VIENNA, 17 January 2018 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir today, in a letter to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, called on the Turkish authorities to ensure that the Constitutional Court decision in the cases of imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay is implemented and that the journalists are released without any further delay.
According to the decision of the Constitutional Court, which was published on 11 January 2018, the ongoing detention of Altan and Alpay is disproportionate and infringing upon their rights to liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of the media. The Representative welcomed the Constitutional Court’s decision as a milestone in protecting the rights and freedoms of journalists in Turkey (full statement here: www.osce.org/fom/366066).
However, the lower courts later refused to follow the Constitutional Court’s ruling and the journalists remain in prison. Underlining the gravity of the situation, Désir today said:
“This refusal to implement the Constitutional Court decision is of grave concern, as it is related to the freedom of individuals, in that case of two journalists. It seriously infringes upon their rights including freedom of expression and freedom to work as journalists, which should be protected by the rule of law. I call on the authorities to ensure that the Constitutional Court decision of 11 January 2018 in the cases of Altan and Alpay is implemented and that they are released without any further delay.”
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. He provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter:@OSCE_RFoMand onwww.facebook.com/osce.rfom.
Nearly 40 percent of Americans who entered college between 2003-04 are projected to default on their loans by 2023. The risk of defaulting is especially high among black borrowers and those who attended for-profit universities.
This report is for the media and the general public.
The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations in Donetsk region compared with the previous 24 hours and one ceasefire violation in Luhansk region. The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske; it recorded ceasefire violations inside the Petrivske disengagement area. The Mission’s access remained restricted in all three areas and elsewhere, including at a checkpoint near Horlivka.* The SMM observed weapons in violation of withdrawal lines near Ternove. The Mission observed newly extended trenches close to a water pumping station near Vasylivka. The SMM monitored the situation at a school and a kindergarten near Novoluhanske. The Mission visited a border area not under government control.
In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations, including about 125 explosions, compared with the previous 24 hours (about 65 explosions).
In continuation of the sequence of ceasefire violations recorded in the early evening of 14 January (see SMM Daily Report 15 January 2018), the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) on the evening and night of 14-15 January recorded two projectiles in flight from west to east and three projectiles from east to west, followed by 43 undetermined explosions and 75 projectiles (49 from west to east and 26 from east to west), all 0.5-1.5km south.
On the evening of 14 January, the SMM camera in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) recorded 25 projectiles in flight from north to south 4-6km south-east. The following day, positioned on the south-western edge of Avdiivka for about five and a half hours, the SMM heard five undetermined explosions and 100 shots and bursts of infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BMP-2) cannon (30mm), heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 2-4km east-south-east and south.
On the evening of 14 January, the SMM camera at the entry-exit checkpoint in government-controlled Maiorsk (45km north-east of Donetsk) recorded 14 undetermined explosions and 12 projectiles in flight (trajectory undetermined), all at unknown distances and directions.
On the evening of 14 January, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 52 undetermined explosions and over 860 shots and bursts of IFV (BMP-2) cannon, heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire, all 3-5km east.
The following day, positioned in government-controlled Novoluhanske (53km north-east of Donetsk) for two hours, the SMM heard two undetermined explosions 2-4km east and west.
On the evening of 14 January, the SMM camera 1km south-west of Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded 17 projectiles in flight from east to west, followed by an undetermined explosion, all 5-8km north. In the early evening of 15 January, the camera recorded, in sequence, an undetermined explosion, three projectiles in flight from east to west, an undetermined explosion, 18 projectiles from east to west and an undetermined explosion, all 5-8km north.
In Luhansk region, the SMM recorded a ceasefire violation (explosion); it had recorded about 40 ceasefire violations, including 11 explosions, in the previous 24 hours.
On the evening of 13 January, the SMM camera in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske recorded four tracer rounds in flight from east to west, followed by three undetermined explosions, all 1-2km south-west and assessed as inside the disengagement area. Approximately an hour and a half later, the same camera recorded a shot from an undetermined weapon 1-2km south (assessed as inside the disengagement area).
During the day on 15 January, positioned on the north-western edge of “LPR”-controlled Pervomaisk (58km west of Luhansk), south of the Zolote disengagement area, the SMM heard an undetermined explosion 4-6km west-north-west, assessed as outside the disengagement area.
The same day, positioned in the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area, the SMM observed a calm situation.
The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons in implementation of the Package of Measures and its Addendum as well as the Memorandum.
In violation of withdrawal lines, in a non-government-controlled area, an SMM mini unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on 13 January spotted three self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) and four towed howitzers (D-30 Lyagushka, 122mm) about 4km south-east of Ternove (57km east of Donetsk).
Beyond withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites, in a government-controlled area, the SMM saw four self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) each loaded on a stationary flatbed truck and another self-propelled howitzer (2S3) loaded on a flatbed truck heading south near Novoolenivka (48km north-west of Donetsk).
In a non-government-controlled area, an SMM mini-UAV on 13 January spotted 20 tanks (ten T-64 and ten T-72) and a self-propelled mortar (2S9 Nona-S, 120mm) about 4km south-east of Ternove.
The SMM observed weapons that could not be verified as withdrawn, as their storage did not comply with the criteria set out in the 16 October 2015 notification from the SMM to the signatories of the Package of Measures on effective monitoring and verification of the withdrawal of heavy weapons. In government-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM saw 13 towed howitzers (D-20, 152mm), and noted that 12 towed howitzers (D-20), seven self-propelled howitzers (2S3) and six anti-tank guns (D-48, 85mm) continued to be absent. The SMM also noted that five heavy weapons holding areas remained abandoned, with 60 towed howitzers (16 D-20 and 44 2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm) and 11 self-propelled howitzers (2S3) missing.
The SMM revisited a Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage site whose location corresponded with the respective withdrawal lines and noted that the site remained abandoned, with 14 mortars (2B11 Sani, 120mm) missing.
The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles, an anti-aircraft gun and other indications of military-type presence in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, the SMM on 15 January saw an IFV (BMP-2) near Novotroitske (57km north-west of Donetsk) and a stationary reconnaissance vehicle (BRDM-2) near Muratove (51km north-west of Luhansk). On 12 January, an SMM mini-UAV spotted a probable anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23-2, 23mm) mounted on a stationary truck east of Mariupol (102km south of Donetsk).
In a non-government-controlled area, positioned south-east of Vesela Hora (16km north of Luhansk), the SMM on 15 January saw fresh tracks assessed as those of at least two tanks (T-64) leading north-east.
On 11 January, aerial imagery revealed the presence of newly extended trenches (about 110m in length) as well as at least two probable IFVs (type undetermined) about 1km north of a water pumping station 2.5km south-west of Vasylivka (20km north of Donetsk). The extended trenches were running south towards the pumping station and connected to existing 150m-long trenches further north leading to Ukrainian Armed Forces positions. The SMM assessed the extended trenches as one month old. (For previous observations of trenches around the pumping station, see SMM Daily Report 20 October 2017.)
The SMM continued to monitor the situation at schools and kindergartens near the contact line. In Novoluhanske, the SMM on 15 January revisited a school and a kindergarten, both of which were damaged by shelling on 18 December. (See SMM Daily Report 22 December 2017.) The director of the school told the SMM that after the shelling five out of 200 pupils enrolled had been transferred to a school in government-controlled Bakhmut (67km north of Donetsk). The director of the kindergarten told the SMM that the number of children enrolled had decreased from 72 to 66 since the shelling on 18 December.
The SMM visited a border area not under government control. During one hour at a border crossing point near Dovzhanske (84km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM saw six cars and a covered cargo truck exiting Ukraine and 13 cars, a bus and a truck with a covered cargo trailer (the truck with Ukrainian licence plates and the trailer with “LPR” plates) entering Ukraine.
The SMM continued monitoring in Kherson, Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv and Dnipro, Chernivtsi and Kyiv.
*Restrictions of SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to fulfilment of its mandate
The SMM’s monitoring and freedom of movement are restricted by security hazards and threats, including risks posed by mines, unexploded ordnance (UXO) and other impediments – which vary from day to day. The SMM’s mandate provides for safe and secure access throughout Ukraine. All signatories of the Package of Measures have agreed on the need for this safe and secure access, that restriction of the SMM’s freedom of movement constitutes a violation, and on the need for rapid response to these violations. They have also agreed that the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) should contribute to such response and co-ordinate mine clearance. Nonetheless, the armed formations in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions frequently deny the SMM access to areas adjacent to Ukraine’s border outside control of the Government, citing orders to do so. (See, for example, SMM Daily Report 12 January 2018.) The SMM’s operations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions remain restricted following the fatal incident of 23 April 2017 near Pryshyb; these restrictions continued to limit the Mission’s observations.
Denial of access:
Related to disengagement areas and mines/UXO:
The SMM was prevented from accessing secondary roads south of the Zolote disengagement area due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. An “LPR” member positioned on the southern side of the Zolote disengagement area told the SMM that no demining had taken place during the previous 24 hours. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed.
The SMM was prevented from accessing secondary roads in the Zolote disengagement area due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC told the SMM that he had no information regarding de-mining in the area during the previous 24 hours. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.
The SMM was prevented from accessing parts of the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area, with the exception of the main road, due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC told the SMM that he had no information regarding demining activities over the previous 24 hours. The SMM did not consider it safe to proceed and informed the JCCC.4
The SMM did not travel across the bridge in government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk) due to the presence of mines. A Ukrainian Armed Forces officer of the JCCC said there were mines on the road south of the bridge. The SMM informed the JCCC.
The SMM was stopped by an armed “DPR” member at a checkpoint near “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) and was allowed to proceed only after he checked the interior of the trunk of the SMM’s vehicle.
Please see the annexed tablefor a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations as well as a map of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions marked with locations featured in this report. Two SMM cameras continue to be tested until the end of January 2018.
 This hardware is not proscribed by the provisions of the Minsk agreements on the withdrawal of weapons.
 The SMM informed Ukrainian Armed Forces officers of the JCCC. Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the JCCC have withdrawn from the JCCC as of 18 December 2017.
The UK will not be able to replicate the EU’s free trade agreements ready for March 30th 2019. The only solution is to ask the EU for help.
Because of Brexit, the UK will no longer benefit from over 40 EU free trade agreements (FTAs) as of March 30th 2019. This is set to be the case whether the UK enters an interim ‘status quo’ transition agreement or not. These FTAs are with countries receiving 11 to 15 per cent of UK total exports, including Switzerland, Turkey and Canada (see Chart 1). While this does not sound like much, it should be understood in the context of the EU (43 per cent) and US (18 per cent) eating up the majority of UK exports, leaving little left for the rest.
Avoiding the cliff edge is not something the UK can do by itself. Ministerial proclamations that the UK will have these agreements replicated ready for exit day should not be taken seriously. With every best intention there is simply too much to do, and the urgency is solely the UK’s. Expediting the process will not be a priority for the EU’s FTA partners, whose exporters will still be able to sell into the UK under the same conditions as now throughout the transition period. While the UK faces an imminent cliff edge, countries with a trade agreement with the EU do not. And it requires two to tango.
The best option is for the UK to convince the EU to assist it in fudging an interim solution – an example of which is given below. This will not be easy. The short-term cost to the EU of not helping is relatively small. This should not stop the UK from formally asking.
The trouble with transition While the transition agreement is still subject to negotiation, the Commission’s draft proposal states that once the UK has withdrawn from the EU it will “no longer benefit from the agreements concluded by the Union”. This is not pernicious, simply a statement of fact: the UK will no longer be an EU member, therefore the EU’s international treaties will no longer apply to it. The proposal further specifies that the 27 will only assist the UK in finding a way to extend the agreements during the transition period if it is deemed to be in the interest of the EU.
As well as binding the UK to the EU’s single market and customs union, the draft proposal seeks to ensure that the UK continues to apply the bloc’s external tariff rates and performs the same border checks with non-EU countries.
This could easily result in a scenario in which UK exporters are no longer able to take advantage of the EU’s existing free trade agreements, but exporters located in countries with EU FTAs would continue to benefit from preferential access to the UK market on the same terms as now. To give a practical example: during the proposed transition, Korean car exporters would still be able to sell cars into the UK without being subject to border tariffs under the provisions of the EU-South Korea free trade agreement. UK car exporters selling into Korea, on the other hand, would no longer be covered by the agreement and would face Korea’s tariffs of 8 per cent.
Leaked member-state amendments to the Commission’s transition text leave open the possibility of the UK being able to sign new trade agreements during the transition. This may appeal to a UK government which has held up the ability to sign new trade agreements as a barometer of Brexit’s success. However, it clarifies that the UK would be unable to implement anything agreed until the transition is over unless permission is granted by the EU. Additionally, many countries will be unwilling to commit to substantive negotiations prior to the conclusion of a future EU-UK agreement.
Why can’t the UK just copy & paste? The UK’s existing solution is to replicate all of the EU's FTAs and relevant treaties ready for exit day. Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, is confident this is possible, saying in October: "I hear people saying 'oh, we won't have any [free trade agreements] before we leave'. Well believe me we'll have up to 40 ready for one second after midnight in March 2019." Despite his optimism, the clock is ticking and there is little reason to think he will achieve his objective.
The UK’s primary issue is that this is not simply a cut and paste job. The partner countries have their own desires, domestic processes and politics to deal with too. While many have signaled that they are happy to use the existing EU agreement as a template, Brexit is also an opportunity to push for upgrades. South Africa, for example, has indicated that it will seek to renegotiate provisions on market access for agriculture and food hygiene standards. This takes time and institutional capacity. When you factor in a lack of urgency on the part of the partner countries – as stated above, their exporters will continue to receive preferential access throughout the transition period regardless – the notion that all of these agreements will be ready to go on 30th March 2019 seems little more than a pipe dream.
The UK should instead ask the EU for help.
The ‘Guernsey option’ If, rather than a transition, the UK and EU were to agree to extend the Article 50 timeframe all of the issues in regards to third country trade agreements and treaties would cease to be a problem. Economically and legally this is far and away the most sensible option. But this would see the UK remain an EU member for the foreseeable future and politically, on both sides, it appears to be unthinkable.
So what’s left on the table is a fudge. This could take many forms, but in practice it boils down to the EU and UK staring down the EU’s FTA partners and daring them to blink.
One option would be to source the fudge from the Channel Islands. First proposed by George Peretz QC of the UK Trade Forum, the so-called ‘Guernsey option’ finds a ready-made solution in the Crown Dependencies’ unusual international status.
Guernsey is not part of the EU nor the UK, but its complicated relationship with the UK means that, under international law, it is considered as part of the UK territory. And in areas where the UK has ceded competence to the EU vis-à-vis international treaties with third countries, part of the EU. This is a precedent for a non-EU member being covered by the EU’s external trade policy. In theory, such a status could be made available to the UK throughout the transition.
Guernsey is also able to, so long as it receives the UK’s permission, negotiate its own international agreements. If applied to the UK, this would allow it to finalise the replication of the existing EU FTAs, ready for the end of the transition, and perhaps even negotiate, if not implement, new agreements.
The Guernsey option would however require bags of goodwill and considerable EU assistance. Theoretically, third countries may still object to such an approach. But any country objecting would struggle to prove any harm to its exporters, as for its purposes nothing would have changed, and it is probably unlikely that they would want to remove preferential market access for UK companies, if both the EU and the UK stood united.
What’s in it for me? The above solution, or something to similar effect, requires EU-27 co-operation. Whether this will be forthcoming is another question. Assistance is far from guaranteed. For many, the UK foregoing its membership of EU FTAs is viewed as an inevitable consequence of Brexit. When asked whether EU trade agreements would apply to the UK after Brexit, Cecilia Malmström, the EU commissioner for trade, said in December: “There has been talk of a transition period - that is something that will be decided. But the other trade agreements with the third countries, with Canada, with South Korea and others they will have to leave.”
Yet the European Council guidelines for the Brexit negotiations state that where the UK is expected to “honour its share of all international commitments contracted in the context of its EU membership” the EU and UK should discuss a possible common approach. This has already led to the UK and EU tabling joint proposals at the World Trade Organisation. If the UK were to ask for assistance, the EU would be likely to oblige.
The UK no longer being party to EU FTAs during the transition would also have implications for EU exporters. In order to benefit from the advantages of a trade agreement the EU has with another country, an EU exporter must prove that the product it is selling is actually from, or has had sufficient work done on it (subject to myriad terms and conditions) in, the EU. Whereas before Brexit, EU-27 exporters could treat inputs from the UK as ‘local’ for the purpose of qualifying for an FTA, during the transition this will no longer be the case.
This is a much bigger problem for UK exporters – the total proportion of UK inputs sourced from the EU is 9.3 per cent, the reverse is only 1.4 per cent – but it could still throw up complications for some EU companies. However, helping the UK carry over its FTAs throughout the transition would grant affected EU exporters a little more time to adjust, and would likely be appreciated. It would also buy time for the EU and UK to, if deemed in the interest of both, negotiate trilaterally with the EU’s FTA partners to allow for EU and UK inputs to continue to be accounted for as local for the purpose of qualifying for the existing and replicated agreements respectively. This is known as cumulation.
Finding a solution is entirely dependent on EU goodwill. Asking, and convincing, the EU to work with the UK to reach a mutually beneficial outcome should be an immediate priority for the UK during phase two of the Brexit negotiations. The UK falling out of the EU’s trade agreements and treaties on the 30th March 2019 might be a likely consequence of Brexit, but it need not be inevitable.
Sam Lowe is a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.