Germany takes three and a half years to enforce UN sanctions against North Korea

Published: 26 October 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the DPRK or North Korea) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) maintained excellent relations which was evidenced by the fact that the two countries provided each other with large plots of land in their capitals for their embassies. Thus, since the 1960s the DPRK occupied a 6,000 square metre area in the heart of East Berlin close to the Brandenburg Gate with two large buildings. At the best of times, the embassy premises housed some 130 North Korean diplomats, administrative and technical staff, and their family members. Following German reunification and the demise of the GDR on 3 October 1990, the DPRK Embassy in the now eastern part of the reunified Berlin was turned into the Office for the Protection of the Interests of the DPRK, with the People’s Republic of China acting as protecting power. The premises again became the North Korean embassy when the Federal Republic of Germany and the DPRK established diplomatic relations on 1 March 2001. Reflecting the different quality of relations between the two countries, the embassy was now staffed by only five diplomats with their family members. With plenty of space, the DPRK embassy started in 2004 to sub-let rooms and parking spaces at its site in order to generate hard currency income. In 2007, the embassy leased the former consulate building on its premises at Glinkastraße 5-7, 10117 Berlin, to German company EGI GmbH (EGI) which converted the property into the “City Hostel Berlin” – a budget hostel with some 450 beds in about 100 rooms. The hostel, which offered dormitory beds from 17 euros/night, was popular with young budget travellers because of its central location close to major tourist sites in the city. EGI made substantial investments in the property and in February 2016 signed a 15-year lease agreement with the DPRK embassy, under which it paid the embassy a monthly rent of 38,000 euros. (more…)

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Germany comes in for serious criticism of its handling of the Afghanistan file in the UN General Assembly

Published: 21 October 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

In November 1980, the UN General Assembly adopted for the first time a resolution on “The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security.” Since then, the resolution was re-introduced every year, mirroring the changing conflict situation in the country and the enduring endeavours of the international community to help restore peace and stability and end the suffering of the Afghan people. The resolution was considered first and foremost an expression of support for Afghanistan and its people. Since 2002, Germany served as facilitator of this resolution. (more…)

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China accuses Germany of interference in internal affairs for taking measures in response to new Hong Kong national security law

Published: 19 October 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 28 May 2020, China’s National People’s Congress in Beijing approved the adoption of a national security law for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). The move came in response to sometimes violent mass demonstrations and pro-democracy protests that had racked the city for the past year. The new legislation was to ban any acts or activities that endangered China’s national security in Hong Kong, including separatism, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign countries – charges often used in mainland China to prosecute dissidents and other political opponents. The National People’s Congress’ decision was criticised by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and several Western States, including Germany. (more…)

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Germany considers further U.S. sanctions against Nord Stream 2 an encroachment on its sovereignty

Published: 14 October 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

Nord Stream 2 is a 1,230 km underwater pipeline project through the Baltic Sea which upon completion is to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany, adding to the supply provided by the existing Nord Stream pipeline, which runs largely parallel to it. The pipeline would allow the rerouting of gas around Ukraine, depriving the country of billions of dollars in transit fees. Construction of the pipeline began in 2018 and was managed by the Swiss-registered project company Nord Stream 2 AG, whose sole shareholder was the Russian State-owned company Gazprom – the world’s largest gas producer. The project met with strong opposition from the United States which believed, inter alia, that it would undermine Europe’s overall energy security and stability and increase Ukraine’s vulnerability to Russian aggression. (more…)

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Federal Administrative Court rules that the United States may continue to use its air base in southern Germany for lethal drone strikes in Yemen

Published: 12 October 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 15 October 2014, three Yemini nationals brought a case against Germany in the Cologne Administrative Court requesting the court to order the Federal Government to prohibit the United States from using Ramstein Air Base in southern Germany for lethal drone strikes in Yemen, and especially in the Hadramout region. The plaintiffs claimed that the air base, the largest U.S. military base on foreign territory, was vital for U.S. drone operations in Yemen. The drones deployed in Yemen were typically launched from Djibouti and piloted from the United States. The data controlling the drones was transmitted via fibreoptic cable from the United States to Ramstein Air Base, and from there via a satellite relay station to the drones. In the same way, on a return channel, data was transmitted from the drones to the pilots in the United States. Due to the earth’s curvature, directly controlling the drones from the US without the Ramstein satellite relay station would not be possible. The case turned mainly on questions of constitutional law and, in particular, whether the Federal Government had a duty to protect foreigners living abroad against encroachments by other States of their fundamental constitutional rights to life and physical integrity if there was a sufficiently close link to German territory, such as the location of the satellite relay station on German territory. A central argument to the plaintiffs’ case was that the U.S. done strikes in Yemen were illegal under international law. (more…)

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Responsible until proven otherwise? – Germany holds Russia responsible for the use of a chemical weapon in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny

Published: 07 October 2021 Authors: Mary Lobo and Stefan Talmon

On 20 August 2020, prominent Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny fell seriously ill on a domestic flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow. After an emergency landing of the aircraft in Omsk, he was admitted to the local hospital in a serious condition. From the outset, there were rumours of poisoning. In a first reaction to the incident on the same day, Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Mr. Navalny medical treatment in Germany and called for a thorough investigation, stating: (more…)

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Diplomacy in times of Covid-19: Germany closes its Pyongyang embassy in response to North Korea’s drastic measures to fight the pandemic

Published: 05 October 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

On 31 December 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) learnt of cases of viral pneumonia with an unknown cause in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. At the beginning of January 2020, the WHO started to share information about the cluster of cases in China and advised Member States to take precautions to reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections. On 7 January 2020, the Chinese authorities determined that the outbreak was caused by a novel coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to severe diseases. On 11 January 2020, the Chinese media reported the first deaths from the novel coronavirus; two days later, Thailand reported the first case outside China. In mid-January, evidence of human-to-human transmission emerged. On 27 January 2020, the WHO urged countries in the South-East Asia Region to focus on their readiness for the rapid detection of imported cases and prevention of further spread. On 30 January 2020, the WHO Director-General declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest level of alarm. On 11 February 2020, WHO announced that the disease caused by the novel coronavirus would be named “COVID-19”. (more…)

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UN Security Council reform: a story of growing German frustration

Published: 30 September 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

Germany regards the Security Council as “the most important organ of the United Nations for guaranteeing peace and security worldwide.” Following its admission to the organisation on 18 September 1973, it was elected six times to a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Council. However, from the 1990s Germany aspired to become a permanent Council member. Together with three other aspirant countries – Brazil, India, and Japan – it formed the Group of 4 (G4) which worked for Security Council reform, including an expansion of both permanent and non-permanent members. The G4 advocated adding six new permanent members to the Council (two seats each for Africa and Asia and one seat [i.e., Germany] for the Western European and Others Group and the Latin American and Caribbean Group respectively).  In addition, they supported four or five non-permanent members (one seat each for Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and one or two seats for Africa). Although the item “Question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Security Council” was first included in the agenda of the General Assembly in 1979, and although the World Summit of Heads of State and Government in 2005 supported “early reform of the Security Council” as an essential element of the overall effort to reform the United Nations, there was no progress on Security Council reform. The intergovernmental negotiations (IGN) which were conducted in an informal plenary of the UN General Assembly since 2009 produced no tangible result. (more…)

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Germany calls on Turkey to respect international law when conducting seismic surveys in the eastern Mediterranean

Published: 28 September 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

Turkey and Greece have a long-standing dispute over their continental shelf and exclusive economic zone (EEZ) entitlements in the eastern Mediterranean. On 21 July 2020, tensions between the two countries flared – once again – when Turkey announced that, as part of its ongoing hydrocarbon exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean, its seismic survey vessel “Oruç Reis” would launch a new seismic survey in areas of the Turkish continental shelf. Greece immediately objected, claiming that the survey area was within its own continental shelf because of Kastellorizo – a small Greek island of some 10 km2, located only 2 km off the Anatolian coast, some 127 km from the nearest Greek island of Rhodes and around 580 km from the Greek mainland. The Greek navy was placed on alert and the “Oruç Reis” was escorted on her mission by Turkish warships. (more…)

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Germany as an almost permanent member of the Economic and Social Council

Published: 24 September 2021 Author: Stefan Talmon

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. Its tasks include coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and making recommendations on economic, social, and environmental issues, as well as the implementation of the internationally agreed development goals. ECOSOC’s 54 members are elected for overlapping three-year-terms by a two-thirds majority of the members of the General Assembly present and voting. Members are elected directly and individually through a secret ballot. Seats are allotted based on geographical representation, with fourteen allocated to African States, eleven to Asian States, six to Eastern European States, ten to Latin American and Caribbean States, and thirteen to Western European and other States. Germany is part of the so-called “Western European and other States” group (WEOG). (more…)

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