Monday, 28 November 2016

The Case Law of the European Convention on Human Rights on the Question of Asylum Seekers and Refugees

There are many international legal instruments protecting asylum seekers and refugees from an abusive behaviour of the receiving  State. The Geneva Convention of 1951 on refugees is one of them. But none of them provides for a judicial protection, namely a protection which is given by a court of justice with the force of a binding judgment. Consequently victims of violations have recourse to the European Court of human Rights, which applies the European Convention on Human Rights, and eventually provides clauses covering certain violations of asylum seekers and refugees rights against the perpetrator European State.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Searching for a Way Out of the Greek Crisis

Seven years on, most Greeks feel trapped in a maze. Seemingly, every possible exit rout has been explored, only to lead to a blank wall. Internal and external commentators translate that perplexity into a baseless desire for some external solution, for a deus ex machina whose intervention is repeatedly postponed.
This short note tries to sketch the source of the perplexity and to suggest that the usual reactions of simply waiting for something to happen threaten to make matters worse. This only makes the case for a well-meaning response of swimming against the current only more pressing.

National vs. European Interest: Which One is Closer to Citizens' Interest?

This note argues that the lack of awareness of our shared interests as Europeans is one of the main causes for the inexistence of a true European constituency made up of individual able to act politically upon their interests at continental level. Mainstream European political parties have not taken up the challenge of articulating such interests at pan-European level and have rather left the work of engaging with their citizens to national parties.

The result is that decisions at European level – especially in areas where the EU as no (or limited) competence – are taken often on the basis of national interests, which recent crises have proved to be against the overall European interest and, ultimately, against that of its citizens.

This short piece therefore suggests that investments need to be made on raising awareness of our common interest as Europeans and to the definition of a clearer vision for Europe in the 21st century. This would contribute to transforming Europeans citizens into a constituency willing (and able) to put forward ambitious reforms for Europe that require significant transfers of sovereignty and, therefore, broad citizens' support.

Catastrophe: A Greek Pension Tragedy in Three Diagrams

Catastrophe is a Greek word. It is especially apt for the  Greek pension system. That never achieved sustainability; it  increased poverty and inequality, but  gave little security at old age.   Even so, it managed to bankrupt the country and to undermine two bailout programmes from 2010 to 2014. In 2016 it was poised to derail the third.
Reform proposals in 2016 were structured around implementing common rules. Consolidation was to operate in three dimensions: Across generations, across occupational categories (i.e. between wage employees and the rest) and in administrative structures.  Those  proposals repeated the key idea of a  detailed 1957 policy paper, written by the mother of an Economy Minister of the late 1990s: There is urgent need of a system … free of the unacceptable position that its objective is to secure privileges of the few against the many, which will use the available means to meet needs”.  (quoted in Tinios 2010).
That blueprint, also built around consolidation, was to have been implemented in 1958. However, the impending elections postponed it. The same reform was also postponed in the following decades:

  • In 1968 due to the dictatorship.
  • In 1978 due to inflation.
  • In 1988 the reform was leaked to the press and then abandoned.
  • In 1998 the ‘Spraos report’ provoked hostile reactions.
  • In 2008 a cosmetic law could not avert bankruptcy a year later.
  • In 2018 is the prospective date of full implementation  of the 2016 proposals.
Why has the performance of the Greek pension system been so bad for so long? Why is it so hard to bring it under control?  What is the role of pensions in the dynamics of the crisis since 2010?

Brexit and the UK: Regained Sovereignty or Impending Meltdown?

In this short piece I analyse the foreign and security policy implications of Brexit for the UK and its current European partners. I start from the assumption that whatever the formal position Britain will continue to have vital interests in the international politics of Europe, both because the actions of the remaining members of the EU will significantly affect the UK, and because there are clear limits to what the UK can achieve on its own in foreign policy. On the other hand it will be far from an easy process for Britain to reinvent its foreign policy, whether in relative isolation or as some kind of close associate of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. There is the distinct possibility that both British and European foreign policies will end up worse off as a result of their divorce.

Compliance with the Judgments of the ECtHR

In March 2015 the Italian Constitutional Court judgment on the Varvara case, concluded that only consolidated law (diritto consolidato) of the Strasburg Court is binding in the domestic legal order. Although the notion of consolidated law is not clearly established, it includes at least Grand Chamber and pilot judgments and eventually committee judgments. Chamber judgments are binding only inter partes and have no other effect in similar cases sharing the same structural problems. In July 2015 the Russian Constitutional Court delivered a judgment on the Federal Law on the Accession of the Russian Federation to the ECHR, which affirmed that the judgments of the Strasbourg Court would not be enforceable if and when they contradict the Russian Constitution, according to its reading by the Russian Constitutional Court. This line of domestic case-law puts in question the legal force of the European Court's case law and of the European Convention itself. Other cases in UK and German jurisdictions raise similar concerns. The tense relationship between some Supreme and Constitutional Courts and the European Court raises the question of principle: What are the obligations of the Contracting Parties to the Convention to implement the European Court's judgments? 

The Refugee Crisis in France. A View from the Ground

The AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) is a London-based charity providing free legal advice on European human rights law and European Union law. The vision of the AIRE Centre is to promote awareness of European law rights and assist marginalised individuals and those in vulnerable circumstances to assert those rights.
The AIRE Centre has acted as a representative and intervener in more than 120 cases before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), and 15 cases before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), and many cases before the UK Supreme Court.

The Common European Asylum System and the Plight of International Protection Seekers – Ensuring Protection of Human Rights in Times of Crisis and Emergency

Political debates and popular discussions of mass migration and refugee flows are increasingly dominated by a language of ‘crisis’ and the measures adopted at European Union (EU) level are conceived with an emergency-driven mind-set. This has led to the rise of unorthodox institutional and policy developments as a pragmatic rather than a legal response to address the formidable challenges posed by the mass movement of refugees that is witnessed in Europe. [1] Schengen once seemed like a hermetic system: sealed, internally fluid and unbreakable. [2] But that was before the conflict in Syria sent a veritable flood of displaced people in search of a safe harbour into Europe. [3]

Greek Private Debt and Behavioral (Law &) Economics

Human beings are less rational than we assume. Nowadays, abundant laboratory and field experiments show that we systematically fail to behave, decide or act rationally, i.e., to act as maximizers of our own utility; the so-called “homo oeconomicus” does not actually exist. These assumptions have led to the emergence of Behavioral Economics. When the findings of Behavioral Economics are used in the field of Law, we then enter the field of Behavioral Law & Economics (BLE). This is an interdisciplinary meeting point for Law, Economics and Psychology (see recently in Greek legal literature: Karampatzos, Private Autonomy and Consumer Protection – A Contribution to Behavioral Economic Analysis of Law, 2016). BLE flourished in the US especially in the aftermath of the subprime lending crisis. Various public policy instruments have been explored since then with the intent to enhance consumer protection in bank loan agreements. In my presentation I focus on some major BLE findings in relation to the problem of private bank lending, and more specifically of the “Non-Performing-Loans” (NPLs). Inter alia, I discuss the following issues related to a BLE approach: (a) Why resort to excessive borrowing, especially in case you are not in bad need of financing? (→ mainly because of overconfidence bias, present-bias and hyperbolic discounting). (b) Do Borrowers Really Need Protection? What about the So-called “Learning-Effect”? (c) Free-Riders, Strategic Default and Moral Hazard in combination with the twin phenomena of “herding/herd behavior” and “social mimetism”. (d) Possible Proactive Measures for Borrowers’ Protection Pursuant to BLE findings (→ light-touch state interventions, such as properly designed default rules, informational duties and short cooling-off periods after the conclusion of a bank loan agreement). My presentation ends with the following two main conclusions: (a) The BLE approach may offer some valuable insights into the borrower’s behavior at the time they enter into excessive borrowing or they decide to go down the path of “strategic default”. (b) The Greek banks experience great difficulties offloading their NPLs; probably, there is here a need for more active involvement of institutional actors, such as the ECB or the Bank of Greece as well as of debiasing tools offered by the research done in the field of BLE.   

Μια παράνομη και αδικαιολόγητη πολιτική

Ελάτε να φανταστούμε έναν κόσμο. Ομορφο κόσμο, ηθικό, αγγελικά πλασμένο. Οπου καμία σκιά δεν υπάρχει ως προς το ευγενές και καλοπροαίρετο της κυβερνητικής πολιτικής για την αδειοδότηση των τηλεοπτικών σταθμών. Οπου κανείς δεν αμφισβητεί τις προθέσεις της κυβέρνησης, ούτε και ανησυχεί ότι η πολιτική της υποκρύπτει σκοπιμότητες, πέραν δεδηλωμένων και καθ' όλα θεμιτών στόχων προστασίας του δημοσίου συμφέροντος. Ας φανταστούμε μία ουτοπία (ή οργουελική δυστοπία, για όσους από εμάς θεωρούμε σημαντικό τον δημοκρατικό πλουραλισμό και την πολυφωνία) όπου όλοι συμφωνούν με τις πολιτικές στοχεύσεις της κυβέρνησης. Καλή και άγια, λοιπόν - για τις ανάγκες της υπόθεσης εργασίας μας -, η πολιτική της. Είναι όμως και νόμιμη;