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Monday, November 22, 2010

The European Union: Questions and Answers


Kristin Archick
Specialist in European Affairs

Derek E. Mix
Analyst in European Affairs


The European Union (EU) is an economic and political partnership that represents a unique form of cooperation among its 27 sovereign member states. The Union is the latest stage of a process of integration begun after World War II to promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity in Europe. The United States has strongly supported the EU and its progenitors as a means to foster democratic states and robust trading partners.

The EU has been built through a series of binding treaties, and EU member states have committed to a process of integration by harmonizing laws and adopting common policies on an extensive range of issues. For most economic and social issues, EU member states have largely pooled their national sovereignty, and EU decision-making has a supranational quality. Decisions in other areas, such as foreign policy, require unanimous consensus among member states.

EU member states work together through common institutions to set policy and to promote their collective interests. The three main institutions of the EU are the European Commission (essentially the EU’s executive), the Council of the European Union (representing the national governments), and the European Parliament (representing the citizens of the EU). The Lisbon Treaty is the EU’s latest attempt to reform its institutional arrangements and decision-making procedures in order to enable an enlarged EU to function more effectively. The treaty creates two important new leadership positions in the EU: President of the European Council (held by Herman Van Rompuy) and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Catherine Ashton).

The EU has a strong common trade policy, and a developing Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) for a more united voice in global affairs. It has also been seeking to build a Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) in order to improve its military capabilities and capacity to act independently. Although some shortcomings exist in EU-NATO relations, the two institutions continue to seek a more cooperative and complementary relationship. Over the last decade especially, the EU has also been working to forge common internal security measures in the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) field, including by boosting police and judicial cooperation and enhancing the Union’s ability to combat terrorism and other cross-border crimes.

The United States and the EU share a large, mutually beneficial trade and investment relationship. The global financial crisis and recession has challenged both sides to forge a common response. The United States and EU have a number of lingering trade disputes, but have led the push to liberalize world trade, and have sought to reduce non-tariff and regulatory barriers in the transatlantic marketplace.

This report provides a summary overview of these issues, many of which may be of interest to the second session of the 111
th Congress. For more information, also see CRS Report RS21618, The European Union’s Reform Process: The Lisbon Treaty, by Kristin Archick and Derek E. Mix, CRS Report RS21998, The European Parliament, by Kristin Archick and Derek E. Mix, and CRS Report R41088, The European Union: Leadership Changes Resulting from the Lisbon Treaty, by Derek E. Mix.


Date of Report: November 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: RS21372
Price: $29.95

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The European Parliament


Kristin Archick
Specialist in European Affairs

Derek E. Mix
Analyst in European Affairs


The 736-member European Parliament (EP) is a key institution of the European Union (EU), a unique political and economic partnership composed of 27 member states. The EP is the only EU institution that is directly elected. The EP plays a role in the EU’s legislative and budgeting processes, and works closely with the two other main EU bodies, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union (Council of Ministers). Although the EP does not formally initiate EU legislation, it shares legislative power with the Council of Ministers in many policy areas, giving it the right to accept, amend, or reject proposed EU laws.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) serve five-year terms. The most recent EP elections were held in June 2009. The EP currently has seven political groups, which caucus according to political ideology rather than nationality, plus a number of “non-attached” or independent members. The EP has 20 standing committees that are key actors in the adoption of EU legislation and a total of 41 delegations that maintain international parliament-to-parliament relations. The EP is led by a President, who oversees its work and represents the EP externally.

Once limited to being a consultative assembly, the EP has accumulated more power over time. Experts assert that the EU’s latest effort at institutional reform—the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 2009—has increased the relative power of the EP within the EU significantly. The Lisbon Treaty gives the EP a say over the vast majority of EU legislation (with some exceptions, such as tax matters and foreign policy) and further strengthens the EP’s budgetary responsibilities. It also gives the EP the right to approve or reject international agreements and expands the EP’s decision-making authority over trade-related issues.

Many analysts note that the EP has not been shy about exerting its new powers under the Lisbon Treaty, and in some areas, with implications for U.S. interests. In February 2010, the EP rejected the U.S.-EU SWIFT agreement allowing U.S. authorities access to European financial data to help counter terrorism. Although the EP eventually approved a revised U.S.-EU SWIFT accord in July 2010, it did so only after several EP demands related to strengthening data privacy protections were agreed to by the United States and the other EU institutions.

Although supporters point to the EP’s growing institutional clout, others assert that the EP still faces several challenges of public perception. Skeptics contend that the EP lacks the legitimacy of national parliaments and that its powers remain somewhat limited. Some analysts observe that the complexity of the EU legislative process contributes to limited public interest and understanding of the EP’s role, leading to declining turnout in European Parliament elections and wider charges of a democratic deficit in the EU. Criticism has also been directed at the costs incurred by what many consider duplicate EP facilities in several European cities.

Ties between the EP and the U.S. Congress are long-standing, and the Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue—the formal mechanism for EP-congressional exchanges—is expected to continue its activities during the second session of the 111
th Congress. Also see CRS Report RS21372, The European Union: Questions and Answers, by Kristin Archick and Derek E. Mix, and CRS Report RS21618, The European Union’s Reform Process: The Lisbon Treaty, by Kristin Archick and Derek E. Mix. .


Date of Report: November 5, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: RS21998
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, November 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 112th 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 treaty. 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 possible effect on U.S. laws and policies relating to the definitions 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: November 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R40750
Price: $29.95

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Friday, November 12, 2010

European Union Enlargement: A Status Report on Turkey’s Accession Negotiations


Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

October 2009 marked the fifth anniversary of the European Union’s decision to proceed with formal negotiations with Turkey toward full membership in the Union. It also marked the beginning of the annual period when all three European Union institutions, the Council, Commission, and Parliament provide their assessment of the progress Turkey had made or failed to accomplish in the accession process over the previous year and to issue recommendations on whether and how Turkey’s accession process should proceed.

Many “Turkey-skeptics” in Europe saw the end of 2009 as a deadline for significant Turkish action that would have marked a critical juncture for the future of Europe’s relationship with Turkey. At issue was not only the domestic reforms many felt Turkey needed to achieve to meet the requirements of the EU’s acquis communautaire but whether the lack of progress by Turkey with respect to its relations with Cyprus would force EU member states into a difficult debate pitting loyalty to one of its own member states, being shunned by the candidate for Union membership, versus Europe’s long-term strategic interests in Turkey. In the end, however, no significant changes in the EU’s approach toward Turkey materialized.

Throughout 2010 Turkey was the topic of a great deal of attention. Significant political and economic developments took place in Turkey, including the passage of the September 12 referendum to amend the Turkish constitution that many argued would strengthen Turkey as a more liberal and democratic country. In addition, an emerging activism in Turkey’s foreign policy, driven by its Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, to establish Turkey as a more independent regional influence has raised questions in Europe and the United States about Turkey’s global orientation.

Despite changes taking place in Turkey, its EU accession process continued at a relatively slow pace. Only one additional chapter of the acquis was opened in 2010. The principal issues regarding Turkey’s accession continue to be what the EU believes has been too slow of a pace for implementing critical reforms within Turkey; a perceived ambivalence toward the EU by some in the current Turkish leadership and a large segment of its population; Turkey’s failure to live up to its agreement to extend the benefits of its customs union with the EU to Cyprus, including the continued reluctance by Turkey to open its sea and air ports to Cypriot shipping and commerce until a political settlement has been achieved on Cyprus; and a growing skepticism on the part of many Europeans about whether Turkey should be embraced as a member of the European family fueled, in part, by the ongoing debate within parts of Europe over the implications of the growing Muslim population in Europe and the impact Turkey’s admission into the Union would have on Europe’s future.

This report provides a brief overview of the EU’s accession process; Turkey’s path to EU membership; the impact of the Cyprus problem; and a review of United States’ interest in Turkey’s future in the European Union.



Date of Report: November 2, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: RS22517
Price: $29.95

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874


TO: Hon. Richard G. Lugar
Attention: Keith Luse


This memo was prepared in response to you request that CRS evaluate the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSC) 1874 (June 2009).  In compiling this memo, CRS did extensive interviews with officials from the U.S. government, other governments, and the United Nations.  While the research and analysis for this memo was done exclusively in response to this request, the material provided may also appear in other CRS reports.


Date of Report: October 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 35
Order Number: M-100810
Price: $29.95

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