Caviar Diplomacy

Why every European should care

In January 2021, a court in Milan sentenced Luca Volontè, a former Italian conservative leader of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) to four years in prison for corruption. In March 2021, German police searched the homes and offices of German MP Axel Fischer, widening an investigation against several former PACE members suspected of having accepted Azerbaijani kickbacks. These are the latest repercussions of almost a decade of ESI work on “Caviar Diplomacy” – Azerbaijan’s policy to bribe Council of Europe officials so they would downplay its dismal record on human rights and democracy. So far, the main culprit has escaped unscathed: the Azerbaijani regime. It is time that the Committee of Ministers and member states investigate Azerbaijan’s role in what a newspaper termed “the biggest corruption scandal in the history of the Council of Europe”.

In January 2021, a court in Milan sentenced Luca Volontè, a former Italian conservative leader of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) to four years in prison for corruption. In March 2021, German police searched the homes and…

What to do

The Council of Europe and Navalny

Countries blatantly violating its rules should be suspended

Nobody has turned to Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights as often as Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny – 20 times - and has gained so little from it. In spring 2021, Navalny was fighting for his life in a Russian penal colony, suffering from multiple medical problems. He was arrested on 17 January 2021 in a case that the Strasbourg court had already dismissed as arbitrary and unfair in 2017. On 16 February 2021, the court ordered Navalny’s immediate release. Russia openly refused. With 1,797 open judgements, Russia has the highest number of non-implemented rulings by the Strasbourg court of all 47 members of the Council of Europe. The court's order for Navalny’s release must become a red line for the respect of the court. The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers should give Russia a choice: release Navalny or face suspension.

Nobody has turned to Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights as often as Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny – 20 times - and has gained so little from it. In spring 2021, Navalny was fighting for his life in a Russian…

What to do

Anti-Corruption Report for the West Balkans

Measure corruption in order to fight it

Corruption is often mentioned as one of the biggest problems in the Balkans. Yet, hard data on its pervasiveness and nature are scarce. In order to successfully address it, we need deeper analysis and less prejudice. The European Commission has developed a sound methodology to assess corruption, which led to the first EU Anti-Corruption Report in 2014. It should use this methodology to produce Western Balkans Anti-Corruption reports every two years.

Corruption is often mentioned as one of the biggest problems in the Balkans. Yet, hard data on its pervasiveness and nature are scarce. In order to successfully address it, we need deeper analysis and less prejudice. The European Commission has…

What to do

New deal with Africa

Regular access and fast return

A humane and effective policy is urgently needed to reduce irregular migration from Africa across the Mediterranean. A coalition of EU member states should establish joint asylum centres at the EU’s external borders. After fair and quick procedures, those not in need of protection should be returned to their home countries. Those in need of protection should be taken in by the members of this coalition. African countries of origin need to be offered tangible benefits to turn them into partners.

A humane and effective policy is urgently needed to reduce irregular migration from Africa across the Mediterranean. A coalition of EU member states should establish joint asylum centres at the EU’s external borders. After fair and quick…

What to do

Silly rankings don't help

The World Bank should change the methodology of its Doing Business ranking

In August 2020 the World Bank announced a “pause” in the publication of its annual Doing Business rankings because of cases of data manipulation. The currently ongoing “comprehensive review” ordered by the chief economist should be used to address substantial methodological shortcomings identified by ESI that make the ranking easy to trick.

In August 2020 the World Bank announced a “pause” in the publication of its annual Doing Business rankings because of cases of data manipulation. The currently ongoing “comprehensive review” ordered by the chief economist should be used…

What to do

No border changes

Why Kosovo and Serbia must not discuss territory

The two decade old consensus of no border changes in the Balkans keeps being challenged. Serbia's president Aleksandar Vucic, Kosovo's former president Hashim Thaci and some leading US and EU officials have supported border changes in recent years. In a region where most states are multi-ethnic this is dangerous. The EU should take a clear stance against.

The two decade old consensus of no border changes in the Balkans keeps being challenged. Serbia's president Aleksandar Vucic, Kosovo's former president Hashim Thaci and some leading US and EU officials have supported border changes in recent years…

What to do

EU-Turkey Statement 2.0

How the EU and Turkey must cooperate in their mutual interest

The EU-Turkey statement in March 2016 has drastically brought down numbers of people trying to cross the Aegean and thereby also the numbers of people drowning. Then it broke down in March 2020. What is needed now is a revised statement 2.0 that addresses the shortcomings and builds on the successes of the first statement.

The EU-Turkey statement in March 2016 has drastically brought down numbers of people trying to cross the Aegean and thereby also the numbers of people drowning. Then it broke down in March 2020. What is needed now is a revised statement 2.0 that…

What to do

Why Orban had to leave the EPP

Europe's centre-right is better off without Fidesz

Hungary’s Fidesz left the European People’s Party EPP. This is good news. For years, Viktor Orban’s islamophobia and “illiberal democracy” have made a travesty of Christian democratic values. ESI has written about “Europe’s most dangerous man” since September 2015 and made the case for Fidesz’ expulsion from the EPP. With Fidesz now gone, the EPP should actively try to find a new partner in Hungary.

Hungary’s Fidesz left the European People’s Party EPP. This is good news. For years, Viktor Orban’s islamophobia and “illiberal democracy” have made a travesty of Christian democratic values. ESI has written about “Europe’s most dangerous man”…

What to do

Open EU Single Market to the Balkans

For a merit-based EU accession process that offers a credible goal

The EU accession process should offer membership in the Single Market as an interim goal to any of the six Western Balkan nations interested in it. The best chance to achieve this lies with the upcoming Slovenian EU presidency and an EU-Balkan summit in late 2021.

The EU accession process should offer membership in the Single Market as an interim goal to any of the six Western Balkan nations interested in it. The best chance to achieve this lies with the upcoming Slovenian EU presidency and an EU-Balkan…

What to do