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Article

Ramūnas Vilpišauskas

For Lithuania, the geopolitical motive to join the European Union (EU) in order to prevent a repetition of the 1940s occupation has been as important as a motive to “return to Europe.” This motivation to become part of the West led the country’s political elites to conceptualize accession into the EU as an important part of the transition reforms which were expected to modernize Lithuania’s economy, public administration, and governance as well as contribute to the country’s security and create conditions for economic catching up. Membership in the EU, accession into NATO, and good neighborly relations became the three cornerstones of Lithuania’s foreign policy since the early 1990s and enjoyed broad political support. It was this support that arguably allowed for the maintenance of political and administrative mobilization and consistency of preparations for the membership during the pre-accession process. Public support for the EU membership remained above the EU average since accession in 2004. Around the time of accession, a new concept of Lithuania as “a regional leader” was formulated by the core of the nation’s foreign policy makers. The concept of a regional leader implied active efforts of mediating between Eastern neighbors and the EU, often in coordination with Poland, which was driven by the desire to stabilize the Eastern neighborhood and advance relations between Eastern neighbors and the EU and NATO. Although coalition building within the EU has been fluctuating between a strategic partnership with Poland and Baltic-Nordic cooperation, also most recently the New Hanseatic league, attention to the Eastern neighborhood and geopolitical concerns originating from perceived aggressive Russian policies remained a defining characteristic of the country’s European policy independent of personalities and political parties, which have been at the forefront of policy making. Completion of integration into the EU, in particular in the fields of energy and transport, as well as dealing with “leftovers” from accession into the EU, such as joining the Schengen area and the euro zone, became the other priorities since 2004. Lithuania has been one of the fastest converging countries in the EU in terms of GDP per capita since its accession. However, membership in the EU Single Market also had controversial side effects. Relatively large flows of emigrants to other EU member states generated political debates about the quality of governance in Lithuania and its long-term demographic trends such as a decreasing and aging population. Introduction of the euro in 2015 was perceived by the public as the main factor behind price rises, making inflation the most important public issue in 2016–2018. High per capita income growth rates as well as the prospect of the United Kingdom exiting the EU triggered discussions about excessive dependency on EU funding, the potential effects of its decline after 2020, and sources of economic growth. There are increasingly divergent opinions regarding further deepening of integration within the EU, especially in regard to alignment of member states’ foreign and security policies as well as tax harmonization. Still, membership in the EU is rarely questioned, even by those who oppose further integration and advocate a “Europe of nations.”

Article

Florian Trauner and Ariadna Ripoll Servent

Justice and home affairs (JHA) is one of the most salient policy fields at European Union (EU) level. It deals with issues closely related to the sovereignty of member states including immigration, borders, and internal security. This article takes stock of the policy’s development and current academic debates. It argues that EU justice and home affairs is at a crossroads. Most EU actors underline the value added of European cooperation to tackle transnational threats such as terrorism and organized crime as well as the challenge of international migration. Indeed, the EU has increased its operational cooperation, data-sharing and legislative activities. The EU home affairs agencies, notably the European Police Office (Europol) and European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), have been substantially empowered. Yet JHA has also become a playing field for those attempting to politicize the European integration process. Therefore, recent years have seen major conflicts emerge that risk fragmenting the EU. These include controversies over the distribution of asylum seekers within the EU and the upholding of rule of law standards in some Eastern European states. Scholars have followed these developments with interest, contributing to a multifaceted and rich literature on aspects such as the dynamics of EU decision-making and the policy’s impact on the member states’ respect for fundamental rights and civil liberties. Promising avenues of further research include the implications of the politicization of the field and the consequences of ever more interconnected internal security databases and technologies.

Article

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has generated considerable controversy since it came into force in 2002, principally because of its overriding focus on African conflict situations and suspects. This has led to accusations that the ICC is a neocolonial meddler in African affairs, wielding undue and unaccountable influence over the domestic political arena. Drawing on the author’s field research in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo since 2006 this article contends that the neocolonialism critique of the ICC exaggerates the power of the Court while underestimating the capacity of African states to use the ICC to their own ends. Delivering distanced justice from The Hague with limited expertise on African societies and spending scant time in the field, the ICC has failed to grapple sufficiently with complex political dynamics “on the ground.” Combined with the Court’s heavy reliance on state cooperation, these factors have enabled African governments to use the ICC to target their political and military enemies while protecting themselves from prosecution. This has also emboldened African states in continuing to commit atrocity crimes against civilians, especially during periods of mass conflict and fraught national elections. While claiming to hover above the political fray, the ICC has become heavily politicized and instrumentalized by African states, with lasting and damaging consequences for the practice of national politics across Africa. To avoid being willfully used by African governments, the ICC must bolster its political expertise and become politically savvier. Rather than claiming to be neutral while hovering above the domestic terrain, the ICC must embrace its inherently political nature and deliver justice in a way that improves rather than undermines the practice of national and community-level politics across Africa.