Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Machism in Italy: Women are still an object.

Many newspapers report today last Berlusconi's gaffe. In public, he makes appreciative comments of young italian ladies; Berlusconi's wife did not like them and challenged him publicly to apologize.

Internationally, this news can only be interpreted in one way: Berlusconi is an old man with a very machist perspective on women.

Unfortunately, in Italy, many people still recognize themselves in this horrific image. It is sad and despicable, but that is the way it is. Of course, only a chunk of the population would share Mr B's attitude. Needless to say, those who support him in this, are also those who vote him. The rest of the population is likely to be shocked and appalled by the very possibility of such a behaviour.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Kofi Annan's Last words

Here, you can find Kofi Annan's last speech on the Middle East to the UN.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Berlusconi's Successor?

Berlusconi elects his successor: it will be Mr Fini a clever italian politician with a very dark past.
Fini was formed politically in the ranks of MSI (Italian Social Movement) a post-fascist party created
after the end of the Second World War.

When Fini became the President of MSI, he did his best to mutate it into a democratically acceptable party.
The output was Alleanza Nazionale. The mutation, however, has never been complete. Many representatives in that party hold on to the post-fascist credo and they are less than presentable.

Mr Fini himself managed to sell a much more palatable image. But it is less than clear whether he could lead a coalition of moderate people, when his own party has such a daunting past, and nebulous present.

Former allies are probably the most dissatisfied: to the right, the northern ligue disapproves of national alliance precisely because Fini's party is in favour of national unity, while the northern party is all for federalism.

The other, former, Chritian ally declares itself uninterested: Berlusconi's coalition is not that fashionable anymore

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The ECHR has a New President

Jean Paul Costa is the new President of the European Court of Human Rights. His mandate has just begun. He replaces the former Swiss President, Luzius Wildhaber. Here's Costa's interesting speech.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Scotland & Kosovo

The Guardian argues how a possible supervised independence for Serbia’s Province of Kosovo might play the role of a precedent in other cases such as Scotland for example. The Guardian writes, “The breakaway British region of Scotland could be among the beneficiaries of this week's expected UN recommendation that Kosovo be granted provisional independence from Serbia, leading in time to full sovereign status. If the plan backed by the US, Britain and Germany is formally accepted by the UN Security Council, it will be taken as an important international legal precedent by would-be separatist movements from Georgia to Moldova to Chechnya, and possibly also the Scottish National party.” For more information read here.

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Books on Theories of Human Rights

A Couple of good titles for those of you interested in Theories of Fundamental Rights.

The first, just published, is Tim Macklem's Independence of Mind, Oxford University Press.

The second is M.J.Perry, Toward a Theory of Human Rights: Religion, Law and Courts published by CUP (forthcoming 2007)

I add Constitutional Dilemmas: Conflicts of Fundamental Legal Rights, just to make three.

Serbian 2007 Elections: Victory of the Pro-European Forces

On the Serbian parliamentary elections held yesterday 21st of January 2007 Pro-European political block won the majority of votes. The largest number of citizens voted for the Ex-Milosevic’s ally Serbian Radical Party but this party will not be in a position to form the new government, both because no party seems willing to ally with them (because of the international pressure) as well as they themselves publicly announced would not form a coalition with any of the parties that entered the Parliament, apart from the parties of national minorities and possibly the Socialist Party of Serbia.

The electoral results are the following: Serbian Radical Party won 81 seats, Democratic Party (of the Serbian President Boris Tadic) won 65, Democratic Party of Serbia (of the Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica) won 47, G 17 Plus 19, The Coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party 15, ex-Milosevic’s Socialist Party of Serbia 16 and the parties of national minorities 7. In other words political parties that were in power during the ancien regime of Milosevic won 97 seats, while the parties that governed Serbia in the post-Milosevic period won 153 seat. In the parliamentary elections of 2003 this ratio was 104 vs. 146, while in the 2000 elections post-Milosevic parties won as much as 176 seats, leaving the parties of the ex-regime on meagre 74.

Bearing in mind the fact that Serbia is undergoing a painful (but arguably a rather successful) transition process, it is rather surprising even that the populist opposition parties did not win even more. As far as the governing coalition of the Prime Minister Kostunica is concerned they suffered a significant blow. Together (DSS, NS, G 17 and SPO) they won 66 seats (SPO 0 since they did not manage to cross the threshold of 5%), while after the 2003 elections they held 110 (They ruled in a position of a minority government thanks to the votes of ex-Milosevic’s party Socialist Party of Serbia). The biggest victor in these elections is the newly founded Liberal Democratic Party that together with its coalition partners managed to enter the Parliament and win 15 seats. This party is largely formed of the ex-members of the Democratic Party and together with the Democratic Party holds the claim over the political legacy of the late Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. Democratic Party, the main-stream reformist, centre-left party of the Serbian President Boris Tadic is also a winner of these elections (the best result ever of this party) although their supporters, who hoped to win more in the elections, are left with a bitter (for them) perspective of having to deal with PM Kostunica’s Democrats for the formation of the new government.

There are several scenarios for the formation of the new government but two are the most likely:

1) The coalition of the DS, DSS-NS Coalition and the G 17 Plus is the most probable outcome, although it remains uncertain who will lead this coalition, the candidate of DS Bozidar Djelic, the current Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica, the leader of G 17 Plus Mladjan Dinkic or a neutral technocrat able to rally the abovementioned parties together. The Coalition grouped around the Liberal Democratic Party is unlikely to take part in the government, both because the Party of the Serbian Prime Minister is unready to cooperate with them and also because they are most likely to benefit from the coalition of DS and DSS in the long run. Some or all parties of the national minorities that managed to enter the Parliament will most probably take part in the new government.

2) All other coalitions are highly unlikely since they are likely to cause serious political damage to both DS and DSS. According to the Serbian Constitution (article 109) if the aforementioned block of parties does not manage to make an agreement on the formation of the new government in three month, Serbia will have the new elections. The entire Pro-European block will not profit from the new elections, both because of the possible negative outcome of the future Kosovo status negotiation as well as because of the dissatisfaction of the voters with their inability to reach an agreement. So the two Democratic parties must reach an agreement, the sooner the better for Serbia and its citizens.

A brief reflection on some recent travels...

For the Christmas break this year, I drove with my partner from Geneva in Switzerland to Ružomberok in Slovakia. In doing so, we crossed a number of international borders: Switzerland to Austria; Austria to Germany; Germany to Austria; Austria to Hungary (took a wrong turn after Vienna; if you're ever going that way, don't follow the signs to Bratislava on the motorway, they'll take you via Györ, it's a good bit longer); Hungary back to Austria, and Austria to Slovakia. Six borders, and we didn't show our passports once.

This, of course, is one of the most striking advances made by the European Union; and the extent to which it has been consolidated is illustrated by the extent to which those of us from the old EU-15 states at least now take such freedom of movement completely for granted. My experience on the trip to Slovakia did not really strike me as in any way remarkable until an even more recent trip to the US, where the difference could not have been more stark. After some checking to ensure that my passport was machine readable - and I was thus eligible for the visa waiver programme, I still had to have both a digital photograph and two fingerprints taken before I could enter the country.

This is not, however, intended to add to the chorus of voices criticising the US for recent security measures; rather it is to insist that the extraordinary advances made within the EU - so accepted now as to be almost overlooked by those long used to benefitting from them - be accorded their rightful place in any evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of the Union. It has many well-publicised shortcomings; it would be a huge error, however, to allow these to dominate discourse to the exclusion of its incredible achievements. Of course, these benefit, in global terms, only a select few; however, to arrive at this point in a continent so recently divided by two world wars and one cold one, is certainly no mean feat.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Build Up to the American Presidential Elections

Hilary has officially started her campaign, see here Her committee will even use a blog.

It looks as if we'll have two interesting years to come in the US. I still have a doubt, maybe someone can help: Is Obama real or is he fake? On paper, he looks good, perhaps too good to be true. Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

European Constitution: A Revival?

At least if you listen to what Angela Merkel has to say, it would seem that the relaunch of the European Constitution is a top priority for the EU. See here for a report.

Merkel has just taken up the position of President of the Council of the European Union, a responsibility she holds along with the presidency of the G8. She is determined to make something out of it, as it may be easier to do something at the European/International level than to shake the torpid German political and economic stagnation (although the economy is going better as of late).

Her agenda is incredibly ambitious: 'It included progress on energy security and climate change, a global trade deal, a new partnership agreement with Russia, and greater peace efforts for the Middle East. ' Too ambitious, say the skeptic (the Economist in particular). In the last couple of years, though, the lack of initiative and action was devastating. A bold agenda can be launched now, we will see how long it takes to implement it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Berlusconi is desperate to be America's Best Friends

At times Silvio (Berlusconi) is endearing, poor old little chap. Now He claims in his clownish fashion that he's the best friend the US have ever had. Then he adds that Prodi and the new italian government are foes of America.

I am always curious to know what is the image of Berlusconi across the Ocean. If you have any contribution please leave a comment. As far as the Atlantic Alliance is concerned, the US should not be afraid. Italy simply can't afford to be a foe of the US. That would be meaningless, if not ridiculous. But abroad many people now know that Berlusconi can indeed be ridiculous.

For a longer report, please read here

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Independence of Kosovo vs. Humanitarian Interventions

In the current issue of the German Law Journal, entirely dedicated to the legal dimension of the future status of the Serbian Province of Kosovo I published an article: Srdjan Cvijic, “Self-determination as a challenge to the legitimacy of humanitarian interventions: The Case of Kosovo”, German Law Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1, January 2007

This article questions the legality of imposing independence for Kosovo without the consent of Serbia. It does so by firmly linking this question to the debate on the nature and legality of NATO’s 1999 humanitarian intervention in the FRY / Serbia. The UN-mediated process for negotiating the future status of this southern Serbian province, as well as the legal origin of the UN-mandated administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), represent a continuation of the original military and political involvement of NATO and the entire international community initiated six years ago. It is for this reason that no decision on the future status of Kosovo can be reached without bearing in mind the original basis of international involvement in FRY / Serbia. This article will analyse authoritative international jurisprudence that demonstrates how only “a thin red line” divides humanitarian interventions from being legal under international law. It further argues that instances of humanitarian intervention can, over time, acquire legality provided that stringent conditions are respected, the most important of which being that they serve no purpose other than the prevention of grave and immediate threats to human life. Consequently, humanitarian intervention should not serve as a tool for achieving political goals such as greater political autonomy, self-determination, or independence for particular groups within any given country. Infringement of this condition would amount to a revolutionary challenge to international law and threaten the return of the predominance of spheres of influence in international relations and law, taking us back to a past where war was considered the legitimate “continuation of politics by other means”. The imposition of an independence status for Kosovo on Serbia would not only amount to a revolutionary challenge to the established norms of international law, but would also jeopardize the development of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Constitutional Dilemmas for 2007 (and beyond)

Euthanasia, Same sex unions, the legal status of embryos; these are few of the most daunting ethical issues that are debated in Europe and America.

The risk of polarisation of societies on these issues is great. In short, many believe that you simply can't regulate life at its beginning or at its end. In reality, part of the society believes that god gives and takes life so human cannot decide at his place. Half of the society disagrees and believes that humans must intervene in order to say what is permissible and what is not.

Given that the substantive issue is so difficult to settle, many argue that we should agree on a procedure on how to decide. Again, there's a party that trust supreme courts to do this job, and another faction that believes that representative instituions (i.e. parliaments) should take the lead.

I think that both majority rule and judicial adjudication are unfit for the job. Both would produce more polarisation than reduce it. Courts cannot escape the problem: the scene is always set as a confrontation between two claims, and the court must decide between those two claims. There is little margin for mediation and reasonable compromise. Parliaments, on the other hand, cannot possibly hope to settle these issues by voting. This process would have the result to trigger a neverending parliamentary battle, where opposing parties would try to impose their preferred view anytime they come to power.

Perhaps a better compromise on how to deal with those problems could be a special procedure whereby MPs and various other specialists are brought together to work out a compromise (it would inevitably involve a sacrifice). No simple majority would be allowed, at best a qualified majority (say 2/3) in extreme cases where unrelenting disagreement cannot be placated in any other way.

This is the gist of my new book, Constitutional Dilemmas, forthcoming in June 2007.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A Conference for 2007: the 23rd IVR Congress of Philosophy of Law

The IVR conference is organized every two year and its main focus is Philosophy of Law. This year it will take place in Cracow, Poland, from 1 to 8 August.

The Transatlantic Assembly will feature with a Workshop on Comparative Constitutionalism, see here

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Luxuria, Islam and Gay Rights

The italian transgender MP, Vladimiro Guadagno, AKA Wladimir Luxuria is preparing to travel to Turkey and other Muslim states as a representant of gay rights.

This a very original initiative and it may well provoke more dialogue between Islam and Europe than the recent visit of the Pope.

You can read a good report in english here.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

GLJ Koskenniemi Symposium

The excellent German Law Journal, a free online journal focusing, in part, on issues of public international law, has a fascinating collection of articles on From Apology to Utopia, written to mark the republication (with a new, extensive epilogue) of the already-classic volume. Countributors are a mix of established academics (such as David Kennedy) and up-and-coming scholars, and include a response from Koskenniemi himself. Well worth a read.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ban Ki Moon and the Death Penalty

Ban-Ki-Moon, the new secretary general of the UN since January 1st 2007, hasn't started his mandate very well.
Questioned on the Italian proposal to end death penalty, Ban Ki Moon first rejected the idea on the grounds of national sovereignty. Then, today, he rectified his position through his office, claiming that he is against death penalty, but he believes the success of the motion is unlikely.

In short, Ban Ki Moon does not strike us immediately as a great communicator. Pity, the UN are not doing very well in terms of image and a strong President is the first requirement to build a new an improved image internationally. Let's give him the benefit of doubt.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Italy in the Security Council: No to Death Penalty

On January 1 2007, Italy joined the Security Council of the UN as a non-permanent member.

Its first proposal is very symbolic: Death penalty should be abolished around the world. Coming few days after the execution of Saddam Hussein, the proposal has a huge political impact.

American and Europe, though close on many aspects, do not share the same values when it comes to the desirability of the capital punishment.

Italy is one of the first country in the world where death penalty has been abolished. More importantly, Cesare Beccaria, a philosopher born in Milan in the 18th century, was one of the most outspoken advocate against the death penalty. His famous contribution to that debate, On Crimes and Punishments, is still worth reading for all those who are interested in the problem

European Enlargement and Deepening

Romania and Bulgaria have now joined the European Union. Slovenia has joined the Euro. These are only few signs that the EU is not sleeping, but it keeps very quiet.
Past problems have not disappeared and it is necessary to deal with them explicitly.
That is why Angela Merkl, the new President of the Council of the EU, has stressed the importance of a new text (Treaty or Constitution?) that can bring forward the all-important institutional adaptations. 2007 will be a crucial year in terms of institutional/constitutional reforms.