Hong Kong’s Extradition Bill is Necessary

Lisa (Yi) Wu, Editor, Foreign Affairs Review

Hong Kong, returned to China from British colonial government in 1997, maintained its prosperity and economic status under the “one country, two systems” framework. Although the Chinese government promised people of Hong Kong high autonomy, including an independent legal system, continued capitalism, and access to international institutions and conferences, protests against Chinese governance have been occurring since March.

The primary cause of the protests was the amendment of the “extradition bill”. Chan Tong-kai, a man who fled back to Hong Kong after committing murder on his girlfriend in Taiwan, was not able to be extradited to Taiwan. After the victim’s family appealed to the government, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, proposed the extradition bill in February 2019. The bill enabled Hong Kong government to transfer fugitives to jurisdictions that were excluded in the existing laws, including not only Taiwan, but also Macao, mainland China and other countries.

Ronny Tong, the senior advisor of the Chief Executive, said: “What the amendment does is to extend the applicability of the statute to China and to the rest of the world.” Moreover, the government emphasized the need to ensure that Hong Kong does not become a haven for fugitives. People in Hong Kong and western media seemed to interpret the bill from another perspective. The Law Society from UK criticized: “The proposals fundamentally imperil the operation of the rule of law in Hong Kong.”

In my perspective, however, the bill should be implemented because it helps solve the fugitive problem, even though it’s being misunderstood and used as an excuse for protesters to undermine Hong Kong’s social order.

Without the extradition bill, the fugitive problem will remain in Hong Kong and severely interrupt the order of the society. Chan Tong-kai was only sentenced to 29 months in prison on April 29 for charges of “money laundering”. Because of the shortcomings of the law, the murderer did not receive the punishment he should have. Chen Zhimin, deputy Minister of Public Security, revealed that since 1997, more than three hundred repeat offenders fled to Hong Kong from mainland China. Since there was no extradition, they escaped punishment. If we continue to tolerate such incidents, more people will take advantage of the legal loophole and Hong Kong will truly become the “haven for fugitives.”

As the bill invoked public anger, protesters gathered on Hong Kong streets to express their concerns regarding the bill. Their means of expressing dissatisfaction are worrisome. While some police have used violence to suppress the protestors, the behaviors of the protestors have severely disrupted the operation of public transportation and threatened the safety of Hong Kong citizens. The Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong University ended the fall semester because of safety concerns. Playgrounds were set on fire; buildings and facilities in schools suffered from random attacks by protestors; students were forced to pause their academic pursuit; citizens were hit indiscriminately. On June 13th, protestors on the pedestrian bridge near Wangjiao threw bricks down, despite the cars and pedestrians that were still crossing the road.

According to Joey Siu, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and a spokesperson for several student unions, “One of the principles among protestors is about no splitting and no condemning any of their protestors, even though the level of violence they use seem to be escalating and might be posing some harms to others”. She admitted that nobody could stop the violence. Even worse, there’s no single person who can represent the protestors to talk to the government about their demands. Therefore, the violence from the protestors is more like a tool to vent against society. They are carrying the banner of democracy, but doing things that run counter to democratic principles. “The Australian” posted an article entitled “Hong Kong mob protesters rule the streets” by Hedley Thomas, in which he pointed out: “In this volatile atmosphere, anyone who publicly challenges their cause, who seeks to call out the violence and the damage, is at risk of fierce reprisal.”

Although pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong were violent and non-democratic in its essence, international organizations and many countries have supported the protest, showing strong doubt towardsHong Kong’s judiciary and distrust of the Chinese government. As Ronny Tong said in his interview, 90 percent of the people who participated in the march thought that the extradition bill was to enable the Hong Kong government to send people back to China for trial for criticizing Beijing. However, as the statute of Hong Kong stated, the Chief Executive has no power to order extradition, only to refuse extradition. The only institution which can order extradition is the courts. Therefore, the law itself does not erode the human rights of Hong Kong citizens.he bill is being protested instead as an excuse to express long-term anxiety and diffident about freedom in the judicial system.

To date, the situation in Hong Kong has not been optimistic. How to solve the fugitive problem and stop violence is an urgent problem for Hong Kong government and Beijing. We hope that while protecting Hong Kong’s democracy and human rights, we will maintain social stability and the basic security of Hong Kong people.

References:

YouTube. YouTube. Accessed November 29, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTBC3WdRzog.

2019 Hong Kong Extradition Bill.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, November 28, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Hong_Kong_extradition_bill.

中央完全支持香港做的这件事,有两大背景_逃犯.” _逃犯, May 23, 2019. http://www.sohu.com/a/316022004_221650.

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/hong-kong-mob-protesters-rule-the-streets/news-story/3784f837073df318fbb5b9f35884ecbc

THOMAS, HEDLEY. “Hong Kong Mob Protesters Rule the Streets.” https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/hong-kong-mob-protesters-rule-the-streets/news-story/3784f837073df318fbb5b9f35884ecbc. The Australian, n.d.

Steering Forward in Syrian Quagmire

Chris Park, Editor, Foreign Affairs Review

Just as Mitch McConnell said, Jim Mattis’s departure from the Department of Defense more than a year ago was distressing. He was confirmed by a 98-1 vote after gaining a waiver from the National Security Act of 1947 that required a seven year waiting period between a retired military personnel could seek the Secretary of Defense spot. Kirsten Gillibrand was the sole no vote, not on the basis of Mattis’s nomination but on her objection to the waiver–a rare bipartisan support in the contentious confirmation process. The only nominee to get less opposition was former VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama-era VA Under Secretary. 

Mattis’s approach to foreign policy was more hawkish compared to that of the Obama administration but pales in comparison to views of Steve Bannon or John Bolton. He deterred the administration from acting on the President’s impulses, like the assassination of Bashar al-Assad or a military strike against North Korea. Trump’s military transgender ban also never came to fruition. While unsuccessful, he opposed the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem and withdrawals from the Iran Deal and the Paris Climate Accord. 

The point of contention between the Defense Secretary and the President at ultimately led to Mattis’s resignation was on pulling troops from Syria. This chism reveals a larger picture about the troubling “America First” doctrine that defies the foreign policy beliefs dating back to the World War II — the rash policies that Mattis thus far kept more-or-less at bay. While Trump ultimately did not withdraw the troops then, he finally did order the withdrawal of ground troops almost a year after Mattis’s departure.

Granted, an argument can be made that the troop withdrawal is part of an overarching foreign policy agenda. Obama’s much-contested withdrawal from Iraq was a fulfillment of a Bush-era agreement with the Iraqi government. However, what truly sets apart “America First” doctrine is not necessarily a shift in policy, though it often is, but the way in which a policy is carried out. In this case, Trump’s abrupt announcement of withdrawal via Twitter combined with the general disregard of geopolitics and long-standing American commitments in the region show the chaotic and irresponsible nature of the Trump policy agenda.

The reality is that withdrawal of troops from Syria was a mistake. 

As delineated in Mattis’s resignation letter, a part of the reason has to do with the need to maintain alliances, like the one with the YPG, the Kurdish militia in Syria. They serve as necessary American allies against ISIS, helping gather useful intelligence and deterring the rising Iranian and Russian influence in the region. Syrian Kurds will likely continue to hold significant sway over Arab geopolitics. The troop withdrawal would surely fracture the relationship, especially as Kurds continue to engage in a protracted armed conflict with Turkey and with Erdogan—to whom Trump reportedly told Syria is “all yours”—hellbent on crushing the Kurdish rebels. 

While immediate Turkish offensive that ensued after the American withdrawal was troubling, the lack of U.S. support for Kurdish allies likely would not invariably lead to a long-term humanitarian crisis, as Congressman-elect Dan Cranshaw posits in his Washington Post opinion piece. The Kurds would likely find another ally to ward off Turkish influence that would predate and likely prevent a large-scale humanitarian disaster–perhaps a figure like Bashar al-Assad of Syria. If humanitarian concerns do not apply, there still is a massive strategic question that needs to be asked: does the United States want a tyrannical Russia-friendly dictator to retain his relevance as a major player in the region?

There also remains the question of ISIS. Despite what the President says, ISIS presence—albeit weakened—remains strong. 2010 Iraqi withdrawal under Obama is what originally brought ISIS to power. Leaving now would only go back on the progress by the United States to stabilize the region since the insurgence of ISIS and give the terrorist group a chance to reorganize. Having an extreme militant group only adds to the instability of the region, jeopardizing global security which, in turn, jeopardizing American national security. 

To question whether U.S. intervention in the Middle East is the right thing with a microscopic view of today’s engagement is not a responsible thing to do. There’s an argument that could be made that previous U.S. intervention in the region—dating back to Desert Storm—that exacerbated its instability. But the clock cannot be turned back. Instead, the question is what is the best course of action as we remain stuck in this quagmire. 

The least damaging way forward is to bolster American commitments to allies and maintain American forces in Syria. Trump’s decision to withdraw is an alarming potential precursor to more damaging foreign policy headed our way in the remaining year of Trump’s first term.

 

How Our View of Humanitarianism is Harmful

Julia An, Editor, Foreign Affairs Review

A major feature of contemporary humanitarian aid is the idea that it is an apolitical embodiment of human good and compassion, one which transcends all ideologies and cultures. It is from this delusion that many of the inadequacies of the practice stem.

Because many believe humanitarianism to be an all-encompassing good, there becomes reverence of humanitarian practitioners. In many texts [citation needed], humanitarian workers are compared to heroes, light in a world of dark. While it is certainly undeniable that humanitarian workers make countless sacrifices to work in the field, putting them on such a high pedestal [citation needed] makes things problematic.

It further cements the power imbalances inherently present between humanitarian workers and the target population as well as between aid workers from the global north and domestically hired workers. While the image that a humanitarian worker usually conjures is that of a white person, 90% of aid workers actually are of the same nationality as the target population [citation needed]. With the continued perception of aid workers as altruistic “saviors” coupled with the popular bias (from both global north and south) of a white worker, it is not a far step from the neocolonialism images of white saviors come to enlighten indigenous and developing populations.

On another point, defining humanitarian aid by the purity of workers’ intentions can be harmful. Are anyone’s intentions for working in humanitarian aid truly “pure”? Isn’t even doing aid because it feels good to help others selfish, since it can be argued that feeling good is the true intention, not helping others? Even if one’s intentions were truly good and pure, there have been several instances in the past of aid workers having good intentions but causing more trouble than help [citation]. Would anyone prefer a pure-intentioned aid worker that does no good or even causes unintended harm over a questionably-intentioned worker who does measurable good?

So just how is this perception harmful? Many aid workers blanch at being called “heroes” or “saviors” [citation], believing that many workers with such opinions of the aid field make unwise, short-sighted decisions and burn out more easily. Furthermore, humanitarian aid is far from apolitical. To take a side on the political issues which give rise to the need for aid is to be political. To remain silent and refrain from using their legitimacy and soft powers to witness or pressure a government or political entity is also political.

Furthermore, there have been many cases, in the past, of a humanitarian intervention that, unaware of cultural, political, or economic characters of a region, has caused harm to the target population. If humanitarianism is continued to be seen as compassion-based, a practice of charity, there is less to hold organizations accountable to provide responsible care. In some cases, such as one of a ___ organization intervention in ___ the presence of humanitarian food aid, when ignorant of the local economies, have outcompeted local farmers, causing or worsening economic crises [citation]. In another case, after genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, many aid organizations were deployed to provide mental health support and treatment to the population. The workers, uneducated in the Buddhist cultural view of death as a continuation of ones journey, not an end, attempted to help victims seek closure from their loved ones. This intervention was based on a Western view of death and clashed strongly with the core beliefs of the Cambodian population.

While it was certainly not the aid workers’ intention to harm, a mindset of charity-based aid is not helpful to the situation. It exacerbates the power imbalance between workers and the target population. Those being helped are expected to be grateful for any intervention or aid at all, making it more difficult to critique the aid received. It also lifts the responsibility to quality-control the aid provided as any aid given is seen as better than nothing, even irresponsible aid. We need to place less emphasis on compassion and the purity of intentions as defining quality humanitarian aid.

The Populist Challenge

Gabriela Baghdady, Editor, Foreign Affairs Review

“The time of the nation has come.”[i] These are the words of Marine Le Pen, former French presidential candidate, president of the National Rally party in France, and alleged “populist.”  Populism is the international phenomenon that has been sweeping European countries for last decade, prompting a flood of analyses from leading political thinkers. As political scholarship grapples to reach a consensus on populism, populist leaders continue to fight for dominance in European governments. The recent surge of populist movements across Europe has not only transformed mainstream politics but has also posed a challenge to liberal democratic norms, mainly through fostering antipluralism and a rejection of important aspects of democracy.

Is populism an ideology, style, theory, or something else entirely? This has been widely debated among academics. However, analyses have recognized several commonalities in how populists present themselves and their ideas. First, populists usually identify a dichotomy between a “people” and an adversary, usually political and economic elites. In speeches, they rail against the elites for their suppression of the “real” people of the nation. In contrast, the populist often portrays himself or herself as the sole representative of the will of the people and promises dramatic changes to the status quo.[ii] They manufacture a morally charged and inherently exclusionary distinction between a “good” citizenry and an “evil” elite in power, portraying themselves as the hero. However, this hero is often not intent on “saving” every person within a given country—populists have been known to target a certain national or social class that they claim to represent.

In Europe, populists have appeared on both the right and left of the political spectrum. The French National Rally (right-wing) and Podemos in Spain (left-wing) are just two examples. While the policies of these parties are clearly divergent, there are elements of populist rhetoric and tactics found in both. The National Rally (led by Marine Le Pen), has attacked several perceived threats of the French people, including globalism, Muslim immigrants and Islam in general, and the European Union. Le Pen and her party have worked to revive French patriotism and Le Pen portrayed herself as a “candidate of the people” in her presidential campaign.[iii] Left populists like Podemos, though overtly nationalist, have made similar claims about a “people” and advocated for a greater focus on the “nation.” In Spain, the charismatic Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has rallied Spaniards against the corrupt government elites and in favor of rescuing an impoverished middle class, advocating for more economic sovereignty.[iv] While characteristics and ideas vary by leader and across the political spectrum, there are key commonalities: a portrayal of the populist as a champion of a “people” and a rejection of elites and the status quo.

A burning question remains: what does populism mean for democracy? In a number of ways, populism is challenging and even damaging democracy already. Antipluralist rhetoric has fostered a nationalism that has begun to manifest into xenophobia and a rejection of other cultures in France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and other European countries. This poses a threat to civil liberties of immigrants in Europe—liberties that democracy is meant to protect—and far-right populism specifically plays a role. Furthermore, populism also poses a threat to the political party system within many European democracies.[v] The tendency of populists to make distinctions between what is “good” and “evil” creates what Jan Werner Müller calls a “moralization of politics.”[vi] An outright portrayal of political opponents as morally “bad,” coupled with populists’ claim that they are the sole representation of the people, rejects the mediation and compromise that is a cornerstone of party democracy. Additionally, some populists have directed attacks against democratic institutions, including global/internationalist institutions, the media, and the free market. Therefore, while the long-term implications of populism are not well-known, it is possible that populist leaders can have a transformative impact on mainstream European politics for much of the foreseeable future, and could possibly become a “new normal” if strong enough.

There are some reasons to believe, however, that populism has the capacity to strengthen democracy. Populists may be able to bring greater awareness to certain issues for an underrepresented population. The potential populist threat to democracy may also motivate politicians to fight more strongly for democratic values and norms. If not, rampant antipluralism and a negative attitude toward the political status quo may erode representative democracy as it exists today.

 

 

 

[i] Peterson, Matt. “2016: The Year in Quotes.” The Atlantic,www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/12/ranked-the-year-in-world-leader-quotes/511421/. Accessed 23 November 2019.

[ii] Mudde, Cas and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. Populism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2017.

[iii] Nossiter, Adam. “Marine Le Pen Echoes Trump’s Bleak Populism in French Campaign Kickoff.” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/05/world/europe/marine-le-pen-trump-populism-france-election.html. Accessed 13 November 2019.

[iv] Iglesias, Pablo. “Understanding Podemos.” New Left Review, May-Jun. 2015, pg. 7-22.

[v] Urbinati, Nadia. Introduction. Me the People, Harvard University Press, 2019, pp. 1-39.

[vi] Müller, Jan Verner. What is Populism?, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.

Should the United States Secure World Oil Prices?

Benjamin Juul, Editor, Foreign Affairs Review

In his 1980 State of the Union address, President Jimmy Carter announced a new doctrine for American foreign policy, saying, “…let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” 

It would be hard to argue that President Carter was being hawkish here. Carter was notorious for having very little interest in armed conflict, at least compared with the presidents who followed him. He also wasn’t particularly enamored with the Persian Gulf monarchies, certainly not enough to guarantee their security. Carter simply saw the political reality of the moment. An attack on an oil-producing states in the Persian Gulf would be tantamount to an attack on the world economy. 

Carter was operating based on experience: US support of Israel through the Yom Kippur War led to an oil embargo by many countries in the Persian Gulf, more than doubling the cost of oil within the year. Also in his recent memory was the Iranian Revolution, which took Iran’s oil production from five million barrels a day to zero. This lead to constant paranoia about oil price volatility amongst the American foreign policy community for decades following the oil shock. This fear was so strong that during the Reagan Administration, the United States would reflag Kuwaiti ships as American and escort them through the Strait of Hormuz to prevent Iranian attacks. When an Iranian mine blew a hole in the side of an American ship, Reagan sank the Iranian Navy. This move preempted the first Iraq war, when President Bush invaded Iraq to prevent them from taking Kuwaiti oil fields. 

During this period, US oil production began to decline substantially. In 1985, the United States imported 25% of its oil. By 2005, imports reached 60% of total US oil consumption. On top of this trend, frustrated by the United States’ ease and willingness to slash oil prices, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Iran, as well as other key oil producers, agreed to coordinate to defend oil prices. Their agreement created the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Nations, or OPEC, which now controls about eighty percent of world crude oil exports. These nations also all began to nationalize their oil industries, so that by the end of the 1970s, international oil companies saw their access to world oil reserves decline from 85% to just 7%. This had the effect of making oil a much more viable economic weapon, particularly against the United States. 

Despite these nearly forty years of precedent, an Iranian attack on the Saudi Abqaiq oil processing facility, which destroyed more than half of the country’s production capability, compelled basically no response from President Trump. This attack followed months of attacks by Iran against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and halted production at the largest oil processing plant in the world, causing a 5% drop in global production. 

The president initially tweeted that the US was ‘locked and loaded’ and ready to strike Iran after confirmation from the Saudis. These tweets were then quickly played down by senior aides and by Trump himself, saying that he ‘doesn’t want war with anybody’ despite implicating Iran. The turnaround occurred becausePresident Trump is extremely sensitive to financial markets as a metric of his presidency’s success, and these comments were made while oil prices had their largest spike since the first Iraq War. The administration was forced to quickly backpedal any threats made against Iran, for fear of further destabilizing markets. 

While in the short term, the decision not to strike Iran may have settled investors, in the long term it gives Iran a pass for its aggression, which may destabilize oil prices even more down the road. The attack, if it does not make a compelling case for the Carter Doctrine, at least harkens back to a time where protecting the internal security of the Middle East seemed like a worthwhile task. Each American consumer will have to pay an additional $18 a month as a result of the attacks on Saudi Arabia, which represent the largest oil disruption in history by barrels per day.

The Saudi oil strikes presented a larger disruption by volume to global markets than the Arab oil embargo and the Iranian Revolution, but there are a few reasons it wasn’t as painful. Firstly, the Saudis claimed they could get oil pumping again within the month, limiting its impact on the sale of oil futures. Additionally, President Trump opened up the US’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the largest reserve oil fields in the world, to try to moderate the price increase. These actions are coupled with the fact that the oil market is simply much larger than it was in the 1970s, meaning that a five million barrels per day drop represents a smaller disruption by percentage of all oil pumped. However, one of the biggest reasons, and perhaps why we have abandoned the Carter Doctrine, is that the United States is very close to being a net exporter of crude oil.

The United States, through a combination of investment and new technologies like fracking and the use of shale oil, has moved from the third-largest oil producer in the world to the first by about three million barrels per day. This move has occurred in the last ten years and has had large ramifications for US foreign policy. In fact, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff Marc Short cited it while discussing the president’s thinking about the attack, telling Fox Business “I think locked and loaded means several things, one thing it means is that America today under the President is far better prepared to handle these sorts of events because we’re now a net exporter of oil.”

There is also the added benefit of Canada, whose new mining of tar sands (an unconventional petroleum deposit made of sand, clay, and water) now provides the US with 40% of its oil imports. It would appear that the United States is on the cusp of its long-awaited energy independence when it can free itself of having to protect Persian monarchies for the sake of protecting global oil prices and simply live off of North American oil. 

Energy independence would hopefully disentangle the United States from some of its Middle East conflicts, to the relief of a very Middle East fatigued American public. It would also mean the complete end of the Carter Doctrine and the United States shielding global oil prices. This would make sense, as China is a much larger consumer of Persian oil than the United States, and does very little to earn its price security. It would also free up the United States to lend human rights issues in the Middle East the platform they deserve, instead of simply sweeping the Crown Prince’s beheaded relatives under the rug. 

Unfortunately, the dream of energy independence remains a dream, despite our new hegemony in production. This is true for a variety of reasons. To start, because oil is priced based on how it sells on the global market, the United States will never be completely insulated from global fluctuations. To make matters worse, ‘OPEC+’ a group that includes Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia, seemingly deciding that the influx of US oil has driven the price too low, has begun coordinating decreases in production. In fact, in 2017, this group overshot their goals in decreasing production, leaving a sizeable effect on oil prices. On top of this, Saudi Arabia continues to hold the largest spare capacity of oil in the world. Spare capacity is oil that can be very easily mined if necessary, allowing swift adjustments in price that can change the world market very rapidly. The fact that Saudi Arabia holds the power to increase or decrease production by 1.5 million barrels per day makes them a ‘swing producer’ with strong control over oil prices, giving the country added power over US consumers. The Arabian Peninsula is full of swing producers, especially because with nationalized oil industries, the government can typically control production unilaterally, increasing US dependence on the region. 

Despite these more dismal features of the global oil market, the fact remains that both the US’s energy independence and its over policing of global oil markets are both improving. That being said, we are a long way from being able to produce enough oil to keep ourselves out of all Middle Eastern conflict. A substantial oil shock, like a $25 per barrel increase, would mean an extra $45 a month for the typical American family. That level of increase would mean the political demise of any American president. Thus, most presidents would still intervene militarily to prevent this kind of shock, meaning the United States is in a sense eternally in service to the global oil market. 

Nevertheless, there is an answer that doesn’t involve bombing Iran or pumping our way to freedom, and it’s found in the other moves the Carter Administration made to insulate Americans from oil shocks. They created the SPR, which holds more than 650 million barrels of oil reserves. They increased fuel economy standards for cars and began financing clean energy sources produced in the United States. Outside of policing the world, the other way to become more energy independent is to become less oil-dependent. Moves like increasing fuel efficiency standards, which were rolled back by the Trump administration, would do an enormous amount to disentangle the US from foreign oil. Increasing our SPR would also be wise, as it is now able to be tapped in times of economic recession and may risk falling too low in the future if overutilized. Finally, a move towards green energy would secure both the environment and the US’s energy independence and allow the United States to operate unmoored from oil prices while its competitors, like China, remain at the whim of cranky despots and fluctuating prices. 

Bibliography

 

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Why Denmark Should Join the Eurozone

Written by Nina Tophoff, European Horizons

 

Although Denmark joined the European Communities in 1973 and has been an integral member of the European Union since its founding in 1993, the country still uses krone as its currency, rather than the euro. As a country with good economic performance, it has much to gain from joining the eurozone and becoming a more integrated member of the EU, and it is likely to be successful in doing so. The European Union and eurozone are currently experiencing a crisis of integration and would benefit politically from the successful integration of Denmark into the eurozone, in addition to benefiting economically. Integration into the eurozone would benefit both Denmark and the European Union.

 

The last referendum that Denmark had on joining the eurozone took place in 2000, when 53% of voters rejected the euro compared to 47% in favor. This referendum was held nearly 20 years ago and within this time, the euro has become a much more established currency throughout the European Union. Public opinion in Denmark has also become increasingly favorable toward the European Union and further integration. Most major Danish political parties favor joining the eurozone and the idea of a second referendum has been proposed many times since 2000. Joining the eurozone is politically popular throughout Denmark, and a second referendum would be likely to pass.

 

Joining the eurozone would also further integrate Denmark into the European Union, which would bring immense political benefits. For instance, it would encourage better relations among Denmark and proximate countries that already use the euro. According to former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the move would also allow Denmark to have more of a say in issues within the European Union. Considering Denmark’s comparatively small size and influence, it is clear that any additional clout would help the country tremendously.

 

Having Denmark join the eurozone would also be politically beneficial for the European Union itself. Over the last couple of years, there has been a massive rise in euro-skepticism throughout the Union, exemplified by the rise of populist, anti-European parties in countries like Italy and France and by the 2016 referendum in which the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The successful further integration of an important member state could provide a positive example for the future, both for current and potential member states.

 

Denmark’s strong economic performance also indicates that it would be a perfect candidate for joining the eurozone. Denmark is one of a few candidates for joining the eurozone that meet all four criteria for joining, including a government deficit that does not exceed more than 3% of GDP, debt that does not exceed more than 60% of GDP, exchange-rate stability, and low, stable interest rates. In addition, Denmark has other excellent economic indicators that would make it a strong member of the eurozone. It has one of the highest GDPs per capita in Europe, a strong trade surplus of DKK 6 billion, and a stable currency. Economically, Denmark is doing much better than many current members of the eurozone, such as Greece, and adding Denmark to the eurozone could improve its overall performance.

 

Joining the eurozone would also be economically beneficial for Denmark itself.  Denmark’s current currency is already subject to European Exchange Rate Mechanism, which means that its exchange rate is essentially pegged to the euro; switching to the euro would further simplify exchange with other eurozone member states. In addition, as previous eurozone entrances have demonstrated, joining the eurozone would boost trade with other eurozone members. Lastly, Denmark’s eurozone integration would allow for greater economic stability and improved growth, and would allow Danish businesses easier access to other eurozone markets.

 

Joining the eurozone would be politically and economically beneficial for both Denmark and the European Union. Additionally, Denmark’s optimal economic conditions should allow the transition to integration to be fairly smooth. The political will is present; therefore, another referendum should be held soon to give the Danish people the opportunity to act on the widespread desire to join the Eurozone and become a fuller member of the European Union.

 

 

Germany’s Difficulties with Refugee Integration

Written by Zubeyde Oysul and Mary Sulavik, European Horizons

 

The millions of refugees entering Europe during recent years have found the warmest reception in Germany, where 1 in 8 residents is of foreign national origin. Germany has made significant strides towards effectively and permanently relocating and integrating refugees into the country. However, there are still policy opportunities to ensure that refugees are able to integrate further and feel assured of guaranteed futures in the country, with the possibility of being joined by their families. Many refugees are having trouble making the educational and legal leaps necessary to become German citizens. Conditions for integration, including long waiting periods for citizenship, are unnecessarily turbulent and stressful; less than 50 percent of migrants pass their language and integration classes. With the German spending budget for refugees predicted to reach 78 billion euros through 2022, it is crucial to ensure that methods of migrant integration are practical, successful, and cost effective.

 

The aspect of integration most significant to migrants and their futures is their economic integration into the country. By gaining employment, migrants will be able to fully immerse themselves within the country, learning the language and interacting with the locals. Employment will also allow them to provide for their futures, thereby decreasing their dependence on aid from the German government. In this regard, Germany’s vocational training schools have made great strides in providing refugees with appropriate vocational skills, language education and integration courses to join the German workforce. Luckily for the refugees, Germany currently has a significant shortage of skilled labor, allowing refugees with appropriate training to fill these gaps in the market. A report from the state-funded Institute for Employment Research (IAB) found that half the refugee population of 2015 would be working by 2020, clearly indicating that the efforts of the German vocational schools, along with tremendous efforts on the part of civil and volunteer organizations, are proving useful to migrant integration into the German workforce.

 

Despite these conditions, unemployment continues to be the reality for many refugees. Even migrants who have the appropriate skills for employment often cannot obtain a job in Germany due to a lack of language skills that creates communication problems between the migrants and their future employers. Migrants who do not possess the skills learned from vocational training, or who may have skills more specialized than those learned in the schools, are also having difficulty finding employment. In Germany, training occurs over a prolonged period of time, with extensive language requirements, thereby limiting vital short-term employment options.

 

The apprehension of many migrants about their futures in the country prevents them from preparing for long-term employment opportunities in the country. Germany is currently divided on whether migrants with non-credible claims for asylum should be allowed to remain in the country. Asylum-seekers must appeal to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) to receive their status in the country, at which point they might receive a negative ruling. To contest the negative ruling, migrants must appeal to one of Germany’s 52 law courts. Depending on where a refugee is situated within the country, they may face a high risk of deportation if their claims fail to hold up in court.  If the appeal is denied, the immigration agencies local to the law courts are required to deport the migrant. Although the process seems multifold, many refugees will find the odds stacked against them following an initial rejection from BAMF, as the law courts tend to favor the Federal Office over the migrants. In some of these courts, discrimination against refugees leads to illegitimate court rulings and unfair administrative decisions, thereby evicting numerous refugees from Germany who may very well have a legitimate claim to asylum. The difficulty and uncertainty of the asylum process proves particularly troubling for the German economy: since refugees without asylum cannot legally hold a job, many refugees will face unemployment indefinitely, deepening the strain on the German migrant budget.

 

Germany has and will continue to face logistical issues in placing all of its refugees within communities, educating them, and integrating them into the workforce. Social integration might take generations, but economic integration does not have to. If Germany were to minimize the requirements needed to join the workforce, as well as reform the asylum-seeking system into a more just and unified one across the German states, refugees would have a much easier time succeeding in the future. Their success will allow the German economy to better allocate its funds for migrants towards more needy recipients, rather than the general refugee population.  With a more efficient vocational training model, especially in terms of language education, and a national standard for asylum requirements, Germany can integrate its refugees into the economy faster.