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Brazil approaches India for global summit to discuss US surveillance

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331Global outrage against recent revelations of mass surveillance by the US government, which sparked discussions for a review of global surveillance guidelines, has led the Brazilian government to reach out to the Indian government for support for its proposal to host a one-off global summit, scheduled for early May 2014.

The move follows the angry speech by President Dilma Rouseff (pictured) on US surveillance at the UN General Assembly in September.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin confirmed the news. The surveillance issue had also come up during External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid’s visit to Brazil in October. Khurshid and his Brazilian counterpart had “expressed their concern” on the issue. These meetings were held in the week following ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé’s first visit to Brazil and meeting with Rouseff, that resulted in the proposal for the Brazilian 'summit', which caught all countries and internet communities unawares.

Surprise summit

Even ICANN’s closest constituencies — ISOC and IETF — have no clarity on the timing, purpose, process and outcome of such a one-off summit. Apart from India, Brazil is also reportedly in touch with other countries such as South Korea, Australia and now more likely, Germany, after it recently came to light that the US may have monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone for more than a decade .

ICANN held multiple meetings along with the heads of ISOC and IETF last week at the Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia to answer the questions of various stakeholders. Business and civil society remained sceptical about the meeting, given Brazil’s support for the ITU Treaty and inter-governmental model for Internet governance, with fears that this meet was being engineered to strengthen multilateral control of the Internet without a clear process for multi-stakeholder participation in decision-making.

Widespread scepticism

Scepticism at the Brazilian summit became acute as multiple tweets and webcasts from the IGF in Bali showed that the Brazilian delegation remained unclear about their stance on the multilateral versus multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance, often using the words interchangeably.

India’s concerns are graver. This is because, if surveillance, rather than evaluation of a multistakeholder model for transitioning internet governance, remains the main issue of the Brazilian conference — in line with President Rouseff’s UN speech and based on the Brazilian delegation’s statements in Bali — this would bring India’s Central Monitoring System (CMS) into focus.

An investigative report by The Hindu, ‘India’s surveillance project may be as lethal as PRISM’, published on June 21, revealed that the CMS was second only to PRISM in terms of size, lethal capability and an extraordinary ability for intrusion into citizens’ privacy, without much detail or guidelines in the public domain. Even at the IGF last week, the CMS attracted criticism for its opaque surveillance procedures.

Indian stakeholders favour removing the US government’s control over ICANN, even though that may not be directly linked to the predominant issue of surveillance, which has sparked the present anger sweeping global capitals. However, apart from a stronger role for the Government Advisory Committee (GAC), there is no clear roadmap for realigning ICANN. It is unclear whether the Brazil summit will deal with both surveillance and ICANN’s internationalisation, or predominantly review global surveillance procedures.

India’s dilemma

The External Affairs Ministry did not confirm if India has decided to support the Brazilian effort. However, if it does, it will be at the risk of defending criticism against CMS-related surveillance, while agreeing to attack the Americans on PRISM. The Indian government has been either defensive of, or silent on, the PRISM program since it has benefitted from the program.

Global businesses and the civil society seem comfortable discussing surveillance openly, but if governments — nearly all of whom engage in widespread surveillance — will support such discussion remains a mystery. Since the meeting in Brazil is proposed for May 2014, right in the middle of India’s general election, the likelihood of any senior political or bureaucratic heads leading India’s delegation also looks dim.

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.

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.

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.

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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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