Category Archives: Europe

Russian Invasion in Ukraine: Explaining the Identity Crisis and the Energy Wars Over the Shale Gas Reserves Share in Ukraine


At the moment of writing these lines, an Ukrainian soldier falls to the ground, with a bullet piercing his head, while a Russian soldier is losing his life from a fragment of an anti-tank shell. At this time, small children are losing their parents in Ukraine, either they are Ukrainian or Russian orphans. We must end the war on Ukraine and find a way to put an end to perpetual wars.

The catastrophe that was set in motion by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 cannot be averted on the basis of Russian nationalism, a thoroughly reactionary ideology that serves the interests of the capitalist ruling class represented by Vladimir Putin.Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International

Analysts argue that Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has overturned the post-war world order.  Surely, Putin’s indefensible invasion has been transformative, violating international law and fueling a perilous escalation of violence. We have witnessed the heart-rending suffering of Ukrainians, including the 350,000 already forced to flee; the bravery unfairly required of people lining up to donate blood or organize resistance; the more than 6,000 arrests of anti-war demonstrators in Russia.

If he persists in this mad act of imperial aggression, it will be catastrophic not only for Ukraine but for Russia and all of Europe — and maybe even the entire world. With his forces encircling Kyiv but bogged down after five days of heavy combat, Putin placed Russia’s nuclear forces on alert.

The Imperialist war between Russia and the United States into the Ukrainian territory.

Since 2014, the Russian regime has become more nationalistic and chauvinistic, while nationalism in Ukraine has become more civic, and yet some western writing on Ukraine and Russia since 2014 gives the opposite impression.

A successful overthrow of the current regime in Ukraine would increase the threat to the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, all NATO members, and encourage China to consider a military conquest of Taiwan.

Russia has demanded since the mid-1990s that Eurasia be recognized as Russia’s exclusive sphere of influence where countries cannot integrate with, or join, NATO and the EU. Russia has also been opposed to Eurasian countries using UN peacekeepers in frozen conflicts artificially manufactured by the Kremlin to thwart pro-Western countries integrating into NATO and the EU. Ranked by the human rights monitoring think tank Freedom House as a “consolidated authoritarian regime”, Russia aggressively opposes the spread of democracy in Eurasia. The existence of a successful democracy in Ukraine is viewed by the Kremlin as a threat to the autocracy built by President Vladimir Putin.

The US Biden administration, by refusing to discuss Russia’s objections to Ukraine’s integration into NATO, used Ukraine as bait. It incited the invasion, which will now be used as a pretext for escalating confrontation with Russia.

The claim, repeated by Biden, that “our forces are not and will not be engaged in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine,” has no credibility. The US and NATO powers have funneled billions of dollars in military equipment into Ukraine and have armed its fascistic paramilitary forces with the aim of prolonging the conflicts and exacting significant Russian losses. “History has shown time and again,” Biden said, “how swift gains in territory eventually give way to grinding occupations, acts of mass civil disobedience and strategic dead-ends.”

Biden again declared that in a confrontation involving Russia with any NATO country, the US will use the “full force of American power.” This can only mean that not only is nuclear war possible, but the danger is far advanced and greater than at any previous time in history. Biden stated today that relations between the US and Russia have completely broken down, declaring that, amidst the danger of a catastrophic European and global war, he has no plans to call Putin.

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Language Map of Ukraine
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ethnolingusitic_map_of_ukraine.png

Putin Wants to Reinstate the Soviet Bloc Influence in East Europe

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of Communism as a major global ideology, observers across the world were optimistic that “political ideologies” would never again determine great power competition. However, the spread of ethnic conflict in Ukraine between Russian-speaking minorities and the Kiev government since 2014 has demonstrated that the Communist political ideology, which was promoted by the Soviet Union for over seventy years, was being replaced by a new narrative, “identity politics”, which emphasized ethnolinguistic identities as fundamental pillars of society rather than socioeconomic categorizations.

Back in February of 2015, representatives of Russia, Ukraine, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the leaders of separatist-held regions Donetsk and Luhansk signed a 13-point agreement called Minsk II.

The Minsk II deal set out military and political steps that remain unimplemented. A major blockage has been Russia’s insistence that it is not a party to the conflict and therefore is not bound by its terms Al-Jazeera reports.

Considering Ukraine’s own problems with corruption and the rule of law and given the active war in its east, it is impossible that the country joins either the EU or NATO in the near future. Russia, for one, demands that the latter remains completely off the table by a mutual agreement between Moscow and Washington. But part of the problem is that although Ukraine is not in NATO, Ukraine’s security is treated by EU and NATO member states (like Poland and Lithuania) as a matter of their own security.

What is the ‘Minsk conundrum’?

Ukraine sees the 2015 agreement as an instrument to re-establish control over the rebel territories. It wants a ceasefire, control of the Russia-Ukraine border, elections in the Donbas, and a limited devolution of power to the separatists – in that order.

Russia views the deal as obliging Ukraine to grant rebel authorities in Donbas comprehensive autonomy and representation in the central government, effectively giving Moscow the power to veto Kyiv’s foreign policy choices. Only then would Russia return the Russia-Ukraine border to Kyiv’s control.

After Minsk II and the implication of Russia in the Syrian conflict, Russian identity warfare has helped Moscow to advance her regional policies and to deter strategic threats. Following the 2014 Ukraine revolution, Russia was concerned about the expansion of NATO to Ukraine, though the pro-Russian separatist movements in Luhansk and Donetsk successfully established a buffer zone between Russia’s mainland and pro-west Kiev.

However, it is hard to believe that Russia and its proxies withdrew from their territorial ambitions solely to assist the Minsk II process. In reality, there were other issues that might have convinced the Kremlin to put a hold on its territorial ambitions. Moscow’s incursions against Georgia and Ukraine have also altered the attitudes of other traditional allies of Russia in Central Asia and East Europe. Following the occupation of Crimea by Russia, both Belarus and Kazakhstan were increasingly worried that they might be the next targets of Russian expansionism. Many in Kazakhstan started to fear that Russia might attempt to bring regions populated by ethnic Russian speakers in northern Kazakhstan back within its borders. Also, in Minsk, a growing fear began among elites over Russian intentions towards Belarus. Hence, despite the many achievements of Russia’s identity warfare, it also presented Moscow with new challenges.

One the other hand, Russian identity warfare has not been cost-free, Russia’s policy has led to the growth of xenophobic nationalism in Russia to the extent that many of the country’s minorities have started to consider themselves as persona-non-grata in Russia. In a way, the current emphasis on the Orthodox religion and Slavic ethnicity as the core elements of Russian national identity has raised concerns among non-Slavic minorities that Russia is moving toward a cultural nationalism that discriminates against these minorities. Hence, it seems that while identity warfare can be an efficient sword in Russia’s weaponry, it is also double-edged one that can be hurtful to Russia.

The Question of the Ukrainian Identity according to Ukrainians

Most people think of Ukraine as an Eastern European country. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba isn’t one of them. “I am deeply convinced that Ukraine is and has always been a Central European state: historically, politically, and culturally,” he said in a speech last year. “Central Europe is where our identity belongs.”

This was not a statement of geographical fact but one of historical and cultural perspective. Ukraine’s future, like its past, lies not with Russia but with the Central European countries firmly ensconced in NATO and the European Union: Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, and especially Poland.

Over the past 20 years, Poland has influenced Ukraine’s cultural and political development more than any other country besides Russia. It has been its staunchest supporter within the EU and NATO; welcomed millions of Ukrainians to live, study, and work there; and provided an alternative model of what Ukraine could become as a truly Central European country: European, patriotic, openly anti-Russian, and economically successful—all under the safety of the U.S. security umbrella.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014‚ Kyiv has steadily built itself up as a nation state on the Polish model. It is a process that Russia itself set in motion, and one that—as Russian troops again amass on Ukraine’s border, with talk of war imminent—is all but impossible to reverse.

In 2020, leaders of Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine met in Lublin, Poland, to make a joint declaration announcing a new alliance called the “Lublin Triangle,” dedicated to strengthening cultural, economic, political, and military ties as well as supporting Ukraine’s eventual EU and NATO integration. Pro-Kremlin propaganda labeled the formation part of an “Anglo-Saxon proxy war” with Russia. This year, Poland and Ukraine entered yet another trilateral alliance aimed at protecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, this time with the United Kingdom.

Fracking Shale Gas Reserves in Ukraine and the role of Presidents Biden and Putin since 2014

The vast shale gas reserves in the separatist-held Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk regions are an important element not to be overlooked when analysing the Ukraine crisis!

Concerns that Russia is using its gas supplies as a weapon to achieve its political aims are well founded. Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, noted that Russia’s decision to drop gas supplies to Europe by a quarter came as it was heightening tension towards Ukraine. “I hope this was only a coincidence,” he told the Guardian.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Ukraine has third-largest shale gas reserves in Europe at 128 trillion cubic feet (3.6 trillion cubic metres). As of 2011, approximately 22 domestic and foreign-owned companies have been engaged in hydraulic fracturing in Ukraine. Excluding Russia’s gas reserves in Asia, Ukraine today holds the second biggest known gas reserves in Europe. As of late 2019, known Ukrainian reserves amounted to 1.09 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, second only to Norway’s known resources of 1.53 trillion cubic meters. Yet, these enormous reserves of energy remain largely untapped. Today, Ukraine has a low annual reserve usage rate of about 2 percent. Moreover, more active exploration may yield previously undiscovered gas fields, which would further increase the overall volume of Ukraine’s deposits.

In addition, if we put the map of the conflict on the one of Ukraine’s shale gas fields, the Donetsk region is an obvious overlap.  Besides sitting on an allegedly huge deposit of shale gas known as Yuzivska, perhaps not surprisingly, it is also the hotbed of the fiercest fighting between the government’s armed forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Yuzivska is believed to contain up to four trillion cubic meters of shale gas, according to the Ukrainian government. To tap this, energy giant Shell signed a production sharing agreement in January 2013, opening way for a potential $10 billion investment in the field. In an optimistic scenario before the armed conflict, Yuzivska alone was supposed to produce up to 20 billion cubic meters of gas annually (bcm/y) by 2030, which equals Ukraine’s 2011 overall gas output.

It is not hard to see why this would be a quite a scary scenario for Moscow. An energy independent Ukraine, let alone if it decides to export its gas to Europe, would mean enormous losses for Gazprom.

Foreign Policy reported in June 2014 that the Russian president and his inner circle have been covertly backing European movements that demonise fracking, in order to maintain the Russian stranglehold on European gas imports. FP notes that strong environmental opposition to fracking is present in countries like Bulgaria and Ukraine, which are heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies.

According to Russia’s TASS, the residents of Slavyansk, which is the centre of the Yuzivska deposit, organised several protests against development of the deposit. They even planned to have a referendum on the issue.

Another TASS report even allegedly cited Pavel Gubarev, the self-proclaimed leader of pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, admitting in an interview with Russian television Rossiya 24 on 19 May 2015 that one of the key reasons for the fighting is Kyiv’s push to “continue development of shale gas on the territory of Ukraine”.

In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden announced that the United States would bring in technical experts to speed up Ukraine’s shale gas development.

In fact, the Biden family was so interested in Ukraine, that his son Hunter was appointed to the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, Burisma Holdings. This has put Ukraine’s shale gas question into a new perspective – at least from the American viewpoint.

Burisma holds licenses covering the Dnieper-Donets basin in the eastern Ukraine and Biden Jr. is not the only American with political ties to have recently joined the company’s board.  Devon Archer, a former senior advisor to current Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and a college roommate of Kerry’s stepson, signed up with Burisma in April 2014.

Shale Gas Reserves in Ukraine

Contemporary Russian Nationalist (Imperialist) Imagining of Ukraine and Ukrainians

The following was also repeated during President’s Putin speech before starting the war in Ukraine

First, Ukraine is an artificial country and a failed, bankrupt state. Putin (2008) raised this in his 2008 speech to the NATO-Russia Council at the Bucharest NATO summit. Ukraine as a failed state is one of the most common themes in Russian information warfare and appears in many different guises (Zolotukhin 2018, 302–358). Political collapse in 2014 required Russian intervention, Ukrainian authorities are incapable of dealing with their problems, Ukraine is not a real state and will not survive without trade with Russia, western neighbours put forward territorial claims on western Ukraine, while the east is naturally aligned with Russia, and Ukraine was artificially created with ‘Russian’ lands. Ukraine is a land of perennial instability and revolution where extremists run amok, Russian speakers are persecuted, and pro-Russian politicians and media are repressed or closed down.

Russia’s long-term inability to come to terms with an independent Ukraine and Ukrainians as a separate people became patently obvious when Putin’s regime rehabilitated Tsarist Russian and White émigré views of Ukraine and Ukrainians (see Wolkonsky 1920; Bregy and Obolensky 1940). Igor Torbakov (2020) traces the continued influence of Tsarist ‘liberal’ and White movement supporter Struve’s view of what constitutes an ‘All-Russian People’ to contemporary Russian leaders.

In the USSR, there was a Ukrainian lobby in Moscow, while under Putin there is no such thing (Zygar 2016, 87). In the USSR, Soviet nationality policy defined Ukrainians and Russians as close, but nevertheless separate peoples; this no longer remains the case in Putin’s Russia. In the USSR, Ukraine and the Ukrainian language ‘always had robust defenders at the very top. Under Putin, however, the idea of Ukrainian national statehood was discouraged’ (Zygar 2016, 87) and the Ukrainian language is disparaged as a Russian dialect that was artificially made into a language in the USSR. (source)

Sources:

Borders of Identity: Ukraine’s Political and Cultural Significance for Russia : https://www.jstor.org/stable/40869778

La Question de l’Indépendance et les Droits des Minorités


L’organisation des Nations unies a été fondée en 1945, au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, pour fournir une base de dialogue à tous les pays et éviter les guerres. À la base, il y a avait 51 pays fondateurs, dont la France. Aujourd’hui, l’ONU compte 193 membres. Le dernier État à avoir intégré l’institution est le Soudan du Sud, en 2011. Il n’y a désormais plus que quatre États sur la planète reconnus par l’ONU, mais qui n’en sont pas membres : la Palestine, le Vatican, les Îles Cook et une île du Pacifique sud.

Dans le monde actuel, les Etats multiethniques sont la norme et la majorité. La définition traditionnelle de l’Etat-nation selon laquelle un groupe national distinct correspondait à une unité territoriale n’a jamais été exactement respectée en pratique, mais, de nos jours, la mondialisation et les déplacements croissants à travers les frontières la rende totalement dépassée. Cependant des cultures majoritaires ou dominantes dans les différents pays du monde cherchent encore à imposer leur identité aux autres groupes avec lesquels elles partagent un territoire.

L’opinion dominante aujourd’hui notamment à l’ONU est que les minorités, par principe, ne peuvent pas réclamer le droit à l’autodétermination. Toutefois, certains auteurs considèrent, en revanche, que le principe d’autodétermination pourrait s’appliquer aux minorités, bien qu’ils ne donnent pas d’indication claire sur le mode de réalisation de ce principe.  Continue reading La Question de l’Indépendance et les Droits des Minorités

Innovation and start-ups: Used Coffee Grounds Turned Into A Renewable Energy Source


Coffee is one of the globe’s largest agricultural commodities, with about 8bn kilograms (more than 16bn lbs) grown annually worldwide. That’s a lot of coffee – and a lot of leftover coffee grounds, most of which ends up in landfills or, in a best-case scenario, as a soil conditioner in someone’s garden.
Soluble coffee has been reported as a richsource of antioxidants, the consumption of which may prevent diseases caused by oxidative damage.Through a little bit of research the founder of Bio-Bean, Arthur Kay ,taught that coffee has a higher caloric value than wood.  figured out how to compress the grounds into bio-fuel pellets.
As it has been reported on the Guardian, companies such as Starbucks and Nestle, for example, are already putting used coffee grounds to work, while researchers believe that oil from coffee grounds could end up contributing tens of millions of liters of biodiesel to the global fuel supply.

UK-based clean tech company bio-bean has industrialized the process of turning used coffee grounds into sustainable biofuels and biochemicals. Bio-bean works within the existing energy and waste infrastructure to develop products and solutions that displace conventional fuels and chemicals.

The Telegraph reports that Bio-Bean has contracts to collect used coffee grounds from cafes, coffee factories, and airports, all of whom are saving a pretty penny in disposal fees (£154 per ton, around $225). Before being turned into biofuel, the coffee refuse is stripped of the oils in order to keep the bricks from smelling like coffee when burned. “Some people think this is a shame but others don’t want their home to smell like Starbucks,” Kay states.

Bio-Bean, now three year old company,  reprocesses about 10% of all the coffee grounds in the UK — about 50,000 tons — into pellets every year. That’s enough to heat about 15,000 homes according to its founder. The company produces biomass pellets and recently introduced Coffee Logs, carbon neutral biomass briquettes that can fuel homes and appliances, such as wood-fire stoves and BBQs. It has also undertaken extensive research and development into the commercial application of biodiesel from waste coffee grounds.

Bio-bean sells its carbon-neutral clean fuel to local businesses and aims to eventually help power the same coffee shops that supplied the grounds.

coffee beans biodiesel

In Joure, in the Netherlands, Veolia and Douwe Egberts Master Blenders have developed a solution for reusing coffee grounds to produce steam, and thus reduce the coffee company’s consumption of natural gas.

Veolia engineers set out to meet this challenge by developing a combustion system unlike any other in the world, in which the spent coffee grounds from the production process are burned to generate the steam needed to operate the plant. The system has enabled the plant to reduce its CO2 emissions by 70%.

Sources: Bio-bean,the Guardian, Telegraph UK.

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Featured Image Credit: @Wikipedia

coffee
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Grâce à une technologie proche de celle qui permet aux industriels du sucre de produire du biocarburant, Bio-Bean est capable de transformer les restes de café en un produit capable de propulser les voitures équipées de moteurs adaptés. Mais la production de ce nouveau carburant laisse à son tour des déchets « solides », pour lesquels notre entreprise britannique a également une solution : compactés, ils sont transformés en granulés pour le chauffage.

Pour l’instant, la société basée à Londres centre son activité sur la capitale anglaise et se permet même le luxe de produire local, et donc de limiter les émissions de CO2 de son activité.

Pour cela, il a fixé aux habitants et aux industriels locaux des objectifs ambitieux en terme de déchets (70% d’entre eux devront être réutilisés, recyclés ou compostés d’ici 2020) et d’émissions de CO2 (60% d’émissions en moins d’ici 2025).

How Political Corruption Weakens Democracy and Economic Growth in Cyprus and Malta


Today, the European Union has to take the role to protect and preserve democracy while authoritarianism is felt everyday by the state during the Covid-19 flu and in a lot of cases measures are unjustified. The COVID-19 crisis has offered corrupt and authoritarian leaders a dangerous combination of public distraction and reduced oversight.

This new authoritarianism made more obvious the problem of corruption in some weak democracies. To analyze the corruption problem and how it can destroy all the country’s system i’m taking as an example two small countries in the European bloc, Cyprus and Malta where the implications of corruption and political clientelism in these two countries is obvious in all country’s structures and has already done a lot of damage.

The two countries used to issue “Golden Passports” during the previous years, something that skyrocketed the rent prices while salaries remained very low. Corruption weakens democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption

Why High Corruption Index hurts Democracy

The term corruption is defined as the misuse of public office for private gains which costs every country a large amount of financial, political and social resources every year. Research on the causes, consequences and combat strategies of corruption are manifold and very revealing. Worldwide studies indicate, for example, that well-established democracies show lower levels of corruption than authoritarian regimes or young democracies . At the same time, high levels of corruption undermine democracy. By diverting rare resources from disadvantaged people, it damages the rule of law, social justice and lowers the trust of citizens in political institutions and processes.

Economies that are afflicted by a high level of corruption, which involves the misuse of power in the form of money or authority to achieve certain goals in illegal, dishonest, or unfair ways, are not capable of prospering as fully as those with a low level of corruption. Corrupted economies are not able to function properly because corruption prevents the natural laws of the economy from functioning freely. As a result, corruption in a nation’s political and economic operations causes its entire society to suffer.

Political competitors in younger democracies have had less chance to develop policy reputations with voters and their political parties are likely to be less well-established as vehicles for conveying credible
policy stances. As a consequence, they should be more susceptible to reliance on patrons as a means to establish credible bonds with voters. This implies that the policy choices of young democracies should resemble most closely those predicted by the foregoing arguments: lower levels of public good provision, high levels of private, targeted goods, and high rent-seeking. More systematic empirical evidence comes to support this claim.

Looking now at the profiles of Ministers and politicians, in these two countries, we can take as common measures the rent-seeking tendencies, measures of bureaucratic quality, the rule of law, secondary school enrollment and government ownership of newspapers. The misuse of these measures affect directly the democratic system and there are disadvantages for the middle class and the poor.

Studies tend to conclude that political competitors in young democracies are less credible, more reliant on patrons, and more likely to focus public policy on transfers and rent-seeking than broad public good provision finds substantial implicit support in the case study literature. Various contributors in Malloy and Seligson (1987), looking at countries experiencing the transition from authoritarian to democratic government, repeatedly note the reliance of new political competitors on narrow benefits to targeted constituencies.

Corruption can lead to an uneven distribution of wealth as small businesses face unfair competition from large companies that have established illegal connections with government officials. In a corrupt economy, resources are inefficiently allocated and companies that otherwise would not be qualified to win government contracts are often awarded projects as a result of bribery or kickbacks. Moreover, the quality of education and healthcare also deteriorates under a corrupt economy, leading to an overall lower standard of living for the country’s citizens.

Uneven Distribution of Wealth

Corrupted economies are characterized by a disproportionately small middle class and significant divergence between the living standards of the upper class and lower class. Because most of the country’s capital is aggregated in the hands of oligarchs or persons who back corrupted public officials, most of the created wealth also flows to these individuals.

In a corrupt economy, small businesses are not widely spread and are usually discouraged because they face unfair competition and illegal pressures by large companies that are connected with government officials. Certain industries are more prone to corruption than others, making small businesses in these sectors even more vulnerable to unethical business practices.

Corruption in the way deals are made, contracts are awarded, or economic operations are carried out, leads to monopolies or oligopolies in the economy. Those business owners who can use their connections or money to bribe government officials can manipulate policies and market mechanisms to ensure they are the sole provider of goods or services in the market.

Small businesses in corrupt countries tend to avoid having their businesses officially registered with tax authorities to avoid taxation. As a result, the income generated by many businesses exists outside the official economy, and thus are not subject to state taxation or included in the calculation of the country’s GDP.

Another negative of shadow businesses is they usually pay their employees decreased wages, lower than the minimum amount designated by the government. Also, they do not provide acceptable working conditions, including appropriate health insurance benefits for employees.

Press Freedom and Corruption

Press Freedom is at risk in these two countries. This factor leaves a window open to more and more corruption of the country’s system. In Malta, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a prominent investigative journalist, was murdered in 2017 after writing about alleged money laundering by powerful officials, as well as the business dealings of the prime minister’s wife. The investigations and public demonstrations that followed her death eventually led to the resignation of the prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and to the arrest of his chief of staff, Keith Schembri.

On the other hand, although press freedom in the Republic of Cyprus is guaranteed by the constitution, political parties, the Orthodox Church and commercial interests have a great deal of influence over the media. In both sides of the island (greek and turkish) according to Reporters without Borders , journalism is also hampered by certain bans on the use of geographical names not accepted by the state; on the denial of crimes against humanity, and war crimes not recognised by the state.

The Golden Passport Scheme and its links to Corruption Risk

Last October, in a plenary debate with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, MEPs stressed the inherent risks that these programmes give rise to, namely money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. They insisted that Europe must not have “a fast-track entrance for criminals”.

The Cyprus Papers – a series by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit – shows that the European Union (EU) is currently defenceless against the haphazard sale of EU citizenship and residency to criminals and the corrupt.

On October 20, the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Cyprus and Malta over so-called “golden passport” schemes, in which individuals can get a fast track to citizenship after investing between € 1 and 2.5 million in the countries’ economies.  

This practice has been lucrative for both governments. Since 2013, Cyprus raised € 4.8 billion, amounting to 5% of its GDP, by selling thousands of passports to foreign investors. Malta gained about € 718 million in this manner in foreign direct investment since 2014. 

This in turn undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship and is incompatible with the principle of sincere cooperation between the EU and member states.  In addition, journalists revealed that high-profile criminals were able to obtain Cypriot passports. The Commission argues that this represents a security threat for the EU as a whole, and increases the risk of money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. 

Without ensuring individuals applying for citizenship have a  genuine connection to their countries – an internationally recognized legal standard for citizenship – they have been taking risks for the EU as a whole.  Corruption in any country, however small, affects the EU as a whole. Every country has a veto over some crucial policies, such as the EU budget. Each country also gets a turn at chairing the EU and shaping its agenda. A passport from any EU country confers the right to live and work anywhere in the EU27.

For example, many of the new owners of a Cypriot passport sought to evade criminal prosecution in their home countries. Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of the Burisma energy company who is wanted in Ukraine, obtained his passport in 2017. At the time, he was already under investigation in Ukraine for corruption where he offered prosecutors a $ 6 million bribe in cash. 

The government of Cyprus was also accused of issuing passports to foreign criminals and the relatives of despots such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Cambodia’s Hun Sen.

Not only were the lax requirements to “buy” citizenship in Cyprus and Malta legally and morally questionable, in practice, these schemes were also a harbour of corruption. Anyone willing to pay for it could get a passport with no difficulty. The most direct result of this is to give access to the EU to wealthy people evading criminal charges at home. 

Thank you for your time!

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