SUNY MEUSPAPERS 2014

All issues of the SUNY MEUSPAPER from January, 2014, Brussels Summit.

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Many thanks to the Press Corps team:

Editor-in-chief: Lital ElKoubi

Design/copy-editors: Sylvanna Dussan (New York desk) & Noreyana Fernando (Sri Lanka desk)

Staff reporters: Brian Campbell, Marsha Cohen, Sean Dunn, Orkun Guven, Joao Id, Roberto LoBianco, Hanna Nesich, Mary Wachtel.

Adviser: Elmer Ploetz

Thank you all for being such a committed team,

Here is a copy of the award we have all deserved!

award

Sincerely,

Lital.

27th Annual SUNY MEU conference comes to a close

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 By Marsha Cohen

All good things must come to an end. So on Saturday, the 27th annual SUNY Model EU simulation wrapped up another successful conference. One hundred and fifty students from colleges across the world came to Brussels, Belgium to act as delegates from EU member states, and tackle issues that the EU faces.

While students were gearing up to face issues in the boardroom, they first had to conquer the task of getting to the conference. Participants from schools such as Jamestown Community College, and a few students from SUNY Fredonia, did not arrive to the conference till later in the week because of a snowstorm that hit the western New York area.

“What many people don’t know is that four years ago we had the conference in Linmark, Ireland, and we lost half of the delegation due to weather issues,” conference coordinator Kathleen Dowley said.

Interruptions like this year’s have led Dowley and other members of the Model EU planning team, to contemplate holding the conference at a different time.

“There was a point in time where we did consider holding the conference in May; that way we could avoid weather mishaps,” she said. “But then we really thought about it, and we would lose out on a lot of students who work and who are engaged in their summer activities.”

The next 2015 SUNY Model EU conference date has been announced for March 26-28 in New York, N.Y., where the conference was held last year.

Some students said there were significant differences between having the conference in Brussels and New York.

“I feel like there is more pressure this time around,” said Laura Hirst, foreign affairs representative of the Czech Republic. “We are working closely with Vesalius College, and you get a different perspective from a school that’s actually in Europe.”

Hirst is a senior from SUNY Fredonia who participated in the conference last year in New York.

“Talking about European issues in Europe is very different than doing it in New York,” she said. “It’s a lot more concrete in Europe which makes sense, because everything is right here.”

Hirst is not the only student who recognizes the procedural differences between the U.S and Belgium.

“I feel like they put a lot more emphasis on the rules here,” Victoria Banach, finance minister of the Czech Republic, said. “Things like Robert’s Rules are emphasized here a lot more than they are in the States. In the U.S. you just learn about the European Union, but the European kids are a lot more familiar with the procedures.”

Banach is a junior from SUNY Fredonia, and has been part of Model EU on campus since last year.  She said there were also social differences between the conferences.

“When you’re in your own country, you are more outgoing, but when you are in a different setting I feel like you’re more reserved,” Banach said.

Banach also discussed her goals for next year’s conference and where she sees herself being placed.

“It’s going to be my final year, so I’ll probably be in [Heads of Government] and take on a higher role, not just at the conference but with the club on campus as well,” she said.

As the eventful week comes to a close and students look ahead to next year’s conference, faculty members reflected on what they like the most about the conference.

“It’s a lot of fun to give out the awards at the end of the conference, and watch the students’ demeanor change,” Dowley said. “They go from getting mad at each other over procedures, to making friends and collaborating more.”

Heads of Government conclude committee discussions

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By Hannah Nesich

Despite setbacks and controversies, EU prime ministers were able to pass two supplementary items and a set of recommendations in the Foreign Committee, Finance Committee and Committee of Permanent Representatives on the closing day of the SUNY Model EU simulation.

The heads of government’s main agenda addressed the EU diplomacy in Iran; the foreign ministers’ proposal for changes to the Common Security and Defense Policy of the EU; ECOFIN’s agenda regarding innovation and services in digital economy as a solution to youth employment; the COREPER agenda focused on asylum and immigration; and the Treaty of Dublin II.

The first supplementary item that the prime ministers passed addressed the EU’s willingness to help their neighbors, EU-Ukraine trade talks and the EU’s support for elections in the future.

“The EU supports fair and democratic elections in the Ukraine in January 2015,” the proposal stated. “The EU is willing to support their elections to prevent tampering with the results. The EU is willing to extend this date if Ukraine wishes to accept it. Call for all parties to respect the democratic process and the sovereignty of Ukraine.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron wrote and presented the proposal, along with the prime ministers of Belgium and Croatia.

Cameron said he was dissatisfied with how much discussion surrounded the wording of the proposal.

“It very much surprised me that there was such an issue with the wording of the bill, given that in the end, we passed proposals that were very similar to the original,” he said. “A great majority of the group was unwilling to specifically address Russia while doing so anyway in lesser terms that made it very unclear what they were talking about.”

He said he was not completely satisfied with the outcome, and that he thought the original proposal’s text became too compromised throughout the discussion process.

“We need a trade deal with Ukraine to grow their economy and to continue growing ours, and that isn’t being pushed forward,” he said. “That really isn’t going to go anywhere if we aren’t willing to include the primary reason that the trade deal was never signed. Russia needs to be included in some ways so that we know this is going to go somewhere; that Ukraine will grow and become a stronger nation that will have increased sovereignty.”

The second supplementary item that passed was regarding data protection laws, and required open talks with the U.S regarding the safe harbor principle with the purpose of renovating the self-reporting scheme. It also included data protection in Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade talks and increased funding in European technology companies.

The policy said the UK will be exempt from the above recommendations given legal contracts already established.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wrote the proposal, said she was content with every aspect of the finished bill.

“I personally knew that number one of my first recommendations was not going to pass,” she said. “As a negotiator, I believe you should start with an extreme to get what you want because to everyone, you’re compromising. To you, you’d be getting what you already figured you’d be getting anyway.”

During the day’s press conference, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, said he was happy to announce that the heads of government passed their two supplementary resolutions.

“We have agreed to resume talks with Ukrainian government,” he said. “Both parties have something to gain from this. We are no longer in the age of zero-sum game or one party winning. I would like to extend an appreciation to my delegates for being engaged with the topic this morning and making good progress.”

At the final meeting of the day, the heads of government passed recommendations from Foreign Committee, Finance Committee and Committee of Permanent Representatives. During the ECOFIN discussion, a representative motioned to seal the chambers. The vote was passed and all observers and the MEU Press Corps were removed from the room, an illegal action, according to the Model E.U. Student Handbook. The Press Corps was let back into the room minutes later.

The prime minister of Lithuania was one of two delegates who voted against the motion.

“It was unnecessary and an abuse of power from the delegate of Croatia,” he said.

Unexpected changes in position shake the Foreign Affairs Council

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By Brian Campbell

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday morning, Catherine Ashton, foreign affairs chair and high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the EU, said she was “hopeful that the afternoon meeting” would be positive and “finish off strongly”. However, the rest of the day proved challenging for the foreign ministers.

 After the ministers returned from lunch, the Swedish Foreign Minister informed the delegates that “if this council does not remove recommendation #1 from the drafted resolution, the Swedish Prime Minister will veto the entire resolution.” Recommendation #1, which was passed Friday by unanimous vote, stated that any peacekeeping operations by individual member states must be approved by the European Council.

 “That’s an infringement on national sovereignty,” Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said after being summoned by the foreign ministers. “You’re requiring that member states seek approval before responding to a national security threat, and the EU should not have that power. We do not want further political integration with the EU than we already have.”

The German Foreign Minister responded by asking Reinfeldt “what would make the amendment more appropriate?” to which Reinfeldt replied “removing it entirely.”

The French Foreign Minister agreed with Reinfeldt, stating “[France] has the same issue Sweden has. What if France chooses to militarily intervene in a conflict that it believes could threaten its national security?” said the minister.

Ireland responded saying all member states “would have to bring this debate to the UN Security Council anyway” and that “having the EU approve the operation as a whole would just be more efficient and show more caution.”

Continuing to counter Sweden and France’s argument, the Irish Foreign Minister said Sweden was contradicting itself stating that while recommendation #1 was being formulated, “Sweden was actively working to expand the recommendation’s power,”and even said that the phrase ‘national interest’ is too broad” for the recommendation.

The Foreign Minister of Hungary said he was frustrated at Sweden’s method of achieving its foreign policy goals.

“This is turning into a one-man show where Sweden is undermining our collaborative effort. This is not how Europe works. It is a collaborative issue.”

After some debate, Prime Minister Reinfeldt agreed to compromise. “I know you guys have been working hard on this,” he said.“So if the Foreign Ministers agree to replace ‘national security’ with ‘national interest’, Sweden will consider changing its vote.”

 In response, an amendment was passed inputting ‘national interest’, and the foreign ministers, including Sweden, unanimously agreed to pass the entire resolution for submission to the Heads of Government.

 Once the resolution reached the Heads of Government, another policy shift, this time by the UK, prevented the resolution from being passed.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said that due to a “miscommunication between the British Foreign Minister and [himself], the UK misunderstood the resolution” and intended to veto it.

Cameron explained that legal agreements on foreign policy prevent the UK from voting in favor of the resolution.

“The only resolution the United Kingdom would be willing to pass would be recommendation #3. Only with an opt-out clause for member states will we agree to it.”

According to Cameron, a “legal agreement between US and the UK regarding surveillance already exists that contradicts this resolution.”

The foreign ministers reconvened to address the UK’s concerns and revise the resolution. A new recommendation was introduced, which states that all prior legal agreements that conflict with the resolution will take precedence.

In a final vote following this revision, the Heads of Government passed the resolution, with 28 in favor and zero abstentions.

Personal attacks overshadow issues at ECOFIN Committee session

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By Sean Dunn and Lital El Koubi

In an objection speech to a recommendation amendment to “liberalize” competition law, the Minister of Malta stated that the addition of an opt-out clause could be a simple concession made for those states apprehensive of the proposal.

Responding to the minister’s statement, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso,  said “to add an opt-out clause would be stupid because if it is passes, it will go to the Heads of Government where it will be stricken. The head of government of Malta has been spoken to and he is in support of the recommendation.”

In a short interview during lunch, the Minister of Malta spoke of the proposal that dominated the morning’s debate, stating that he supported more unified competition law to close loopholes, preventing larger states from outcompeting smaller ones and allowing smaller states to more easily conduct digital commerce at the European level.  He was dubious, however, of the recommendation as penned stating that the term “standardization” was “almost purposefully ambiguous.”

Upon recommencement, a quickly approved French amendment proposal changed “standardization” to “liberalization”.  With this change, all ministers voted to approve, with the exception of Malta, leading to the display of bullying tactics.

Responding to President Barroso’s statements, the Minister of Malta expressed his personal indignation and stated that he had not been informed by his head of government of the alleged change in support, prompting the committee to take a short recess to provide the Maltese minister a special opportunity to speak with his head of government.

Upon his return, the Minister of Malta maintained that his head of government was opposed but that he would abstain prompting the committee to approve the recommendation.

Two distinctly divided camps had developed in the morning, primarily between smaller states and larger states. Among the small states, Croatia, Cyprus and Slovenia argued that as their digital sectors are not highly developed, the “standardization” of competition laws would reduce barriers for entry into those sectors and corporations from larger states could gain a dominant position in them before local digital economies can develop.

“Small member states would be at a true disadvantage if standardization of competition laws would come into effect,” Croatia’s finance minister said. “You cannot standardize competition laws inside those smaller member states whose market is completely different than that of larger member states.”

Among larger member states, there were those smaller member states, such as Romania and Bulgaria, which argued that by creating a less complicated regulatory environment, the benefit to the entire union, including small states, would be great, drawing investment and free enterprise in the digital economy.

Over the course of the morning, debate became increasingly adversarial.  In response to the Cypriot minister’s declaration that she remained to be convinced of the benefit to her constituents, the Minister of Denmark asserted that Cyprus was not an important economy in the EU, going further to say “if you don’t have much, you can’t lose much.”

This transpired after two failed attempts by Croatia to strike the recommendation from the record and suggestion by Germany for the many opposing states to abstain in order to allow the legislation to pass.  Despite the gridlock that characterized most of the day, the recommendation was eventually passed, with the abstention of Malta.

When asked for comment on the events of the day’s session, the minister of Malta expressed disappointment.

It has been an interesting two-day summit at the European Parliament for the Economics and Finance ministers. With four proposal recommendations passed, ministers displayed grounded will and dedication in the mission of stabilizing the economy.

The summit’s final recommendations were passed to the Heads of Government, and although it was rumored that UK Prime Minister David Cameron would not approve one of the recommendations, this was not the case and all of the recommendations were approved.

Speaking about the summit’s accomplishments, the secretariat said “we had several fears in regards to visible and rumored opposition to certain points. Yet we were able to pass through that and come together in the spirit of the EU to find solutions that benefitted the union as a whole, rather than focusing on national self interests.”

Delegates recognized for MEU excellence

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By Lital El Koubi

It has been a productive summit in the European Parliament. One hundred and twenty delegates arrived in Brussels on Thursday to start intensive meetings on issues relating to security, economics, immigration, defense and foreign affairs. With the closing of the summit, awards were distributed to select delegates and delegations that exemplify the EU’s philosophy and spirit.

 Delegates received awards based on their performance throughout the summit. The award of “Most Diplomatic Delegate” from the Heads of Government was awarded to Helle Thorning-Schmidt, prime minister of Denmark. From the foreign ministers, Austria took the title; and from the finance ministers, Germany took the title. The “Most Diplomatic Delegate” award in the Committee of Permanent Representatives was awarded to the European Parliament’s new Presidency of Hope, the Hellenic Republic.

 The title of “Delegate Most Likely to be Absent from Heads of Government Meeting” was distributed to the X of Malta. The “Most Persistent Delegation” award for the two-day summit went to the editors, reporters and photographers of the SUNY MEUspaper, which covered the meetings that took place throughout the summit, profiled speakers and delegates and discussed issues relevant to the EU.

Inspired by the EU’s spirit of uniting youth with the tool of education, a special award sponsored by the Brussels-based Vesalius College was also given away. The “Vesalius College Young Scholars” award was presented to a team of high school students whose project on European Culture and Citizenship was selected by a jury of Model EU representatives, Vesalius College professors and an EU official.

 Additionally, I as the editor in chief of the MEUspaper also received recognition for the logo I created for the summit, which was not only symbolic of Brussels and the EU, but was also deemed a fitting symbol of the summit as a whole — symbolizing cooperation, commitment and networking.

Decisions made at COREPER as asylum seekers numbers rise

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By Joao ID

The final meetings of the Permanent Representatives Committee summit, addressing the asylum seekers issue in the EU, came to a close on Saturday.

The Arab Spring uprising has led to a humanitarian crisis, causing a significant increase in the number of asylum seekers over the last few years in the EU. The asylum seeker issue remains high on the agendas of the Union as the number of asylum seekers continues to increase.

 The European Union’s Member States’ high representatives were able to achieve two final resolutions. One of the resolutions, proposed by the High Representative of Poland, called for the retention of the member state clause of the Dublin II regulation. The Dublin II regulation protocol expedites asylum applications and aims to increase transparency in the process. The regulation will continue to create a sub-clause that distributes funds for managed entry of asylum seekers based on the ratio of asylum seekers and refugees to the population of the receiving  member state, in accordance with the already set international minimum standards for refugees.

The second resolution proposed on the final day of the summit creates a Common European Asylum Seeker System for all member states. The first clause will establish a voluntary joint processing system to share responsibility for asylum seekers among EU member states. The system will also call into attention EU member states’ refugee centers that have reached their maximum capacity. Additionally, the system will include briefings for refugee integration prospects and procedures and will focus on distributing not only integration briefings to member states on asylum seekers, but also briefings on immigration across the EU.

The recommendation also addresses asylum seeker responsibility in the EU, saying that “the determination of the country responsible for a claim should not result in transfers to member states that cannot both guarantee a full and fair hearing of asylum claims.”

Funding directions were also taken into consideration with the recommendation, saying that the processing system will be implemented through the European Refugee Fund of the Commission.

All 27 delegates voted unanimously in favor of the policy recommendation, with only Denmark abstaining.

Further recommendations were to be addressed to the European External Action Service as it is not within the purview of the COREPER.

Overall, it was a busy 48 hours for the Permanent Representatives Committee, which was charged with tackling issues as sensitive as immigration and asylum seekers.

SUNY MEU Heads of Government meeting

The Heads of Government discuss hot topic issues such as data protection and Iranian diplomatic talks.

HOGs Welcome New Relations with Iran

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BY HANNAH NESICH

The heads of government finished their primary agenda and began debating the supplementary agenda items on their first day in on Friday’s official kick-off of the SUNY MEU simulation summit.

The prime ministers’ primary agenda item addressed diplomacy in Iran, and featured recommendations about treaties, sanctions and relations with the United States.

The committee passed a motion that would allow delegates to open an EU embassy in Tehran to ease decades of tension and to allow more direct contact between the two parties.

Four of the five agenda items were struck down due to time constraints and the fact that some recommendations already had resolutions, according to President of the Council Herman Van Rompuy.

“Those that were ready to be discussed were already passed, so we shouldn’t discuss something that already has a resolution to it. But I think it’s very important that we also focus on the positive aspect of what happened,” Van Rompuy said. “As I mentioned, the negotiations are messy and they will continue to be so, but in this mess the European Union always finds a consensus.”

The delegates seconded an amended version of the recommendation allowing an ambassadorial team to explore the benefits of establishing a permanent embassy in Tehran.

Another delegate raised a motion to pass the original proposal, allowing delegates to open an embassy in Iran, because she said an EU embassy has already been established in Iran. The motion passed.

Once the primary agenda was officially completed, it left the floor open for the consideration of supplementary agenda items.

The first supplementary item that was discussed addressed the common European Union Protection Law. It recommended a set of laws that deals specifically with data protection and the establishment of clearer regulations on how data is shared with countries outside the European Union.

Eventually, the delegates voted to table the item until Saturday and added an amendment related to the United Kingdom.

The second supplementary item that was discussed was about the European Union’s relationship with Ukraine and social issues that should be considered while discussing action to take in that region.

Throughout the meeting, some delegates expressed irritation about how the session was being conducted. During the first press conference, Van Rompuy said the committee chairs were working to improve communication between delegates and the presidency team regarding the parliamentary procedures.

“We are working to make it easier. Some things could have been said in the beginning of the meeting. We will address them. I believe we are making progress,” Van Rompuy said. “We are heads of government after all; we represent national states and interests of the European Union. It’s difficult to find a line to divide. Everyone is really working hard to find that line.”

After the first press conference, the president of the European Commission said she was disappointed at how the committee meeting was being run.

“I think there is a lot of tension in the room between the countries themselves and the president of the council, including the secretariat,” she said.

As the day concluded, the president of the council announced the meeting’s accomplishments, including an agreement to establish an embassy in Tehran and a goal to discuss E.U. security data policies and the EU’s relationship with the Ukrainian government on Saturday.

Exclusive Interview with Lady Catherine Ashton

By Joao Lucas, Vesalius College

            While waiting for the opening of the European Council Meeting, staff writer Joao Lucas sat down for a conversation with Lady Catherine Ashton, high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice-president of the European Commission. Lady Catherine Ashton was appointed High Representative under the Lisbon Treaty that addressed the new missions and challenges of the European Union and its member states. The High Representative of the EU is the President of the Foreign Affairs Council, head of the External Action Services and President of the European Defence Agency. During the interview, Ashton spoke about her expectations for the outcomes of the conference and highlighted new challenges that the EU could face in the coming years.

           Ashton first discussed the Economic and Finance Committee’s agenda item, “Economic and Service in Digital Economy as a Solution to Youth Employment”, because today some EU Member States account with over 25 percent of unemployment among people between 18 and 25 years. She said “providing security by job creation is one of the biggest challenges that the EU faces today and it’s a topic high on the agenda of the summit”. Furthermore Lady Ashton stated that “Youth is an important key to the future of the EU”.

      Ashton also addressed the question of whether it is feasible to allow Turkey to join the member states in the supranational Institution.  Since the 1950s, Turkey has been requesting to be a part of the EU, but with their claims over north Cyprus, which is part of the EU, their request has been denied and highly debated. This poses a problem for the EU as Turkey is a key country in providing energy for member states. Ashton said “any country that follows EU recommendations related to financial and cultural aspects should have the right to apply for a membership in the EU, and Turkey has been improving standards by Europeanizing their political governance and aiming to have their government and society to be more similar to Western governance standards”.

           Ashton also spoke about the future of Common Defence Security Policy (CSDP), as 2013 was her last year as High Representative of Foreign Affairs for the EU.

Lady Ashton has been known for a inclination for a more civilian approach from the EU whereas Javier Solana, the former High Representative of CSDP, sought a more military response from the Security and Defense management. Nonetheless, Lady Ashton said the CSDP will be the main focus of the Committee: “We will try to reach an agreement that will permit the Union to be self-sufficient in the defense industry.” She also said “the EU’s previous work has been ongoing in three areas: increasing their effectiveness, visibility and impact of the CSDP; enhancing the development of defense capabilities; and strengthening Europe’s defense industry.”

Ashton also commented the EU’s achievement in its progress with the diplomatic discussions with Iran over nuclear weaponry.

In December 2013, however, EU representatives were disappointed when the Belarusian Supreme Court convicted one criminal defendant to the death penalty. Lady Ashton said “the EU opposes capital punishment under all circumstances.” She also said “the death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent, opposing to act as well under a law that foster human dignity and integrity”. Contradiction prevails in previous arguments over whether a civilian approach is really being used, as Lady Ashton supports a military approach by highlighting the importance of EU’s military defence to enhance their position in the international organizations spectrum.

Will the EU achieve its goal in pushing forward more effective development of the CSDP? Only time will tell if the outcomes of this summit will present a framework that compels the EU’s real capabilities, while it is passing through a turmoil during the financial crisis.

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