UK says Russia should be stood up to, but not antagonized

Mirela Petrova/Press Corps

Mirela Petrova/Press Corps

The Heads of Government laid the foundations for improved diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation on Day 2 of SUNY Model EU conference on Friday.

The way in which the HOGs proposed to do this is with a resolution titled “Proposal for the Betterment of European Relations with the Russian Federation.” This resolution was spearheaded by Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. He drafted the bill after much talk about how to handle the conflict with the Russian Federation.

The conference started with the delegation discussing the most important aspects of improved diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation. Then the majority decision was reached: the conference wants to limit sanctions and lose the dependency on Russian energy.

The conference also decided that it wishes to remain as diplomatic as possible, but to not show weakness. UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Russia needs to be stood up to, but wishes to not antagonize the world power and cause a war.

France also wanted to discuss the possibility of increasing the battle groups, whose main purpose would be to battle the Russian Federation if necessary. The French proposal was shot down by the majority of the conference as the formation of battle groups would be viewed as a sign of aggression by the EU.

The core of this resolution actually lies in the beliefs held by Bettel. Bettel stated he believes the best way to improve relations with Russia is to go to into negotiations on an equal playing field, and that the best way to do that is limiting the consumer- supplier relationship the EU has with Russia.

The resolution has some interesting points worth mentioning. The first is the 11th principle, which simply states that the EUs will lift the current sanctions until Russia acts in good faith. This principle shows that the EU is willing to work Russia, but only if the federation works with the EU. The resolution also ensures that Russia acknowledges that the current sanctions are proper as they deserved it with multiple aggressive maneuvers.

The resolution calls for increased funding for energy research, while supporting infrastructure development in the EU. The idea of this resolution, according to Bettel, is to improve friendly relations with the Russian Federation, and to ensure that each party looks at each other as equals and nothing more.

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Foreign ministers focus on irregular migrants from North Africa, Turkey

By Brian Ang and Jonathan Hanley

All 28 members of the Council of Foreign Ministers gathered on Friday at City College to address irregular immigrants entering from areas such as entering from North Africa and Turkey in hopes of seeking asylum within the countries of Europe.

With instabilities mounting in Africa and Syria, these paths into Europe are only becoming more popular, and more deadly. More than 21,000 people have lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean to date; with over 165,000 crossing, the death count can only grow. The Foreign Ministers sought to remedy this problem by attempting to create a well-funded EU run ‘border patrol’ to combat irregular immigration, and the loss countless lives of immigrants who only wanted to better their own futures or escape oppression from their home countries’.

During these debates the foreign ministers searched for any sort of conventional, or unconventional solution to the issue at hand, including exploring the idea of changing the rights to citizenship and creating different tier systems for would be immigrants to try to be more accommodating.

Additionally, one agenda proposal that was successfully finalized today was to target the European Neighborhood Policy, which includes the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and Frontex Operation that’ll aid those sectors most affected by economic adjustment and transition. Agencies such as Frontex Operation and CEAS are meant to help establish a system where asylum is granted to people to people fleeing persecution or serious harm in their own country while still maintaining it’s cooperation between national border guards that are in place by the Union to combat irregular immigration and terrorist infiltration.

However, there has been much criticism expressed by some Foreign Ministers for their concerns of figuring out where these and how much immigrants are coming into European Union states for refugee.

There are currently more agenda items that still need to be looked over with careful consideration before passing it, when sessions resume tomorrow. These include developing better resources for real time surveillance of the North African coast, the Mediterranean and the border between Greece and Turkey. The UK foreign minister wanted to expand this proposal by wanting to “establish refugee centers in North Africa and Turkey in order to promote legal immigrants through educating immigrants and asylum seekers.”

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COREPER face tough issue of immigration and citizenship policy

By Julian Bohm & Theresa Ziegler

The COREPER had some tough decisions to make with regard to handling immigration and citizenship policy. The topic was a very sensitive issue for it’s a fundamental question. The question of national citizenship is not only a national question; it´s also a question for the whole EU. In fact, the question is also very timely among to the current rising tide of immigrants.

The permanent representatives discussed creating an EU-wide immigration quota, a universal EU visa and the question if individual member-states should be allowed to “sell” EU citizenship.

After the first part the discussion almost every member contacted the heads of government if they should approve to that. The plan is to found an agency staffed by two people form each member state. They also discussed strict rules for immigration.

Every member-state had another reason for why they think so or what is the exception in immigration and exception in a solution. One point is that immigration could be a benefit for some countries. But also corruption could be a problem for places like Romania. For example, Finland wishes more border-controls in places from which immigrants come from.

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US-EU tariff barriers are relatively low, says EU delegate Pena

Roberto G. Pena, a member of the EU delegation to the United States, visited Model EU committee sessions on Friday and addressed ECOFIN.

Press Corps reporter Susi Lange spoke to Pena about his impressions of the conference and the current status of EU trade with the U.S.

 

Susi Lange:

What do you think are the biggest issues facing EU trade with the United States?

Roberto G. Pena:

They are related in the non-tariff barriers. The tariff barriers between the EU and the US are relatively low, I think about 4 percent or less. There are some products where it is a little bit higher. So generally tariffs are small barrier, because they make the goods more expensive. But the real barrier are non-tariff barriers, so behind of border measures. These are regulatory measures related to products and required a different standardization. Or if you take in the sector of automobiles, different headlight requirements or the brake light has to be in the center or the brake light has to be about the real light. The EU and the U.S., you wouldn’t believe it, have hundreds of different standards related to that, so to import a European car like a car with European specs into the U.S., sometimes they actually cannot or they have to modify a lot things in very small ways that don’t necessarily always improve the level of safety. It’s just a different standard. So oftentimes these things cause companies to spend a lot of money on compliance. And then that makes products more expensive. You’ll be surprised how many different regulations are between the US and the EU. They somehow went into different directions. That’s the top issue at the moment.

Pena

Mirela Petrova/Press Corps

 

 

SL: How do you think can trade relations between the two regions can be improved?

RP: The EU and the U.S., they have a really healthy level of dialogue. They also have those Transatlantic Trading Investment Partnership negotiations, which are taking place. Both sides are developing new ways to avoid these unnecessarily differences. Or can they find a way to prove the sharing of information or early notifications. Can they let the other jurisdiction know? Would they allow the other jurisdiction to come and feed suggestions to the process?

 

SL: What are some U.S. demands in terms of trade?

RP: Chemicals is a big tradable sector. Automobiles is a huge sector. Manufacturing goods, but increasingly services trade is very important. The U.S. is highly competitive in services sectors, so it has a strong interest in ensuring that companies can export services.

 

SL: Are there any EU states that are particularly fragile right now?

RP: Everyone is following what’s happening in Greece. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a fragile state. If you got to Greece right now, everything is fine. They are going through a recessionary period and you know they have an excessive level of debt. But a lot of that debt is tied to a lot of other member states. You see in the headlines Greece is clashing with Germany. Elsewise it’s the end of the EU. It’s pretty alarming. But in the end, Greece is consulting with the European Central Bank and they are trying to find some common ground. Hopefully a healthy compromise comes through.

 

SL: On the opposite end, are there any EU states that are doing very well in terms of trade?

RP: Yes. Germany is really good. Ireland is doing quite well. The thing about the European Union’s member states is that there is international trade in their DNA. It is pretty easy to export from one member state to another and so the share of trade within the EU is actually quite high. And then they begin exporting externally. Certain member states are doing a little better, but over all I think they all have a healthy level of trade. Even if some can still improve this.

 

SL: How do you think they can improve?

RP: By maybe exporting in the sectors they are most competitive in. If there is a certain commodity that only grows in a particular member state, you may want to market that product and say “This is unique. It is fantastic. You should try this.” But that’s been done before with certain products.

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ECOFIN abandons tax topic, forced to take up TTIP discussions

By Fabian Kasprowicz

Today the ECOFIN stepped stepped up to discuss an EU-wide income tax, as the union continues to lack a common policy on personal income taxes.

All 28 member states tax their citizens in accordance with their own laws, which can  people to move to another state where the taxes are lower than in the origin state. Therefore the origin state will has to lower the income taxes to compete with other member states.

After several hours of debating, a concept was worked out. Still, many member states were uncomfortable with the situation. The concept included a progressive tax system depending on the member states GDP. In addition, the states had several options to decide on their own. But still they couldn’t come to a consensus at some points. An expert on the topic stepped in and was asked to help.

The final decision? Quit the whole income tax topic.

The decision forced member states to move on to the next topic on the agenda, the  Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, for which few were prepared. Therefore, several committee hours were spent on research and no solid consensus was reached by the end of the day.

 

 

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Foreign Ministers Council needs more feasible solutions to migrant issues

By Slawomira-Rita Mysiak

Delegates from Council of Foreign Ministers on Friday discussed responses to the immigration crisis in the Mediterranean Sea, wherein people seeking asylum often drown during their journeys to the EU.

For some member states like Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Greece, this is very sensitive issue. There is also a concern about the Dublin Treaty, which states that the status of refugee has to be issued by the state where asylum seeker entered first. And some smaller states may be not able to cope with the number of applicants they receive due to its capacities.

However, the EU is not dedicating sufficient resources to solve this problem. It must employ new instruments to address the crisis.

IMG_4041

The negotiations in the Council of the Foreign Affairs Ministers were tough and no consensus was reached in the morning session or afternoon sessions. One of the proposed instruments to slow down irregular migration is to provide training and education for low-skilled workers, so that would allow them to find a job or to create own business in the country of their origin.

The idea of providing education would have been great if it had been catered towards developing European states. One must remember what the ministers of foreign affairs have overlooked: Most of the irregular migrants in the Mediterranean region deciding to cross the sea in the hazardous conditions are not economic migrants, but asylum seekers, who are coming countries like Syria, Eritrea, Mali, Nigeria, Gambia, Palestine, Somalia because of political and human rights concerns.

Those migrants are not risking their life simply to find work in Europe; most of them embark on the journey because the only choices in their own country are to be killed or tortured.

At this moment one has to ask: How does the EU imagine providing education in these states where democracy and governance do not exist? Has the EU thought about whether the states with these migratory push factors are going to cooperate with the EU? Is this education project one that is only going to suck money out of taxpayers?

The issue of migration was raised in the Committee of Permanent Representatives II. Delegates discussed the EU citizenship scheme, provoked by Malta’s new citizenship scheme where the government sells citizenship.

Although the idea of selling citizenship seems to be controversial, it is not something unique to Malta, as other EU member states already have similar, if not the same, schemes. The issues raised during negotiations should apply to all member states which issues that kind of schemes.

Concerns that money for the citizenship may come from illegal sources is interesting in the light of citizenship schemes of other member states, as it cannot be that in the EU some states are more equal than others.

Due to lack of consensus, the discussion over introducing an EU citizenship scheme was dropped and instead, COREPER II considered establishing an EU agency for migration in North Africa and Turkey. A seemingly good idea that raises similar concerns as with the Foreign Ministers Council: Are those non-EU states going to allow for such a move, and if so, what price will the EU pay for it?

 

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More needs to be done to strengthen EU unity: Donald Tusk

By Brian Ang & Jonathan Hanley

Council President Donald Tusk yesterday credited former president Herman Van Rompuy’s administration for bringing the European Union closer, but added there was more to be done.

Tusk, represented by Ithaca College sophomore Josh Kelly, was speaking at the 28th annual Model EU in New York, N.Y. 

“The policies within the European Union work as the treaty states, but I believe we’re capable of working towards a goal to be closer as a union,” he said. 

Noreyana Fernando/Press Corps

Noreyana Fernando/Press Corps

Additionally, Tusk said he has hopes to continue the push for more unity and continuity within the European Union.

He also acknowledged that he is facing what to him, is one of the
biggest destabilizing forces ever to threaten unity within the European Union — the Eastern countries’ continuing fight for independence from Russian influence. He said this would be despite their dependence on
Russian energy.

Tusk said he is hopeful about the possibility of opening up discussions on creating a treaty, which would include the United States, with both the western and eastern fronts of Europe.

Tusk made it clear that such an agreement is at the top of his agenda. He added that he hopes it is similarly a priority for both the ECOFIN and HOG committees as well.

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Conference director discusses challenges of organizing MEU 2015

Press Corps reporter Susi Lange sat down with Kathleen Dowley, director of SUNY Model EU, to discuss organizing the event, the conference experience and, of course, the traffic in New York.

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Susi Lange: How are the things going on so far?

Kathleen Dowley: Well, traffic. Everything is fine except for the traffic.

 

SL: Welcome to New York!

KD: Welcome to New York, that’s right. You know, we are doing most of the event over on the West Side. This is the only event we are doing on the East Side. And there was just no easy way to get from over there to over here, except by the buses.

 

SL: How long did it take to put together this event?

KD: Well, this is the first time in New York that I had a partner to work with in City College, Barbara Syrrakos, who is a professor at City College. It was great to have someone to co-organize with. She and I, we visited the hotels, we visited the hostels, we chose the restaurants and a place where the students can have the mixer tomorrow night, so it was really nice to have a partner, because mostly when I organized the event in the United States I was on my own. It was really nice to have a partner and she knows the city quite well and that was very helpful. It does take a long time for this many people and this many venues, but I think it went well.

 

SL: Have there been any challenges along the way?

KD: There are special challenges about organizing anything in New York City. It is a great attraction for our students overseas who want to come here and everything is a little harder to plan in New York City. It’s harder to get from place to place and it is harder to find places that are affordable, because everything is pretty expensive. So New York City is its own special challenge because it is so big and so expensive, but in the end I think it’s worth it.

 

SL: How many people are taking part in this year’s event?

KD: There are 157 people this year.

 

SL: How many countries are included?

KD: The universities themselves are from Ireland and Germany and Belgium and France and Malta, but the students are more diverse. For example the large team that comes from the university in Lyon, France, they are quite diverse. Or the students from the University of Belgium, they are from all over the Europe. So the number of countries are much wider than what it looks like from the universities.

 

SL: What are you excited for? What are your expectations?

KD: I am excited for my students and the students from overseas to get to meet one another and practice together and that they will learn something about the European Union, which I think is incredibly important. But that they will also learn something about each other, make some lasting friendships and some lasting connections. I have students here tonight for helping me, who have already graduated and just come back, because they had so much fun. And I have students who are doing their third European model, because they had so much fun. Those are the things that I look forward to the most.

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Taking in the Big Apple: the story of two German delegates in the U.S. for the first time

by Julia Böhm & Theresa Ziegler from Germany’s FH Schmalkalden University

We arrived on Sunday, March 22, and to avoid the notorious jet lag, we delayed going to our accommodation and instead visited Times Square by night.

We stood there unblinking eyes, marveling the million lights flickering in front of us. It was almost as if it was 2 p.m. on a bright sunny day dotted with hurried humans.

After this first impression of the city of love, we drove to our accommodation. We were still reeling from the high-rise buildings and the relentless crowds. We were definitely no longer back in the small rural town of Schmalkalden, Germany.

Our next task was to squeeze as much of the “New York experience” as possible into three days.

We bought the New York Pass and our trip started with the “Wall Street Walk”. After some confusion, we arrived there safely. It was very interesting, educational, cold and windy.

After that, complete with a cup of coffee in our hands, we went to the Ground Zero and the 9/11 Tribute Center. The experience was surreal; the emotions were intense. Although, we are no Americans and the events transpired 14 years ago, we felt the pain of the loss. We walked out in shock and thoughtful silence.

The next step was, to use the Staten Island Ferry and see the Big Apple from the sea for some perspective. It was a smooth journey, but it left us quite hungry. Fortunately, New York has an abundance of restaurants! Back at Wall Street and found a little Indian diner. For $8, we walked out stuffed and smiling.

To wrap up the day, we went to the Empire State Building. No poster or postcard can ever justly show the image that unfolded in front of our eyes – New York by night will always be a beautiful memory.

After that, we had another tour with the New York Pass. The “Inside Broadway Tour” was educational but again cold and cued warm coffee. The coffee was easy to find, but a place to sit was not. We walked 30 blocks to get a seat. And so ended another day.

The next day began with a trip to the Museum of Modern Art. And to finish off what had been an over-the-top-trip, we went to the Top of the Rock. The elevator was chaotic, something that is unusual to see in Germany. The weather rained on our parade, when heavy rains prevented us from taking part in the the “Fashion Walking Window Tour.” We escaped instead into a crowded Macy’s, which proved to not be an escape at all — because the chaos of the crowds followed us there. The rain stopped and we began our second shopping trip on 34th Avenue. Fantastic shops but our wallets were no match for these prices.

Each day, we slept away our exhaustion like Sleeping Beauties, only we were not interrupted by a prince.

After these three days, we had become pros at the subways. We are walking as fast as the New Yorkers. We are no longer Sleeping Beauties in the city that never sleeps.

 

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Latvia permanent representative says freedoms should not be taken for granted

By Slawomira-Rita Mysiak

His Excellency Janis Mazeiks, Latvia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, delivered his keynote speech on the Latvian perspective on Europe on Thursday during the opening of SUNY Model European Union conference in New York, N.Y.

Mazeiks admitted that the European Union is viewed as bureaucratic but added it is more than that. He said the EU was built upon common values like human rights, democracy, rule of law and freedom. He indicated Latvia respects them particularly because of its history.

 

Mazeiks speaks with CCNY host Barbara Syrrakos before delivering the keynote address on March 26.  Noreyana Fernand/Press Corps

Mazeiks speaks with CCNY host Barbara Syrrakos before delivering the keynote address on March 26. Noreyana Fernand/Press Corps

Mazeiks explained the portfolio of the average Latvian diplomat. He said it is interesting to note that of the over 180 Latvian diplomats in Brussels, two thirds of them are women, so there is an emphasis on gender equality.

The diplomat recalled the time when Latvia was an occupied country. The years of occupation were years of deportation, murders and lack of democratic government. Therefore when there was a chance for Latvia to get a little freedom from Soviets, they took it immediately. That how the revolution started. It was peaceful and nonviolent revolution, which has made its mark in the history as “the singing revolution.”

There were two fundamental ideas behind the Latvian Revolution: The first one was that Latvia had a right to gain freedom after 50 years of lost independence. The second idea was to return to Europe, not geographically but culturally so Latvia would join the states where the European democracy and freedom are highly valued. Latvia did not belong “behind an iron curtain.

”At the end of the speech, Mazeiks emphasized that if he were to summarize the Latvian perspective on Europe, it would be as follows:

  1. The EU is more than bureaucracy.
  2. Do not  take the freedom that you have for granted as there are many in the world who do not have it.
  3. It is worth it to die for your values but it is much better to live for them.

After his speech he took some questions from the floor.

Mazeiks said that Latvia can be taken as role model, but only by those countries which would be ready to follow their harsh measures — including hard fiscal measures. It may be not possible for all states as one model does not fit all, he said. Regarding the issue of the Latvian Presidency, the diplomat emphasized that Latvia took on the role of being an honest broker. That means that they do not plan to negotiate any narrow national interest, but are working for the collective interest of the EU.

When Mazeiks was asked about  Latvia’s potential role as a  country that could serve as a neutral entity for negotiations between Russia and the EU, he mentioned that Latvia already had similar situation in 1921 when Peace of Riga (the peace treaty between Russia and Poland) was signed.

Regarding the situation in Ukraine, Mazeiks said Latvia is not directly involved as it is focusing on other issues.

Speaking to those who would consider following his path, Mazeiks said in diplomatic careers, you have to be ready to engage and give a lot of your time and energy. It is also a long-term project as there is no such thing as a fast career in diplomacy. But it can be also very rewarding, especially if you feel like you have something to say on a particular subject and you think you can develop on it. It is good also if you have particularly strong link with your country, because whenever a diplomat is speaking he or she speaks on behalf of the country, he added.

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