fractious relationships with neighboring states such as Cyprus and Greece regarding the Akkuyu nuclear plant Turkey intends to build, as well as (lack of) normalization of diplomatic relations with neighboring Armenia.
“[W]hereas respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, including the separation of powers, democracy, freedom of expression and the media, human rights, the rights of minorities and religious freedom, freedom of association and the right to peaceful protest, the fight against corruption and the fight against racism and discrimination against vulnerable groups are at the core of the negotiation process.” (regarding Turkey’s accession into the European Union.)
The EU body insists the relationship between EU and Turkey be based on the laws adopted by the EU member states, with the “objective of protecting and promoting democratic values and principles, human rights and the rule of law; without prejudice to Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union.” Article 49 requires EU member states to abide by its values. Most importantly, it is the EU’s position that Turkey cannot continue ascension processes into the EU without proper “respect for democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights.”