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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on NATO

Paul Belkin, Coordinator
Analyst in European Affairs

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2009. While NATO members can point to several significant accomplishments since the end of the Cold War, the alliance faces a host of new challenges that might well define the purpose and role of NATO in the 21st century. At the same time, most observers agree that the 111th Congress and the Obama Administration will continue to view NATO as the key alliance through which to confront security threats to the Euro-Atlantic community, including the principal threats of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For the short and medium term, most analysts expect NATO's political agenda to be dominated by its mission in Afghanistan (the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF), by its relations with Russia, and by the drafting of a new Strategic Concept for the alliance. 

Observers consider the stabilization of Afghanistan to be NATO's key mission. Nonetheless, in the view of some, the mission has challenged NATO's solidarity and has eroded public confidence in the alliance. The allies continue to struggle to meet troop level targets, "caveats" or restrictions that member states place on the utilization of their forces, corruption in the Kabul government, the inability of the Pakistani government to control the use of its territory by insurgents, and the level of civilian expertise and financial assistance being provided for the reconstruction effort. Many believe the security situation in Afghanistan has not shown significant improvement over the past eight years and several allies are talking of "out-of-area" fatigue with respect to the ISAF operation. Two allies have announced plans to withdraw their forces from the mission in the coming year, and others have expressed doubts about a longer-term commitment to Afghanistan. Many believe NATO's future ability to influence political or military events around the globe will be determined by the success it can achieve in Afghanistan. Congress has closely examined NATO operations in Afghanistan through hearings, and supported them by funding U.S. reconstruction efforts and combat forces. As the U.S. continues to send more resources to Afghanistan, calls from Congress for increased and more effective allied assistance could become more pronounced. 

NATO-Russia relations deteriorated in 2008 as Russia vocally opposed U.S. and alliance proposals to strengthen relations with Georgia and Ukraine and as ties in the NATO-Russia Council were suspended in the wake of the Russia-Georgia conflict. Russia's continued criticism of alliance policies ranging from enlargement to missile defense and its calls for an alternative European security architecture have exposed divisions within the alliance on how to approach Moscow. Although formal ties in the NATO-Russia Council resumed in mid-2009, the alliance continues to reassess its relations with Russia. Some member states that feel particularly threatened by Russia, such as Poland and the Baltic states, express concern that NATO has not taken a strong enough stance against Russia's assertive behavior. Others have attempted to view Russia as a "strategic partner" and emphasize pragmatic cooperation and engagement. Administration officials have emphasized the need to engage Russia in an effort to improve U.S.- and NATO-Russia cooperation in areas ranging from ISAF's mission in Afghanistan and counterterrorism to arms control, non-proliferation, and international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program. At the same time, NATO and U.S. officials stress that they will continue to oppose Russian policies that they perceive as conflicting with the core values of the alliance. 

An additional issue that could test political unity within NATO during the second session of the 111th Congress is the debate over a new Strategic Concept for the alliance. In late 2009, the alliance launched the drafting of a new Strategic Concept as a means to clarify NATO's purpose and future direction. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is to present NATO member states with a draft proposal for a new Strategic Concept in September 2010. NATO leaders are expected to approve a final document at their November 2010 summit in Lisbon.

Date of Report: June 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40353
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CRS Issue Statement on Europe and the EU

Derek E. Mix, Coordinator
Analyst in European Affairs

Common values, overlapping interests, and shared goals are the foundation of what is regularly described as the transatlantic partnership between the United States and Europe. Although Americans and Europeans do not always agree on every aspect of every issue, the two sides are often one another's partner of choice, if not necessity, in facing an array of global challenges. The United States and Europe are cooperating, or seeking to deepen their cooperation, in addressing political and security concerns that include terrorism; conditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan; Iran's nuclear ambitions; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the future of the Balkans and countries of the former Soviet Union; relations with Russia; climate change; and energy security. Observers assert that neither side can adequately address such an agenda alone, and that the track record shows the two sides are better off when they work together. 

Economic ties are also a central pillar of the partnership. The United States and Europe have the world's largest trade and investment relationship, and transatlantic cooperation has been key in liberalizing the world trading system. The two sides are continuing efforts to reduce non-tariff and regulatory barriers to transatlantic trade and investment. While much of the economic relationship is harmonious and mutually beneficial, some tensions exist. Both sides have sought completion of the Doha round of trade talks, but have been unable to come to an agreement with one another on agricultural subsidies. Transatlantic trade disputes also persist over poultry, aircraft subsidies, hormone-treated beef, and bio-engineered food products. The global financial crisis has tested the relationship, and the two sides have not always agreed on the best way to stimulate economic recovery or to prevent future crises. Potential ripple effects from the on-going Greek debt crisis, including its implications for the Eurozone, have been a topic of U.S. concern. 

The U.S. Congress and successive U.S. Administrations have supported European efforts at political and economic integration as a way to foster a stable and prosperous Europe. The European Union (EU) now consists of 27 member countries. On an extensive range of issue areas, members' decision- and policy-making takes place at the level of the EU institutions, making the EU an increasingly important interlocutor for the United States. At the same time, many observers and U.S. officials also point to the value of maintaining strong bilateral relations with the individual member states of the EU. While supporting the EU's evolution, U.S. policymakers have at times grappled with how to manage relations with an enlarged EU that seeks a more prominent role on the world stage—often in partnership with United States and its goals, but not always with the same set of priorities or perspectives. 

The EU and its member states are undergoing political and institutional changes in 2010 that could impact transatlantic relations. Implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU reform treaty which came into effect on December 1, 2009, continues to be a top priority. Among other goals, the Lisbon Treaty seeks to develop a more robust and coherent EU foreign policy. The treaty also enhances the powers of the European Parliament (EP), whose members were elected to a new five-year term in June 2009. EU member states including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, and Slovakia have held national elections in 2010, and France, Germany, and Italy have held important regional elections this year. 

The 111th Congress is likely to continue its interest in a number of the aforementioned U.S.- European foreign policy and economic issues. Transatlantic responses to the financial crisis, climate change, and economic regulation continue to be issues on the Congressional agenda. The EU's role in foreign policy could also be examined in the context of U.S. policies on Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East, Russia, counterterrorism, and energy security. Additional issues facing the 111th Congress could center on the structure of transatlantic relations, including topics such as EU-NATO relations and the effectiveness of current Euro-Atlantic security institutions.

Date of Report: June 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40308
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

Attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem and reunify the island have undergone various levels of negotiation for almost 40 years. Beginning in 2008, Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, a Greek Cypriot, and the former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat engaged in what appeared to be a positive and concerted effort to reach some type of acceptable solution. However, by the end of March 2010 time and politics ran out on both. 

On April 18, 2010, Turkish Cypriot voters selected a new leader, Dervis Eroglu of the National Unity Party (UBP). Eroglu, a 72-year-old physician, and long-time politician, led a political party that included some who have advocated a permanently divided island and international recognition for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). During the political campaign in the north, Eroglu criticized Talat for what he thought were too many concessions to the Greek Cypriot side. However, since then Eroglu has reassured everyone that he will continue with the negotiations. 

For his part, Republic of Cyprus President Christofias had experienced his own internal political difficulties as one of his governing coalition partners, the Socialist Party (EDEK), quit the governing coalition over disagreements with the President's negotiating strategy. Almost immediately following the EDEK decision, hard-liners in the other coalition partner, the Democratic Party (DIKO), also criticized Christofias for what they considered to be too many concessions to the Turkish Cypriot side. These disagreements continued into May when the Greek Cypriot National Council, the political body that advises the President on Cyprus settlement issues, apparently failed to agree on a joint communiqué outlining the negotiating strategy for the new round of talks with Eroglu. This lack of consensus raises the question of whether Christofias can be guaranteed support for whatever negotiated solution he could achieve with Eroglu. 

The change in leadership in the north from Talat to Eroglu initially raised the question of whether prospects for a settlement that would end the political division of Cyprus would enter a period of retrenchment with possibly more difficult negotiations ahead dominated by harder-line views on both sides. It also called into question whether the "understandings" reached between Christofias and Talat would form the basis for the new round of talks. Both sides had repeated that the talks would resume from where they left off, although it is somewhat unclear exactly where Christofias and Talat left off as neither side officially revealed any of the so-called "convergences" that they had apparently arrived at before Talat left office. Nevertheless, the first round of the new talks was held on May 26, 2010, and continued briefly on June 3 and again on June 15. Four additional sessions have been scheduled through the end of July. Both Cristofias and Eroglu have stated their desire to reach a solution, but most predict a difficult period ahead. 

The United States has long maintained a position of strong support for a negotiated settlement. This has been reaffirmed by the Obama Administration. Many Members of Congress have continued to maintain their interest in Cyprus during the 111th Congress, partly due to keen constituent concern. Hearings could be anticipated on the future of the negotiations as the new round of talks begin.

Date of Report: June 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R41136
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Northern Ireland: The Peace Process

Kristin Archick
Specialist in European Affairs

Since 1969, over 3,500 people have died as a result of political violence in Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. The conflict, which has its origins in the 1921 division of Ireland, has reflected a struggle between different national, cultural, and religious identities. The Protestant majority (53%) in Northern Ireland defines itself as British and largely supports continued incorporation in the UK (unionists). The Catholic minority (44%) considers itself Irish, and many Catholics desire a united Ireland (nationalists). 

For years, the British and Irish governments sought to facilitate a political settlement. After many ups and downs, the two governments and the Northern Ireland political parties participating in the peace talks announced an agreement on April 10, 1998. The resulting Good Friday Agreement (also known as the Belfast Agreement) called for devolved government—the transfer of power from London to Belfast—with a Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive Committee in which unionist and nationalist parties would share power. The agreement also contained provisions on decommissioning (disarmament), policing, human rights, UK security normalization (demilitarization), and the status of prisoners. 

Despite a much improved security situation in the years since then, full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement has been difficult. For years, instability in Northern Ireland's devolved government was the rule rather than the exception; decommissioning and police reforms were key sticking points. The devolved government was suspended for the fourth time in October 2002 amid a loss of trust and confidence on both sides of the conflict. Unionists were concerned about the IRA's commitment to non-violence and the lack of full nationalist support for policing; meanwhile, nationalists worried about the pace of UK demilitarization and police reforms. 

On May 8, 2007, however, Northern Ireland's devolved political institutions were restored after an almost five-year suspension following a power-sharing deal between the traditionally antiagreement Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The DUP and Sinn Fein are the largest unionist and nationalist parties, respectively, in Northern Ireland and have long been viewed as the two most polarized forces in Northern Ireland politics. London and Dublin hoped that this deal would entrench the political settlement embodied in the Good Friday Agreement and produce a politically stable devolved government in Northern Ireland. 

In 2008, the DUP and Sinn Fein clashed over the outstanding issue of transferring authority for policing and justice affairs from London to Belfast. Given the sensitive nature of this portfolio, the parties had been unable to agree on its devolution at the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. After protracted negotiations, the parties reached a deal in February 2010 paving the way for the devolution of police and justice powers in April 2010. 

Successive U.S. administrations and many Members of Congress have actively supported the peace process. The United States has provided aid through the International Fund for Ireland since 1986. In recent years, congressional hearings have focused on the peace process, police reforms, and the status of public inquiries into several murders in Northern Ireland in which collusion between the security forces and paramilitary groups is suspected.

Date of Report: May 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RS21333
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A New United Nations Entity for Women: Issues for Congress

Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

In recent years, many in the international community have argued for elevating the status of women's issues within the United Nations (U.N.) system. They contend that the way in which the U.N. system addresses gender issues is fragmented, weak, and under-resourced. Moreover, they argue that such efforts lack clear leadership and coordination. These weaknesses, critics maintain, hinder the U.N. system's ability to promote and implement programs that enhance gender equality. 

In September 2009, U.N. member states, including the United States, adopted a General Assembly resolution expressing strong support for the consolidation of four U.N. bodies addressing women's issues into one composite entity. The four entities selected for consolidation were (1) the U.N. Development Fund for Women, (2) the Division for the Advancement of Women, (3) the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and (4) the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women. According to the United Nations, voluntary and U.N. regular budget contributions for these four bodies in calendar year 2008 totaled approximately $247 million. 

At this time, it is unclear how the new U.N. entity will be structured or whether it will prove effective in addressing global women's issues. U.N. member states are currently negotiating the structure, governance, and funding of the new entity. The timeline for the entity's establishment depends primarily on U.N. member states; many anticipate that the General Assembly could address the issue during its 64th session, which began in September 2009 and will end in September 2010. 

Members of Congress have generally supported U.N. system efforts to address women's issues and may have an interest in the new entity. Areas of congressional focus could include (1) U.S. financial contributions to and participation in the new entity, (2) the role of the new entity in the context of U.S. foreign policy priorities, and (3) oversight of the efficiency and effectiveness of the entity. 

This report discusses possible policy issues that may arise as the composite gender entity is established, including its funding mechanisms, the creation of an effective governance structure, the entity's possible impact on U.N. system in-country operational capacity, and the relationships and coordination between the entity and other U.N. system bodies. The report also discusses the entity in the context of broader U.N. reform efforts and examines the involvement of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Finally, it analyzes U.S. policy toward the new entity, including its possible role in U.S. foreign policy and the level and extent of U.S. financial contributions to existing U.N. system gender entities.

Date of Report: May 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R41257
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues

Marjorie Ann Browne
Specialist in International Relations

Kennon H. Nakamura
Analyst in Foreign Affairs

The congressional debate over United Nations funding focuses on several questions, including (1) What is the appropriate level of U.S. funding for U.N. system operations and programs? (2) What U.S. funding actions are most likely to produce a positive continuation of U.N. system reform efforts? 

The U.N. system includes the United Nations, a number of specialized or affiliated agencies, voluntary and special funds and programs, and U.N. peacekeeping operations. Participating states finance the system with assessed contributions to the budgets of the United Nations and its specialized agencies. In addition, voluntary contributions are made both to those agencies and to the special programs and funds they set up and manage. For more than 60 years, the United States has been the single largest financial contributor to the U.N. system, supplying in recent years 22% of most U.N. agency budgets. (See Appendix D for an organizational chart that illustrates the components of the U.N. system.) 

Both Congress and the executive branch have sought to promote their policy goals and reform of the United Nations and its system of organizations and programs, especially to improve management and budgeting practices. In the 1990s, Congress linked payment of U.S. financial contributions and its arrears to reform. 

This report tracks the process by which Congress provides the funding for U.S. assessed contributions to the regular budgets of the United Nations, its agencies, and U.N. peacekeeping operation accounts, as well as for U.S. voluntary contributions to U.N. system programs and funds. It includes information on the President's request and the congressional response, as well as congressional initiatives during this legislative process. Basic information is provided to help the reader understand this process. 

This report replaces CRS Issue Brief IB86116, United Nations System Funding: Congressional Issues, by Marjorie Ann Browne and Vita Bite.

Date of Report: May 19, 2010
Number of Pages: 58
Order Number: RL33611
Price: $29.95

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