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May 4, 2016

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

European Commission Backs Visa-Free Travel for Turkish Citizens

The European Commission recommended that Turkish citizens be able to travel visa-free to Europe's borderless Schengen zone (DW) provided Turkey fulfills some remaining preconditions. The decision responds to a critical demand from Ankara in its March migration deal with the European Union, in which Europe deports asylum-seekers arriving on Greek shores to Turkey (WSJ). Meeting in Brussels, the European Commission said that Turkey had implemented sixty-five of the seventy-two requirements to gain visa-free status. The final approval of the measure now rests with EU member states and the European Parliament. The Commission also announced fines of 250,000 euros per refugee for countries that refuse to take in relocated asylum-seekers.  

ANALYSIS

"Today, Turkey hardly stands as a positive example for democratic reformers in the Middle East. The [ruling] AKP’s democratic reforms in the early 2000s attracted much international praise and some emulation. But the democratic reform process stopped around 2005 and went into reverse following the AKP’s third electoral victory in 2011. Today, the AKP seems intent on pushing for a hyper-presidential system of government. This is widening Turkey’s social polarization and eroding the country’s already weak system of checks and balances. Violence in the southeast of the country continues to escalate, with decreasing prospects of a revitalized peace process. The EU is increasingly turning a blind eye to Turkey’s democratic regression in return for cooperation on controlling the flow of Syrian refugees and other migrants entering Europe," writes Senem Aydin-Düzgit for Foreign Policy.

"Human rights and humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International and the UN refugee agency have criticized the EU’s attempt to outsource the burden of refugee reception and protection to Turkey. In particular, they doubt whether Turkey is a safe third country along the lines of the criteria mentioned in article 38 of the new 2015 Asylum Procedures Directive that contains the principles and procedures to be respected when dealing with potential refugees, including the principle of non-refoulement. Many human rights activists have voiced concerns about the fate of Syrian-Kurdish refugees in case they are returned to Turkey without policies articulating safeguards in the host country. Another concern lies in the fact that Ankara does not apply the 1951 Geneva Convention—the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, his or her rights, and the legal obligations of states, including the one of nondiscrimination—to non-Europeans, and its asylum and reception system still has many gaps in coverage," writes Silvia Colombo for the Council of Councils, a CFR initiative.

"The original sin of the European project is that, Brussels notwithstanding, there is no European constituency. Events, policies, and challenges are all viewed through a national lens. The refugee crisis has brought this into sharp relief; but every stress on the European system brings to the fore nationalist perspectives. And why shouldn’t this be the case? After all, political accountability – not to mention tax money – flows from citizens to the national capitals. But the split between the EU and national governments is a false one. Subsidiarity, properly applied and understood as decision-making power at the appropriate level of government, is and must remain a guiding principle of European action. There are, however, times when collective action is needed. For such action to be effective, the EU level cannot be a place for scapegoating and bloviating," writes Ana Palacio for Project Syndicate.

PACIFIC RIM

Police Confirm Indonesia Is Preparing Mass Execution

A police spokesman says new executions are being prepared but did not confirm the date or whether foreigners who are on the country's death row are among those to be put to death by firing squad (Guardian). Fourteen prisoners, including foreigners on drug trafficking charges, were executed in January and April of 2015.

CHINA: A U.S.-based rights group said that China is expected to release the last and longest-serving prisoner arrested during the 1989 pre-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square by October (RFA).

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

India Probes Killings of Activists by Police in Border Town

Indian authorities ordered an inquiry after police fired upon and killed two protestors and wounded six more in the state of Arunachal Pradesh near the border with Tibet (BBC). Police said they opened fire after the protestors tried to raid a police station to free an anti-hydropower activist.

KYRGYZSTAN: Violence against Kyrgyzstan's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population has reportedly risen by almost 300 percent following the passage of a so-called "anti-gay propaganda law," modeled after Russian legislation (Guardian).

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

U.S. Navy Seal Killed in Iraq Fighting Alongside Kurdish Forces

The death of a U.S. Navy Seal during an attack by fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State about nineteen miles from Mosul marks the third U.S. casualty since the United States redeployed forces to Iraq in mid-2014 (CNN). Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter met with defense ministers from eleven countries Wednesday at the U.S. military's European Command headquarters in Germany to discuss the fight against the Islamic State (Reuters).

This CFR Backgrounder discusses the Islamic State and its roots in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

ISRAEL: An Israeli court gave a life sentence to one of three men who kidnapped a Palestinian teenager and burned him alive in 2014 (Al Jazeera). The defendant's two accomplices had already received a life sentence and twenty-one-year prison term for the crime.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

South Africa Credit Rating May Be Cut Below Investment Grade

The South African central bank said the country risks losing its investment-grade status (Bloomberg) ahead of upcoming reviews by S&P Global Ratings and Moody's Investors Services.

WEST AFRICA: A report from the U.S.-based Oceans Beyond Piracy said that as navies have become more effective in responding to maritime crimes, West African pirates have increasingly turned to hostage-taking for ransom rather than spending days looting cargo ships (VOA). The same report said the Gulf of Guinea has become the most dangerous body of water in the world, counting fifty-four attacks from pirates there last year.  

EUROPE

Hollande: France Against U.S.-EU Trade Deal

France's President François Hollande said he opposed the current version of a trans-Atlantic trade deal because of compromises on agricultural, environmental, and cultural issues (WSJ).

This CFR workshop discussed the noneconomic foreign policy implications of the proposed U.S.-EU trade deal.

AMERICAS

Brazilian Attorney General Requests Investigations Into Lula

Brazil's attorney general requested the country's Supreme Court authorize a corruption investigation (BBC) into former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Brazilian media also reported that the attorney general requested a probe into President Dilma Rousseff for obstruction of justice, though the prosecutor's office had not confirmed the information (Reuters).

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses Brazil's political crisis and corruption probe in this interview.

CUBA: A rights group said that Cuban authorities had arrested more than five thousand people for arbitrary and political reasons in the first four months of 2016 (LAHT)

CAMPAIGN 2016

Trump Wins Indiana Primary to Become Presumptive Republican Nominee

Donald Trump won (NYT) the Indiana Republican nominating contest by a double-digit margin that forced his rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to drop out of the race. On the Democratic side, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) beat front-runner Hillary Clinton in the state’s primary, but she retains a commanding lead in the race for her party’s nomination.

Track and compare the leading candidates’ foreign policy positions with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.