In countries respectful of the rule of law the disciplinary system for judges is meant to uphold standards and prevent abuse. It does not do so in Poland. No other European democracy has a system like the Polish one. Nowhere else is there such a concentration of powers in the hands of one man.
Today there is an urgent need to defend key human rights norms, such as the bans on torture, on political imprisonment and on extra-judicial killings. Leaders in many countries are questioning these norms and the international treaties that protect them; in others they are violated with impunity. European democracies have an interest to send a strong message to human rights violators and the wider public that these actions remain wrong and shameful.
Negotiating with a pointed gun - Sanctions, appeasement and the role of Russia in the Council of Europe
Legislators in Strasbourg will be voting on changes to PACE’s powers to sanction the parliamentary delegations of states violating human rights, democracy and the rule of law. They will also be voting on something much bigger: the relevance and credibility of the Council of Europe itself.
In February 2018 Viktor Orban gave a carefully crafted speech on the eve of recent Hungarian elections, appealing to (West) European leaders to "reverse" the presence of Muslims in their cities. No wonder that the first to congratulate Orban following his election victory in April were Europe's racist and far-right parties.
No member state of the EU has ever gone as far in subjugating its courts to executive control as the current Polish government has done. The Polish case is a test whether it is possible to create a Soviet-style justice system, where the control of courts, prosecutors and judges lies with the executive and a single party, in an EU member state.
The EU, and Italy especially, remains a magnet, as almost nobody who arrives is ever returned, regardless of the decisions of asylum bodies. The political debate returns like a pendulum to earlier experiences of agreements with North African states (Tunisia and Libya) as the only way to stop boats arriving.
Bosnian democracy is safe. This should have been obvious all along. But then again, many obvious things have often been obscured when it comes to the work of Bosnian institutions. On this, as one previous occasions, the rational approach is the same: don't believe the hype. Bosnian democracy will not end in October.
The challenge for Greek and EU policy makers is clear: to ensure humane reception conditions in line with EU standards for every asylum seeker and migrant who arrives on the islands. If the average time people spend on the islands were 2 months only, and arrivals were below 3,000 a month, the accommodation capacity needed on all islands would be 6,000.
"Amsterdam in the Mediterranean" – How a Dutch-style asylum system can help resolve the Mediterranean refugee crisis
Leaders across the EU are looking for a fast, effective and humane asylum system; a system which determines quickly, but thoroughly, who needs protection; creates disincentives for people to get into boats; and manages to return those who are found not to need protection within a short period of time.
Bosnian leaders need to make the system they have work better. This requires setting aside the main clichés discussed here: that in Bosnia ethnic and religious hate has been growing for years; that politics is rotten; and that the constitution poses an insurmountable obstacle to any progress.
The European Union urgently needs a credible policy on asylum and border management. It must combine effective control of external land and sea borders with respect for existing international and EU refugee law.
For Turkey to reintroduce the death penalty – the last execution took place in 1984 – would constitute a serious setback in the global struggle against capital punishment. Europeans should take the threat of the return of capital punishment in Turkey seriously. The EU and the Council of Europe should take every step they can, in time, to make this as unlikely as possible – in Turkey and anywhere else in Europe.
Both Turkey and the EU need to find a framework where sensitive issues can be discussed fruitfully. A reformed accession process provides such a framework. The key to such a process is clarity: it needs to be clear what EU standards are, how far Turkey is from meeting them and why it is useful for both sides to remain engaged in a dialogue on this. The EU needs a policy that is understood before it can have one that might be transformative.
The EU-Turkey refugee agreement reached on 18 March 2016 has had a dramatic impact on refugee movements in the Eastern Mediterranean. It has sharply reduced irregular crossings from Turkey to Greece and, with this, the number of people who drown on this dangerous journey. If the EU-Turkey agreement is implemented in full, it will demonstrate that it is possible to control borders and at the same time respect the UN Refugee Convention, combining compassion and empathy with control and security concerns.
Can basic international norms be undermined by corruption? Can international politics be fundamentally reshaped by the personal greed of politicians? These are among the most important questions in global politics today. When it comes to the Council of Europe, guardian of the European Convention of Human Rights and, since its creation in 1949, the leading intergovernmental human rights institution in the world, the answer to both questions is yes.
A closer analysis of the Commission's report shows how fragile the EU-Turkey agreement has become, and how little thought and effort is being put into overcoming obvious problems in order to make it work. When it comes to both implementation and communication the current effort falls dramatically short.
Navigating the Aegean – What the EU ought to know, and say, about refugees and the Greek islands – A policy proposal
This paper has one simple purpose: it is an appeal to European institutions to improve their reporting on what is actually happening on Lesbos, Chios, and other Greek islands. The information that is needed to assess the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement is straightforward and should be presented in a weekly update. The fact that this does not exist yet is troubling.
One popular idea about Bosnia and Herzegovina among European observers is that Newton's first law of motion applies to its politics: this law says that an object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. For Bosnian politics, that outside force has to be the international community.
Nobody knows exactly how many thousands of people left northern Montenegro in the first half of 2015. When local civic organisations first sounded the alarm early in the year, some tried to count families with luggage getting onto buses to Germany. The national government in Podgorica first denied that anything remarkable was going on.
If current trends continue, the number of people who reach Germany from Turkey (via Greece) will not go down significantly in the first months of 2016. To change this, the EU expects Turkey to do three things which are all costly, difficult and unpopular.