Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has unveiled perhaps his most ambitious initiative ever: to rid the world of war.With continued world anxiety about the nuclear threat posed by the rogue regime in North Korea, this is an objective that merits genuine commendation. The central Asian nation has, in fact, been working on reducing international nuclear tensions for the past 28 years, writes Colin Stevens.
The threat from nuclear weapons, as President Nazabayev has said, strikes a deep chord within the landlocked, oil rich country.
For 40 years, Kazakhstan was a test site for nuclear weapons. The fall-out from these tests at Semipalatinsk - of which over 100 were above ground - has left a terrible legacy. A generation later, the deaths and deformities continue.
Kazakhstan is a key player in any discussion about the nuclear threat: it has 12% of the world's uranium resources.
In 2009 it became the world's leading uranium producer, with almost 28% of world production, then 33% in 2010, rising to 41% in 2014, and 39% in 2015 and 2016.
Some years ago, President Nazabayev ordered the closure of the Semipalatinsk site. At Kazakhstan's urging, the date of August 29 has now been commemorated officially by the United Nations as the International Day against Nuclear Tests.
Kazakhstan followed this move with an even more historic initiative when it voluntarily renounced the world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal, which the country had inherited on the break-up of the Soviet Union
Indeed, by April 1995, Kazakhstan transferred all of its Soviet-era nuclear weapons to the Russian Federation.
Kazakhstan also initiated a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for an International Day Against Nuclear Tests, inaugurated in 2010, in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
The country, a non-permanent member of the UN security council since January this year, also supports the “Humanitarian Initiative”, which calls for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons as an assurance that they will not be used "under any circumstances."
In April 2016, President Nazabayev took arguably his most ambitious anti-nuclear initiative yet when he launched “The World. The 21st Century”, a wide-ranging manifesto designed to end the plague of war.
In a speech at the time, he said, “Nuclear weapons and the technology that produces them have spread all over the world due to double standards of the main powers.
It may be just a matter of time before they fall into the hands of terrorists. International terrorism has gained a more sinister character.”
He added, “It has moved from isolated acts in individual countries to a large-scale terrorist aggression across Europe, Asia and Africa. Our planet is now on the edge of a new Cold War which could have devastating consequences for all humankind. This threatens the achievements of the last four decades.”
So, what exactly does the manifesto say?
Well, it calls on the world community to take comprehensive action towards the elimination of all nuclear weapons. First, it says there must be gradual progress to a world free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
It also argues that the international community must build on and expand existing geographical initiatives to gradually eliminate war as a way of life.
It is necessary to eliminate such relics of the Cold War as military blocs, which threaten global security and impede broader international cooperation, it adds.
A fourth recommendation is to adapt the international disarmament process to the “new historic condition”.
Finally, the Manifesto states that a world without war requires primarily fair global competition in international trade, finance, and development.
President Nazabayev defends the policy by saying, “We should think hard about the future of our children and grandchildren.”
We must combine the efforts of governments, politicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, and millions of people around the world in order to prevent a repetition of tragic mistakes of past centuries and spare the world from the threat of a war.
A senior source at the European Commission told this website that Kazakhstan deserves “much credit for its ongoing efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons”.
He added: “For the past two decades, Kazakhstan has been a strong advocate of nuclear non-proliferation and this is something that most certainly should not be under-estimated.”
“The country is conducting a multi-vector foreign policy which is based on preventing war and to save the planet from nuclear weapons.”
For over four decades in Semipalatinsk on the barren steppes of Kazakhstan, the Soviets detonated 456 nuclear weapons.
They called this site, a vast testing area the size of Belgium, the Polygon.
The last nuclear explosion here was in 1989. Today, 28 years later, villagers are still suffering the consequences of heavy radiation.
Today, surely, there can be no greater example of why the international community urgently needs to throw its weight behind President Nazarbayev’s various anti-nuclear initiatives.
Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro
Eurogroup ministers discussed the international role of the euro (15 February), following the publication of the European Commission's communication of (19 January), ‘The European economic and financial system: fostering strength and resilience’.
President of the Eurogroup, Paschal Donohoe said: “The aim is to reduce our dependence on other currencies, and to strengthen our autonomy in various situations. At the same time, increased international use of our currency also implies potential trade-offs, which we will continue to monitor. During the discussion, ministers emphasized the potential of green bond issuance to enhance the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate transition objective.”
The Eurogroup has discussed the issue several times in recent years since the December 2018 Euro Summit. Klaus Regling, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism said that overreliance on the dollar contained risks, giving Latin America and the Asian crisis of the 90s as examples. He also referred obliquely to “more recent episodes” where the dollar’s dominance meant that EU companies could not continue to work with Iran in the face of US sanctions. Regling believes that the international monetary system is slowly moving towards a multi-polar system where three or four currencies will be important, including the dollar, euro and renminbi.
European Commissioner for the Economy, Paolo Gentiloni, agreed that the euro’s role could be strengthened through the issuance of green bonds enhancing the use of the euro by the markets while also contributing to achieving our climate objectives of the Next Generation EU funds.
Ministers agreed that broad action to support the international role of the euro, encompassing progress on amongst other things, Economic and Monetary Union, Banking Union and Capital Markets Union were needed to secure the euros international role.
European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case
The ruling by the Strasbourg-based court rejects a complaint by Afghan citizen Abdul Hanan, who lost two sons in the attack, that Germany did not fulfil its obligation to effectively investigate the incident.
In September 2009, the German commander of NATO troops in Kunduz called in a U.S. fighter jet to strike two fuel trucks near the city which NATO believed had been hijacked by Taliban insurgents.
The Afghan government said at the time 99 people, including 30 civilians, were killed. Independent rights groups estimated between 60 and 70 civilians were killed.
The death toll shocked Germans and ultimately forced its defence minister to resign over accusations of covering up the number of civilian casualties in the run-up to Germany’s 2009 election.
Germany’s federal prosecutor general had found that the commander did not incur criminal liability, mainly because he was convinced when he ordered the airstrike that no civilians were present.
For him to be liable under international law, he would have had to be found to have acted with intent to cause excessive civilian casualties.
The European Court of Human Rights considered the effectiveness of Germany’s investigation, including whether it established a justification for lethal use of force. It did not consider the legality of the airstrike.
Of 9,600 NATO troops in Afghanistan, Germany has the second-largest contingent behind the United States.
A 2020 peace agreement between the Taliban and Washington calls for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1, but U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the deal after a deterioration in the security situation in Afghanistan.
Germany is preparing to extend the mandate for its military mission in Afghanistan from March 31 until the end of this year, with troop levels remaining at up to 1,300, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.
Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation
On 16 February, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the modernization of EU justice systems. The EU aims to support member states in their efforts to adapt their justice systems to the digital age and improve EU cross-border judicial co-operation. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders (pictured) said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of digitalization, including in the field of justice. Judges and lawyers need digital tools to be able to work together faster and more efficiently.
At the same time, citizens and businesses need online tools for an easier and more transparent access to justice at a lower cost. The Commission strives to push this process forward and support member states in their efforts, including as regards facilitating their cooperation in cross-border judicial procedures by using digital channels.” In December 2020, the Commission adopted a communication outlining the actions and initiatives intended to advance the digitalization of justice systems across the EU.
The public consultation will gather views on the digitalization of EU cross-border civil, commercial and criminal procedures. The results of the public consultation, in which a broad range of groups and individuals can participate and which is available here until 8 May 2021, will feed into an initiative on digitalisation of cross-border judicial cooperation expected at the end of this year as announced in the 2021 Commission's Work Programme.
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