The EU can now punish human rights violators all over the world

“the EU signed off on a law that will give the bloc the power to ban travel and freeze assets of individuals and entities involved or associated with violating human rights, including genocide, slavery, extrajudicial arrests and killings, gender-based violence, human trafficking, and other abuses that are “widespread, systematic or are otherwise of serious concern.”

The EU’s adoption of this law is a big deal, both symbolically and practically. One of the European Union’s foundational principles is a commitment to human rights, democracy, and rule of law. But it has sometimes fallen short. This new tool will put some heft behind those commitments.

All 27 EU member states agreed — including some of the democratic-backsliding countries in the bloc like Hungary, which previously held up attempts to pass this kind of EU-wide law.

Practically, this gives the EU a lot more flexibility in whom and what it can target for rights violations. Previously, the EU was mostly limited to applying sanctions in country-specific situations, like a conflict, as in Syria, or for certain issues like terrorism or cyberattacks.

Since this law applies to all EU member states, it cuts violators off from a lot of travel — including nice vacation destinations on, say, the French Riviera — and from accessing and locating assets.”

Rare win for Boris Johnson — but Brexit storm hasn’t passed

“In the very short term, however, it looks like plain sailing for Johnson. The deal, which will be subject to a ratification vote in the U.K. parliament on December 30, is highly likely to pass.

Some Conservative MPs, who have said they will study the deal in depth over the coming days, may quibble over details, but the overall shape of the agreement is — and has been for some time — one that represents a fundamental victory for Brexiteers. The U.K. will leave the EU’s single market and customs union. It will continue to manage its economy under rules similar to those in the EU, but if it wants to change those rules in the future, it has the freedom to (with consequences in the shape of tariffs).

Even on the totemic issue of fisheries, where the U.K. gave ground in the latter stages of the talks, none but the most purist Brexiteer could claim that the final settlement (a five-and-a-half-year transition period to a situation where the U.K. is free to decide who accesses its fishing waters) is not a major change from the status quo.”

“Johnson’s claim during his announcement that there will be “no non-tariff barriers” to trade is not correct. The deal removes tariffs and quotas. It doesn’t remove mountains of new paperwork for firms looking to trade with the EU, as the government’s own copious sets of instructions for businesses testifies.”

The last-gasp Brexit deal negotiations, explained

“The United Kingdom and the European Union have been trying for the last 11 months to negotiate an agreement that will define their future partnership after the UK formally left the bloc in January. But both sides remain stuck on major points — fishing rights, guaranteeing a “level playing field” on government subsidies and regulations, and how to enforce any deal — with very, very little time before the year-end deadline.

Getting a deal is in the interests of both sides, but reaching, ratifying, and implementing any deal in three weeks is going to be a challenge — and might not be feasible at this late stage.

But without any framework, the EU and the UK could face major disruptions in January on everything from trade to transport. It will be painful for both sides, but the UK, now all alone, is expected to feel that fallout more acutely, which will pile on to economic hurt brought on by the pandemic.”

Everyone loves Biden — even Europe’s conservatives

“Forty-eight hours after Joe Biden emerged as the winner of the U.S. presidential election, Europe was still basking in the afterglow.

Not even Angela Merkel could resist a victory lap, delivering a live statement on German television to congratulate Biden and Kamala Harris. Legend has it that Merkel only agreed to seek another term as chancellor in 2017 because of her dislike of Donald Trump, whose name was conspicuously absent from her remarks on Monday.)

For many European leaders, Biden’s win represented more than just the prayed-for end of Trump’s presidency — it was a welcome shot in the arm for Europe’s battered brand of centrist politics as it battles its own populist demons, a glimmer of hope that the “good guys” can win.”

“It doesn’t help that the European politicians who have aligned themselves with Trump are on the political fringe.”

Fear and loathing (of Donald Trump) in the EU

“Of all the innumerable “horrors,” the diplomat said the worst aspect of Trump is the chaos he brings to the world arena: “The lack of being able to plan, the lack of being able to extrapolate from a normal set of facts and arguments what might be a course of action that the United States might take.

“Even if you don’t like it, it’s useful to have an idea of where they are going,” the diplomat said.

Radosław Sikorski, a former Polish defense minister and longtime foreign minister, called Trump’s first term “an extraordinary saga of bluster and incompetence.”

Now a member of the European Parliament and leader of its delegation for U.S. relations, Sikorski said he expected a second Trump term would feature more of the same, including when it comes to the president’s preference for courting authoritarian leaders over traditional, liberal democratic allies.”

The Myth of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

“While a severe migrant uptick did occur circa 2015, the influx rapidly declined to earlier levels. As economist Bryan Caplan has noted, “total arrivals from 2014 to 2018 came to less than 1 percent of the population of the European Union (E.U.). Many European countries—most notably West Germany during the Cold War—have swiftly absorbed much larger inflows in the past.” By early 2019, the European Commission officially declared an end to the “migration crisis.””

“For a sense of the scope of the fake scare, visit HOAXmap, an internet project constructed in 2016 to track rumors about refugees in Germany. The map currently features 496 rumors in the country and in nearby German-speaking nations.
In early 2018, the German paper Der Spiegel ran its own study of 445 alleged refugee rapes in 10 German states, as reported on Rapefugees.net. One-third of the incidents were filtered out because they were duplicates, broken links, or law enforcement was unaware of the purported crime.

Of the remaining 291 cases, 24 claims were false, others were “less dramatic” than rape (i.e., groping) and 29 percent of cases could not be confirmed or denied. One-third (95) involved refugee suspects. Of 57 actual rape cases, 26 involved refugee suspects, with 18 cases resulting in convictions. Each incident is serious and to be condemned. But the facts don’t support fears of epidemic levels of social breakdown caused by migrants.

Unfortunately, it is easy for people to believe rumors when the rumors match already-held fears, such as the West’s historical mistrust of foreign migrants. Real horrific events like those in Cologne make it even easier to suspend skepticism about similar—but fake—cases. But the apparent chasm between truth and rumor means we need to abandon salacious anecdotes, and instead focus on hard data before presuming there is a crisis that demands a response.”

“A Pew survey from mid-2016 showed 46 percent of Swedes believed “refugees in our country are more to blame for crime than other groups.”

But crime trends there remained steady or declined both before and after the migration explosion”

“The migrant wave’s effect on Germany’s crime rates had also been negligible, as revealed in a series of analyses of local police data from early 2016. For example, a “large majority” of refugees who are registered never show up in police records. Those from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are rarely in criminal statistics. In Cologne, for example, only five of 1,100 (under 0.5 percent) registered Syrians were in trouble with the police between October 2014 and November 2015.

The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) concluded in 2015 that, “on average, refugees commit as many or as few crimes as the local population.” From 2014 to 2015, the refugee population increased 440 percent, while the number of refugee crimes committed rose only 79 percent, according to the BKA. Here, there wasn’t even a correlation: While offenses increased significantly in early 2015, offenses stagnated in late 2015, precisely when “most refugees arrived in Germany.” The BKA concluded that the “vast majority of asylum-seekers [commit] no offenses.”

By 2018, although 44 percent of Germans felt less secure than they did in recent years, their government announced that crime was at a quarter-century low, while Germany’s migrant population was at a record high. As of 2019, the total number of crimes kept falling while the migrant population kept rising.

This does not mean migrants never contribute to Germany’s criminal issues. Indeed, certain immigrant areas reported significant gang problems. Moreover, North African nationals registered high criminal activity relative to the rest of the population. No doubt German law enforcement needs to take notice of these issues. But it would be a mistake to conclude from these specifics that the broader Middle Eastern migrant wave is the problem, when crime rates from certain Eastern European nationals who aren’t normally considered part of this wave are also relatively crime-prone, while nationals from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are relatively crime-free. Rather, the overall picture is clear: Migrants were not a special criminal problem in Germany.”

[Sweden]: “”the number of reported rape offences has increased by 34 per cent over the last ten years (2009-2018)” because the definition of rape was legally expanded. In 2013, just before the latest European migrant wave, the definition was “expanded to include cases where the victim reacts passively.” An earlier legislative change in 2005 meant that “certain acts which were previously classified as sexual exploitation are now classified as rape.” These include sex with persons who are asleep or intoxicated.

The changing definition of rape maps much better to the data than do refugee numbers”

“When it comes to terrorism, neither migrants nor migration are the dominant part of the problem. They could, however, be part of the solution to extremist threats, especially threats from the Middle East. If the American experience is at all transferable to Europe, welcomed and assimilated Muslims could be an asset that would strengthen Europe’s security and reduce radicalism.”

Pompeo says U.S. ready to team up on China, but E.U. eyes a post-Trump world

“At the start of Trump’s presidency, EU leaders harbored hopes that the combative president would team up with them to address an array of issues with China, particularly related to trade disputes, on which Beijing had long refused to give any ground. Instead, Trump lumped the EU, and especially Germany, together with China as trade rivals who had taken advantage of the U.S., and even slapped punitive tariffs on EU steel and aluminum products that prompted swift retaliation from Brussels.

And even as Pompeo said he was excited about the new dialogue over China, he reiterated some areas of sharp disagreement between Washington and European allies, including over Trump’s surprise decision to reduce the U.S. military presence in Germany, which Trump has linked to his political disagreements with Berlin, including Germany’s slow increases in military spending and its continued support of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

Pompeo in his speech tried to insist that Trump’s decision was based on a careful “strategic review” of military deployment levels and needs — a point that has been flatly refuted by current and former U.S. military officials.

Given the deep lack of trust, it seems unlikely that much progress will be made discussing China or anything else between now and the November election in the U.S. EU leaders at the moment are intensely focused on debating their new long-term budget and a European Commission proposal for an ambitious economic recovery fund.”

Looking to U.S., Europe seeks its own civil rights movement

“For Europeans watching events unfold across the Atlantic — as thousands took to the streets across the U.S. — it was the massive, and seemingly effective, response that followed George Floyd’s death as much as the brutality of his killing that spurred them to action. At a time when U.S. President Donald Trump has tarnished the national brand in the eyes of many in Europe, activists took cues and borrowed slogans from a civil rights movement that has inspired people on both sides of the Atlantic for decades.

In Belgium, some 10,000 people gathered in front of Brussels’ Palais de Justice for a protest organized by the Belgian Network for Black Lives. In a sea of hand-drawn “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace” placards, people held up signs calling out the country’s history of racism — “Belgium, too” and “We need to talk about Leopold II and Belgian colonies” — and the names of recent victims of police violence.

A planned protest last week organized by families of victims of police brutality in France — including Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man who died in police custody in 2016 — drew record numbers of people in Paris. In cities across Germany, Spain, the U.K. and the Netherlands, protesters also flouted lockdown rules to flood public squares to demand justice for the people of color who died in police custody in their own countries. They filled streets in Dublin, Copenhagen and Milan. In Bristol, in the U.K., protesters tore down the statue of a 17th-century slave trader, dragged it through the streets and threw it in the harbor.”

“Europe’s history with race relations is so different from that of the U.S. There was no large-scale system of slavery in modern Europe; it largely “exported” its racism to its colonies, which it plundered for wealth and cheap labor. Most migration from Africa to Europe is relatively recent, starting in the 1960s. In most European countries, there are people who remember when large numbers of migrants first arrived.

Colonialism is still a touchy subject in a number of countries, particularly in France and Belgium, which have largely failed to grapple with their bloody legacies. There is a “selective amnesia” in Europe about its imperial legacy and a “toxic nostalgia that to this day taints their misunderstanding of that history,” the British journalist Gary Younge wrote in a piece for the New York Review of Books.”

“Although most of Europe, unlike the U.S., has never put in place a system of legal discrimination explicitly targeting people of color, like the Jim Crow laws, the daily racism experienced by Europeans is no less shocking. In some cases, it’s more so.

“Levels of incarceration, unemployment, deprivation and poverty are all higher for black Europeans,” according to Younge. “Perhaps only because the Continent is not blighted by the gun culture of the U.S., racism here is less lethal.”

Being a black or brown person in Europe means being confronted from a young age with teachings that paint colonialism as a worthy enterprise. It means you’re more likely to live in poorer, heavily policed neighborhoods. It means your job applications will often go unanswered and you will have a hard time renting property or buying a house.

You’ll have seen people black up their faces and dress up as Zwarte Piet every year in early December. You’ll have watched far-right parties rise in the polls on openly racist platforms and loose language comparing migrants to vermin. You’ll have seen footage of football fans throwing banana skins at black players. And you’ll have seen politicians, most of whom do not look like you, stay silent.”