Tuesday

6th Dec 2022

Editorial

Editor's weekly digest: Pushback pushback

Listen to article

Pushback.

The word sounds so harmless. Just a nudge, given to someone encroaching on your personal space. It sounds deserved, push-back, as if you were pushed and had to respond by applying your own pressure. Innocent, almost.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The word has become the euphemism of choice to refer to actions taken by border authorities to actively deny people from entering a country — or even forcefully returning them to the country they came from.

It's a euphemism, one that like many terms used in politics — such as 'introducing slack into the labour market', which simply means 'causing unemployment' — hides the human cost on the other side of term.

'Pushback' hides unusual cruelty towards humans — aside from a flagrant violation of rules set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

This week, German publication Der Spiegel, together with German transparency campaigners FragDenStaat published in full a report written by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which shows how Frontex, the European border agency was involved in multiple violations of human rights.

The story of the violations had been covered earlier this year (including by us), but that doesn't make it less relevant. While the Greek coast guard's transgressions — picking up people who arrived on the Greek coast and dropping them out at sea — have been documented for a long time, the fact that Frontex knew about the illegal expulsions and did not intervene remains enraging.

The Olaf report also shows how Frontex used European taxpayer money — your money, if you live in the EU — to co-fund units doing pushbacks in "at least six instances." And then hid that fact from European Parliament investigations.

In reading the report, the callousness of border agencies stands out. In how they refer to "human rights oversight under their Fundamental Rights Officer to a Khmer Rouge dictatorship led by mass murderer Pol Pot," as Nielsen writes today.

But also in how the agency denies being aware of the Greek coast guard pulling a boat full of people out to sea — even though it's documented in the report a Frontex surveillance flight made note of it.

'Pushback' is the embodiment of this callousness, and one that has somehow found its place in how media covers human rights violations that see people stripped of their belongings and phones and towed out to sea on propulsionless boats. It's a disgrace.

I propose you think of the people rather than the euphemism next time you see the word used.

Onwards to the news you should not have missed this week.

1. Leaked report: Frontex compared rights officer to 'Khmer Rouge'

"The 123-page leaked report provides a sobering read into an agency whose leadership under the ousted Fabrice Leggeri appeared increasingly corrupted by power whilst having a private disdain for human rights oversight," reports Nikolaj Nielsen.

Read it here.

2. MEPs vote to include nuclear investments under RepowerEU

"MEPs from the industry committee voted to include nuclear and low-carbon hydrogen projects to the list eligible for finance under an EU green fund," Wester van Gaal writes.

Read it here.

3. Nato's options if Putin strikes Polish airfield on front line

Andrew Rettman spoke to multiple security and military experts to find out what Nato could or should do if Russia extends their war into Polish territory.

Read it here.

4. No Tories are now defending Brexit — and Truss is noticing

Truss is hoping she can win back some establishment support by toning down the anti-European hardline, Denis MacShane opines.

Read it here.

5. EU agrees to jointly buy gas — but divided on price caps

"'The debate on the cap is a confused one, because there are different caps different people talk about," said German minister for climate action Sven Giegold,' in Elena Sánchez Nicolás' story on gas price cap negotiations.

Read it here.

6. Borrell wants a bolder, faster EU — and scolds diplomats to get to it

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell gave a surprisingly frank speech on Monday, excoriating his diplomatic corps for not being more "reactive," Eszter Zalan reports.

Read it here.

Thank you to all new subscribers to this newsletter, and as always, my various inboxes are open for feedback, suggestions, tips, leaks, ideas and gossip.

See you next week,

Alejandro

Ukraine files cases against 45 suspected war criminals

Ukraine has filed court papers against 45 suspected war criminals out of whom 10 have been already convicted for crimes committed since the Russian invasion began in late February, said Ukraine's prosecutor general

Opinion

Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin himself is somewhat suspicious of Serbia's leader, as are most who deal with the opaque Aleksandar Vucic. The Russian president has preferred to keep his Serbian counterpart compliant, via a tight rein of annually-reviewed gas pricing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  2. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  3. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies
  4. EU: 'We'll see' if Moscow actually stops selling oil over price-cap
  5. Bad Karma
  6. Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia
  7. Hungary's funds showdown in focus This WEEK
  8. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us