ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 04/12/2017

The New York Times—Rick Gladstone / U.S. quits migration pact, saying it infringes on sovereignty

  • The Trump administration has quit participating in talks on a proposed United Nations agreement — the Global Compact on Migration — to improve ways of handling global flows of migrants and refugees.
  • The United States had been part of the talks since they began in April, the outcome of a political declaration in New York by all 193 members of the United Nations last year in favor of protecting the rights of migrants and refugees.
  • “While we will continue to engage on a number of fronts at the United Nations, in this case, we simply cannot in good faith support a process that could undermine the sovereign right of the United States to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders,” said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
  • Migrant-rights advocates expressed a mix of shock and bafflement at the Trump administration’s announcement, asserting that nothing proposed in the Global Compact would be mandatory. Some said the absence of the United States from the agreement could worsen the problems.

The New York Times—Anne Barnard, et al. / Talk of a peace plan that snubs Palestinians roils Middle East

  • Last month, the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas traveled to Riyadh for consultations with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Several sources report that, according to Abbas, MbS presented a plan that is more tilted toward the Israelis than any ever embraced by the American government.
  • The Palestinians would get a state of their own but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
  • Both the White House and the Saudis have denied that this is the plan they support. But even if the account proves incomplete, it has gained currency with enough players in the Middle East to deeply alarm Palestinians and raise suspicions about Trump’s efforts.
  • On top of that, advisers have said the president plans to give a speech on Wednesday in which he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinian officials have already said that move would threaten any chance of a two-state solution and could even provoke a new Palestinian uprising.

Politico—Guntram Wolff / Why Europe doesn’t need a finance minister

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has called for the creation of a European finance minister position. But the proposal is ill-designed and will create more problems than it solves.
  • Some will hope that a European finance minister will be a strict budget enforcer, finally bringing fiscal discipline to the bloc. Others will look forward to tapping the new EU fiscal resources. In reality, Juncker’s finance minister will have the power to do neither.
  • A better option would be to reform the Eurogroup. The Commission should move to make the Eurogroup presidency a full-time position with a clear mandate. Currently, the position gives rise to conflicts of interest between the president’s national mandate as finance minister and the interests of the eurozone as a whole.
  • Juncker is right in saying that Europe needs a joint discussion on the bloc’s budget. Emmanuel Macron’s proposed common initiatives — such as security and defense; border control and migration; research and common climate policies — would be a sensible place to start.
  • Juncker’s call to create specific mechanisms within the EU budget that would apply to the eurozone — without creating entirely new eurozone institutions — also deserves consideration.

Foreign Policy—Kenneth Roth / How not to fix the U.N. Human Rights Council

  • The Trump administration wants to reform the U.N. Human Rights Council. On one hand, it wants to improve the council’s membership to strengthen its willingness to address the world’s most serious abuses. On the other hand, it wants to abolish the council’s longstanding special agenda item on the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
  • Council rules leave the proposal of membership candidates to regional groups of governments, and many regions propose only the same number of candidates as positions available to it, largely circumventing the need for a vote and enabling serial rights violators to be elected by default.
  • Theoretically, a majority of the General Assembly could still vote against an awful candidate, depriving it of the majority required for election, but that has proved far more difficult than a positive vote for a better candidate.
  • Changing the council’s established agenda to eliminate Item 7 — on the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories — would require amending the council’s working procedures. That would risk initiating a constitutional debate about all of the council’s procedures, which could open a Pandora’s box.
  • In today’s environment of ascendant autocracy, seconded by Trump’s seeming view of multilateral rules as an invasion of sovereignty, there is no guarantee that regressive steps could be avoided.
  • There may be no stopping the administration from defending Israel’s abusive occupation, but it shouldn’t do so at the expense of a U.N. institution to which repressed people everywhere look for protection.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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