India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Conflict: Making Progress through International Law

By Georgia Marks

On the 27th February Dr Aman Hingorani came to the Temple of Peace to give a talk about the Kashmir conflict and suggest solutions with reference to his book ‘Unravelling the Kashmir Knot.’ John Harrington for the Law and Global Justice Research Group in Cardiff Law School introduced the speaker. Harrington gave some context to the speaker and his work, describing Dr Hingorani as an advocate of the High Court in Delhi. It appears that work in human rights is a family affair, with Harrington referring to Hingorani’s parents as the mother and father of public interest litigation.

Hingorani began his talk by explaining that his research into the conflict in Kashmir began as part of his PhD research. Hingorani described Kashmir as a strategically placed area, as geographically it is to the side of both India and Pakistan. He went on to establish that the two latter countries both want more territory and have both dug their heels in Kashmir, at the expense of lives. The two countries are at a stalemate as they both want to keep the territory that they have.

After a brief introduction, the speaker stressed that unless we understand the narrative we cannot understand the way forward. A member of the audience questioned how the historical background has shaped the current situation. To this the speaker answered that neither domestic not international law can resolve it, the issue is based in politics, but it is important to use law to adapt political discussion. He went on to say that the current phase of radicalisation is buried in the subcontinent. The situation described by the speaker as the creation of a situational environment of mutually hostile nations with heightened sense of nationalism. I think this is a really good point as we cannot find a solution to the conflict if we do not understand the history that led up to it.

The speaker then went on to establish the history associated with the conflict which gives a good overview of the reasons behind the current situation highlighted above. 1857 marked what Britain referred to as the Mutiny in India, but what Indians call the War of Independence. As a result the government became centralised and the Queen declared that no more provinces were to be acquired and certain sovereign aspects were given to other countries. Hingorani made the point that before 1857 Muslims were seen as the enemy of Britain, but after 1858, middle class Hindus were established as the new enemy. The official British policy was communalisation, where Britain gave India the freedom, however the country was incapable of resolving the Muslim-Hindu conflict. Britain then used this to enforce its influence, as it created the perception that India needed Britain to resolve such conflicts. In 1939, the beginning of the Second World War meant India was declared as a country in war. Hingorani stated that according to the British archives the partition was decided then and not in 1947. At this point, Britain knew that they had to leave the subcontinent but wanted to keep part of it, so India used Islam as a geographical boundary, with Kashmir falling within this. However, the speaker made clear that Indians did not want the partition. When the partition was refused, violence was used as direct action to force congress to agree; they eventually did which resulted in the Independence Act 1947. Britain used Pakistan as a means of gaining power and assumed that Kashmir would go to Pakistan, so when it did not, it led to the Kashmir issue. Hingorani described the Kashmir issue as being based on British interest on the subcontinent. This is an interesting comment to make as it suggests the detrimental effects British colonialism had on other countries. In this sense, I think it is debatable whether intervention on an international level would do more harm than good in this context unless intensely supervised by the UN.

The speaker then went on to explain why Kashmir did not go to Pakistan. The ruler of Kashmir was Hindu and did not want to be part of Pakistan, a country with an Islam majority, and instead wanted to be independent. However, Pakistan wanted Kashmir, but the ruler of Kashmir was difficult and so Pakistan forced the ruler to exceed to Pakistan through the use of weapons given by Britain. Therefore, from what Hingorani has established up to this point is that Britain have been an integral political part of this conflict and have contributed greatly to the violence in this area.

Hingorani then went on to describe it in terms of international law, if Kashmir exceeded to India then it cannot be vetoed. Kashmir was deemed by the speaker as an international issue that needed Pakistan to comment on it. He then went on to say that the minute that India refers to the UN, a ceasefire will be demanded. In my opinion, this would be the best possible option from a human rights perspective as it would help to prevent the violence inflicted on civilians in Kashmir. The UN Security Council expressed the desire for the future of the state should be decided under UN supervision and presented the idea to take Kashmir issue out of the domestic context and give it an international platform. Another member of the audience asked if there were any serious efforts of countries to refer to the issue on an international level. Hingorani said that there had been no effort on the part of these countries. Kashmir has always been seen as a political issue and we need to distinguish it from law. However, India is going against legal policies and law is seen as abstract and we do not have military, political or diplomatic solution. The main problem is that India is not sure about what the Kashmir issue is, so a political will needs to be created. I think to take the issue to an international level will benefit Kashmir as it will provide an international check and balance on the actions of India, Pakistan and other countries involved such as Britain, and would hopefully influence positive change in this area, particularly for the people of Kashmir.

The speaker then established that New Delhi had disowned the part of Kashmir owned by Pakistan while retaining their part, however part of Kashmir was owned by China. So clearly Kashmir is split dramatically which is detrimental for their national identity. In addition to this, the Chinese were investing money and wanted the deeds from Pakistan but an issue arises here that if Pakistan agreed to give over the deeds then they agree to the partition which is not what they wanted. India had a control constitution but in 1973, in order to seek territory, India needed to amend their constitution because there was a constitutional limit to give up territory and while there is a constitution, India cannot disown territory or people.

So after a dispute spanning seventy years, India wants a partition but Pakistan wants a whole state. Hingorani then went on to stress the need to depoliticise the issue by making it subject to legal analysis. I think this is a valid point as if the countries are currently at a stalemate then it seems right to change tactics and focus the discourse on a different analysis to see if a solution can be found. We do not know how successful it will be, but the conflict has been going on for so long, it seems that any alternative is worth trying.

The narrative was established by the speaker as a constitutional framework. Both Pakistan and India were created by controlled constitutions, so the question is where India got the power to grant the wishes of the people. The same law that created Pakistan made Kashmir part of India. The main question presented by Hingorani was this, how did New Delhi have the power of accession when the law did not give them the power. The speaker went on to express that as a first step to depoliticise we should let the International Court of Justice test who has the title. John Harrington asked whether reference to the International Court of Justice would have any effect on the serious human rights violations in Kashmir. Hingorani responded by saying that in such conflict there are bound to be violations, and in India there has been reference to the domestic court- people want to see results.

 

At the point in the talk, Hingorani referred to his book that has been the basis of his discussion. He wanted to make clear that he wrote the book as an Indian. He then emphasized that law cannot resolve the issue but it can change political discourse. I think that this is powerful as if law is capable of changing the current discussion then the countries involved can attempt to get themselves out of the stalemate they have got themselves in. Hingorani was asked if he had visited Kashmir and he said that he deliberately had not visited as he did not want to be swayed by emotions as he written the book as a lawyer. The speaker expressed that he did not want to take sides as his book is from a jurisdictional perspective. I think this aspect is also important as it provides a rational view of how the conflict can try and be solved.

The speaker then established the current situation; Pakistan feels cheated and Kashmir feels backstabbed, and these are ingredients for terrorism. That is why, Hingorani said, that the political discourse needs to be changed. The problem is that there is unequal bargain power between India and Pakistan because if Pakistan disputes legal propositions then there is no Pakistan. Nonetheless, the UN has recognised Pakistan and India as sovereign countries, however Kashmir was recognised as part of India but not part of Pakistan.

The speaker concluded by relaying the realities of Kashmir. As a result of the partition it is a violent society, with part of the country being disowned by India. However, the country just wants to be independent and away from this 70 year old conflict. There has been terrible trauma as a result of the partition and all countries involved need closure. When a member of the audience asked Hingorani how he classed what is going on in Kashmir. The speaker reaffirmed that Kashmir want independence because they were promised it. The people of Kashmir are expressly being denied their human rights, these people are stateless.

Overall, I found Hingorani’s talk insightful as it offered a fresh perspective on how to resolve the ongoing conflict. Using law as a way to bring about change although uncertain in its effect, is an idea that is bound to help with relations between the countries by giving the discourse a different platform. In addition to this, it is really important to establish the history behind the conflict in order to understand the narrative that we need to address. It cannot be argued that this issue is not pressing as the current situation is having a detrimental effect of the human rights of the people of Kashmir.

 

The Orlando Mass-Shootings: Homophobia or Terrorism

Megan Griffiths

On the morning of the 12th of June, the world woke up to the news of a mass shooting in a LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Another mass shooting. As the death toll in the Orlando shooting has increased to 49 people, debates on homophobia, terrorism and gun control have been stirred up. Mateen’s homophobic and religious motives are not mutually exclusive but entangled, and the events resonate painfully with both recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Ankara and Beirut but also, attacks on gay men and women in New Orleans and London.

In the next few days and weeks, as is the case with every act of violence, messages of solidarity, prayers and love will be sent from all over the world. Yet the range of different controversial issues will no doubt spark debate and will lead to an array of different perceptions of the deeper rooted issues in American society. It’s easy to point the finger towards terrorism, especially considering the inherent American fear of radical Islam. This crime cannot be simply ascribed to being an act of terrorism but as Obama pointed out, also an act of hate. According to Mateen’s father, Mateen became completely enraged when he and his young son saw two men kissing in Miami a few months back, and according to media speculation, it seems his sexuality may be more of a motivation for his actions than his religion. Statistics show that US Muslims are actually more likely to support same sex marriage (42%) than US evangelicals (28%) and are just as likely to support it as general US Christians, suggesting opposition to same sex relationships may not necessarily be a product of any particular religion but of their extremist factions.

T Lt. Governor Dan Patrick tweeted early on Sunday morning a bible verse from Galatians 6:7 ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.’ The very fact that a prominent political figure can take such an anti-gay stance in such a public way illustrates perfectly the depth of homophobia amongst certain Americans, and how, in some ways, it is actually accepted. A pastor from California gave an impassioned sermon on the shootings, lamenting that “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!” He went on to add that “I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.” If a member of the Muslim community used these words, they would likely be used as newspaper headlines to inspire shock amongst people. But due to his supposedly ‘Christian’ faith, the effect is not the same. What is more, Trump’s use of the attack to forward his ideas on banning Muslim immigrants shows the extent of his ignorance on the state of his own country. Mateen was born in America. Whilst he undoubtedly had outside influences on his ideology throughout his life, he was also brought up in an American society where there is often some form of negative stigma on being gay. Politicians such as Trump will use the attack to ignore the flaws in society and place the blame on anyone but straight white Americans.

Of course, America has made real progress in legalising same-sex marriage and equality for homosexual and transgender people, and indeed does not see this as a crime unlike some countries around the world. Still, the fact that this took place in a LGBT club, during the national pride month, needs to be observed and we should reflect on the homophobia and transphobia that evidently still exists. We should not become complacent in how far we have come. An attack directly on LGBT people has shattered the security that many people had come to accept and has revealed the deeper roots of hate, prejudice and insecurity that have evidently been bubbling under the surface of society. Through the juxtaposition and intertwining of terrorism and homophobia in this particular case, it is impossible to extract one from the other.

Indeed, to some, it is easier to simply place the blame for his homophobia on his radicalisation. It is easier to continue our debates on ISIS and terrorism strategies than also consider our attitudes to gays and lesbians, often a slightly taboo subject at the best of times. Owen Jones’ reaction live on air on Sky News shows just how sensitive the situation is and how people’s perceptions of the attack differ. But this totally ignores the fact that Mateen was brought up in America and was therefore exposed to home-grown ignorance and anti-LGBT rhetoric in American society and government which itself leads to marginalisation and violence against the community on a day-to-day basis. He may be Muslim, but is this actually relevant when we consider how anti-LGBT policies are a fundamental mainstream in many parts of America, regardless of faith.

It would be interesting to ask ourselves if the dialogue surrounding the shootings would be different if Mateen was not a seemingly radicalised Muslim, but an anti-gay Christian acting in the name of God. Where does the fact that, completely aside from his faith, he is cited to be a violent and perhaps mentally unstable individual fit in? Would the event have taken on the shape of a less high-profile hate crime? Or merely another mass shooting? By solely labelling it as a ‘terrorist attack’ and linking it to ISIS, it inspires a specific response in us due to recent events attributed to ISIS. The fact that homophobia is not exclusive to a single religion or belief system means that we cannot allow ourselves to simply focus on this as an ISIS inspired terrorist attack. Much focus has been placed on the fact that the attack marks the deadliest domestic terror attack since 9/11 yet it is also the largest targeted attack on the LGBT community since the holocaust.

Increasing acts of terrorism around the globe, coupled with the European refugee crisis, have led to general negative shifts in attitudes towards immigrants and often, islamophobia, ordinary peaceful Muslims are tarred with the same brush as radicalised extremists, leading to ill-conceived fears of Islam itself. Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in the US and the rise of right wing movements in Europe have led to a general increase in ‘hatemongering’. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al- Hussein warned that ‘Hate is becoming mainstreamed’. We cannot afford to allow this latest attack to inspire yet more hatred and fear by using Mateen’s Muslim faith as a scapegoat and exploit his faith to forward political agendas on terrorism. To do so blatantly ignores the cracks in tolerance and acceptance within our society and towards the LGBT community. Homophobia, Transphobia and Islamophobia all come together under the same umbrella of hatred and it is not until we have dismantled them all that we can be completely peaceful.

The shows of humanity in Orlando as people go out of their way to help and the messages of solidarity and vigils for the victims and the LGBT community held all over the world show us that love can indeed win. But love will only win if we don’t allow tragedies like this to inspire yet more hatred towards other innocent people. We owe it to the 49 individuals who lost their lives and their families.

 

The EU Referendum – A Welsh Debate

Georgia Marks

The rapidly approaching  EU Referendum is a highly discussed topic in the UK, currently dividing our public. On 8th June the WCIA held an event in the old library to aid the understanding of what it would mean for Britain both if we choose to leave or remain in the European Union. The insightful event featured three panels which consisted of three speakers. Although I came to the event with the view that we should remain in the EU, it was overall, a well-informed debate that will prove helpful for those whose minds are still undecided.

The first panel of the evening discussed society and law. Dr Jo Hunt established the framework for EU laws, expressing that they could be seen as both a straitjacket in terms of the restrictions put in place, but also that there is value in these laws such as the communication that we have with other countries. She then established that EU law is made by EU treaties which set out the scope for those institutions that have been given competence to act. The member states work together to make the legislation. In my opinion, surely this legislation is fair to the EU member states if they all participate in the creation of these laws. The European Commission proposes the legislation and it must gain approval from elected members of European Parliament. There is also increased involvement of our national parliament which has been strengthened slightly by February agreements. In terms of how this affects Wales, Dr Hunt stated that the Welsh Assembly have some say in relation to these laws and can be involved in the enactment of indirect legislation if it is relevant to the devolved nation. EU law is supreme, so national laws must not run contrary to EU law. For Wales, Hunt expressed that EU law could be seen as holding restrictions, however the framework provides for expansion.

Dr Hywel Ceri Jones put forward the case to remain in the European Union. He stated that the UK is safer and more through membership, particularly with the threats of terrorism currently plaguing society. He highlighted the importance of standing together to increase peace and reconciliation. Although our membership in the EU means that our sovereignty is to be sacrificed, Jones emphasised that this sacrifice was for the greater good. Those, like Jones, who want to remain in the EU, have an interest in being a full and active member in a strategic security membership. This a sound view, to be part of a group greater than just the United Kingdom will ensure higher levels of security, as we are part of a collective that are able to fight threats to our safety together by sharing strategy. Jones also discussed the unprecedented challenges to security, stating that the EU is a huge institution and it would be foolish to throw our membership away as we are not strong enough without it; British power has an added weight because of our membership in the EU. I completely agree with the statements made, as although the UK wields a lot of power, to stand alone would be detrimental, when we do not have enough influence to stand alone. Jones emphasised the point above by providing examples of how the EU affects Wales. Firstly, in terms of climate change, the global agreement last year was strongly led by the European Union and we need to be in the EU to implement these policies. This is a very strong example due to the increase in concern we have collectively as a society to the horror of climate change. Secondly, the EU provides protection for people of disabilities. To leave the EU, as Jones highlighted, will lead to higher debts and higher cuts in public spending. The leave vision was expressed as a “go it alone” vision, which may potentially ‘do away’ with the European Convention on Human Rights. This may create a Britain that would regard issues and rights for disabled people as unimportant. For example, the 2000 EU directive provides protection for disabled people in terms of employment. Jones concluded by stating that we are safer and more secure in the European Union, as we have a stronger voice and are better equipped to tackle global problems. In my opinion this is one of the most important reasons why we should stay in the EU.

David Rowlands for the leave campaign established that we have had basic rights and freedoms before our membership in the EU, most notably because of the frameworks laid by the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. In terms of our justice system, Rowlands stated that in the past thirty years there have been far-reaching changes. The Supreme Court is not its namesake at all, also European arrest warrants are not observed in all EU countries. Jones also emphasised that EU law sacrifices the supremacy of UK law, further reducing British sovereignty. As the EU is a higher power, surely this is an appropriate measure as it seeks to bring all member states in line with one another. Rowlands went on to express that Britain protects human rights and not the EU, so if we were to leave, there would be no question as to the preservation of our human rights. Rowlands concluded by stating that if our presence in the European Union means that we are losing sovereignty, to swap national law for EU law, simply put, would be foolish.

Within the Q&A session, Dr Jones questioned Rowlands regarding his stance on the Paris climate change deal. Rowlands responded by stating that he thought that climate change is cyclical and that the world was not warming. This of course shocked the audience and also the other leave campaigners on the other two panels as climate change ought not to be lightly dismissed.

The next panel looked at internal and international relationships. Dr Rachel Minto put forward the neutral argument in terms of the referendum. Firstly, she established that there are many different internal relationships that will be affected by the referendum. Additionally, she expressed that it may have an effect on the internal dynamics of the UK. Northern Ireland and Scotland are pro EU whereas Wales is split, so the nations may not vote in the same way, offering an uncertain narrative to the future of the UK.  Minto elaborated on this uncertain narrative, stating that if Scotland is pulled out of the EU against their will then this could constitute a second independence referendum. This could lead to Wales becoming the junior partner in the UK. Secondly, Dr Minto established that internationally there is both public and political discussion surrounding security and global issues in which Wales is under the “UK umbrella.” She concluded by saying that the referendum brings two big constitutional debates in which the EU and devolution are intertwined.

Baroness Julie Smith introduced her remain argument by stating that those who want to leave are under the illusion that the EU is undemocratic and that Westminster is the model we should look too. Understandably if we are to stay in the EU then there is room for improvement, it would be wrong to see Westminster as the ideal. Smith continued. saying that internal relations would be affected in the medium to long-term and that we should not exaggerate an immediate Scottish referendum. However, an immediate effect of Brexit would be a hard EU border for Northern Ireland, so free movement across the UK would likely end. Smith also highlighted that the potential for a second Scottish referendum could result in Wales also initiating an independence referendum. Although this is not guaranteed, I agree that it ought not to be lightly dismissed as it could drastically alter the continuation of the UK as we now know it. Baroness Smith expressed that it is better to be a part of the UK with the European Union. Internationally, Smith emphasised that the EU give the UK major influence, with issues concerning our importance if we are to leave. Smith noted Obama and Clinton have claimed that British influence in the world will diminish if we are to leave the EU and that we would have to re-establish relations for trading and for our place in the world. This is a very important reason as to why we should stay in the EU as losing our international influence will result in spending a lot of time and resources in order to regain our power in which we already have as a member of the EU. Could such time and resources not be better spent in initiating further reform within the EU itself?

Alex Moscovici provided the audience with what he described as a “less conventional” leave argument; the EU pushes an austerity agenda. Although he believes that there are some benefits to stay in the EU, he feels that the benefits of leaving are greater. One of his main points was about accountability; if we leave the EU, we will be able to hold our politicians to account without them trying to blame the EU. In terms of the continuation of the UK, Moscovici expressed that the UK will never survive out of fear of what the Scottish believe, yet the SNP are losing influence so could this help the UK to thrive. In terms of the UK and Ireland, he thinks that we do not need the EU to stop the violence, but we may need them for the borders. In my opinion this a fair point of view as we do not need a great institution to stop violence if we are a collective within UK, but the issues of borders will increase if we leave. He concluded by stating that the EU should be about making our own laws while still being amicable with our neighbours and that to say that either result is perfect would be silly. Moscovi’s argument is the most convincing of the leave arguments, perhaps because it is not one that is regularly put forward, so is more insightful.

In the Q&A session, a member of the audience asked whether the result of the referendum will be damaging to relations between the UK and other countries. Dr Minto stated that the G7 summit established that relations will be something that Britain will need to look into. Moscovici expressed the view that relations have already been damaged due to dishonest information, also in terms of the comments of the USA. Smith appeared to be in agreement by highlighting that the referendum has been unenlightening in that there is insufficient trust and respect. She also expressed that if we are to remain then we need to work on these relations. I agree with the statement that the referendum has been damaging on an international scale, but I also think on an internal scale in terms of the public and politicians due to dishonest information being published. How is the public expected to be properly educated on the referendum if we do not have enough information to guide us?

The final panel reviewed the effect on jobs and the economy. Ed Poole provided the audience with a neutral context, stating that the 2014-2020 EU budget saw a reduction for the first time in its history. The UK have always contributed to the EU, with our contribution being the second largest, yet our share is one of the smallest, with the UK making £9.8 billion in 2014 in the EU. Poole stated that the position of Wales is divergent. Wales receives a net beneficiary of £245 million per year, but Brexit will have a significant impact on Welsh policy.

Lord Dafydd Wigley started off his remain argument by stating that if we pull down the building blocks of the EU then it will be detrimental. He supported his statement with the example that companies from the USA and Japan are in the UK to export to the EU and the benefits of this type of business would decrease if we leave. In terms of agriculture, 90% of our exports will go to the EU and if we leave the EU we would face a tariff barrier between 40% and 70%. According to Brexit, European funding will be made up by Westminster, but Wigley was told that was going to keep the money instead, so we cannot trust Westminster with these funds. Economically, some things have to be done on a European level, in which we should play a positive part according to Lord Wigley. Lord Wigley provides a sound and well-informed argument, particularly looking at how leaving will affect Wales. So I think to remain, will be healthier for our economy, particularly in terms of trade.

Berwyn Davies provided us with the leave argument. He started off by stating that there is no such thing as European money and that it is simply the taxpayer’s money. This is a fair statement to make, but we have to make some sort of contribution to be a part of such a large institution; however, that should mean that we get more back from the EU if we contribute so much. He went on to say that the EU takes a large proportion of our exports and that this trade will not go away if we leave as we will go via the world trade rules where there is no critical difference in rate. Davies highlighted a key issue that the EU and UK do not want the same things. Personally I find this hard to swallow as if we did not share common goals then why would we have joined the EU? Davies continued by stating that the UK has created more jobs than the rest of the EU combined over the years of its membership. This is a fair point however, as we could use this to help other countries as we provide an example of a prosperous European country, and if we help other countries to improve then this will no longer be an issue. Davies concluded that it is better to take control of ourselves.

Within the Q&A session, a member of the audience questioned the uncertainty that either result will bring. Davies expressed the view that there will be a risk of increasing strangulation of the economy and that if we want a free trade agreement then we should not be under the weight of European regulations. However, Lord Wigley rebutted these points by stating that the term ‘strangulation of regulations’ is false as some regulations ensure that unscrupulous employers do not undercut employees and that these regulations are creating the emergence of a social Europe. These regulations are improving other countries more than the UK in some cases, but we should not be so quick to criticise the fact that we live in a society with fair employment law. Another member of the audience questioned how remaining will benefit entrepreneurs. Lord Wigley stated that entrepreneurs already have the opportunity to export to other countries and that the frustration due to the regulations is understandable. He stated that he is aware of the challenges but it is better to trade in a level playing field provided by the EU. Poole shared agreement with Wigley and stated that there is a reason for a level playing field so that trading can compete, but also expressed that it is burdensome.  Davies stated that he thought that leaving the EU will provide entrepreneurs with the opportunity to pay the living wage as well as being able to trade freely.

The debates were, overall well-informed throughout the event, however, it is the belief of the author that we should remain in the EU for safety within society and in order to uphold our international influence. Although the EU is not all rainbows and sunshine, the referendum should push the UK into becoming an active player in its reform. To leave the EU would be foolish when it provides us with a level playing field in terms of trade. Regardless of my opinion, I urge you to vote. The referendum on Brexit is likely to be a once in a generation opportunity. Take control. Let your voice be heard. On Thursday June 23rd, vote.

Welsh party leaders answer WCIA questions on global issues: Q5 of 6 / Arweinwyr pleidiau Cymru yn ateb cwestiynau WCIA ar faterion byd-eang: C5 o 6

Cymraeg

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UKIP were invited to participate but did not submit responses to the questions by the deadline.


Q5. Since 2008 there have been calls for a Wales Peace Institute – endorsed in 2013 by the Assembly’s Petitions Committee – to build on Wales’ peace heritage, contribute to social cohesion, and shape Wales’ role in the world for future generations, as a fitting legacy of the 100 years WW1 commemoration period. Would your party support this initiative, and what resources should the Welsh Government commit to a Peace Institute so that it can play the most effective role possible?

Wales Green Party

A Peace Institute is our party’s policy and will be a manifesto commitment of ours.

Welsh Labour

In line with the committee endorsement, we believe that there is a role for a Wales Peace Institute. However, we believe that this should be an institution separate from Welsh Government and owned by civil society in Wales.

Welsh Conservatives

Wales needs strong, resilient and harmonious communities. A Peace institution can help to create unity across Wales as well as shape Wales’ role in the world. Welsh Conservatives would ensure a Welsh Peace Institute would work with faith communities, third parties and local people to generate social cohesion, promote equality and increase citizenship.

Plaid Cymru

It was Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans who first called on the creation of a Wales Peace Institute in 2008. We continue to be committed to the initiative, and have worked with the Flemish Peace Institute, which we believe could serve as a model for the Wales Peace Institute. The Flemish Peace Institute has a strong focus on education, and since its creation it has ensured that tolerance and an insight into the role of conflicts be adopted as targets in secondary schools. We believe a similar role should be developed for the Wales Peace Institute, whereby the institute could help develop the curriculum, provide teaching information, assess current practise and provide practical support in achieving the aims of democracy and peace. The institute should put an emphasis on young people, and should work specifically to combat violence amongst and against young people in urban areas of Wales.

Welsh Liberal Democrats

We would support a Wales Peace Institute initiative, as an innovative and novel way to engage Wales further with the world and to promote peace and social justice. We would work to facilitate the creation of such an Institute. We acknowledge that a great deal of work still needs to be done, regarding the role, function and activities of a Peace Institute – in the next Welsh Government, we would seek to help facilitate these discussions. Potentially, we would explore whether the Assembly Commission would be a suitable source of support and financing.

Join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.


 


Arweinwyr pleidiau Cymru

Rhoddwyd gwahoddiad i UKIP gymryd rhan ond ni dderbyniwyd ymatebion i’r cwestiynau erbyn y dyddiad cau.


C5. Ers 2008, mae galw wedi bod am Sefydliad Heddwch Cymru – wedi’i gefnogi yn 2013 gan Bwyllgor Deisebau’r Cynulliad – i adeiladu ar dreftadaeth heddwch Cymru, cyfrannu at gydlyniad cymdeithasol, a llunio rôl Cymru yn y byd ar gyfer cenedlaethau’r dyfodol, fel etifeddiaeth priodol o gyfnod coffâd 100 mlynedd ers y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. A fyddai eich plaid yn cefnogi’r fenter hon, a pha adnoddau ddylai Llywodraeth Cymru eu rhoi i Sefydliad Heddwch er mwyn iddo allu chwarae’r rôl fwyaf effeithiol posibl?

Plaid Werdd Cymru

Mae Sefydliad Heddwch yn bolisi i’n plaid a bydd yn ymrwymiad maniffesto gennym.

Llafur Cymru

Yn unol â chefnogaeth y pwyllgor, rydym yn credu bod rôl i Sefydliad Heddwch Cymru. Fodd bynnag, credwn y dylai hwn fod yn sefydliad ar wahân i Lywodraeth Cymru ac yn eiddo i gymdeithas sifil yng Nghymru.

Ceidwadwyr Cymreig

Mae Cymru angen cymunedau cryf, gwydn a chytûn. Bydd sefydliad Heddwch yn helpu i greu undod ledled Cymru yn ogystal â siapio rôl Cymru yn y byd. Byddai’r Ceidwadwyr Cymreig yn sicrhau fod Sefydliad Heddwch Cymru yn gweithio gyda chymunedau ffydd, trydydd parti a phobl leol i gynhyrchu cydlyniad cymdeithasol, hyrwyddo cydraddoldeb a chynyddu dinasyddiaeth.

Plaid Cymru

ASE Plaid Cymru Jill Evans oedd y cyntaf i alw am greu Sefydliad Heddwch Cymru yn 2008. Rydym yn parhau i fod wedi ymrwymo i’r fenter, ac wedi gweithio gyda’r Sefydliad Heddwch Ffleminaidd – credwn y gallai hon fod yn fodel ar gyfer Sefydliad Heddwch Cymru. Mae gan y Sefydliad Heddwch Ffleminaidd ffocws cryf ar addysg, ac ers ei greu mae wedi sicrhau bod goddefgarwch a mewnwelediad ar rôl gwrthdaro’n cael eu mabwysiadau fel targedau mewn ysgolion uwchradd. Credwn y dylid datblygu rôl debyg ar gyfer Sefydliad Heddwch Cymru, lle gallai’r sefydliad helpu i ddatblygu’r cwricwlwm, darparu gwybodaeth addysgu, asesu arfer cyfredol a chynnig cefnogaeth ymarferol o ran cyflawni nodau democratiaeth a heddwch. Dylai’r sefydliad roi pwyslais ar bobl ifanc, a dylai weithio i frwydro yn erbyn trais ymysg ac yn erbyn pobl ifanc mewn rhannau trefol o Gymru.

Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru

Byddem yn cefnogi menter Sefydliad Heddwch Cymru, fel ffordd wreiddiol ac arloesol o ymgysylltu Cymru ymhellach gyda’r byd ac i hyrwyddo heddwch a chyfiawnder cymdeithasol. Byddem yn gweithio i hwyluso creu Sefydliad o’r fath. Rydym yn cydnabod bod llawer iawn o waith i’w wneud o hyd, mewn perthynas â rôl, swyddogaeth a gweithgarwch Sefydliad Heddwch – yn Llywodraeth nesaf Cymru byddem yn ceisio hyrwyddo’r trafodaethau hyn. O bosibl, byddem yn archwilio p’un a fyddai Comisiwn Cynulliad yn ffynhonnell addas o gefnogaeth ac ariannu.

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Welsh party leaders answer WCIA questions on global issues: Q4 of 6 / Arweinwyr pleidiau Cymru yn ateb cwestiynau WCIA ar faterion byd-eang: C4 o 6

Cymraeg

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UKIP were invited to participate but did not submit responses to the questions by the deadline.


Q4. What steps will your party take to maximise opportunities for young people to learn about global issues and become active global citizens?

Welsh Liberal Democrats

Education is vital to promoting and enhancing opportunities for young people. We have called for a curriculum for life, including a strong focus on political and social education.

We believe we should create a nation of ethical and informed young citizens of Wales and the world. Global education would support inclusive classrooms to build upon Wales’ heritage as a cohesive and welcoming country and help young people think critically about their role and impacts in the world.

Wales Green Party

Young people tend to be ahead of the wider community on many of these issues. The challenge is to maintain the passion that exists among many and channeling such passion into mainstream decision making. Research suggests that people who grow up in caring, supportive societies are much more likely to take an interest in, and act on global environmental and social justice issues. Creating a society like this is one way in which we can help young people become active global citizens.

Welsh Labour

We believe that retaining our membership of the European Union is one visible commitment to young people understanding their role in the wider world. The new curriculum in schools will also shape these opportunities.

Welsh Conservatives

Education is key in helping young people learn about global issues. We would ensure the national curriculum gives all young people the chance to learn about our ever changing global world and the issues it faces. Welsh Conservatives also believe it is important to give young people a voice in the decision-making process and would implement a young engagement model, such as Funky Dragon. Youth engagement and participation allows young people the right to represent their own interests as well as fostering a sense of citizenship and prepare young people to be active citizens in society.

Plaid Cymru

We live in a globalised world in which problems such as climate change, war and terrorism require coordinated global responses. Our education system must therefore have the aim of developing our young people into active global citizens who understand the problems facing the world, as well as their place in it.

We do not believe that this means relegating Welsh identity – we want the school curriculum to be based on a view of Wales within the European and international context, rather than being confined to just the UK.

Our higher education policy also reflects our outlook. We would expand our support for the Erasmus+ programme, and for the first time, we would provide student support for Welsh-domiciled students enrolling as undergraduates outside the UK. This would give students from Wales the opportunity to expand their horizons and to get the chance to develop into active global citizens.

Join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.


 


Arweinwyr pleidiau Cymru

Rhoddwyd gwahoddiad i UKIP gymryd rhan ond ni dderbyniwyd ymatebion i’r cwestiynau erbyn y dyddiad cau.


C4. Pa gamau fydd eich plaid yn eu cymryd i wneud y mwyaf o’r cyfleoedd i bobl ifanc ddysgu am faterion byd-eang a dod yn ddinasyddion byd-eang gweithredol?

Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru

Mae addysg yn hanfodol i hyrwyddo a gwneud y mwyaf o gyfleoedd i bobl ifanc. Rydym wedi galw am gwricwlwm am fywyd, gan gynnwys ffocws cryf ar addysg gymdeithasol a gwleidyddol
Credwn y dylem greu cenedl o ddinasyddion ifanc sydd yn wybodus ac yn foesegol o ran Cymru a’r byd. Byddai addysg fyd-eang yn cefnogi dosbarthiadau cynhwysol i adeiladu ar dreftadaeth Cymru fel gwlad gydlynol a chroesawgar ac yn helpu pobl ifanc feddwl yn feirniadol am eu rôl a’u heffeithiau yn y byd.

Plaid Werdd Cymru

Mae pobl ifanc yn dueddol o fod o flaen y gymuned ehangach ar nifer o’r materion hyn. Yr her yw cadw’r angerdd ymysg nifer a sianelu angerdd o’r fath i’r prif brosesau gwneud penderfyniadau. Mae ymchwil yn awgrymu fod pobl sydd yn tyfu fyny mewn cymdeithasau gofalgar, cefnogol yn llawer mwy tebygol o gymryd diddordeb mewn, a gweithredu ar faterion cyfiawnder cymdeithasol ac amgylcheddol byd-eang. Mae creu cymdeithas fel hyn yn un ffordd o helpu pobl ifanc ddod yn ddinasyddion byd-eang gweithredol.

Llafur Cymru

Rydym yn credu fod aros yn aelod o’r Undeb Ewropeaidd yn un ymrwymiad amlwg i bobl ifanc ddeall eu rôl yn y byd ehangach. Bydd y cwricwlwm newydd mewn ysgolion hefyd yn llywio’r cyfleoedd hyn.

Ceidwadwyr Cymreig

Mae addysg yn allweddol wrth helpu pobl ifanc i ddysgu am faterion byd-eang. Byddem yn sicrhau fod y cwricwlwm cenedlaethol yn rhoi’r cyfle i’r holl bobl ifanc ddysgu am ein byd eang sydd yn newid drwy’r amser a’r materion mae’n eu hwynebu. Mae’r Ceidwadwyr Cymreig hefyd yn credu ei bod yn bwysig rhoi llais i bobl ifanc yn y broses gwneud penderfyniadau a byddem yn rhoi model ymgysylltiad ieuenctid ar waith, megis Y Ddraig Ffynci. Mae ymgysylltiad a chyfranogiad ieuenctid yn rhoi’r hawl i bobl ifanc gynrychioli eu buddiannau eu hunain yn ogystal â meithrin synnwyr o ddinasyddiaeth a pharatoi pobl ifanc i fod yn ddinasyddion gweithredol mewn cymdeithas.

Plaid Cymru

Rydym yn byw mewn byd sydd wedi’i globaleiddio lle mae problemau fel newid hinsawdd, rhyfel a therfysgaeth yn gofyn am ymatebion byd-eang cydweithredol. Felly mae’n rhaid i’n system addysg gael y nod o ddatblygu ein pobl ifanc yn ddinasyddion byd-eang gweithredol sy’n deall y problemau sydd yn wynebu’r byd, yn ogystal â’u lle ynddo.

Nid ydym yn credu fod hyn yn golygu alltudio hunaniaeth Gymraeg – rydym am i gwricwlwm ysgolion fod yn seiliedig ar safbwynt o Gymru mewn cyd-destun Ewropeaidd a rhyngwladol, yn hytrach nag wedi’i gyfyngy i’r DU.

Mae ein polisi addysg uwch hefyd yn adlewyrchu ein rhagolwg. Byddem yn ehangu ein cefnogaeth i’r rhaglen Erasmus+, ac am y tro cyntaf, byddem yn cynnig cefnogaeth myfyrwyr i fyfyrwyr sy’n byw yng Nghymru ac sydd yn cofrestru fel israddedigion y tu allan i’r DU. Byddai hyn yn rhoi cyfle i fyfyrwyr o Gymru ehangu eu gorwelion ac i gael cyfle i ddatblygu i ddinasyddion byd-eang gweithredol.

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We asked Wales’ party leaders 6 questions about global issues. Here’s how they responded Q1 of 6 / Gofynnom 6 chwestiwn i arweinwyr pleidiau Cymru ynglŷn â materion byd-eang. Dyma eu hatebion.

Cymraeg

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UKIP were invited to participate but did not submit responses to the questions by the deadline.


Q1. What are the 3 most important practical steps you will take to implement the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act?

Welsh Labour

An incoming Welsh Labour Government will
1. act to meet the obligations of this ground breaking law,
2. ensure public bodies meet their obligations
3. publish the Well Being indicators for Wales so we can measure progress.

Welsh Conservatives

Sustainability is a key aspect of this legislation and must be at the heart of all our initiatives. We will therefore work with Local Authorities and public bodies to share best practice in this instinct and ensure that our acts of today do not compromise tomorrow.

We will work to create a sustainable economy; supporting renewable initiatives such as the Tidal Bay Lagoon coming to Swansea Bay. This way we can create jobs and investment in green energy sources. We will help businesses become more energy efficient, helping them to become more cost effective whilst preserving energy. We will also implement incentives – not penalties – which will encourage families and businesses across Wales to take up more sustainable practices such as recycling.

Plaid Cymru

We welcome the commitment under the Future Generations Act to publish a range of indicators related to the seven wellbeing goals as part of the Annual Wellbeing report. We will include in this report figures for GNP as well the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare and the Human Development Index.

We will ensure that Wales plays its part in cutting carbon and contributing to the global aim of tackling climate change, through increasing renewable energy generation and investing in Wales’ biggest ever home energy efficiency programme. This will contribute to all the wellbeing goals.

We will ensure that Natural Resources Wales’ overriding purpose is to be an environmental champion, charged with ensuring that future generations have a strong natural environment and that our natural resources are used sustainably. This will contribute to achieving all the wellbeing goals as it has an effect on health, equality, cohesion etc.

Welsh Liberal Democrats

1) The Act requires national indicators to be used to measure progress towards the Wellbeing goals. There are some areas where there is a paucity of data; this needs to be addressed so that indicators are accurate and progress properly measured.

2) It is vital to ensure that statutory targets associated with indicators are ambitious enough and are met within specified timelines. The new Environment Bill targets an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We would go further, setting the target at net-zero emissions by 2050, and producing 100% of our electricity from renewables by 2025.

3) Public bodies must have the support and resources to fulfil their new wellbeing duty. This duty represents a significant change to the way many bodies work and they need to be supported through this change. It is also important that Public Service Boards are appropriately resourced to carry out their work.

Wales Green Party

1. Ensure the existence of real and reachable targets to give substance to the Act to make aspirations applications
2. Construct review mechanisms to make targets reachable in shortest possible timespans
3. Put in place participative democratic methods to consult with the public on achieving the intent behind the Act.

Join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

Arweinwyr pleidiau Cymru

Rhoddwyd gwahoddiad i UKIP gymryd rhan ond ni dderbyniwyd ymatebion i’r cwestiynau erbyn y dyddiad cau.


C1. Beth yw’r 3 cam ymarferol pwysicaf y byddwch chi’n eu cymryd i roi Deddf Lles Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol ar waith?

Llafur Cymru

Bydd Llywodraeth Lafur Gymreig newydd yn
1. gweithredu i fodloni rhwymedigaethau’r gyfraith arloesol hon,
2. sicrhau fod cyrff cyhoeddus yn bodloni eu rhwymedigaethau
3. cyhoeddi dangosyddion Lles ar gyfer Cymru er mwyn gallu mesur cynnydd.

Ceidwadwyr Cymreig

Mae cynaliadwyedd yn agwedd allweddol o’r ddeddfwriaeth hon ac mae’n rhaid iddo fod wrth graidd ein mentrau. Byddwn felly’n gweithio gydag Awdurdodau Lleol a chyrff cyhoeddus i rannu arfer da yn hyn o beth a sicrhau nad yw deddfau heddiw yn peryglu yfory.

Byddwn yn gweithio i greu economi cynaliadwy; gan gefnogi mentrau adnewyddadwy fel y Morlyn Llanw sydd yn dod i Fae Abertawe. Drwy wneud hyn rydym yn creu swyddi ac yn buddsoddi mewn ffynonellau ynni gwyrdd. Byddwn yn helpu busnesau i ddefnyddio ynni yn fwy effeithlon, gan eu helpu i ddod yn fwy cost effeithiol tra’n cadw ynni. Byddwn hefyd yn rhoi mentrau ar waith – nid cosbau – a fydd yn annog teuluoedd a busnesau ar draws Cymru i ddechrau defnyddio arferion mwy cynaliadwy fel ailgylchu.

Plaid Cymru

Rydym yn croesawu’r ymrwymiad o dan Ddeddf Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol i gyhoeddi amrywiaeth o ddangosyddion sydd yn berthnasol i’r saith nod lles fel rhan o’r adroddiad Lles Blynyddol. Byddwn yn cynnwys ffigyrau ar gyfer CGC yn yr adroddiad hwn yn ogystal â’r Mynegai Lles Economaidd Cynaliadwy a’r Mynegai Datblygiad Dynol.

Byddwn yn sicrhau bod Cymru yn chwarae ei rhan o ran lleihau carbon a chyfrannu at y nod byd-eang o fynd i’r afael â newid hinsawdd, drwy gynyddu cynhyrchiant ynni adnewyddadwy a buddsoddi yn y rhaglen effeithlonrwydd ynni cartref mwyaf erioed yng Nghymru. Bydd hyn yn cyfrannu at yr holl nodau lles.

Byddwn yn sicrhau mai prif bwrpas Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru yw bod yn hyrwyddwr amgylcheddol, gyda’r cyfrifoldeb o sicrhau fod gan genedlaethau’r dyfodol amgylchedd naturiol cryf a bod ein hadnoddau naturiol yn cael eu defnyddio’n gynaliadwy. Bydd hyn yn cyfrannu at gyflawni’r nodau lles gan ei fod yn effeithio ar iechyd, cydraddoldeb, cydlyniad ac ati.

Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Cymru

1. Mae’r Ddeddf yn gofyn am ddefnyddio dangosyddion cenedlaethol i fesur cynnydd tuag at y nodau Lles. Mae rhai meysydd lle mae prinder data; mae angen rhoi sylw i hyn fel bod y dangosyddion yn gywir a bod cynnydd yn cael ei fesur yn briodol.

2. Mae’n hanfodol sicrhau bod targedau statudol sy’n gysylltiedig â dangosyddion yn ddigon uchelgeisiol ac yn cael eu bodloni o fewn terfynau amser penodol. Mae’r Bil Amgylchedd newydd yn targedu gostyngiad o 85% mewn gollyngiadau nwy tŷ gwydr erbyn 2050. Byddem ni’n mynd yn bellach, gan osod y targed ar sero-net o ollyngiadau erbyn 2050, a chynhyrchu 100% o’n trydan o adnoddau adnewyddadwy erbyn 2025.

3. Mae’n rhaid i gyrff cyhoeddus gael y gefnogaeth a’r adnoddau i gyflawni eu dyletswydd lles newydd. Mae’r ddyletswydd hwn yn cynrychioli newid sylweddol i’r ffordd mae nifer o gyrff yn gweithio ac mae angen eu cefnogi drwy’r newid hwn. Mae hefyd yn bwysig fod gan Fyrddau’r Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus yr adnoddau priodol i wneud eu gwaith.

Plaid Werdd Cymru

1.1.Sicrhau bodolaeth targedau gwir a chyraeddadwy i roi sylwedd i’r Ddeddf i wneud ceisiadau dyhead
2. Creu mecanweithiau adolygu i wneud targedau’n gyraeddadwy yn y rhychwant amser lleiaf posibl.
3. Rhoi dulliau democrataidd cyfranogol ar waith i ymgynghori gyda’r cyhoedd ar gyflawni’r bwriad y tu ôl i’r Ddeddf.

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What kind of Europe do we want?

By Stephen Thomas

As the intensity of the European Union ‘in/out’ referendum debate increases across the UK, I had the opportunity to visit the European Parliament in Brussels this month for the first time.

MEPs make decisions that impact upon the lives of 500 million citizens in this very room

MEPs make decisions that impact upon the lives of 500 million citizens in this very room

I was invited with a group to visit and explore the institution by the European Free Alliance (EFA), a grouping of elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from stateless nations, regions and minorities. In the 2014-2019 parliamentary term EFA MEPs have been elected from Catalonia, Galicia, Latvia, Scotland, Valencia, Wales and the Basque Country. Within the Parliament, MEPs work in political groups. EFA members have formed a common alliance in the European Parliament with the Green Parties since 1999.

The European Parliament

The largest of the several political groupings within the Parliament are the European People’s Party [Christian Democrats] (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).  With a total Parliament of 751 seats the EPP currently hold 219 and the S&D 191. EFA have 50.

Each MEP is chosen by an electorate from each of the 28 member countries of the European Union, representing a constituency of over 500 million people. Seats are also distributed, by and large, according to a Member State’s population. Germany, the largest country in population terms, has 96 MEPs whilst the smallest states of Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta have 6 MEPs each. Of the larger Member States after Germany, France has 74 MEPs and the UK and Italy 73 MEPs each.

As such the European Parliament is the only directly elected body in the EU and plays a key role in electing the President of the European Commission. It shares power over the EU budget and legislation with the Council of the European Union.

Council of the European Union

The Council represents the governments of the individual Member States. The Presidency of the Council is shared by the Member States on a six-month rotating basis. For the six months to December 2015 the Presidency is held by Luxembourg. The Presidency is responsible for driving forward the Council’s work on EU legislation, ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda, orderly legislative processes and cooperation among member states. To do this, the Presidency has to act as an honest and neutral broker.

The European Commission

Another major EU institution is the European Commission, the executive body. The Commission is responsible for proposing and implementing EU laws, monitoring the treaties and the day-to-day running of the EU. It represents the interests of the EU as a whole (not the interests of individual countries).

A new team of 28 Commissioners (one from each EU Member State) is appointed every five years. The politically important post is that of President of the Commission.

The candidate for President is proposed to the European Parliament by the European Council who decide on candidates by qualified majority, taking into account the elections to the European Parliament. The Commission President is then elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members (which corresponds to at least 376 out of 751 votes).

Following this election, the President-elect selects the 27 other members of the Commission, on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States. The final list of Commissioners-designate has then to be agreed between the President-elect and the Council. The Commission as a whole needs the Parliament’s consent. Prior to this, Commissioners-designate are assessed by the European Parliament committees.

The current Commission’s term of office runs until 31 October 2019. Its President is Jean-Claude Juncker.

Justice, Financial Management & Banking

The Court of Justice; The Court of Auditors and The European Central Bank are the other influential institutions that make up the European Union.

In defence of Liberty and Democracy?

The European Parliament is a unique example of multinational and multilingual democracy at work. The elected members (MEPs) engage in public debates and play a crucial role in shaping the policy of the EU. The principal areas of their work include the following:

Laws

The Parliament decides jointly with the Council of the European Union on laws that affect the daily lives of all EU’s citizens. These include topics such as freedom of travel, food safety and consumer protection, the environment and most sectors of the economy. Member States still have a veto right in areas such as taxation and foreign affairs/defence. Some areas require the Council to obtain the European Parliament’s assent before making a decision.

Budgets

Budgetary powers are the key prerogative of every Parliament — whoever allocates the funds has the power to set political priorities. At EU level, this power is shared between the Parliament and the Council. Together they adopt a multi-annual financial framework every 7 years, and scrutinise and approve the annual budget for the next year, as well as the spending from the previous year. The EU’s multi-annual budget 2014-2020 is €960 billion (yes, billion!).

Control

The European Parliament monitors the correct use of EU funds. The results of parliamentary elections are taken into account in the nomination of the President of the European Commission, but Parliament also has to elect the President and approve the appointment of the Commission and can force it to resign. Commissioners are often asked to defend their policies before the Parliament, and the president of the European Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy regularly appear in Parliament to brief the MEPs and answer their questions.

Over the last couple of years, Parliament has considerably increased the discussions it holds with all leading decision-makers involved with the euro in a bid to shed more light on the way monetary decisions are being taken. In this sense, the Parliament has become one of the only forums acting to improve the transparency of the governance of the euro area.

European Union – why?

Out of the ruins of 1945, there grew an idea amongst Statesmen that, in fostering economic cooperation between countries rather than pursuing imperial and nationalistic rivalries, the risk of another appalling conflict between major sovereign states in Europe would be reduced.  Cooperation based on free trade in several key resource areas (coal, steel and iron ore) was its starting point in a hope that it would build a peaceful and prosperous future for all the peoples of Europe. To a large extent this idea has worked and Europe, indeed the world, has avoided horrors on the scale of the 20th Century’s two world wars.

Few believe however that nirvana has been created with the growth and development of European integration, far from it. The last 70 years since 1945 has continued to witness global tragedies, wars, famine, death and destruction on an appalling human scale. Walking around the European Parliament’s Visitors’ Centre brings these events very much to the mind in a poignant, interactive virtual trip through Europe, its history and its impact on the peoples of the world.

Meeting some MEPs and hearing their ‘stories’ left me feeling that the Parliament does contain elected representatives with strong ideals and a real belief in the concepts of fairness, justice and effective democratic government. They didn’t believe the current European institutions were by any means perfect but were seen rather as a continuing ‘work in progress’ that had evolved far beyond their origins as the European Coal & Steel Community of 1952.  Institutions that continue to engage people and politicians of many persuasions, nationalities and languages in debate, for a peaceful common cause. Controversial topics such as TTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership with the United States); the impact of austerity policies resulting from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the democratic predicament raised by the events in Greece pose real challenges for the European Union and its future.

Achieving fairness and justice while maintaining our liberty and freedom is never easy, particularly in our 21st Century multi-layered system of government. It can appear confusing, difficult to understand and sometimes repellent. Yet, as individuals we each carry a responsibility to defend our hard-earned democratic rights and take every opportunity to stand peaceably against the forces of regression who will work to undermine them. An essential first step, surely, is to find out more about how our democracy really works and how we can support it. This has, perhaps, never been more important than right here, and right now.

Learn more about the European Parliament, and the EU in general, here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/visiting/en/parlamentarium