Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘University College London’

What Kind of Intervention in Syria?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 15th October, 2012

This evening I took part in a lively and well-attended debate at the University College London (UCL) Debating Society, speaking on behalf of a proposition in favour of international intervention in Syria. I pointed out that there already has been intervention of various kinds on both sides of the conflict for several months, with the Russians, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah notably helping the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad try to cling onto power, while countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey — not to forget jihadis from all over the world, including the UK — have backed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or other armed opposition groups, including the Muslim Broherhood. So the real question to answer is: what sort of intervention is desirable? I emphatically ruled out an Iraqi-style US-led invasion (which I, along with the Liberal Democrat Party, vociferously opposed in 2003). But I also excluded a Libyan-style intervention (which I did support), as the situation on the ground in Syria is so utterly different; as Syria’s population density is much greater and there are no big centres of opposition strength, such as Benghazi. No great military intervention would be likely to achieve much except raise the casualty levels, which probably top 35,000 deaths already. On the other hand, the world cannot just stand by and watch Assad and his cronies slaughter the Syrian people (and destroy the country’s rich cultural heritage in the process). We are morally and legally obliged to do something, now that the Responsiblity to Protect is part of International Law, i.e. that when a leader is unable or unwilling to protect his own people then there is an obligation on the international community to come to their aid. I argued that Lakhdar Brahimi’s new plan — which involves a ceasefire and a UN-organised peacekeeping force — should receive strong international endorsement as a good starting-point. I believe even Russia could be won round to this, as Moscow is desperate for some face-saving exit from its current embarassing alliance. Today, even Assad said he would go along with the plan, though the FSA has turned it down. A ceasefire is an essential step in the direction of a workable and lasting solution, but clearly the departure of Assad and some of his closest associated would have to be part of the package.

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Human Rights, Turkey and the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 19th March, 2009

This evening I was one of the speakers at a big meeting at the LSE, focussing on aspects of the European media’s coverage of Turkey’s progress (or otherwise) towards EU membership. Quentin Peel of the Financial Times was in the Chair at the event, which was organised by the British-Turkish Business Network, BizNET. The other panelists were William Horsley, former European affairs correspondent of the BBC, Ayca Abakan Duffrene of the BBC World Service’s Turkish Service and Ruth Mandel from University College London (UCL). I concentrated on the human rights angle to the subject, pointing out how the EU’s Copenhagen criteria for prospective members puts serious obligations on their governments to make progress in the field of democracy and human rights. To his credit, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has made quite a number of positive reforms since he came to power, though dismayingly these seem to have slowed rather. Moreover, last year there was actually a marked increase in the number of prosecutions against writers and journalists who fall foul of the country’s notorious Article 301, which makes criticising Turkey, Turkish identity or Turkish institutions a crime. Many of these prosecutions are maliciously brought by ultra-nationlist lawyers and others with an axe to grind — not a few of whom would be delighted if Turkey’s road to EU membership were blocked.

Link: www.biznet-uk,org

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Lobbying the EU

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 5th February, 2009

This evening I was one of two speakers at the European Society at King’s College, London, on the theme of lobbying the European Union. My co-panelist, David Coen, of University College London (UCL), presented an excellent academic framework to and analysis of the current state of the lobbying operation in Brussels, notably by the commercial sector, whereas I concentrated more on the political principles involved and the work of NGOs. About 2,600 organisations and groups of various kinds have a permanent base in Brussels, from which they can establish a close working relationship with officials in the European Commission and — increasingly — members of the European Parliament, as the latter institution increases its powers.

I used illustrations from the work that I did after I left Reuters in Brussels, as the first Executive Secretary of the NGO Liaison Committee to the European Communities — which brought together European-based Third World charities such as Oxfam (UK) and Trocaire (Ireland), which were conduits for European funds for development and development education — as well as the founding Secretary of the Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA), which has for the past three decades monitored EU matters of interest to the Religious Society of Friends and other sections of the peace movement, for example on the right to concientious objection and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

Using a template devised by Wilhelm Lehmann and others six years ago, I spoke of the four main functions of lobbying in Brussels: (1) a service function in researching and providing information to one’s client base or special interest group, (2) a lobbying function of influencing decision-making by contact with the appropriate authorities, (3) a decision-making function, in which special interest groups are consulted and involved in drafting  directives and other measures, and (4) an implementation function, putting European policies into practice (for example, NGOs working with the elderly, helping to implement anti-age discrimination policies).

Lobbying sometimes has a bad name in the popular imagination or the tabloid press. But in a modern democracy, the powers that be should consult widely with a wide range of interested sectors in society. When done well, this means that European legislation is better than it might have been, and is closer to the citizens of Europe.

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