Targeting China, EU Seeks To Ban Products Made With Forced Labour

In a move to target China, concerned about human rights violations in the province of Xinjiang, the 27-member country European Union (EU) seeks to ban products made with forced labour.

Products made with forced labour or those imported into the EU will be banned under draft EU rules, according to an EU document, reported Business Recorder.
The move was prompted by pressure from EU lawmakers who raised profound concerns over systematic human rights violations and their widespread effect on individuals and minorities in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

“Such prohibition should apply to products for which forced labour has been used at any stage of their production, manufacture, harvest and extraction, including working or processing related to the products,” the document said.

However, the European Commission’s draft rules are less far-reaching than what EU lawmakers have proposed due in part to legal constraints. The EU executive will need to discuss details with them and EU countries before the rules become law, reported Business Recorder.

“The prohibition should apply to all products, including their components, and should apply to products regardless of the sector, the origin, whether they are domestic or imported, or placed or made available on the Union market or exported.”

The paper said that the rules target larger economic operators such as importers, manufacturers, producers and product suppliers because the risks of forced labour are most prevalent and the impact likely to be the largest.

The onus however is on national authorities to prove that forced labour was involved in making and processing the products, reported Business Recorder.

Meanwhile, a UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Modern Slavery’s report has found it “reasonable to conclude” that forced labour has been taking place in China’s Xinjiang province.

The report found that Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic groups have been subjected to repressive and abusive practices as part of Chinese state-mandated forced labour systems.

“New UN Special Rapporteur’s Report on Contemporary Forms of Slavery concludes that forced labour is taking place in Xinjiang,” Adrian Zenz, a China researcher tweeted, along with a copy of the report.

The Special Rapporteur, Tomoya Obokata, further found that “the nature and extent of powers exercised” meant that “some instances may amount to enslavement as a crime against humanity.”

UN human rights experts have raised serious concerns about the alleged detention and forced labour of Muslim Uyghurs in China, calling for unhindered access to the country to conduct fact-finding missions and urging global and domestic companies to closely scrutinize their supply chains.

Uyghur workers have reportedly been subjected to exploitative working and abusive living conditions that may constitute arbitrary detention, human trafficking, forced labour and enslavement by use of forced labour. (ANI)

Is A European Union Army Feasible?

It seems that the EU has learnt the lessons of the abrupt end of the US-led mission in Afghanistan and furthermore after AUKUS, that the US is a trying to build a coalition of English speaking Anglophonic nations in the defence realm and that time has now come for them to guard their interests themselves.

In her annual state of the union speech in the European parliament in Strasbourg recently, Von der Leyen, a former German defence minister, described the withdrawal of the US-led mission in Afghanistan, and the subsequent collapse of President Ghani’s administration troubling. She urged the European leaders to acquire the “political will” to build up its own military force to de deployed at or prevent any future crises.

She is also reported to be working with the Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, on issuing a “new declaration” on EU-Nato relations by the end of the year. She has also said there would be crises where the EU’s own military force should operate independently from both the UN and Nato.

Germany’s current defence minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has said that Ursula is right. Real EU defence depends on the political will of the member states. That’s why Germany and France must lead any such exercise.

European solidarity

For some, this state of affairs revived the old idea of a European military – with the EU’s chief diplomat himself urging the bloc to create a collective armed force.

“The need for more European defence has never been as much evident as today after the events in Afghanistan,” EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell told journalists at a meeting of the bloc’s foreign and defence ministers in Slovenia recently, where the Afghanistan debacle featured prominently. The EU needs to create a “rapid response force” of 5,000 soldiers, Borrell said. EU military committee chairman Claudio Graziano also agreed with the idea, which should be supported with a genuine “will to act” he is reported to have said.

This phrase appeared once again, when Macron talked about Afghanistan with visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the Élysée Palace. The two leaders gave a joint statement urging the EU to develop “strategic autonomy” so it can take “more responsibility for its security and defence”.

Going one step further France has recently inked a defence deal for supply of 13 Rafael jets and 3 frigates to Greece. By choosing French Rafael, Greece rejected the bid by US’s Boeing for F-16 planes. 

Critics of the proposal

The idea of common defence, one attacked by some critics of the EU as evidence of fomenting nationalism building, has a long and chequered history. It dates back to 1990s and the Yugoslav Wars. A joint 1998 statement by France’s then president Jacques Chirac and British prime minister Tony Blair declared that the EU “must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed up by credible military forces”, an assertion which fits Emmanuel Macron very well today.

In 1999 the EU agreed to raise a contingent of 50,000-60,000. In 2007, the bloc created a network of two “battle groups” of 1,500 troops from each country. They have since never been requisitioned. 

Proponents of an EU armed force that operates independently of Washington will also have to win over sceptics within the bloc; the Baltic states and Poland are not in favour of any new defence pact excluding the US.

In addition perceptions within the EU states differ as to what is a threat to its interests. For example the Baltic states consider Russia as an existential threat as per geopolitical realities but Russia is a key energy partner for Germany, and an ally for Hungary.

Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel also backed the EU army idea in 2018, amid suggestions that the EU “could no longer count on the United States” under Donald Trump’s leadership. Other European leaders who had advocated for such an army have included Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Italy’s former PM Silvio Berlusconi, Czech President Milos Zeman and former Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka.

Pushes for an EU-force have public support, too. A 2017 Eurobarometer poll collated by Statista found that 74% of respondents in the Netherlands and Belgium supported the idea. In France and Germany, backing for the proposal was 65% and 55% percent respectively, but in EU’s traditionally more neutral countries, like Austria (45%), Ireland (46%), Finland (42%) and Sweden (40%) it was mellowed. In the UK, only 39% of survey respondents were in favour.

Other critics of the proposal include Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg himself, who has warned that an EU force “cannot defend Europe” without Nato assistance.

Military analysts say that most EU governments can’t investment more in defence and they are further concerned about the risk of undermining Nato. In 2019 EU’s 27 member states’ expenditure on defence stood at 1.2% of GDP compared with 3.4% by the US.

International security and defence analyst Brooks Tigner has also pointed to potential funding issues. In a 2018 opinion piece for the Atlantic Council, Tigner wrote that while the idea for an EU army might appear “impressive on paper”, but none has any realisation of what the collective cost of operations might be. He added that the bloc would have to resolve a plethora of other “technical, legal, and administrative differences” that would “boil down to the most mundane things such as soldiers’ rights”.

A leaders’ summit dedicated to European defence will be convened by Von der Leyen and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, in the first half of next year, when France holds the rolling presidency of the EU. The concept of an EU army would be debated and discussions will be held about “why this has not worked in the past” at the next summit Von der Leyen has said.

Overall, as in the past, this time too it seems that the idea might get turned down due to its feasibility but it would help politicians like Macron and other European leaders to root for more nationalism and nationalistic tendencies, independent of the US.

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on issues related to Muslims, education, geopolitics and interfaith)

Brexit Britain, The Boris Touch

Brexit seems to be one of those long Broadway plays that the Brits like, with pointless intrigues, family feuds and an ending that could be predicted at the beginning. A confined theatre is a British temple, Brexit is now being played in the boundaries of Britain with the whole world as spectator and Europe in the demonic role.  A new twist has been introduced to what was becoming the Brexit writer’s block. It has been spiced up with an unexpected Eastern flavour, the Boris touch, with the ending become ever more exciting, dramatic and cliff hanger. Boris has brought a new dimension into British politics, so far missing.

The West and particularly the English, like to be seen to be playing fair by the rules. Rule of law is the official religion of the United Kingdom. Like all religions, it is a fairy tale idealism which works for most things with some degree of hypocrisy but gets stuck when real life gets tough. When the ‘rule of law’ is not working for the English or comes to a dead end, the English scuttle around to find a loophole in the small print, divide the opposition, and transfer the blame. Usually it moves on with a deviant combination of creative energising of the almost hidden small print, confounding the opposition and aided by the lack of a constitution which enables flexibility in interpretation of ‘convention’. The history of the Empire is full of this tactic.

Unfortunately for the English, the Europeans are also immersed in this skewed game of rule of law and are familiar with the British tactic. Hence attempts at dividing the EU, at making the Europeans the scapegoat for refusing to accept a ‘messy and fantasy solution’, and failing to treat the Brits on par with the gods, has all failed. Remember, ‘gods’ are usually above the everyday laws of mortals. Along comes Boris Johnson to save a play repeating scenes under Theresa May. The public attention was waning.

Boris has a Turkish ancestry, on the great grandfather, so a percentage of him brings an Eastern approach now to the Brexit game. The East generally sees rule of law as a utilitarian tool used by the politically powerful while they remain above it. It is no wonder ‘rule of law’ does not appear to work as ‘equitably’ in most countries east of Greece as it seems in the west. Perhaps the difference is that in the west there is craft, pretence and play when rule of law is bent, whereas in the East, power dispenses with the drama and gets to the desired outcome unashamedly.

The UK has now brought in the ‘curry’ option. With the Brexit stasis becoming deeply sclerotic as Parliament could not find any road, lane or even a rope to pull itself through the self-imposed barriers, in came Boris with his eastern temperament woken.

He first warned the Brits of the great Turkish migrant invasion for which only Brexit was a defence. In April 2016, Mr Johnson warned: “I am very pro-Turkish but what I certainly can’t imagine is a situation in which 77 million of my fellow Turks and those of Turkish origin can come here without any checks at all. That is mad – that won’t work.” Now with his Turkish roots he is Prime Minister. Talk about ironic prophecy.

He has dismissed the sacrament of every convention and unwritten rule that has prevented the Crown to institute a proper Constitution and which defined the mystery of Britain. He found the greatest loophole. There is no written constitution so why not open the gaping hole that had so far been covered with customised verbal straw, that is convention. He has driven a bulldozer through propriety of office and government.

Extraordinarily, he is the leader of Britain that every politician and commentator who can say so does say so without embarrassment that he cannot be trusted! Imagine, a country being asked to live by rule of law, have integrity but its leader unashamedly is considered a pathological liar in office! Brexit has brought politics to this level. A new for the office of Her Majesty’s Prime Minister.

Boris prorogued Parliament (suspended now) for long period against convention until courts reversed it: and then against ‘traditional wisdom’ threw out the most staunch members of the Conservative Party who were considered its pillars if not foundation, including grandees and Churchill’s son; has says anything to anyone as they want to hear and then denies he said it; exploited the Queen in his machinations and even called Parliament to sit on an emergency war footing on a Saturday. The unwritten constitution has been exposed by him as the infamous Emperor’s non-existent clothes.

Like leaders in some eastern countries, Boris is pushing as far as is possible, breaking convention as far is possible and ignoring etiquette as far is possible until people go to the courts to stop him. If he carries on, sooner or later the courts will be in a knot.

Brexit has not been done yet but it has taken its toll. It is a war come home and grown into a multidimensional civil war. It is almost the Middle East without the violence. The different camps range from no Brexit, to a Brexit with no Deal to a Brexit with any Deal to a Brexit with a Deal with Customs Union with Europe (meaning obeying EU regulations) and a Brexit with labour laws aligned with Europe and so on.

The British parliament itself is a spectacle. No party can command complete loyalty, (except perhaps Scottish Nationalists). Parties dominating England and Wales all have conspirators galore now.

Britain, or at least England has changed and will change for ever after this. This is a tectonic phase in modern Britain. Calls for a proper written constitution are growing. Some are even predicting the end of the Monarchy on whom convention depended. Some are predicting a move away from the simple majority democracy that UK has and some are predicting a new phase in which smaller parties will reign, perhaps a proportional representation model of some European countries.

The end of United Kingdom is prophesised by many a pundit and politician now. Few think that the country can be united after three years of bitter differences. Scotland is gearing up for another referendum. Northern Ireland’s nationalists are muting a referendum to separate from Britain in near future. That leaves Wales and England.

It is also interesting that this country which ran a racist Empire once, now has its four most important positions in Government run by children of migrant families. The PM has Turkish roots, born in New York. The Foreign Minister is son of a Czechoslovakian Jewish father, The Home Minister is daughter of East African Gujratis and the Chancellor is a son of Pakistani immigrants. It shows how far Britain has come in being a real multicultural and multiracial country. With Brexit, a new Britain is rising as Imperial Britain is dying.

As for Brexit, Boris Johnson is likely to favour a Brexit Deal where Northern Ireland is ditched. The majority of English see Norther Ireland as a burden. He may even stitch up with Scottish nationalists and offer them a referendum. He is likely to get support from some Labour MPs so he can ignore the Northern Irish Unionists (those who want to remain within UK, DUP) who have been a major obstacle to any agreement on Brexit.

After all this real life and often humorous grand Brexit theatre which has made Comic halls irrelevant in London at the moment, and which has made West End plays appear as Children’s entertainment, the end game may still be another referendum and back into EU after a short Brexit. But Brexit Britain will have undergone fundamental change in these three years of internal trauma. It is already being seen very differently by the rest of the world but will be even more after the Boris touch at the heart of an Imperial power that made ceremony, pomp, convention and tradition the sacred unwritten constitution of Great Britain. All that is being blown away by Boris the Turk.

Brexit Deal: Has The European Union been duped?

the deal that the British establishment wanted anyway. The Brexit negotiations were high political war, entrapping the opposition to believe that ‘it has a winning plan’. Of course the EU had a plan, but the plan has been shepherded into a narrow pass where Britain can triumphantly walk away with the prize and fatally wound the adversary. What successive British Governments and the majority of voters wanted was an end to free for all immigration from Europe. The rest was irrelevant to the masses who flocked to the ballot box and ticked for ‘exit’ in 2016. Slogans such as sovereignty, free to trade with the rest of the world without EU rules, make our own laws etc etc do not impact on the ordinary Brit. The average person struggling to make ends meet is hardly going to become prosperous because British Business can ‘freely’ trade with China, India or Africa. His/Her lot remains the same. The British system like many capitalist systems, works in favour of the rich. The middle classes and the poor suffer whether they are in EU or outside. It is the businesses who compete outside Europe who want an economy without EU rules on worker rights, basic protections, protected hours etc. Essentially they want to create a China, India or Bangladesh in UK as a sweatshop economy that goes further than zero hour contracts. There are enough working class Brits and migrants who could be forced to live in even further poverty. The UN Special Rapporteur on Poverty has already given a damning report on poverty in the UK. Instead of concentrating on solutions, the Government has hit back taking the Trumpian approach ‘Fake News’. No doubt Prof Philip Alston started by saying the Government is in denial. Immigration is not the agenda of the Business class. In fact for many businesses, illegal migrants and even European labour was working out cheaper than hiring British workforce, whether in the farms, factories or even in the white collar sector such as computing etc. But this was becoming unsustainable against an angry British voter. The way out for businesses reliant on cheap labour was to force down wages within UK and do away with EU regulations on labour The British working classes like the poor in many countries become their own worst enemies by falling prey to propaganda. EU migration was easily controllable and manageable. Britain however chose not to do so. Two former Labour Home Secretaries have written on how this could have been done. On the other hand over the years, successive British Governments, most businesses who trade with EU and the general population have sought to have tariff free access to EU but without European oversight on labour standards. Of the four pillars of EU solidarity, the British public didn’t like free flow of labour, or rather EU citizens while the establishment didn’t like European working hour directives etc. In some ways that is exactly what has been achieved in this withdrawal agreement. United Kingdom will be able to close its borders to uncontrolled migration from Europe after the transition period. The populace will be happy, acquiring further misery unwittingly. Britain will have access to EU markets during the withdrawal agreement. Its hope is that during this period, Europe will see the benefit of friction free trade with United Kingdom or reach comfortable levels of tariffs that will ensure trade between the two. A healthy trade between UK and Europe benefits both. Low tariffs and some degree of seamless flow of trade will benefit both. No doubt the technicalities of enabling this will be found. Eventually when this settles, United Kingdom will have the freedom to strike deals with the rest of the world without EU constraints on standards. No doubt UK will be discreetly engaging in reaching trade deals as officially it won’t be permitted to do so while still in the transition period. With this clever move, UK will have succeeded in breaking two of the four pillars of European integrity, the free movement of people, and jurisdiction of European Court. That United Kingdom has to accept EU rules for this duration is neither here or there. That European Court will have final say in some cases, is also not really a sacrifice except for those emotionally hung up about ‘sovereignty’.  Most of the principles of EU laws have been written by British academics and lawyers anyway. After the transition period, EU remit will only apply to trade with EU. The two areas that the deal got stuck at is Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. Northern Ireland is politically sensitive. The Northern Irish loyalists, the Protestant community, want to stay within United Kingdom. A fact no one likes to say in public is that the English are not that keen on Northern Ireland. If they had their way, Northern Ireland would long have been freed from mainland Britain. The Northern Irish loyalists know this well. They know that if the circumstances are right, United Kingdom will shed Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has been a drain on UK resources for a long time. The current deal paves the way for that time to come. With special arrangements for Northern Ireland  to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, there will inevitably and de-facto be two separate regions in UK with different trade deals  and access to Europe. Effectively there will be two different jurisdictional arrangements, hence two different countries. Once that happens the political climate for a referendum to separate from UK will become ripe in Northern Ireland. The DUP, the party of protestant loyalists know that well. They also know that a significant number of protestant Northern Irish will vote to join the Republic of Ireland and separate from United Kingdom. The old animosities are fading away in the population. But for the hardliners, centuries of struggle by loyalists will be lost. England will be smugly satisfied. Europe will have done for it what it could not do by itself. This is also why Jeremy Corbyn is against another referendum in UK on EU membership. His links with and sympathies for Sinn Fein and its cause for northern Ireland to break from UK go back several decades if not most of his political life. A second EU referendum will deliver a vote in favour of staying within Europe thus frustrating the ambition of the Northern Irish republicans. After a bit of an opposition and with some further concessions by May, Labour Party under Corbyn is  most likely to vote for the current deal. His claims of being able to achieve a deal which keeps UK in a permanent free trade with Europe are humbug only to keep the large contingent of remainers in his party hoping. Gibraltar is another issue. The UK and Spain will come to some mutually agreeable arrangements. Again that is for another day. [caption id="attachment_33840" align="alignnone" width="300"] Michel Barnier, the Chief EU negotiator[/caption] Europe on the other hand has been a spectator to theatricals and drama in UK. The Brexiteers are genuine. Their campaign is genuine. Letting them jump up and down worked in favour of May. She could dupe the Europeans into thinking that what she was conceding was capitulation in the eyes of many of her country people. Having exasperated the Europeans for two years with the Brexit bulldogs been given an open season, Britain has managed to make Europeans think that PM May agreeing to some European Court oversight and accepting European rules during withdrawal is a risky sacrifice that she is making against the mightl of the powerful Brexit lobby.  The Northern Ireland dilemma does not bother the English but it is being played as an enormous and unsolvable problem. What Europe is losing is far more serious. Its determined stand to keep the four pillars to sustain its integrity is being slowly eroded. By blocking free movement and eventually getting a reasonable deal for trade, Britain will have set an example to other EU countries with nationalist movements pitched against European integration. In the Brexit deal are the seeds of European project coming apart.  Theresa May is a brilliant strategist. As usual, the British civil service has risen to the challenge with ingenuity, intrigue and cunning. As more and more British MPs realise the intrigue in the deal, the challenge to May is receding. Michel Barnier, the Chief EU negotiator and jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission President will have delivered a deal that the British wanted in the first place, outwitted by Oliver Robins, the civil servant masterminding the negotiations and Sir Tim Barrows, the UK’s representative to EU. As usual it will be a bit late when they realise the trap they walked into.]]>