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PACE calls for enhanced co-operation between Council of Europe and #Kazakhstan

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The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Standing Committee adopted Nov. 24 Resolution 2193 (2017), which calls for enhanced co-operation between Kazakhstan and the Council of Europe. The resolution states that the assembly recognises “the importance of Kazakhstan as one of the pillars of stability in the Euro-Asian region and called for co-operation with this country to be stepped up.”

It portrays Kazakhstan as “a leading actor in addressing challenges faced by Central Asia, including terrorism, drugs trafficking and security issues related to the situation in Afghanistan.”

“On the international scene, Kazakhstan must be praised for its positive contribution to dealing with major international problems such as the nuclear programme of Iran and the crisis in Syria,” the PACE resolution reads.

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Noting that “the political establishment and society at large in Kazakhstan see Europe as a reference point in terms of political, legal, institutional and cultural development,” PACE says, “the political leadership of Kazakhstan has repeatedly stated its commitment to democratic transformation of the country, and has recently initiated a series of reforms aimed at strengthening democratic governance.”

“However, the pace of reform has been slow, the political system remains highly centralised, democratic culture has yet to take root among citizens and dialogue between civil society and the authorities is at a very early stage,” the resolution states.

The assembly further “appreciates the fact that Kazakhstan is party to several Council of Europe conventions, and has requested to accede to a number of other instruments, including in the fields of criminal justice and the fight against corruption.” It goes on to encourage Astana to make greater use of the expertise of the Council of Europe, particularly that of the Venice Commission, in the reform process and to accede to Council of Europe conventions that are open to non-member states. Kazakhstan joined the Venice Commission in 2011.

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The parliamentarians added that the current co-operation under the “Neighbourhood Co-operation priorities for Kazakhstan” – focusing on reform of the justice system – should be extended to other key areas where the Council of Europe can make a meaningful contribution. They also called upon Astana to complete the internal procedures it started in 2013 for becoming a member of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), an institute established in 1999 by the Council of Europe to monitor states’ compliance with the organisation’s anti-corruption standards.

The European parliamentarians also encouraged their Kazakh counterparts to make full use of the 2004 co-operation agreement with PACE and to participate more dynamically in activities organised by the Assembly and its committees.

The resolution was based on a report written during one and a half years by PACE Vice President Axel Fischer of Germany. The 16-page report by this member of Bundestag from CDU gives a wide-ranging analysis of the situation in Kazakhstan and an overview of reforms being implemented inside the country and President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s international initiatives.

“Kazakhstan is a country with great interest in, and important potential for, developing further cooperation with the Council of Europe, especially bearing in mind the ambitious projects of political reform and the possible contribution to this process which our organisation can make,” said Fischer in his report.

Fischer also laments that in some European countries, “there has been a degree of reluctance to go further ahead in enhancing relations with Kazakhstan, and to look at it as just one country of the region among others, without paying due attention to its particularities, the role it plays in ensuring regional stability and its wish to move closer to European standards in the process of modernisation.” He then quotes former Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov, who in a meeting with the PACE delegation on June 1, 2016, said “the time has come to ‘adjust the glasses’ through which Europe views Kazakhstan.”

Convinced that stronger relations and enhanced co-operation between the Council of Europe and Kazakhstan would be beneficial for both sides, Fischer urges Kazakhstan to take advantage of “the Council of Europe’s experience and expertise in accompanying countries on the path to democratic transition.”

The Parliamentary Assembly is one of the two main statutory bodies of the Council of Europe, a 47-nation organisation, and is made up of parliamentarians from the national parliaments of the Council of Europe’s member states.

Kazakhstan formally established cooperation with the Council of Europe and its structures in 1997. Although not a member of the Council of Europe, it participates in its partial expanded agreements that allow countries outside the organisation to work together with the council on issues of mutual interest.

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Economy

Issuance of green bonds will strengthen the international role of the euro

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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.

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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.

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EU

European human rights court backs Germany over Kunduz airstrike case

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An investigation by Germany into a deadly 2009 airstrike near the Afghan city of Kunduz that was ordered by a German commander complied with its right-to-life obligations, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday (16 February), writes .

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.

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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.

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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.

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EU

Digitalization of EU justice systems: Commission launches public consultation on cross-border judicial co-operation

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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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