The principle of recognition as the cornerstone of European neighbourhood policies: waiting for Godot? Who is you, human being?


by Daniela Cardoso, Collaborating Member of CEDU

Due to the widely-acknowledged vulnerabilities that characterise the current European neighbourhood policies and external relations, the European Union has sought to encourage a renewed political dialogue. To a large extent, these new efforts are grounded on the need to face the current humanitarian and social crisis involving migrants and refugees and encountering two leading actors: Germany and Turkey.

The underlying issue is border management in order to polish and consolidate a more realistic answer to different needs. On one hand, attention must be drawn to the internal organisation of countries endowed with the geo-political profile, as the one that can be pointed out to Turkey, and their inabilities to handle the massive incoming of refugees in a solitary confinement. On the other hand, one is confronted with another issue concerning identities in transit. Giving the uncountable number of identities crossing geographical, social and cultural borders, is there any moral obligation on the part of the States to open their borders? At the core of what can be regarded as the management of political borders we encounter two chess pieces. The first thrives on cooperation and stability, sustaining that borders do have a peculiar moral meaning with its own sense of justice at the “local” level, regardless of shared views with political communities on distributive justice. The second one insists on a more plural argument placing the moral significance both in geopolitics and on people, which would be shyly seen in the possible accession of Turkey to the European Union – a topic which was recently re-placed on the table.

In short, there is one map with different languages: the tonic placed on the enlargement of the European Union and the emphasis on shared global governance.

First things first, the strategy on negotiation aimed at a further enlargement raises considerable eyebrows both from the perspective of its structure and institutional compromises, but also concerning its true substance.

With regard to its substance, Europe has set its eyes on the massive incoming of refugees and migrants, mainly economic migrants, which unveils an undeniable confront with identities in transit.

Even though we live in a globalised world, the pattern still seems to do justice with regard to the moral significance of the borders. They reflect a social, political and communitarian definition which give them their own shape. However, this acknowledgment must be combined with the recognition of universal principles of justice on which Human Rights can be included and on which we can find the European premises of non-discrimination and equal treatment. In Portugal, the principle of non-discrimination can be found in Article 15 of the Portuguese Constitution named as o princípio da equiparação.

Taking into account the principle of equal treatment stemming from the free movement of persons within the EU and the principle of sincere cooperation, we can see the need to guarantee both the preservation of the State and its humanitarian duties towards the Others. All in all, Human Rights deficits cause global damages, therefore State´ politics have to be more permeable to host human needs.

On this point, if we transform this approach into a much wider scenario in which Turkey is regarded, the promising question is the understanding of this humanitarian crisis in the light of the politics of recognition. That is so due to the patterns of fairness and representation at stake. It is not only about making efforts aimed at achieving more sustainable asylum policies and the control of illegal migration but also, and precisely, about this new political space more  permeable to Others, because they do have rights – the rights of Others and their own right to their own differences. And, diluted into the organisation of the political space, there are the different values at stake and the questions about the right articulation between the minimums and maximums of justice in a plural society. Formal equality combined with fluid de facto inequality falls behind a wide understanding of the problem.

The politics of recognition are intersected with the challenges of multicultural citizenship and the possibilities of a multicultural ethics in which States operate as interlocutors.

This confrontation cannot be simply resolved through the acceptance of cultural relativism, political asymmetries or intercultural dialogues. Neither is this about a slight approach to people being hosted in other States other than of their nationalities grounded on a quasi-transitional protection and impasses´ resolutions. Instead, if the claim is on the right to “the city” and the right to access the social and political conditions of the city, the analysis must be another one. It should seek to unravel on which grounds can a renewed principle of cooperation, and recognition, be developed and made sustainable in the light of Human Rights´ doctrine and the citizenship.

The Association Agreement between the European and Turkey is instrumental to reciprocal goals premised on the fundamental freedoms of citizens and economic freedoms. Nowadays, perhaps more than ever, voices are raised towards new alternative models of transnational governance targeted at international security and strategy´ defences.

The immediate transformation of the Association Agreement into a factual integration in the European Union stems from the current context, so it is instrumental to it and a vibrant pulse due to the circumstances. The accession process implies rethinking about all political adjustments, which pose numerous questions concerning parliamentary or demographical representation, regarding the system of protection of Fundamental Rights of the European Union as laid down in the Charter and new challenges to European democracy, which must evolve both as a mediation tool and as a model of inclusion.

If the European Union is, at the same time, its own circumstances are these same circumstances enough and strong to revisit association agreements or rather to reform and polish a new framework of shared responsibilities?

Time has come for the neighbourhood policies (hereby understood in a wider sense) to be open to the inclusion of redefined responsibilities such as a renewed comprehension of the responsibility to protect. As an example, at the present moment, the Dublin Regulation is nothing but a failed system due to lack of harmonisation of the criteria applied by the Member States and to the administrative nature of the system.

In the short-term, the acknowledgment and accomplishment of a model of shared responsibilities informed by harmonised criteria and accountability (with its “dos” and “don’ts”) would allow reforming the cooperation policy and ameliorating the Turkish system for refugees, which has already collapsed impelling the European Union to act as a true global actor in its external relations. The firmness of cooperation must be rethought in such a way that it provides a free right to access justice, the protection of Fundamental Rights and the political dignity of those who search their sense of belonging in the European Union.

Picture credits: ‘waiting for godot during sunrise at qalandia’, by Helga Tawil Souri.

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