A report on human rights and democracy in Morocco shows the EU’s growing role as a “soft power” - writes Colin Stevens. The report, by Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l, a leading Brussels-based rights organisation, was published in the European Parliament on Tuesday.
A conference where it was dissiminated was hosted by S&D and ALDE groups in the European Parliament. Ilhan Kyuchyuk, a Bulgarian MEP from the ALDE group, said it illustrated the EU role as a “soft power” in helping to bring positive change to countries like Morocco.
The report “Human Rights in Morocco: Achievements and Challenges Ahead” comes after an extensive study by the NGO.
Kyuchyuk, a keynote speaker, said, “The EU does have a real voice and influence in helping to leverage the sort of improvements this report is recommending."
The exhaustive report commends the Conseil National des Droits de l’Homme (CNDH), an independent body set up in March 2011, as a potential model for other countries in the region looking to improve human rights.
HRWF director Willy Fautre welcomed significant progress in the country in some areas of civil society but cited the freedom of association as being an issue of "concern."
There are 4,500 human rights associations in the country but Fautre told the conference that the notification process before an association can gain legal status, as required by the government, was often prohibitive.
Fautre praised Morocco for “real progress” but noted that the report highlights areas which “still need to be tackled.”
“The CNDH has been instrumental in bringing about real and positive change in Morocco but, as is outlined in the report, further progress is needed.” According to Fautre, The CNDH fully complies with the Paris Principles and holds constructive dialogue without concessions with authorities.
Fautre added, “The fact finding mission in Morocco was designed to identify the most urgent issues and this report seeks to analyse these in detail. It also shows that EU soft power can contribute to promoting human rights in this country and elsewhere.”
Colin Forber, a researcher at HRWF, said one deficiency was in education, pointing to a 28 per cent illiteracy rate among Moroccan children. Other problem areas, he said, include child marriage rates, particularly high in rural areas, and the use of corporal punishment.
Elisa Van Ruiten, a gender specialist at HRWF, also reported significant progress as well as problems in the field of gender equality and violence against women. The constitution revised in 2011 allows for equality of male and female Moroccan citizens and the Moudawana (Family Code) revised in 2004 allows for improvement of women’s rights, making it easier for women to get divorced and providing more rights regarding the custody of children, she added.
Dr Ahmed Herzenni, a human rights export who helped draft the 2011 constitution in Morocco and once served a 12 year prison sentence for defending human rights, welcomed the reservations the report makes saying he is “optimistic” these will be taken on board by the authorities in the country.
He said, "Remember, this is still a relatively young democracy so there is still some way to go."
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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