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Friday, May 21, 2010

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Background and Policy Issues

Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

U.S. ratification of the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereafter referred to as CRC or the Convention) may be a key area of focus during the 111th Congress, particularly if the Barack Obama Administration seeks the advice and consent of the Senate. CRC is an international treaty that aims to protect the rights of children worldwide. It defines a child as any human being under the age of 18, and calls on States Parties to take all appropriate measures to ensure that children's rights are protected—including the right to a name and nationality, freedom of speech and thought, access to healthcare and education, and freedom from exploitation, torture, and abuse. CRC entered into force in September 1990, and has been ratified by 193 countries, making it the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. Two countries, the United States and Somalia, have not ratified CRC. The President has not transmitted CRC to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification. 

Despite widespread U.S. support for the overall objectives of the Convention, some past and current policymakers have raised concerns as to whether it is an effective mechanism for protecting children's rights. The Clinton Administration signed the Convention in February 1995, but did not submit it to the Senate primarily because of strong opposition from several Members of Congress. The George W. Bush Administration opposed CRC and expressed serious political and legal concerns with the treaty, arguing that it conflicted with U.S. laws regarding privacy and family rights. The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 has focused renewed attention on the possibility of U.S. ratification. The Administration has stated that any decision to pursue ratification of CRC will be determined through an interagency policy review. Perhaps more than other human rights treaties, CRC addresses areas that are usually considered to be primarily or exclusively under the jurisdiction of state or local governments, including education, juvenile justice, and access to healthcare. Some of these conflicting areas will likely need to be resolved by the executive branch and the Senate before the United States ratifies the Convention. 

The question of U.S. ratification of CRC has generated contentious debate. Opponents argue that U.S. ratification would undermine U.S. sovereignty by giving the United Nations authority to determine the best interests of U.S. children. Some are also concerned that CRC could interfere in the private lives of families, particularly the rights of parents to educate and discipline their children. Moreover, some argue that CRC is an ineffective mechanism for protecting children's rights. They emphasize that countries that are widely regarded as abusers of children's rights, including China and Sudan, are party to the Convention. Supporters of U.S. ratification, on the other hand, hold that CRC's intention is not to circumvent the role of parents but to protect children against government intrusion and abuse. Proponents emphasize what they view as CRC's strong support for the role of parents and the family structure. Additionally, supporters hold that U.S. federal and state laws generally meet the requirements of CRC, and that U.S. ratification would strengthen the United States' credibility when advocating children's rights abroad. 

This report provides an overview of CRC's background and structure and examines evolving U.S. policy toward the Convention, including past and current Administration positions and congressional perspectives. The report also highlights issues for the 111th Congress, including the Convention's possible impact on federal and state laws, U.S. sovereignty, parental rights, and U.S. family planning and abortion policy. It also addresses the effectiveness of CRC in protecting the rights of children internationally and its potential use as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy.


Date of Report: May 10, 2010
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R40484
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

U.S.-EU Cooperation Against Terrorism

Kristin Archick
Specialist in European Affairs


The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks gave new momentum to European Union (EU) initiatives to combat terrorism and improve police, judicial, and intelligence cooperation among its member states. Since the 2001 attacks, the EU has sought to speed up its efforts to harmonize national laws and bring down barriers among member states' law enforcement authorities so that information can be meaningfully shared and suspects apprehended expeditiously. Among other steps, the EU has established a common definition of terrorism and a common list of terrorist groups, an EU arrest warrant, enhanced tools to stem terrorist financing, and new measures to strengthen external EU border controls and improve aviation security. 

As part of its drive to improve its counterterrorism capabilities, the EU has also made improving cooperation with the United States a top priority. Washington has largely welcomed these efforts, recognizing that they may help root out terrorist cells and prevent future attacks against the United States or its interests abroad. U.S.-EU cooperation against terrorism has led to a new dynamic in U.S.-EU relations by fostering dialogue on law enforcement and homeland security issues previously reserved for bilateral discussions. Contacts between U.S. and EU officials on police, judicial, and border control policy matters have increased substantially since 2001. A number of new U.S.-EU agreements have also been reached; these include information-sharing arrangements between the United States and EU police and judicial bodies, two new U.S.-EU treaties on extradition and mutual legal assistance, and accords on container security and airline passenger data. In addition, the United States and the EU have been working together to clamp down on terrorist financing and to improve aviation and transport security. 

Despite U.S.-EU strides to foster closer counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation, and a shared commitment to do so, some challenges remain. Data privacy has been and continues to be a key sticking point. In early 2010, the European Parliament rejected a U.S.-EU agreement— known as the SWIFT accord—that would have continued allowing U.S. authorities access to European financial data to help combat terrorism on the grounds that it did not contain sufficient protections to safeguard the personal data and privacy rights of EU citizens. For years, and for similar reasons, some Members of the European Parliament have also challenged a U.S.-EU agreement permitting airlines to share passenger name record (PNR) data with U.S. authorities. The most recent U.S.-EU PNR agreement, concluded in 2007, must still be formally approved by the European Parliament, and some on both sides of the Atlantic worry that it may ultimately be rejected. Other points of U.S.-EU tension include issues related to balancing border security with legitimate transatlantic travel and commerce and terrorist detainee policies. 

Nevertheless, both the United States and the EU appear committed to fostering closer cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism and other homeland security issues. Congressional decisions related to improving border controls and transport security, in particular, may affect how future U.S.-EU cooperation evolves. In addition, given the European Parliament's growing influence in many of these policy areas, Members of Congress may be able to help shape Parliament's views and responses through ongoing contacts and the existing Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue (TLD). This report examines the evolution of U.S.-EU counterterrorism cooperation and the ongoing challenges that may be of interest in the 111th Congress. Also see CRS Report RL31509, 
Europe and Counterterrorism: Strengthening Police and Judicial Cooperation, by Kristin Archick. 


Date of Report: May 13, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: RS22030
Price: $29.95

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The United Kingdom: Issues for the United States

Derek E. Mix
Analyst in European Affairs


Many U.S. officials and Members of Congress view the United Kingdom (UK) as the United States' closest and most reliable ally. This perception stems from a combination of factors, including a sense of shared history, values, and culture; extensive and long-established bilateral cooperation on a wide range of foreign policy and security issues; and the UK's strong role in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States and the UK also cooperate closely on counterterrorism efforts. The two countries share an extensive and mutually beneficial trade and economic relationship, and each is the other's largest foreign investor. 
The term "special relationship" is often used to describe the deep level of U.S.-UK cooperation on diplomatic and political issues, as well as on security and defense matters such as intelligence sharing and nuclear weapons. British officials enjoy a unique level of access to U.S. decision makers, and British input is often cited as an element in shaping U.S. foreign policy debates. Few question that the two countries will remain close allies that choose to cooperate on many important global issues such as counterterrorism, the NATO mission in Afghanistan, and efforts to curb Iran's nuclear activities. At the same time, some observers have called for a reassessment of the "special relationship" concept. Some British analysts express concern that the UK tends to be overly deferential to the United States, sometimes at the possible expense of its own national interests. Others assert that British policymakers are in the process of adjusting to new geopolitical realities in which changing U.S. priorities may mean that the UK will not always be viewed as a centrally relevant actor on every issue. 

The UK is one of the 27 member countries of the European Union (EU). While the UK's relations with the EU have historically involved a degree of ambivalence and a reluctance to pursue certain elements of integration, British policy and the UK's outlook on many global issues are often shaped in the context of its EU membership. For example, analysts note that some UK policy positions, such as its approach to climate change, are closer to those of its EU partners than to those of the United States. 

The Conservative Party won the most seats in the UK election of May 6, 2010, although they fell short of winning an absolute majority. On May 11, 2010, the Conservatives agreed to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, who finished third in the election. Conservative leader David Cameron became the UK's new prime minister, and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was named deputy prime minister. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government is the UK's first coalition government since World War II. After losing a considerable number of seats in the election and finishing in second place, the Labour Party moved into opposition. Labour had led the UK government for 13 years, first under Tony Blair (1997-2007) and then under Gordon Brown. 

U.S.-UK relations and the implications of the 2010 British election may be of interest in the second session of the 111th Congress. This report provides an overview of the election and discusses some of the key issues facing the new government. The report also examines the UK's relationship with the European Union and assesses some of the main dimensions of the U.S.-UK relationship. For broader analysis of transatlantic relations, see CRS Report RS22163,
The United States and Europe: Current Issues, by Derek E. Mix.


Date of Report: May 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RL33105
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): Issues in the U.S. Ratification Debate

Luisa Blanchfield
Specialist in International Relations

The Senate may consider providing its advice and consent to U.S. ratification of the United Nations (U.N.) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, or the Convention) during the 111th Congress. CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that specifically addresses the rights of women. It calls on States Parties to take measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas of life, including political participation, employment, education, healthcare, and family structure. CEDAW has been ratified or acceded to by 186 States Parties. The United States is the only country to have signed but not ratified the Convention. Other governments that have not ratified the treaty include Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, and Tonga. 

The election of President Barack Obama has focused renewed attention on the possibility of U.S. ratification of CEDAW. The Obama Administration called the Convention an "important priority," and in May 2009 identified it as a treaty on which it "supports Senate action at this time." President Jimmy Carter signed the Convention and transmitted it to the Senate in 1980. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held hearings on CEDAW in 1988, 1990, 1994, and 2002. It reported CEDAW favorably, subject to certain conditions, in 1994 and 2002. To date, however, the Convention has not been considered by the full Senate. 

U.S. ratification of CEDAW is a contentious policy issue that has generated considerable debate in Congress and among the general public. Supporters of ratification hold that the Convention is a valuable mechanism for fighting women's discrimination worldwide. They argue that U.S. ratification will give CEDAW added legitimacy and empower women who fight discrimination in their own countries. Opponents of the Convention maintain that it is not an effective mechanism for addressing discrimination against women internationally or domestically, emphasizing that countries widely believed to have poor women's rights records have ratified the Convention. Critics further contend that U.S. ratification could undermine U.S. sovereignty and impact the private conducts of U.S. citizens. Some are particularly concerned with CEDAW's effect on U.S. laws and policies relating to the definition of discrimination, education, parental rights, and health care. 

This report provides an overview of CEDAW's background, objectives, and structure, including the role of the Convention's monitoring body, the CEDAW Committee. It examines U.S. policy and issues in the U.S. ratification debate, including the Convention's possible impact on U.S. sovereignty, its effectiveness in combating discrimination, and its role as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy.


Date of Report: May 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R40750
Price: $29.95

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Friday, May 14, 2010

The United Kingdom: Issues for the United States

Derek E. Mix
Analyst in European Affairs

Many U.S. officials and Members of Congress view the United Kingdom (UK) as the United States' closest and most reliable ally. This perception stems from a combination of factors, including a sense of shared history, values, and culture; extensive and long-established bilateral cooperation on a wide range of foreign policy and security issues; and the UK's strong role in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States and the UK also cooperate closely on counterterrorism efforts. The two countries share an extensive and mutually beneficial trade and economic relationship, and each is the other's largest foreign investor. 

The term "special relationship" is often used to describe the deep level of U.S.-UK cooperation on diplomatic and political issues, as well as on security and defense matters such as intelligence sharing and nuclear weapons. British officials enjoy a unique level of access to U.S. decision makers, and British input is often cited as an element in shaping U.S. foreign policy debates. Few question that the two countries will remain close allies that choose to cooperate on many important global issues such as counterterrorism, the NATO mission in Afghanistan, and efforts to curb Iran's nuclear activities. At the same time, some observers have called for a reassessment of the "special relationship" concept. Some British analysts express concern that the UK tends to be overly deferential to the United States, sometimes at the possible expense of its own national interests. Others assert that British policymakers are in the process of adjusting to new geopolitical realities in which changing U.S. priorities may mean that the UK will not always be viewed as a centrally relevant actor on every issue. 

The UK is one of the 27 member countries of the European Union (EU). While the UK's relations with the EU have historically involved a degree of ambivalence and a reluctance to pursue certain elements of integration, British policy and the UK's outlook on many global issues must yet be seen in the context of its EU membership. For example, analysts note that some UK policy positions, such as its approach to climate change, are closer to those of its EU partners than to those of the United States. 

On May 6, 2010, there will be a general election in the UK. The Labour Party has led the British government since 1997, first under Tony Blair and, since 2007, under Gordon Brown. For the past several years, polls have pointed to the likelihood of a victory by the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, in the upcoming election. Recent poll numbers, however, indicate the probability of a hung parliament, a result in which no single party wins a majority of seats in the 650-member House of Commons. In this case, the Liberal Democrats, led by Nick Clegg, could have a key role in the formation of a coalition government. Although a hung parliament could result in a period of relative political instability, most analysts assert that none of the potential outcomes are likely to mean dramatic changes in the U.S.-UK relationship. 

The outcome and implications of the British election may be of interest in the second session of the 111th Congress. This report provides an overview of the election and discusses some of the issues that could affect its result. The report also examines the UK's relationship with the European Union and assesses some of the main dimensions of the U.S.-UK relationship. For broader analysis of transatlantic relations, see CRS Report RS22163, The United States and Europe: Current Issues, by Derek E. Mix.


Date of Report: April 30, 2010
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: RL33105
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, May 11, 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. Despite a positive and concerted effort over the past 18 months and through more than 60 meetings between Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias, a Greek Cypriot, and the former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to reach some type of acceptable solution, time and politics ran out on both. Prospects for a settlement that would have ended the political division of Cyprus appeared to have reached a stalemate by the end of March 2010 and, as a result of April elections in the north, may now enter a period of retrenchment with possibly more difficult negotiations ahead dominated by harder-line views on both sides. 

On April 18, 2010, Turkish Cypriot leader Talat faced reelection as "president" of northern Cyprus, seeking a new mandate to continue his efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem. Talat, consistently trailing in the polls lost to his rival, and Turkish Cypriot "prime minister", Dervis Eroglu of the National Unity Party (UBP). Observers believe Talat's defeat was due to a combination of his failure to secure a settlement of the Cyprus problem after almost two years and his inability to convince the EU and others to help end the economic isolation of the north. 

Eroglu, a 72-year-old physician, and long-time politician, won the election with just over 50% of the vote. During the campaign, Eroglu criticized Talat for what he thought were too many concessions to the Greek side. While doing so, Eroglu insisted that negotiations would continue under his presidency. In his post-election statement, Eroglu apparently told Turkey's NTV television that "no one must think that I will walk away from the negotiating table. The talks process will continue". Eroglu appears to hold a harder-line view towards a negotiated settlement, seeking more autonomy for each community. It was reported that during the campaign he ruled out any Greek Cypriots returning to land held by Turkish Cypriots or Turks. In addition, there are some in his party who have advocated a permanently divided island and international recognition for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). 

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 on February 9, 2010, reportedly 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. In the end, DIKO voted to remain in the coalition, but the outcome of both votes seemed to indicate that Christofias was no longer guaranteed support for whatever negotiated solution he could have achieved before the elections in the north. 

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 in the aftermath of the April elections in northern Cyprus.



Date of Report: April 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R41136
Price: $29.95

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Long-Range Ballistic Missile Defense in Europe

Steven A. Hildreth
Specialist in Missile Defense

Carl Ek
Specialist in International Relations

In early 2007, after several years of internal discussions and consultations with Poland and the Czech Republic, the Bush Administration formally proposed to defend against an Iranian missile threat by deploying a ground-based mid-course defense (GMD) element in Europe as part of the global U.S. BMDS (Ballistic Missile Defense System). The system would have included 10 interceptors in Poland, a radar in the Czech Republic, and another radar that would have been deployed in a country closer to Iran, to be completed by 2013 at a reported cost of at least $4 billion. The proposed European BMD capability raised a number of foreign policy challenges in Europe and with Russia. The United States negotiated and signed agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic, but for a number of reasons those agreements were not ratified by the end of the Bush Administration. 

On September 17, 2009, the Obama Administration announced it would cancel the Bush proposed European BMD program. Instead, Defense Secretary Gates announced U.S. plans to develop and deploy a regional BMD capability in Europe that could be surged on relatively short notice during crises or as the situation may demand. Gates argued this new capability in the near term would be based on expanding existing BMD sensors and interceptors. Gates argued this new Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) would be more responsive and adaptable to the pace and direction of Iranian short- and medium-range ballistic missile proliferation. This capability would continue to evolve and expand over the next decade to include BMD capabilities against medium and long-range Iranian ballistic missiles. 

The Polish and Romanian governments have signaled their willingness to host facilities for the new system. However, Russia, though initially positive over the abandonment of the Bush Administration's BMD plan, soon found reasons to object to the Obama Administration's alternative. 

Although the terms of the debate over the Bush-proposed European BMD capability have changed significantly in the wake of President Obama's decision, this report will be retained for historical purposes to include background information and analysis through the Obama Administration's decision to cancel it.

Date of Report: April 26, 2010
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: RL34051
Price: $29.95

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Greece’s Debt Crisis: Overview, PolicyResponses, and Implications

Rebecca M. Nelson, Coordinator
Analyst in International Trade and Finance

Paul Belkin
Analyst in European Affairs

Derek E. Mix
Analyst in European Affairs


Over the past decade, Greece borrowed heavily in international capital markets to fund government budget and current account deficits. The reliance on financing from international capital markets left Greece highly vulnerable to shifts in investor confidence. Investors became jittery in October 2009, when the newly elected Greek government revised the estimate of the government budget deficit for 2009 from 6.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) to 12.7% of GDP. In April 2010, Eurostat, the European Union (EU)'s statistical agency, estimated Greece's deficit to be even higher, at 13.6% of GDP. Investors have become increasingly nervous about Greece's ability to repay its maturing debt obligations, estimated at €54 billion ($72.1 billion) for 2010. On April 23, 2010, the Greek government requested financial assistance from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help cover its maturing debt obligations. This report analyses the Greek debt crisis and implications for the United States. 

The debt crisis has both domestic and international causes. Domestically, analysts point to high government spending, weak revenue collection, and structural rigidities in Greece's economy. Internationally, observers argue that Greece's access to capital at low interest rates after adopting the euro and weak enforcement of EU rules concerning debt and deficit ceilings facilitated Greece's ability to accumulate high levels of external debt. 

During the crisis, the Greek government has sold bonds in order to raise needed funds. Greece's government has also unveiled, amidst domestic protests, austerity measures aimed at reducing the government deficit below 3% of GDP by 2012. It also appears likely that Greece will receive financial assistance from countries that use the euro as their national currency (the Eurozone) and the IMF in order to avoid defaulting on its debt. A common method for addressing budget and current account deficits, currency devaluation, is not possible for Greece as long as it uses the euro as its national currency. If the austerity measures and financial assistance from outside parties prove insufficient, Greece could be forced to default on, or restructure, its debt. 

Greece's crisis has numerous broader policy implications. There is concern that Greece's crisis could spill over to other European countries in difficult economic positions, including Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain. Greece's crisis has raised questions about imbalances within the Eurozone, which has a common monetary policy but diverse national fiscal policies. It has also come to light that complex financial instruments may have played a role in helping Greece accumulate and conceal its debt, which may have ramifications for debates in the United States and the EU over financial regulatory reform. 

Greece's crisis could have several implications for the United States. First, falling investor confidence in the Eurozone could further weaken the euro and, in turn, widen the U.S. trade deficit. Second, given the strong economic ties between the United States and the EU, financial instability in the EU could impact the U.S. economy. Third, $14.1 billion of Greece's debt is held by U.S. creditors, and a Greek default would likely have ramifications for these creditors. Fourth, some point to similarities between the financial situation in Greece and the United States, implying that Greece's current crisis foreshadows what the United States could face in the future. Others argue that the analogy is weak, because the United States, unlike Greece, has a floating exchange rate and the dollar is a reserve currency. Fifth, the debate about imbalances within the Eurozone is similar to the debates about U.S.-China imbalances, and reiterates how, in a globalized economy, the economic policies of one country impact other countries' economies.



Date of Report: April 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R41167
Price: $29.95

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

NATO Common Funds Burden sharing: Background and Current Issues

Carl Ek
Specialist in International Relations


Member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) contribute to the activities of the alliance in several ways, the chief of which is through the deployment of their own armed forces, funded by their national budgets. Certain commonly conducted activities, however, are paid for out of three NATO-run budgets. These three accounts—the civil budget, the military budget, and the security investment program—are funded by individual contributions from the member states. The countries' percentage shares of the common funds are negotiated among the members, and are based upon per capita gross national income and several other factors. The U.S. shares for the three funds, which have fallen over the past three decades, currently range from about 22%-25%. Twelve central and eastern European nations were admitted into the alliance in 1999, 2004, and 2009. As NATO has expanded, it has incurred certain additional costs to accommodate the new members. These costs are being shared by all, including the new countries. In 2005, members of the alliance adopted new burden sharing arrangements; the U.S. level, however, was limited to its current share. Additional changes in the cost share formulas are under review. Congress will likely examine U.S. contributions to the NATO budgets in the context of the Defense and State Departments' appropriations.


Date of Report: April 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: RL30150
Price: $29.95

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