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Posted on on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

IIASA study assesses land use impacts of EU biofuel policy

Laxenburg Austria, 16 March 2016 – The indirect impacts of biofuel production on land use change and greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union vary widely depending on the type of biofuel, according to a study published last week.

{The Study Argues – this is our insert}
Biofuel policy in the European Union has been under scrutiny for several years, with intense debate around its efficiency in reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Indeed, biofuel production can take up agricultural land otherwise used for food and feed, and lead to land use conversion elsewhere that would offset some of the climate benefits of the policy, a problem known as indirect land use change. In a new study for the European Commission in partnership with the sustainable energy consultancies Ecofys and E4tech, IIASA researchers have now brought more precise insight to the topic, showing the different levels of impact that different biofuels have on land use change and the climate.

The study revisits the impacts of biofuels consumed in the European Union and is the most comprehensive comparison to date of land use effects across feedstocks. It provides the first analysis, in a consistent modeling framework, of both conventional (or first-generation) biofuels, produced from food crops such as vegetable oil, and advanced (or second-generation) biofuels, produced from residues or energy crops such as grasses, forestry residues and cereal straw.

IIASA researcher Hugo Valin led the modeling for the study. He says, “First generation biofuels have been criticized in the past due to their indirect land use change impact, which our study confirms. But by looking at a much broader range of biofuel options, we clearly show that not all biofuels are equal.”

On one end of the spectrum, the study shows that certain types of vegetable oils, such palm or soybean oil, can lead to significant greenhouse gas emissions. It also shows that impacts of ethanol feedstocks are relatively lower than for biodiesel, in particular for high yielded crops such as sugar beet or maize. And on the other end of the spectrum, second generation crops, included for the first time in the analysis for the EU, showed a good performance overall with in several cases net negative emissions.
{This part is a very wise conclusion with which we can completely agree – our insert}

The study also included mitigation scenarios which showed that promoting agricultural expansion on European land compared to the rest of the world would help reducing the impacts in the short run. However, in the long run, the most efficient policy for limiting land-based greenhouse gas emissions would be a better control of agricultural land expansion globally, through policies to preserve forests and other natural ecosystems which can sequester large amounts of carbon including peatlands in Southeast Asia.

The study also included an in-depth analysis of uncertainties in the scenarios to better inform stakeholders. While in some cases uncertainties can be large, the study clearly indicates how impacts of different policy orientations compare.

Valin says, “It’s impossible to remove all uncertainties in such an analysis, but the real value of this study is that it helps decision makers to better anticipate the potential implications of the option they choose. Models help to develop a common understanding of what the problems at stake are and how to mitigate them. In the context of biofuel policies this is especially true, as modeling illustrates the trade-offs between greenhouse gas emissions, food consumption, land occupation, agricultural income, and other issues.”

More information
Ecofys: Report quantifies land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU


We, at SustainabiliTank, find some problems with above study based on our own experience.

Years ago – end of seventies-beginning of eighties – we published via US Congressional hearings about land use and industrial liquid biofuels production. Our argument was that agriculture in industrialized countries is managed by government policy. This was clearly true in the US, and I was approached by the newly formed Brussels based EU Agriculture Commissioner who was interested in that analysis of policy for the EU States as well.

The argument was that the various Departments of Agriculture support the price of food commodities by limiting their production or simply put – by paying farmers NOT TO PRODUCE or keep land out of production. My argument was to use that land – the so called SET-ASIDES – for the new industry of liquid biofuels and stop non-production-subsidies. I went so far as to calculate that for the US I could PRODUCE ETHANOL FROM CORN THAT WAS NOT GROWN AND PAY FOR IT WITH MONEY THAT WAS NOT SPENT. That testimony caused – because of request from Members of Congress – to my being hired as a consultant by the Office of the Comptroller General Of the United States – the US GAO – the General Accounting Office – in order to have them check out those arguments. Surely they found that there was a base for my arguments. They also found that the reduction of the quantities of agricultural commodity produced was much smaller then expected because, naturally, the farmer kept out of production the worst parts of their land. The funniest part was that agricultural corporations would switch the non-production claims from one commodity o another contingent on which ‘asides” provided higher subsidies that year – one year it could have been historic corn, but another year it could have been a claim of not growing wheat.

Whatever, at least for the EU and the US – the “set aside” policy is just public money dished out to the large farming industry for no good purpose and the concept of “hunger in China” just did not hold water. Environmentalists in this context did rather play up to the big oil and farming interests rather then my perception of reduction of dependence on petroleum. Surely, this is different when replacing natural forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil with oil- producing palm trees in the tropics. In those cases the damage to the environment is real. But not when we talk about the vast already deforested agricultural expances of Europe and America. Further, it is clear to us that in a globalized world – producing those commodities in smaller farms overseas, and subsistence farming, would save CO2 emissions that occur in the transport of those commodities originating in highly agriculture-industrialized economies – albeit this means lower take in the industrialized countries, lower need for food production by industrialized countries, and a parallel gain in employment by therural sector in non-industrialized countries we usually define as Developing Countries.


Posted on on March 10th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

As our readers must have realized by now – we are posting a series of columns focusing on activities in Vienna, Austria, that are of value to the global network intent to support Sustainability for all.

After having decided that global agreements chased by the UN Headquarters in New York are just pipe dreams. All we can hope for is this network of individual country promises that in their sum-total can answer needs like a decrease in CO2 presence in the atmosphere while not forgetting goals of poverty reduction, energy, climate, security, or equity. We were grateful to President Obama when we realized that this was his thinking as well, and the Paris2015 Outcome – that some insist on calling the Paris Agreement – does in effect constitute the answer to our needs – but only if a “verification of progress” system is put in place.

We looked around and realized that most energy related UN affiliates are headquartered, or at least have a foot, here in Vienna. So I started this series of articles. The more I looked at this – the harder it became writing it – this because of the richness of material – literally daily I am involved in activities, or at least get material that all relate to these topics.

In this last posting I take the advantage of an exceptional boon – the fact that again Vienna was declared the most livable city in the World. This can clearly help. Would you not rather want to live in the best city in the World?


Besides the city of Vienna, among the first 31 out of the 230 cities with ranking by Mercer, we find a total of 8 cities from German speaking Europe; further 8 assorted cities from other Western Europe (Copenhagen, Geneva, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Stockholm, Brussels, Helsinki, Oslo); New Zealand/Australia account for 9 cities, Canada for 4 cities, Singapore that this year dropped to only 26th place, and highest ranked US city – San Francisco – at 28th place.

Paris is at 37th place, London at 39, New York and Tokyo are at 44-45.

Dubai is at 75th place, Abu Dhabi at 81, Taipei at 84.

First Developing Country city is Durban, South Africa, 86th place.

Buenos Aires, first Spanish speaking South American city is at 93rd place.

Tel Aviv is at 104th place, Brasilia at 106, Muscat, at 107, Tunis at 113.

Beijing, first city in China, is at 118th place. Istanbul at 122.

Mexico City is at 127th place, Riyadh at 164, Moscow at 167, Tehran at 203, Damascus at 224, and at bottom 230 Baghdad.

What are your conclusions from looking at the above?

Is it not so that you would rather like to live in Western Europe – in Vienna and surrounding countries? In Australia, New Zealand and Canada? Would you contemplate on reasons why some of the richest countries’ capital-cities are low on the list?


I will proceed now to review some of the most resent activities that occurred in the city of Vienna that were rooted with the city itself and not with organizations from afar planted here or organizations formed here in response to needs afar.

In our series we posted so far about: The IAEA Headquarters, The SE4All Headquarters The Outer-Space UN affiliates, The Laxenburg Palace based IIASA, and the Kommunalkredit Public Consulting Group that works with the Austrian Foreign Aid office connected to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Let us look now first at cultural life – and I will go after two amazing shows that just opened:

DER KONGRESS TANZT – “The Congress Dances” – an amazing Operetta that opened at the VOLKSOPER on the Guertel.

The Historical facts are that the Congress of Vienna (German: Wiener Kongress) was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September 1814 to June 1815.

The Congress was intended to organize the post-Napoleon Europe and through that – the World. In many ways this was an attempt to create an overarching EU. All came except Napoleon who was left behind on his exile-island.

It was said that instead of being in session this Congress danced. The Congress of Vienna was the first of a series of international meetings that came to be known as the Concert of Europe, which was an attempt to forge a peaceful balance of power in Europe. It served as a model for later organizations such as the League of Nations in 1919 and the United Nations in 1945.

Covering the lighter side of this Congress Erik Charell used some of the songs from a Con ference-time operetta and produced a film that was released in 1931. Recently, Richard Heymann extracted some of the music from the film, added some of his own, and with the help of conductor and arranger Christian Kolonowiits recreated the operetta that was released now in 2016. This because Vienna celebrated in 2015 the 200th anniversary of the Vienna Congress. This operetta, a parody of the Congress, approached gingerly by the Volksoper, is now the newest “must see” in Vienna.

The BURGTHEATER on the Ring, premiered this week Peter Handke’s – DIE UNSCHULDIGEN, ICH UND DIE UNBEKANTE AM RAND DER LANDSTRASSE (Those Without Guilt, I and the unknown on the edge of the country road) – a masterpiece of modern theater in the celebrated hall of classicism.

Handke (born in 1942 – the war years – his mother resettled in the village Griffin in 1948 after leaving the DDR) was a young Austrian writer (novelist, playwright and political activist) who believed that at the beginning there was the word. Handke’s first play was PUBLIKUMSBESCHIMPFUNG (Talking Rough to the Public) that automatically made him a sensation in Germany – Austria was too small for him those days. Back those years we saw his work and works by the German Hans Magnus Enzensberger at the Brooklyn Academy of Music – the old Brooklyn Opera House. Handke’s luck was that He was recognized by the German Director Claus Peyman who staged that first play and since then another 10 plays by Handke. Handke gained international attention after an appearance at a meeting of avant-garde artists belonging to the Gruppe 47 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

Landstrasse, stage work by Karl-Ernst Hermann, has a vague autobiographical content and ia all played out on the county road that connects his village Griffin with a neighboring village and in itself becomes a stage for the locals and the World at large. It reminds one of Martin Luther who already then saw the importance of taking reality to the streets – this for him a direct connection between humans and God. For Handke, this is not God but human truth. The simple staging – a broad white ellipse winding to a distant corner – is the path where the action walks by and we peep in on it. This is modern poetic theater at its best – a good place to relax when trying to deal with the World’s woes.

The action is not specific but rather full of hints and you get out really what you want to see. The hints include totaliarism – quite clearly a reminder of the villages Nazi past, butb then there are aspects of budding love and perhapse unanswered love and bitterness – but also hope for a better world.

I started with Vienna’s high locally centered life – but then there are musical events, not just Staatsoper and the Philharmonic, but locally produced musical events where Austrians play foreign folks to perfection. We just enjoyed evenings sponsored by the Austro-American Society with Irish and Mexican music. The Irish evening was held in a typical Austrian pub, and the Mexican and American event was at the organization’s Club rooms where the manager, an Austrian, is loved by all – an ideal American host.

But, the purpose of our Vienna series is not just to say that Vienna is the most livable city in the World – but that I contend that work with global scope can be performed right here – so let us look also at local organizations that can be enrolled in support of global activities – and the first to be mentioned is “the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA).” You will find there a department that deals with all global topics you may be interested to work on. Also, the city hosts many NGOs and great Think Tanks to work as local NGOs – sometimes connected to one of the many active Universities.

One such institution is “the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM).” I will mention the Presentation of last night by Professor Dr. Shalini Randeria, the IWM Rector, titled “Precarious livelihoods, disposable lives, and struggles for citizenship rights.” Dr. Randeria, from India, holds chairs at Budapest, Berlin, Zurich, and Vienna Universities. She has published widely on the anthropology of globalization, law, the state and social movements. Her presentation last night was the Keynote address at a IIASA and Forum Alpbach meeting at the Austrian Academy of Sciences on the occasion of the IIASA meeting called to formulate a “World in 2050″ Programme.

The Academy of Sciences public event – “Human Capital, Geopolitical Complexities, and Our Sustainable Future” had two panels (I) The release of a book by Professor Wolfgang Lutz – “Who Survives? Education Decides the Future of Humanity.
and (II) “Human Capital, Geopolitical Conflict, and Sustainable Development Goals.”

Panel II – Chaired by Professor Pavel Kabat, Director General of IIASA – had:
– Ambassador Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Director-General Section VII-Development, Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign-Affairs.
– Professor Dirk Messner, Co-Chair, German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)
– Professor Carlos Nobre, President Brazilian Federal Agency for Support an Evaluation of Graduate Education. Brazilian Member of the Board of IIASA.
– Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Chair of the Leadership Council and Advisor to the UN Secretary-General; Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University.
– Dr. David Wilkinson, Director, Institute for Systems, Informatics and Safety at the Joint Recearch Center, European Commission.

While the first panel dealt with education as an imperative if one wants to take advantage of the SDGs and in effect achieve the wished-for results, he second panel touched upon the topics that are the framework for the program-in-construction for the year 2050 and on tis we will deal separately.


Posted on on March 5th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Precautionary Principle: Governance of Innovation and Innovations in Governance – CEU/EEA summer school.

from: Anton Shkaruba <> March 5, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

Applications are now open for the 2016 Summer School: “The Precautionary Principle: Governance of innovation and innovations in governance”. It will be held in Budapest (Hungary) from June 26 to July 2, 2016.

The course is co-organised by Central European University (CEU), Median S.C.P., and the European Environment Agency (EEA) as the first event of its EEAcademy.

The purpose of the School is to explore challenges and possible ways forward for the effective and appropriate application of the precautionary principle in sustainability governance, in particular in such an uncertainty-prone area as climate change. It will bring together a solid and diverse group of scholars and practitioners with expertise on the precautionary principle, risk assessment, vulnerability and adaptation management, health research, science and technology studies, the governance of innovation, environmental governance, and long term transitions to sustainability.

The School is designed as a strategic knowledge and experience sharing course at the intersection between a research-oriented course and a professional development course, dedicated to collaborative exploration and learning. It will provide intensive research training, but also allow for policy discussions in a variety of sector and contexts and, through a knowledge co-creation approach, help to identify and find solutions to course-related issues in the participants’ research, policy, and business application fields.

We aim to achieve a mix of participants and faculty from a variety of backgrounds (including both researchers and practitioners from public bodies, NGOs and business) and research interests related to the Course.

Participants from public institutions, business, public institutions and research are encouraged to apply.

Application deadline is April 1, 2016. For more information on the Summer School, including a detailed course description and application instructions please visit:…

For the organising team,
Sybille van den Hove & Anton Shkaruba

Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Research Associate, PhD


Posted on on February 26th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

The very important WEF NEXUS for SUSTAINABILITY that links the Paris 2015 Outcome and the SDGS.

Theme of a meeting sponsored this week by the Hungarian Mission to Austria and to the UN offices in Vienna.

Water-Energy-Food Nexus – Responding to Emerging Needs and Opportunities.

Date: February 22, 2016
Host & Location: Hungarian Embassy, Bankgasse 4-6, 1010, Vienna, Austria.

In September 2015, world leaders formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,
including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets which are aimed at
stimulating action over the next 15 years in areas of critical importance for a more equitable and
sustainable world. The strong linkages between the SDGs underlines the notion that progress on each
goal will be critical for progress on others, with increasing understanding for the implementation
of the SDGs through an integrated framework that demands close collaboration at all levels of governance.
As a result, the water-energy-food nexus (WEF NEXUS) has emerged as a crucial policy and governance approach for
integrated planning and implementation of the SDGs.


10:00 –10:05 Welcome remarks: H.E. Ambassador Karoly Dan

10:05– 0:45 Setting the Scene
– Background and scope of the workshop, approach, expectations and potential outputs/outcomes –
Mr. Paul T.Yillia, SE4All
Presentation: The cross-cutting nature of the SDGs – emerging opportunities for operationalizing
the water-energy-food nexus (WEF NEXUS) – Prof. András Szölösi-Nagy

10:45–12:45 Session I: Discussion Session on partner experiences
Session Chair: Mr. Olivier Dubois, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO);
Co-Chair of the SE4All High Impact Opportunity (HIO) on the WEF NEXUS
– What are the realities, needs and challenges in the countries partners operate?
– How can the SE4All Nexus HIO respond to the needs and challenges?

14:00 –15:30 Session II: Discussion Session on identifying emerging opportunities
Session Chair: from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ);
Co-Chair of the SE4All High Impact Opportunity on the WEF NEXUS
– What opportunities are emerging on the WEF NEXUS
– Presentation: SE4All initiative on Technical Assistance Programme to Strengthen Inter-sector Coordination
(TAPSIC) – Mr.Paul T. Yillia, SE4All
– Exploring the possibility to develop a concrete framework to anchor emerging opportunities within o the SE4All Nexus HIO

15:45-17:45 Session III: Synthesis of Sessions I & II – Developing key elements for action
Session Chair: Mr. Martin Hiller, Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP)
– Mobilizing resources – exploring the possibility of a call for funding
– Mobilizing additional partnerships, including the private sector, civil society and the public sector
– Key message from the workshop (short communication)

17:45–18:00 Closing remarks – Ms. Rachel Kyte, SRSG & CEO, SE4All


Posted on on January 30th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Above the entrance to 21 Zerubabel Street in the Yemenite Quarter in Tel Aviv – next door to the Rabbi Shabzi Synagogue and the warning – a dog in the courtyard – it says – in Hebrew:Sun light is very bleak to someone who does not find sense in his life. Next tomit in English is written: “There is no Fear in Love.”

The Israeli papers that are still not owned by an Israeli government related American individual – The HAARETZ and the Yedioth Aharonot – are now full with hints at internal culture wars started by an uneducated Culture Minister – Ms. Miri Regev who contended that even uneducated people can be educated. That is not my topic here – for those interested please read The New York Times article of today – “Israel, Mired in Ideological Battles, Fights on Cultural Fronts” – By STEVEN ERLANGER January 29, 2016. We are here rather interested in what the rather officialpro-government papers say – The MAARIV and The ISRAEL HAYOM say.

A main report comes from the meeting in Nicosia, Cyprus between Israel’s Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu and His counterparts from Greece and Cyprus titled as the “Mediterranean Alliance.” As I just arrived here from Vienna I am quite familiar with the Merkel & Faymann problems with Greece and Turkey and the simple facts that the EU in ordr to survive tends now to shed Greece and trade it for higher reliance on Turkey. What I sense thus is the contemplation of the Israeli government to look as well for new allies in its troubled corner of thev World.

Then, no misunderstanding here – President Obama just declared for all to hear that Putin is corrupt and Mr. Putin reacted by asking for evidence. No problem on this front – the UK obliged and declared Putin involved in the execution of a financial competitor – mafia style. This sort of language was not heard even in the days of President Regan’s attacks on the Soviet “Evil Empire.”

Obama looks at the mess in Western Asia he inherited from G.W. Bush who really turned all local devils there lose by taking off the lids that kept a modicum of order as left by the British and French colonial powers. G.W. continued the reliance on the Saudis that came down from Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thus became partial to an evolving Sunni Shia rift with an ever increasing Iranian threat to the US oil supplies from the Middle East. Obviously, US interests did not match in all of this the European effort to build their own power bloc and the difficulties the EU put before Turkey’s attemp to join in the Union. Russia had its own problems with the EU and when life for the US and the EU became difficultbin the Arab region – they jumped in and used the occasion to move on the Ukraine as well.

So what now?

My suggestion based on an acknowledged very superficial reading of the real news – is: By necessity there are now two new potential NEUTRAL Centers in a renewed COLD WAR scenario.

Oman is the Neutral space between the Saudis and Iran – to be cherished by the US.

The small group of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel – a new buffer zone between the EU & Turkey alliance and the Sunni Arab Golf and the US – with Syria and Iraq the actual battle-field that will churn the Arab World until it reorganizes the remaining waste-lands. Russia has gained a footing via the Shiia Muslims and the US will see to limit this by making it more profitable to Iran to play the US in exchange for diminished role to the Saudis. It is all in the new world cards.

And what about the Arab North African States? Will they fall into the hands of extreme Sunnis as preached by Saudi Wahhabism – the source of what has moved to the creation of the new Islamic powder keg? I do not think this is possible in North Africa – simply because there are no Shiia elements there that justify to the Sunnis such an effort. Will there be another neutral zone in the North African region in the Cold War arena? This makes sense eventually.


Posted on on January 24th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

This present posting was conceived as a sequel to our posting that pointed out the Vienna Burgtheater as a provider of “Theatre for Ideas” events. That posting was titled:

The TTIP is flushed out – January 17, 2016 – in a great panel at the Burgtheater, Vienna. It seems that the present differences between US and EU make a legislature-overriding agreement impossible.

Posted on on January 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz ( PJ at

January 24, 2016 I had the opportunity to listen in on the interview of theater director Andrea Berth by Ms. Haide Tenner of the Burgtheater. The event took place in the smaller hall – the Casinotheater on Schwarzenberg Platz. The title was: “What is Theater?” and the pre-event publicity was saying it was about language. So I got interested.

Andrea Breth is a large-size woman – a chain-smoker that gives the impression of a Midwest cowboy. But inside this large body it was clear that resides a sensitive and self deprecating woman. Her breakthrough in the theater came in 1983 with the Freiburg City Theater where she staged Federico García Lorca’s “The House of Bernarda Alba.” This staging brought her an invitation to the Berlin Theater Conference and the Theater Magazine “Theater” nominated her as best Theater Director of the Year. Many rewards followed. This year she got the German Republic Cross of Merritt and the Schiller prize of the City of Marbach (Schiller’s birthplace). Since 1999 she is also home-director for the Vienna Burgtheater and did stagings for the Salzburg Festival.

Indeed she says theater is about language but she enlarges o the meaning of language. What is important is for te actors to relate to te text. A movement of the foot becomes language. The actor has to develop by himself his method – there is not one for all she said. Nevertheless, a text by Tennessee Williams can not be worked out in a different way from how it was intended. She does not want to bend her actors – she want them rather to be themselves and brought in the example of Michael Kramer who she knew his father was a large orchestra conductor – so she had Michael work with big groups.

Her direction is not for the public but for te piece – the original work. I am retelling it and ten comes the public.

The interviewer proposes that a person changes according to whom they speak with. The director answers there must be something above this which she demonstrates with a large movement of her whole arm.

The interviewer insists – one more topic – language: There always is less information available.



This is next topic at the “DEBATING EUROPE” Theatre for Ideas exercise and thresh-out.

This time under the moderation of Der Standard Editor Alexandra Foederl-Schmid personally – the panel will include:

Kinga Goencz – a former Foreign Minister of Hungary;

Rebecca Harms – Fraction Chair of the Greens in the European Parliament;

Giorgos Chondros – Member of the Central Committee of the Greek Governing Syriza Party;

Peter Keller – Swiss Journalist and Politician with the Swiss Peoples’ Party;

Adam Krzeminski – Polish Journalist and Publicist.

The Discussion will take place February 14, 2016 at 11:00 at the Burgtheater in vienna, UNIVERSITAETSRING 2, 1010 VIENNA.

This will be a debate about the Democratic model of Government at a time that in Europe new authoritarian structures are being created, and protest movements like Syriza, Podemos, Pegida are taking roots as well. It seems as if we are entering a POST-DEMOCRACY age. Politologues point out that he participation at elections is in retreat.



Posted on on January 20th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Today I had the good fortune to be present at a debate between Professor Franz Cede – former Austrian Ambassador to the Russian Federation and now with the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy (AIES), and Russia’s Ambassador to Austria H.E. Dmitrij Liubinskij (Dmitry Lubensky) – in diplomatic service since 1989.

The discussants had agreed beforehand to touch on most topics of contention between the European Union and the Russian Federation – the Ukraine, Syria, Iran, the EU-Russia relations. Being a good diplomat Ambassador Lubensky proposed the official answers as per the the Russian Federation government: Autonomy for the Donbas region as part of an Ukrainian Federation; There was no recent annexation of the Krim this was rather the redress of the annexation that Under Mr. Chruschtschow he gave the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine; about his rule; Russia does not bsck Assad to keep him in Power, only the Syrian people can decide what to do; the Iran deal showed the strength of diplmcy and discussions. Econoic relatios with Iran go on already a long time – he was told – also Germany and Austria. He knows this from his many contacts.

On EU and Russia relations he said that since te 90s there exists the concept of integration of the European Union and the Eurasian Union.

This last item is my reason for writing this up.
My belief is in – rather then using valuable time to discuss ongoing problems for which hardened positions already exist – I would rather start a debate that is intended to create rapprochement by bringing up first – reasonable potential future problems. In today’s case Russia and the West – I would rather start with depicting a situation where China becomes the real danger for Russia – the danger from the East.

The reality is that the Russian Federation is rather a large State but small in the number of its people.
Looking at a future world partitioned between blocks of one billion people plus (each) – neither Russia, nor the EU could make it without supporting each other. The Eurasian Union is only a half backed idea – a much better idea would be a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok – incorporating the EU and the Russian Federation. In such a Union Russia could find its security much easier then tackling the West in those proposed four areas.

At the end of the meeting I discussed this idea of using potential future problems to help cure present on-going problems,
and it seemed to me that even the Russian Ambassador did not shy away from this idea.


Posted on on January 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

This last Sunday, the venerable Austrian jewel – THE BURGTHEATER – once more lived up to the Brechtian concept of an ideal Theater as an arena for Ideas. Let me confess that I am not innocent when it comes to this. Back in the sixties and seventies I was part of a team that was running THE THEATER FOR IDEAS in the West Village of Manhattan, and in the summers – out of a summer house I shared in East Hampton on Long Island, the State of New York. Shirley Broughton, a former dancer and Brechtian theater person, from the days Brecht exiled himself from Nazi Germany and was active in the US,
picked up the idea after Bertolt Brecht returned to East Berlin. With the help of some family foundations she established this institution that at its best was described as a play-ground for the cream of New York intelligentia. For the 1965-1966 season, THE THEATER FOR IDEAS was awarded an OBIE Special Citation “for encouraging exploration in dramatic literature and music and providing a forum for thought in the theater.” It is the 11 am Sunday debates at the Burgtheater that remind me now of those old days.

Under the general topic of DEBATING EUROPE – and under the leadership of the Editor of DER STANDARD – Alexandra Föderl-Schmid – and with support from the ERSTE FOUNDATION and the IWM (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen – The Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna), The Burgtheater organized a debate on the topic “Wozu brauchen wir TTIP? – What for do we need TTIP? – “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” – a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US.

The Chair of the panel was Ms. Shalini Randeria, Rector of IWM in Vienna and Research Director and Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva.

The Panel (in seating order) included Mr. Peter-Tobias Stall, professor of public international law at the Georg August University of Göttingen; Ms. Eva Dessewffy, lecturer at the Department of European Integration and Economy-Right at the Danube University in Krems, Austria and Consultant with the Labor-Unions Headquarter, Austria; Mr. Franz Schellhorn, Head of the liberal-economy think-tank Agenda Austria and previous Economy-Journalist for Die Presse; Mr. Lutz Guellner, a German, the new elected Head for Communication in the Trade Office of the European Commission, Brussels; Ms. Petra Pinzler, in September 2015 she published a volume on un-free-trade under the domination of big companies and government officials – “Der Unfreihandel. Die heimliche Herrschaft von Konzernen und Kanzleien” (Rowohlt) – a critical review of the European Trade policy with an analysis of the rights, democracy and economy aspects of the Free-Trade planned programs such as TTIP, CETA und TISA.

As we see – the panel was well balance and all points of view present – from the self justifying European Commission and the liberal economist to the strict guardians of labor rights and honest analysts of what it means for Europe to allow itself to be dominated by American business interests based in very different legislature then any of the EU member states. So, I see no sense in repeating here the arguments, and I will now rather point out why a deal between two un-equals is just not to the Europeans’ interest.

The two un-equals are a United States – united under the banner of pure capitalism that rejects the niceties of social and environmental aspects in running the economy. This American Democracy gives people the right to earn money with money. This naturally leads to concentration of wealth and to more power to the wealthy.

On the other hand, the European Democracy has evolved as a Social Democracy that uses taxes in order to provide services to the citizens. True, Europe is not as united as it ought to be and the individual states are pursuing the social democracy goals with different levels of enthusiasm. It is the old established democracies that are better off, and have thus more advanced social norms – with some of those that more recently freed themselves from totalitarian systems lagging behind and being more susceptible to US charms.

The European Commission as such, seemingly as well, has allowed itself to be dragged into secret negotiations with the US super-business and this seems completely unacceptable to the labor unions and the environmentalists that judge correctly the immense danger from losing protective laws – laws that protect the people and the environment from the power of immense money grab and loss of judicial cover.

The goal of an economy ought to be SUSTAINABILITY rather then GROWTH – the charms of FREE-TRADE can mean that a Country with lower protective legislation – or no protective legislation at all – can by overriding in name of agreed upon expediency – simply wipe away the protection that so painstakingly has been established in a more advanced social state, that night evaluate sustainability more then the immediate financial gain that destroys the environment, lowers quality of life, and is responsible for health problems.

To be sure – I do have a personal story on this. Back in the seventies, the US decided finally that the health problems created by combustion of lead-contained gasoline where not worth the profits of the petroleum refinery – and leaded gasoline was outlawed. So what? The company that produced the Tetra-Ethyl-Lead – the compound that was used by the refiners – created a daughter company in Canada, and under THE FREE TRADE NAFTA agreement moved to export this to California where the petroleum industry was happy to buy it from them. Under NAFTA they just tried to over-ride US law. And what do you know, the US government said they had no legal means to stop this. They cannot close the border to poison because that would unravel NAFTA. California had to pay off that company to get them to desist from exporting the stuff – plain extortion on an international level. A story that should be known to all those European TTIP dreamers. What made things worse was the fact that by then there was proposed an alternative to lead – low percentages of ethanol mixed to the gasoline did provide the octane boost need to replace the lead compound – but refiners did not want this solution.

The opposition to TTIP in Austria is clear in the unwillingness to accept transnational legal system that is intended to override the Austrian and European legislation. That is clear.

Austria is fighting genetic engineering technologies and requires clear information about content of food and other products – any decrease in this sort of safeguards imposed by someone with less stringent rules is unacceptable.

Social and ecological achievements by Austria and the EU cannot be rolled back for sake of profit – that is clear.

Most countries including the EU, the US, and Canada, have accepted the 8 minimum-agreed-norms of the ILO – such as the right to collective agreements – to unionize and have an agreement; no children’s work; no forced labor; non-discrimination of any kind. Above all – no secrecy allowed. Democracy is based on transparency.


Hoping I will get another hint to something about Europe, I went to see the Burgtheater project “Hotel Europa oder Der Antichrist” (Hotel Europe or the Anti-Christ) fashioned freely after a novel written by Joseph Roth with further inputs from other pieces and correspondence.

Moses Joseph Roth (1894 in Brody, eastern Galicia, Austria-Hungary – died in 1939 in Paris exile having committed suicide with excess drinking) was an Austrian writer and journalist.

This piece deals with someone coming back after World War I to the gates of Europe. It is possible to see in this theater event the slide to World War II. The one point I found in the direction I was looking to is Roth’s equalizing Hollywood and Hitler. Could we say that I saw there the danger from an excess that dehumanizes us? Maybe.

Whatever – this was very good theater and the four actors looked like Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph dressed as Hotel bell-hops. I guess – a bow to Mr. Roth living in hotels in exile from his Austria.



Posted on on October 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

AG Globale Verantwortung, Dreikönigsaktion, IUFE, KOO, Paulo Freire Zentrum.

Die Transformation unserer Welt? Die Umsetzung der UN-Ziele für Nachhaltige Entwicklung in Österreich und Europa

29.10.2015, 19 Uhr, VHS Urania, Dachgeschoß, Uraniastraße 1, 1010 Wien

Anmeldung unter:



Posted on on October 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

The movie was shown this weekend twice (23rd and 25th of October) to sold out audiences at Vienna’s Film Festival – the Viennale. Another Israeli movie- maker plaid it safer – he showed killings in Indonesia. In an interview with the “Wienner Zeitung” – Gitai said that he does not want to end up the same way as Rabin.

The problem is that in the Middle East there seems to be a practical alliance between those that do not want peace. Be those extremist Palestinians or extremist Jews.

The movie includes that stairway scene where Rabin was supposed to pass to the car waiting for him after he spoke at the peace rally. The media film showed in real time the killer coming towards him and shooting.

Every action and every word uttered in the film to be released is what really happened and what was said. Gitai says he checked everything for at least two sources. The film is therefore freitening in its truth that extends to today’s situation in the Middle East.

Let me mention here that Vienna these days is also the locus where the situation in Syria is openly on the operational table and not much hope is there either. The Austrians, after years of denial to themselves – are now clearly embracing the guilt of the Holocaust and this puts them in a situation that they will not be themselves if rejecting true refugees that escape the Middle East mayhem. All this points at this movie becoming a true document
and those in Israel that hatted Rabin for his attempt to lead to peace, can be counted on hating this retelling of their deeds.


Posted on on September 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Fwd: Invitation to join the SDG Symposium on ‘Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business’ on 28 October 2015

From: Jingchao zhou of the Society for International Development (SID), Vienna, Austria.

The Institute for Managing Sustainability was originally founded by S.I.D. vice-president Uwe Schubert
> ———- Forwarded message ———-
> From: Institute for Managing Sustainability
> Date: Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 10:32 AM

> Subject: Invitation to join the SDG Symposium on ‘Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business’ on 28 October 2015 at the University of Economics and Business (Wirtschaftsuniversitaet) Institute for Managinng Sustainability.
> Invitation to join the SDG Symposium on Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business

> Organised by the WU Institute for Managing Sustainability at Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) in collaboration with the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the European Evaluation Society (EES)
> Date: 28 October 2015

> Location: Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU), Welthandelsplatz 1, 1020 Vienna, Austria

> Registration: Please visit their website to register for the event and find out more about updates on the programme and speakers
> The WU Institute for Managing Sustainability at Vienna University of Economics and Business in collaboration with the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and the European Evaluation Society (EES) is pleased to invite you to a symposium on “Evaluating the Sustainable Development Goals – New Challenges for Research, Policy and Business”.

> With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations in September 2015, a new set of objectives for global sustainable development will guide the global development agenda. The SDGs provide a comprehensive approach, ensuring a high level of ambition for achieving results, involving development agencies and governments, international organisations, civil society and business.

> Coinciding with 2015 as the International Year of Evaluation and the European Year of Development the symposium aims to be a forum for discussion on the implications of the SDGs for the impact evaluation of policies, programmes and projects across sectors.
> The symposium will address the central question of how the SDGs may inform research and practice in evaluation. We cordially invite you to join the symposium and

> Find out more about the contribution of evaluation, research and practice to the effective implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals
> Discuss the implications of the new international development agenda on evaluation research and practice across sectors (policy, civil society, business, academia)
> Engage in a dialogue with key actors and experts from research, business, policy, international organizations and civil society
> Watch the conference website for updates on the programme, speakers and registration.

> André Martinuzzi
> Institute for Managing Sustainability, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business,
> email:  andre.martinuzzi at
> Patricia Schindler
> Institute for Managing Sustainability, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business,
> email:  patricia.schindler at
> Norma Schönherr
> Institute for Managing Sustainability, WU Vienna University of Economics and Business,
> email:  norma.schoenherr at
> This newsflash is being published by
> Institute for Managing Sustainability
> Vienna University of Economics and Business
> Welthandelsplatz 1, A-1020 Vienna, Austria
> phone: +43-1-31336-4698
> fax: +43-1-31336-90-4698
> www: ” title=”” target=”_blank”>, Vienna


Posted on on September 6th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Postcapitalism and the refugee crisis

Julian Sayarer 5 September 2015

This was brought to our attention by the London based OpenDemocracy…

and was written by Julian Sayarer of “this is not for charity.” That site and blog arose from his 2009 world record for a circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle – a protest against the corporatisation of sport and human endeavour. You can buy his account of the adventure – “Life Cycles.”


The response of European citizens to the imperative to offer refuge has been inspiring, unlike the response of some governments. It shows the best face of postcapitalism.

2,200 cars are moving from Austria to Hungary, so as the drivers might ease the march of those Syrian refugees walking away from Hungary’s xenophobic position on the refugee crisis, and towards the safe haven that has been offered, in particular, by Germany.

The refugee crisis is dire and has been for a long time. We should not allow ourselves to forget that the image of a drowned toddler served only to bring us belatedly to our collective moral senses – we might have expected many of the innocent deaths before his to have done so already, but you cannot undo the past, only make good on your mistakes. The obligatory mention of western culpability, which is not the point to be dwelt on here, must also be made; western governments and media rushed into rash and heady military interventions that were painfully ill-judged. Some news outlets that now run hot for a refugee crisis have cultivated the indifference that saw the same crisis ignored for so long. It would be dangerous were we to forget that we have been fickle and that we have acted poorly, but it would be no less dangerous to have that remorse stopper our attempts to do good in the face of so much that is now ill. Right now, as 2,200 Austrian drivers head to Hungary to pick up refugees, positive things are happening in Europe.

This week, a flatmate asked me if we could house a refugee in our front room in London. I am, ordinarily, the flatmate urging we switch to a provider of renewable energy, the flatmate encouraging his flatmates consider a look at a Triodos ethical savings account rather than one with Lloyds Bank. My flatmates know that’s what I’m like, and so too do I know it, and as a result I go easy on them; well aware that there are arguments to be made on the part of ethics, but if you disregard the demanding daily lives of those you mean to convince, then they will soon disregard your ethics. And so I was not about to suggest we have a Syrian move in. Not only, however, was it my flatmate and not me who suggested we house a refugee, but a third housemate, on hearing the suggestion of the second, responded to the proposal with borderline approval. At this point, naturally, I announced that I would not be the flatmate that vetoed the decision to house a Syrian refugee. More significant than this good intention, however, is the extent to which it is already being put into practice; a UK initiative is in the process of trying to find ten thousand willing homes for Syrians, an Icelandic initiative has already found ten thousand (on an island of only 300,000), and a German initiative is actively pairing refugees with homes around the country and beyond. This is to say nothing of the assorted crowdfunding ventures and, once again, the 2,200 Austrians currently driving to Hungary to help drive refugees towards asylum.

That so many individuals now care enough to do so much so out of the ordinary is, in itself, remarkable. Still more encouraging, however, is the fact that it is working. Europeans are creating a trickle-up politics whereby Austrians drive to collect Syrians from Hungary and so Hungary feel compelled to – at least – provide buses, Iceland’s government realise it has misjudged the popular mood in only 50 asylum places and so return with an offer in the thousands. David Cameron is yet to announce how many Syrians will now be granted asylum in the UK, but – even before a 12th September march on Downing Street that will number into the tens of thousands – the figure will be substantially higher than the one the Government once felt it could get away with as the bare minimum of human rights duties. None of this is to say that now is a time for congratulating ourselves, quite the opposite – it is simply a reminder that the campaigning is working and we should keep at it. What is more, however, is that this is no longer only adversarial – whether it is the Daily Mail or the Conservative Party, some of the voices most steadfastly opposed to the movement of human beings – be that in refuge or migration – are being swallowed by the size of the consensus now under construction. The silent majority on immigration is, at last, speaking – the centre ground is being redefined. We have a humanitarian crisis and so we must respond as humans – some who would have bemoaned the issue of refugees a fortnight ago are doubtless becoming more sympathetic to the matter, and while it would be nice if we’d all of us agreed all along, this is real life, and the reality of winning a debate is that people who disagreed with you come to agree. It should be welcomed, not condemned.

This is – it bears saying – a work in progress; Eritreans, Afghans and the Sudanese are every bit as brutalised as Syrians, the latter are not the ‘special case’ some tabloids have sought to define them as – a cherry-picked victim by which we superficially re-legitimise World War Two narratives of safe-havens and our own morality. This is not to say that we can or should take infinite refugees, rather, that we must give according to our own ability and the needs of others, and that our foreign policies ought be waged (if that is still the correct verb) in a fashion that considers these human repercussions and where they flee to.

My own position on how much we might do is, probably, more utopian than most. I love to imagine British people talking of the successes and difficulties faced in integrating the Syrian couple now living with them for six months. Of people telling their boss they’ll be late for work because of dropping-off an adopted child at an English class – the boss understanding because his neighbour is running a day care centre for similar reasons. I fantasise about the idea of us all being forced to interrupt our business as usual, being reminded that millions of ruined lives and our ability to help a little was worth more than what the damn markets are saying. Sure, plenty of it is fantasy, but, there again, a week ago the UK was to take a few hundred Syrians. Next week, already with a certainty that that number will have increased, tens of thousands will march on Downing Street to demand more. I don’t go in for the nationalist baloney that The British People are good and moral… I simply believe that people are good and moral, especially where an agenda can be cleared of ulterior motives and polling data-induced paralysis, at which point you let people make up their own mind as to whether they like helping or vilifying those in need. That this open heartedness should not stop at international refugees goes without saying, but those I’ve seen most active on the refugee crisis are also those most active on UK inequality, its housing crisis, and the reliance of millions on food banks. What we are exercising is our emotional-political muscle to do good and demand more.

Individually, our own, personal morality-politics already represents as much. Countless memes circulate the internet on a feel-good theme that performing an act of kindness, of generosity, does not leave you depleted of that energy, but rather gives you your own energy redoubled. It is good to be a good person, just as it is good to be a nation that stands for values and humanity. Buddhist monks forego all possession and work so as to allow those around them opportunity to be humane in their support – the west and westerners have not, collectively, behaved with the piety of monks, and we should seek no self-congratulation, but societies have an impulse for compassion, and where that impulse is continuously stifled – where we are consistently bludgeoned with ideas that we haven’t the time, the capital, the empathy – we eventually come to believe it. Western society needs to be reminded that it can stand for change and stand for good, not only for a cheap fiscal orthodoxy; it is vitally important that we seize this moment, for it is in times of crisis that humans are able to reinvent themselves by either rising to, or falling, in the face of the challenge. We should continue to campaign, work and innovate for the sake of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, but we should also be doing it for ourselves.

Crucial in the call to action now rising are the voices of those elderly people who remember the evacuation of children from cities during World War II – their memory is essential for in them is a precedent, a recollection, that people can take in strangers for the good of all, and that life as you know it can legitimately be interrupted for an act of conscience. In those born since that time, the idea is only a text book or a history lesson, and it is so very important that each generation builds these examples anew so that they can continue to live on in the memory of those who come next.

There are, of course, practical considerations beyond only the good intention. As has been pointed out, even the 800,000 asylum places made available in Germany cannot be accessed from a refugee camp in Turkey or Lebanon, nor – quite possibly – even from the consulates within those nations. People are being obliged to make perilous and extortionately costly journeys (which, from the outset, marginalise the most economically vulnerable) to get to those asylum spaces; the momentum now needs to turn to military airlifting or charter flights. The pairing of refugees and willing hosts needs to gather momentum, and crowdfunding of – for example – the necessary bank deposits for visa sponsors could be an avenue for investigation.

None of these measures will, in themselves, solve the crisis, but by asking for them we will continue to build pressure on our governments to deliver the more adequate responses being demanded by their populations. In many ways, what we are seeing now is a hacking of government politics – the mechanisms of a much-vaunted ‘sharing economy’ put to humanitarian rather than market ends. Pressure should be applied to Airbnb to make good their ‘sharing credentials’ and have their reach and infrastructure leant to implementing, genuinely, the open-hearted human values they market themselves as espousing. People – whether in their accommodation, vehicles, expertise, time or spare belongings – are taking the unused value of their surpluses and investing it towards making good. This is what postcapitalism looks like, and here we see are seeing the network technologies of the twenty-first century mobilised to ameliorate the sort of crisis not seen since the twentieth.

The response of European governments and campaigners so far has – by and large – been one of terrible inaction on the part of governments shamed by enterprise and passion on the part of people. Governments can be embarrassed, either by other governments’ positions (read: Germany) or when their own populations demand more of them, either vocally, or by outdoing the efforts of the government itself; creating such a clamour that you break the machinery of government, the emotional armour, and break through to the humans that wear it. The Greek bailout crowdfunder, which so cheerfully managed to raise under 1% of only one debt instalment, illustrates that the efforts of networked individuals cannot match the smallest clout of a government. We should let this refugee crisis show that, whilst groundswell cannot replace government, it can and must help shape it.


Posted on on August 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

IPCC chair election: 5 candidates, 8 weeks to go

By Megan Darby of ” title=”” target=”_blank”>…


SustainabiliTank supports Naki (Nebosja Nakicenovic) because of his years long personal involvement in energy matters and his understanding of the importance of energy in the economy, on the environment and in development matters. Further, we think his Vienna base at the former East-West IIASA institution – is a tremendous plus – and as well – practically all UN and international energy active centers are based in Vienna be it UN affiliates like IAEA and OPEC and then the new SE4All which ought to be a major locus for post-Paris-2015.

Also, we think it as a plus, the fact that Naki was not part of the outgoing IPCC management – we found years ago that the influence of oil interests reached into the minds and actions of that outgoing management.


Posted on on July 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

70 years after Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Are we smarter? Are we more human? That was the question!
As reported by Ms.Irith Jawetz, July 27, 2015.

An unusual event took place on Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at the OIIP (Austrian Institute for International Politics. In spite of the unusual high temperatures and a very feeble AC, the room was almost full. I will try to present the essence of that event.

The panel included:

- Ms.Judith Brandner, Since 1984 radio journalist and radio producer for Ö1, but also on DRS2, D-RADIO and SWR2.
- Ambassador Alexander Kmentt; Austria’s Director for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament. Ambassador Kmentt has received the highest number of votes in an online poll to determine the “2014 Arms Control Person of the Year.” Nine other worthy candidates were nominated by the staff of the Arms Control Association for their significant achievements and contributions to reducing the threats posed by the world’s most dangerous weapons in the past year.

Ambassador Kmentt, who started his career at the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs in 1994 and has been a leading disarmament diplomat for many years, was recognized for organizing the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Dec. 8-9, 2014 in Vienna, which drew delegations representing 158 states, the United Nations, and civil society.

- Prof. Heinz Gärtner OIIP, Professor at the University of Vienna, His research priorities include international and European security; US foreign and security policy; Theories of international politics; Developments in world politics; Arms control.

- Hakan Akbulut, Research Assistant at OIIP, Areas of Research: Nuclear proliferation,Turkish foreign and security policy .

The moderator was Fabio Polly, who has been with the Austrian Radio ORF for more than 30 years. He was head of the ORF young journalists training in 1996. Since then, in the radio’s external policy, with temporary interruptions as moderator of various information programs (among others Ö1-journals).

He spent a total of four years as a correspondent in Germany and in the US. Focus of Reporting: international security, disarmament, nuclear weapons and the Middle East; Travel to Afghanistan (Kabul) to Iraq (Baghdad), to South Africa (Johannesburg).

The main concern of all the panelists was that 70 years after the Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the problem of nuclear weapons has not been solved. Even the reasons for that terrible event have not been completely clear until now, and may never be fully known. Those two cities were totally destroyed, ten thousands of people killed, and the aftermath was immense. Those events emphasized how dangerous those weapons are.

In the arsenal of 9 countries there are now approximately 16,300 nuclear war-heads. Those weapons are part of a deterrent policy, which was developed during the Cold War. The objection to a notion of a world without nuclear power is strong, however there is a second notion now, which stems from a humanitarian point of view that maybe the world is better off without those weapons.

Ms. Brandner talked about her personal experience visiting universities in Japan and interviewing people who have relatives who still remember the Hiroshima & Nagasaki events and still have psychological scars from that day. One student talked about her Grandfather who lived through this nightmare and for years after could not talk about it. He then came to be interviewed, opened up and talked for two hours non stops about the horrors of that day. He spoke about the slow deaths of the people, the stifling heat and the stench, the burning corpses lying on the streets for days. The Grandfather lived to be 88 years old but carried this trauma with him all his life.

One of the topics of the debate was the notion that nuclear weapons are a deterrent. Does it really work? Is it really a deterrent? Can one rely on the fact that the leaders of those countries who possess those weapons will really only refer to them as a deterrent factor and not use them?

Ambassador Kmentt stressed the fact that human error can be the most dangerous factor in having nuclear weapons. He compared it to a pilot in a plane who, if he makes a mistake and pushes the wrong button, the plane goes down and all passengers and crew will die. If a wrong button is pushed or any button is pushed for some reason on a nuclear weapon the consequences are unimaginable. The system has too many risks.

Prof. Gärtner believes a deterrent is only effective if it is believable by both sides that the weapons would be used.
He gave a bit of an historical view on Hiroshima & Nagasaki and said that the United States always contained that it was needed to end the war. Too many U.S. soldiers have died in World War II and it looked as if the Japanese were not ready to surrender. The questions remains, would they have surrendered had they known of the existence of the nuclear bomb? That’s where the deterrent part comes in. Another version for the necessity of ending the war this way was the fear of the U.S. that Russia would march into Japan and take over. Was that reason enough to use the Atom bomb?

Touching on the Iran deal which was signed in Vienna only a few days earlier the speakers agreed that Iran should be given a chance to prove itself worthy of the confidence that the Allies have put into that deal. The Iran deal will define what is for peace and what is for war. On a questions from the audience how can one be certain that technically the weapons are not to be used for war, the answer was that one cannot be 100% sure of it, but one has to trust the Iranians to some extent.

I would like to elaborate a bit on one aspect which was mentioned a few times during the conversation. It was the fact that nine nations — the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — possess approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons. in total. Under the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START), Russia and the United States have reduced their inventories but still account for more than 93% of all operational nuclear warheads. Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. On 11 May 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely. More countries have adhered to the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty’s significance.

A total of 191 states have joined the Treaty, though North Korea, which acceded to the NPT in 1985 but never came into compliance, announced its withdrawal in 2003. Four UN member states have never joined the NPT: India, Israel, Pakistan and South Sudan.

In contrast to those countries, New Zealand is one small country which in 1984 barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters. Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act of 1987, territorial sea, land and airspace of New Zealand became nuclear-free zones. This has since remained a part of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

The debate went on for a long time with no clear answer to the topic question: 70 years after: Are we smarter, are we more human? Nuclear weapons are basically only safe if used as a deterrent, but they are extremely dangerous if actually used.

Being a deterrent when two opposing sides are both nuclear armed – the certainty of a second strike becomes in effect an insurance of peace. That was the concept of M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) that lowered animosity between the two sides in the Cold War. The destruction caused in the two events in Japan – big as they were are nevertheless small compared to what, relatively, the new arms could do. The question is indeed, watching today’s ideological enemies, are they mellow enough to take the M.A.D. idea seriously? Will it always be a Head of State that has the nuclear button, or could it be that a device ends up with a group of insurgents?


Posted on on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Reported by Irith Jawetz from Vienna
July 12. 2015

On Friday, July 10, 2015 – a very timely – at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
Since the Iran talks are being held in Vienna, the panel discussion was very appropriate and although many people have left the City for the Summer, or at least for the weekend, this round table – and the room were full.
I will try to give a somewhat concise reporting of that event.

The event was called: Iran und der Westen nach den Verhandlungen (Iran and the West after the talks).

The participants were:

Dr. Christian Prosl, Austrian Ambassador to Washingtion 2009-2011

Dr. Walter Posch, Institut für Friedenssicherung und Konfliktforschung an der Landesverteidigungsakademie Wien
( Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management, Vienna).

Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist, APA (the Austrian Press Agency) and Wiener Zeitung

The excellent moderator was Dr. Werner Fasslabend, President of the Politische Akademie und des AIES, former Austrian Minister for Defense.


Dr. Fasselabend opened the discussion stating that only 99.9% of the talks are completed.

He continued by by displaying historic and current maps of the Region, giving us a broad historic overview of Iran and its influence on the region. He stressed that because of Iran’s geographical location it was and still is a very large regional power and stability in the Middle East without Iran’s cooperation is impossible.

Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist for APA (Austrian Press Agentur) and Wiener Zeitung gave us an inside look from the perspective of the journalists covering the talks.

He recalled that after 17 days, 12-16 hours of work, 600 journalists and at a cost of about $1 million for the stay in Vienna by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation at the famous Imperial Hotel, there is still no deal. There have been many improvements since the beginning of the talks, but still no deal. Mr. Kerry has prolonged his stay yet again and said a deadline will not be a factor as long as an agreement can be achieved. The new deadline to be breached is Monday July 13th.

The three major problems that stand in the way of an agreement are:

1) The sanctions on Iran – the Iranian delegation insists those have to be lifted right away;

2) The UN Arms Embargo that includes conventional weapons;

3) Political readiness by President Obama and Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. Both have to agree to a deal which will be accepted at home.

Dr. Faal said he is an optimist by nature and is still hopeful that an agreement will be reached.

Ambassador Dr. Christian Prosl addressed the matter from the US point of view. He said that for the US the stability of the region and the security of the State of Israel are the main factors and the two problems which the US faces are with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Both countries, though for different reasons, are against any deal with Iran since they do not trust the Iranian regime.

As for the supply of oil, this is not anymore a factor for the US because of the fracking industry. However, the strained relationship between President Obama and the Republican party may be a factor. The Republicans have tried for a long time now to see that President Obama fails, and they may try to fail him also in this endeavor. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech in Congress against the Iran deal, which was prompted by the invitation of Speaker of the House John Boemer, did not help. However Ambassador Prosl said that he cannot imagine that the Republicans will fail the agreement if it is iron clad and the treaty will be safe for the US.

Dr. Posch addressed the matter from the Iranian point of view and concluded that although the problems are being viewed from different perspective, i.e. US, the EU and Iran, the will is there. Regional security, oil supply and human rights in Iran all play a part in the talks. He also was hopeful that a deal will be signed

At the end of the panel presentations, Dr. Fasselabend invited to the podium Dr. Massud Mossaheb, General Secretary of the Austro-Iranian Society in Vienna.

Mr. Mossaheb said that there is mutual mistrust between the West and the Iranian Government.

In spite of the fact that the Iranian nuclear position has not changed in the last 40 years, there is still mistrust. The people of Iran hope for the lifting of the sanctions so they can have a better quality of life. They suffer from high inflation and lack of supplies, especially in medications. Dr. Mossaheb also hopes for a deal to be reached.

As the end, the consensus was that the talks will go on, of course not for ever, but without the threat of an immediate deadline, and an agreement, which will be safe and beneficial for all participants will be reached.


From the US MEDIA – I will add to the above
that the personal insistence of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the opinion is that the White House investment in these talks is so high that a failure to obtain an agreement is unthinkable.

The fact that the Iranians see this deep involvement of the Americans has in itself weakened the position of the United States in these negotiations. But then, the Iran Supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei – whose position is still strong as he is still blindly followed by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who are in charge of the Nuclear Program – may be using tough talk now just to make sure that his agreeing to an agreement is not viewed as weakness. The Iranian people want an end to the sanctions provided it is not seen as a cave in (the CNN/GPS program of Fareed Zakaria).

The current round, now in its 16-th day, was supposed to conclude on June 30, but was extended until July 7, then July 10 and now July 13. The sides had hoped to seal a deal before the end of Thursday in Washington to avoid delays in implementing their promises.

By missing that target, the U.S. and Iran now have to wait for a 60-day congressional review period during which President Barack Obama can’t waive sanctions on Iran. Had they reached a deal by Thursday, the review would have been only 30 days.

En route to Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday.

Kerry noted that “a few tough things” remain in the way of agreement but added: “We’re getting to some real decisions.”

A senior State Department official also said Sunday that the department will not speculate about the timing of anything during the talks and that key issues remain unresolved.

Iran’s state-run Press TV cited Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday as calling the U.S. an “excellent example of arrogance.” It reported that Khamenei told university students in Tehran to be “prepared to continue the struggle against arrogant powers.”

His comments suggest Tehran’s distrust of Washington will persist whether a deal gets done or not. Khamenei’s comments also have appeared thus to be a blow to U.S. hopes than agreement will lead to improved relations with the country and possible cooperation against Islamic rebels.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, like Kerry, indicated talks could go either way. “We behaved so skillfully that if talks won’t succeed, the world would accept that Iran is for logic and dialogue and never left the negotiating table … and if we succeed by the grace of God, the world will know that the Iranian nation can resolve its problems through logic,” his website quoted him as saying.

The supreme leader’s comments also come after it was learned Saturday that the Islamic Republic’s spies have been seeking atomic and missile technology in neighboring Germany as recently as last month.

Iran’s illegal activities have continued since talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as rotating member Germany – began with a Joint Plan of Action in 2013, according to German intelligence sources. The JPOA was intended to stop Iran’s work on a nuclear weapon until a comprehensive agreement is reached.

“You would think that with the negotiations, [Iranian] activities would drop,” a German intelligence source said. “Despite the talks to end Iran’s program, Iran did not make an about-turn.”

With a final agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program set for Monday, the intelligence data from Germany raises disturbing questions about the success of the deal.

Tehran has sought industry computers, high-speed cameras, cable fiber, and pumps for its nuclear and missile program over the last two years, according to German intelligence sources. Germany is required to report Iran’s illegal procurement activities to the UN.

Iran is unlikely to begin a substantial rollback of its nuclear program until it gets sanctions relief in return.

But then the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers said they will come to Vienna for the signing of the agreement – and the news are that Mr. Sergei Lavrov has said he will be there on Monday.

An Iranian diplomat said that they have a 100 pages document to study and that logistically it cannot be done by Sunday night with parallel meetings going on.


Posted on on July 11th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Kurt Bayer’s Commentary // Global Economic Policy
Blog URL:

July 11, 2015 · —

Die Eurozone nach “Griechenland”…

Die Griechenlandkrise ist eigentlich eine Eurokrise, Griechenland nur eine extreme Ausprägung der Eurokrise.

Damit will ich keinesfalls die “Mitschuld” der griechischen Regierung an der Misere leugnen, jedoch: Die vielen, letztlich oft unnützen Treffen der Eurogruppe und der Staats- und Regierungschefs waren eine massive Verschwendung von karger Zeit der Politikerinnen. Sie zeugen auch von der Hilflosigkeit der Verhandlungsführung. Mehr aber noch zeigen die letzten sechs zermürbenden Monate seit Regierungsantritt von Syriza mehr als deutlich, dass die Eurozone nicht über ausreichende Institutionen zur Führung einer Währungsunion verfügt, und dass ganz offenbar die Ausrichtung der von der Eurozone verfolgten Wirtschaftspolitik falsch ist. Woran man dies sieht? Sieben Jahre nach Ausbruch der Finanzkrise (in den USA) erreicht die Eurozone erst heuer das Wirtschaftsleistungsniveau von 2007, während das Nationalprodukt der USA um 11% über jenem von 2007D liegt. Die Arbeitslosenrate der Eurozone ist in diesem Zeitraum von 7.5% auf 11.2.% gestiegen, die katastrophalen Zahlen der Jugendarbeitslosigkeit (eine politische Zeitbombe) von mehr als 50% in vielen Ländern stellen einen nicht zu überhörenden Weckruf dar – und die Schuldenquote der Euroländer, deren Senkung das erklärte Ziel der Euro-Wirtschaftspolitik ist, ist sogar von 68% des BIP auf 91% angestiegen. Wie viel mehr traurigen Beweises des Fehlschlagens einer Wirtschaftspolitik bedarf es noch?

Zu den institutionellen Mängeln hat kürzlich der Bericht der „5 Präsidenten“ Juncker, Tusk, Dijsselbloom, Draghi, Schulz…) ausführlich Stellung genommen (siehe dazu in diesem Blog den Beitrag vom 23.6.2015) . Er soll – wenn der Fall Griechenland es zuläßt, im ECOFIN und EU-Gipfel Mitte Juli 2015 erstmals diskutiert werden. Die Präsidenten fordern, dass eine Währungsunion von Ländern mit sehr unterschiedlicher Wirtschaftskraft, innerstaatlichen Institutionen und Geschichte Institutionen benötigt, die das „Europäische“ vor die Einzelinteressen der Mitglieder stellen, um funktionieren zu können. Es braucht neben der bestehenden gemeinsamen Geldpolitik (manifestiert in der Europäischen Zentralbank) viererlei: eine Bankenunion (gemeinsame Aufsicht, gemeinsamer Rettungsfonds, gemeinsame Einlagensicherung), eine Wirtschaftsunion (zur Festlegung eines gemeinsamen Rahmens für die Wirtschaftspolitik), eine Fiskalunion (zur gemeinsam an der Eurozone orientierten Budgetpolitik, zur Verhinderung des destruktiven Steuerwettbewerbs) und, über all diesen stehend, eine Politische Union, die es ermöglicht, im Dialog zwischen europäischen Behörden (Parlament, Kommission, Rat) und nationalen Behörden (Parlamenten, Zivilgesellschaft, Regierungen) gemeinsame europäische Linien zu finden, die breitest in der Bevölkerung unterstützt werden. Nur mit breiter Unterstützung sind die getroffenen Maßnahmen zur klaglosen Funktion der Währungsunion umsetzbar und wirksam.

Die 5 meinen zurecht, dass es all dieser „Unionen“ gemeinsam bedarf, um die Währungsunion zum Funktionieren zu bringen. Es gilt, den Mitgliedsländern der Währungsunion ganz klar zu machen, dass sie mit ihrem Eintritt in diese besondere Art der Währungsunion (die keinen „optimalen Währungsraum“ im Sinne der Wirtschaftstheorie darstellt) eigenstaatliche Souveränität aufgegeben und an die Euro-Organe abgegeben haben. Es geht dann nicht mehr, seine je eigenen Vorstellungen von Wirtschaftspolitik durchzusetzen. Vielmehr muss eine Wirtschaftspolitik für alle Eurozonenteilnehmer, für die Eurozone als Ganzes, gefunden und umgesetzt werden.

Im Inhaltlichen jedoch bleibt der Präsidentenbericht stumm. Er meint, mit der Vervollständigung der angesprochenen „Unionen“ sein Auslangen zu finden. Er sagt nichts zur Ausrichtung der Wirtschaftspolitik. Maggie Thatcher’s TINA („there is no alternative“) gilt nicht für die Richtung der Wirtschaftspolitik, dort gibt es immer Alternativen. Sieht man, dass die bislang verfolgte Richtung versagt hat, dann dann haben verantwortungsbewusste Europapolitikerinnen die Richtung zu ändern und die Fetischisierung der Budgetkonsolidierung („Austerität“) zugunsten einer breit gefächerten Wirtschaftspolitik aufzugeben. Bekämpfung der Arbeitslosigkeit und Armut, nachhaltiges Wirtschaftswachstum, niedrige Inflation und Ausgleich von Leistungsbilanzunterschieden sind mindestens so wichtig wie ein mittelfristig ausgeglichenes Budget. Der weit überwiegende Teil der EU-Wirtschaftspolitik bezieht sich jedoch auf Durchsetzung einer Budgetkonsolidierung. Eine Euro-weite Politik für ein „gutes Leben“ gibt es jedoch nicht.

Es ist höchst an der Zeit, das generelle Versagen der Eurozone einer durchgehenden Neubewertung zu unterziehen, und sowohl die „Geburtsfehler“ als auch die einseitig auf Budgetkonsolidierung ausgerichtete Wirtschaftspolitik zu korrigieren. Die nächste Krise kommt bestimmt. Ohne institutionelle und vor allem auch inhaltliche Neuausrichtung wird die Eurozone sie nicht überstehen!


G-20 Finance Ministers: Retreat into Statistics or Progress towards Solving Imbalances?In “Crisis Response”

Which Is the Real IMF? In “Crisis Response”

The Blog’s topics:topics
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Recent Posts:

Die Eurozone nach “Griechenland” July 11, 2015
Zeitenwende in der Eurozone July 6, 2015
Europa – Griechenland- Verantwortung June 30, 2015
Wiener Festwochen und mehr June 26, 2015
Institutional Set-up and Conflict Resolution for Socio-Ecological Transition June 25, 2015
Der Bericht der “5 Präsidenten” zur Vollendung der Wirtschafts- und Währungsunion June 23, 2015
Geplänkel ums britische EU-Referendum als Vorboten der Schlacht June 17, 2015
“Generalverdacht” oder Durchbruch für Steuerehrlichkeit? May 26, 2015
Wie nutzt Österreich seine Beteiligungen an internationalen Finanzinstitutionen?- Schlecht May 21, 2015
Georgia on my mind: a tourist’s impression May 21, 2015
Die “Zentralmatura”-Absurdität der österreichischen Bildungsdebatte May 7, 2015
Hypo-Heta: nächster Akt jetzt! April 29, 2015
Form Beats Substance: Media as the Dismal Estate! April 28, 2015
Neue Demokratisierungsvorschläge – das Grünbuch von #besserentscheiden April 18, 2015
Am Golde hängt doch (fast) alles…. April 16, 2015
Hypo-Heta-Deutschland April 9, 2015
Two very different murder stories April 8, 2015
Wienkultur zu Frühlingsbeginn April 3, 2015
Lektionen aus der Griechischen Tragödie March 28, 2015
Kultur am Ende des Winters 2015 March 23, 2015


Posted on on May 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Burlington, Vermont (CNN)It wouldn’t be the first time a revolution sparked in New England changed the world.

But two and a half centuries after the insurrection that birthed America, the idea that a rumpled radical like 73-year-old Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders could overthrow the U.S. economic, health care and tax systems seems farfetched at best.

Yet that’s exactly the task the fiery U.S. senator has set himself in a presidential campaign targeting billionaire “oligarchs” who he says have hijacked America’s economy and inflicted misery on the middle class.

Sanders, an agitator who doesn’t suffer fools, political opponents or journalists gladly, is testing whether the kind of populist, liberal agenda that gave him 75% approval ratings in his adopted home state can catch fire nationwide.

READ: Bernie Sanders’ brotherly love

“Brothers and sisters: Now is not the time for thinking small,” Sanders told thousands of supporters in Burlington on Tuesday.

“Now is not the time for the same-old, same-old establishment politics and stale inside-the-Beltway ideas,” Sanders said in an implicit denunciation of the runaway front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.

The obstacles Sanders faces in the presidential primary race, however, are immense.

Sanders has no viable countrywide political organization, so he must foment a grassroots uprising. His task is complicated by the fact that although he caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, he has always been a political independent wary of formal party affiliations.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Obama has lost Paul Krugman: Administration’s selling of new trade pact “a snow job.”

There has been no good faith effort to address reasonable concerns from well-intentioned critics
Review by Scott Eric Kaufman, Salon Web-magazine.…

Kaufman writes: In Friday’s column, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman argued that although he generally approves of the forthrightness with which the Obama administration has dealt with economic issues, when it comes to international trade and investment, the president deserves a failing grade.

Especially, he wrote, on the subject of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the quasi-secret deal that the administration has teamed up with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan (W) to push through the House.

“[the] selling of the 12-nation Pacific Rim pact has the feel of a snow job,” he argued. “Officials have evaded the main concerns about the content of a potential deal; they’ve belittled and dismissed the critics; and they’ve made blithe assurances that turn out not to be true.”


ALSO: Paul Krugman – New York Times Blog Trade and Trust.

May 17, 2015

I’m getting increasingly unhappy with the way the Obama administration is handling the dispute over TPP. I understand the case for the deal, and while I still lean negative I’m not one of those who believes that it would be an utter disaster.

But the administration — and the president himself — don’t help their position by being dismissive of the complaints and lecturing the critics (Elizabeth Warren in particular) about how they just have no idea what they’re talking about. That would not be a smart strategy even if the administration had its facts completely straight — and it doesn’t. Instead, assurances about what is and isn’t in the deal keep turning out to be untrue. We were assured that the dispute settlement procedure couldn’t be used to force changes in domestic laws; actually, it apparently could. We were told that TPP couldn’t be used to undermine financial reform; again, it appears that it could.

How important are these concerns? It’s hard to judge. But the administration is in effect saying trust us, then repeatedly bobbling questions about the deal in a way that undermines that very trust.


We have a particular problem here – this with no less then the Great New York Times.

The problem is that in the paper’s greed to make money they hide the important views of Paul Krugman by asking the internet readers to pay subscription money. We know this is a subject for long discussions – but what if a great economist is indeed trying to save the country and the World and a Board that owns a large chunk of media sources just gets in his way?

What if I tell you that the opinion page of that paper, years ago, seemed to be sold to the Mobil Oil Corporation that regularly had a quarter page advertisement that left no interest space for the paper’s business-folks when it came to non-petroleum fuels?


Posted on on May 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

EU Dropped Pesticide Laws Due to U.S. Pressure over TTIP, Documents Reveal.

U.S. trade officials pushed EU to shelve action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility to facilitate TTIP free trade deal.

By Arthur Neslen / The Guardian
May 25, 2015

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from U.S. trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive U.S. lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On the morning of July 2, 2013, a high-level delegation from the U.S. Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favor of a new impact study. By the end of the day, the EU had done so.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.

The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and U.S. to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The U.S. trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasized the need for an impact assessment” instead.

Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.

“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.”

The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn ($165bn) per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism — a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys.

A month before the meeting, AmCham had warned the EU of “wide-reaching implications” if the draft criteria were approved. The trade body wanted an EU impact study to set looser thresholds for acceptable exposure to endocrines, based on a substance’s potency.

“We are worried to see that this decision, which is the source of many scientific debates, might be taken on political grounds, without first assessing what its impacts will be on the European market,” the chair of AmCham’s environment committee wrote in a letter to the commission.

These could be “dramatic” the letter said.

In a high-level internal note sent to the health commissioner, Tonio Borg, shortly afterwards, his departmental director-general warned that the EU’s endocrines policy “will have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade”.

The heavily redacted letter, sent a week before the EU’s plans were scrapped continued: “The US, Canada, and Brazil [have] already voiced concerns on the criteria which might lead to important repercussions on trade.”

The series of events was described as “incredible” by the the Green MEP Bas Eickhout. “These documents offer convincing evidence that TTIP not only presents a danger for the future lowering of European standards, but that this is happening as we speak,”
he told the Guardian.

Earlier this year, 64 MEP’s submitted questions to the commission about the delay to EDC classifications, following revelations by the Guardian about the scale of industry lobbying in the run up to their abandonment. Sweden, the European Parliament and European Council have brought court proceedings against the commission for the legislative logjam.

Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue “could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations”.

The German chemicals giant BASF also complained that bans on pesticide substances “will restrict the free trade with agricultural products on the global level”.

Around this time, the commission’s more industry-friendly agriculture department weighed into the internal EU debate after being “informed by representatives of the US chemical industry” about it.

A common theme in the lobby missives was the need to set thresholds for safe exposure to endocrines, even though a growing body of scientific results suggests that linear threshold models – in which higher doses create greater effects – do not apply to endocrine disruptors.

“The human endocrine system is regulated by hormones and the hormone receptors are sensitive to low doses,” said Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe’s chemicals coordinator. “In animal toxicity studies, effects are seen from low doses [of endocrines] that disappear with higher ones. But in the regulatory arena, lower doses are not tested for.”

A commission spokesperson insisted that health and environmental concerns would be fully addressed, despite pressure from industry or trade groups.

“The ongoing EU impact assessment procedure is not linked in any way to the TTIP negotiations,” the official said. “The EU will proceed to the adoption of definitive criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, independently from the further course of our TTIP negotiations with the US.”

An EU-TTIP position paper on chemicals published last May, cited endocrine disruptors as as one of the “new and emerging scientific issues” which the EU and the US could consider for “enhanced regulatory cooperations” in a future TTIP deal.

“However, given the fact that a possible future TTIP Agreement will most likely not enter into force before the adoption of definitive EU criteria to identify endocrine disruptors, it is clear that the EU’s ongoing impact assessment and adoption of definitive criteria will not be dealt with in the TTIP negotiations,” the spokesperson said.

Arthur Neslen is the Europe environment correspondent at the Guardian. He has previously worked for the BBC, the Economist, Al Jazeera, and EurActiv, where his journalism won environmental awards.


Posted on on May 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

From pro-American to pro-Russian? Nikola Gruevski as a political chameleon.
Vassilis Petsinis, 22 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

A former staunch ally of the US-led War on Terror, Macedonia PM Nikola Gruevski has gradually turned his country away from the west towards Russia – all the while keeping his neoconservative ideology intact.

Following the unrest in Kumanovo and the massive anti-government protests, FYR Macedonia has captivated the interest of the international press. The most recent mobilization has been the peak of a wave of discontent that commenced with the countrywide student protests some weeks ago. In the domestic front, opposition circles have issued a series of charges against the government led by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE such as: promotion of nepotism, unwillingness to combat corruption, illegitimate surveillance of political opponents and, on top of all, growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, political analysts have detected a certain rift in the relations between Skopje and the West which has resulted in the Macedonian government’s more decisive reorientation towards Moscow.

Russia has pledged its political support to Nikola Gruevski’s and the two sides have extended their cooperation in energy issues and other areas of economic concern. Without neglecting the crucial impact of shifting geopolitics, this brief piece mostly concentrates on VMRO-DPMNE’s, predominantly, neoconservative agenda under the leadership of Nikola Gruevski. It also sets in a comparative context how this neoconservative platform has remained intact despite the gradual readjustment of the state’s foreign policy from Euro-Atlantic institutions towards Moscow’s orbit of influence.

From one neocon to another:

In 2003, Nikola Gruevski succeeded Ljub?o Georgievski in the party’s leadership. An ambitious young politician back then, Gruevski’s main ambition was to centralize decision-making within VMRO-DPMNE and modernize the party’s structures.

The latter objective was achieved via the recruitment of a younger pool of cadres. Following a widespread trend all over Southeast Europe (e.g. Albania’s Edi Rama and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremi?), the party’s central committee and later the Cabinet of Ministers consisted of young, aspiring and, often, Western-educated individuals (e.g. the Foreign Minister between 2006 and 2011, Antonio Milošoski). Moreover, Gruevski maintained the central aspects of Georgievski’s strategy of rapprochement vis-à-vis the ethnic Albanian community.

Despite this, Gruevski’s term in office has been marked by the emphatic endorsement of Neo-Macedonism to the detriment of the modernist narratives over the Macedonian ethno-genesis in the nineteenth century. The adoption of Neo-Macedonism became further institutionalized through the endorsement of grandiose architectural projects, largely inspired by classical antiquity, which commenced in 2010.

On the domestic front, the Socialists/SDSM and other opposition circles accused the government of investing a disproportional percentage of the state’s budget on these projects. In foreign policy, the emphasis on Neo-Macedonism further complicated relations with the southern neighbour, Greece.

Since the early days of Nikola Gruevski’s term in office, the ‘new’ VMRO-DPMNE drew inspiration from the rather influential trend of neoconservatism among policymaking circles in the US. As it was the case with various other statesmen in Central and Southeast Europe (e.g. Romania’s Traian B?sescu), Nikola Gruevski underlined his firm commitment to Euro-Atlantic institutions and opted for the rapid liberalization of the economy along post-Keynesian lines.

Meanwhile, Gruevski constantly stressed his deep faith in God and highlighted the significance of Eastern Orthodoxy and its system of moral values as a fundamental pillar of the state’s identity. In the field of foreign policy, Nikola Gruevski soon emerged as a staunch supporter of George W. Bush’s policy-doctrine on the Middle East. Throughout the 2000s, FYR Macedonia had dispatched military personnel to Afghanistan and Iraq under the auspices of the US-led ‘Coalition of the Willing’.

The NATO summit in Bucharest (April 2-4, 2008) was a landmark. As a gesture of gratitude to its small Balkan ally, the US delegation elaborated possible ways to include FYR Macedonia in the NATO enlargement round irrespective of the state’s dispute with Greece. However, the Greek PM, Kostas Karamanlis, vetoed this proposal on the basis that any outstanding issues with the northern neighbour must be previously resolved in order for Greece to grant its assent.

The Greek veto was met with discontent in Washington and infuriated Skopje. Especially in the light of Karamanlis’ opening to Russia, Skopje-based policymakers and think-tanks did not simply charge Athens with ‘parochial and introverted nationalism’. They went a step further and accused Greece of acting as a ‘Trojan horse’ in Moscow’s service with the aim to destabilize NATO and sabotage its enlargement in Southeast Europe.

The pendulum shifts: Fluctuating geopolitics and disillusionment with the West

Barack Obama, who succeeded G.W. Bush to the US Presidency in 2009, watered down various aspects of his predecessor’s ‘hawkish’ foreign policy. Instead, the new administration in the White House opted for a doctrine of appeasement in regards to their regional competitors (e.g. Russia and Iran).

Meanwhile, the simultaneous advent of the economic crisis made European policymakers more introverted and reluctant to the prospects of the EU’s wider enlargement. With specific regard to FYR Macedonia, European policymakers and political analysts soon stroke a critical stance towards Nikola Gruevski and his apparatus. The main areas of concern were symptoms of nepotism and authoritarianism as well as accusations over the relentless propagation of ‘ethno-kitsch’.

This shifting landscape in global and regional politics had direct ramifications on the government circles in Skopje. Several commentators have argued that delaying the state’s accession to Euro-Atlantic institutions runs detrimental to FYR Macedonia’s stateness and it is largely to account for Skopje’s disillusionment with the West. From a more ‘ideological’ angle, though, the change of guard in the White House and the subsequent adoption of a new US foreign policy doctrine are not to be overlooked either.

In other words, Nikola Gruevski’s government has lost much of the patronage that it enjoyed during George W. Bush’s tenure in office. Moreover, we are currently experiencing the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. The last few years have witnessed the consolidation of semi-authoritarian models of governance among emerging regional actors (e.g. Recep Tayyip Erdo?an in Turkey and Vladimir Putin in Russia). The latter development has encouraged the, if only subtle, admiration of certain statesmen throughout Central and Southeast Europe towards the above-mentioned models.

For instance, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán recently coined the concept of illiberal democracy. According to the Hungarian PM, ‘it is not an imperative that contemporary democracy must be structured along the ideological frame of Liberalism…there can be numerous other models of democracy in Europe, nowadays’. Moreover, Viktor Orbán has also positioned Hungary’s foreign policy more solidly within Russia’s orbit of influence.

In particular, both FIDESZ and VMRO-DPMNE converge along a common axis. Both are post-Communist parties that commenced their engagement in politics as, anti-establishment, umbrella-initiatives that hosted a wide range of conservative as well as liberal standpoints. However, in the long run, local adaptations of neoconservatism evolved into the dominant intra-party trend.

Nikola Gruevski and/or Viktor Orbán are not merely unhappy with the outlook(s) of Euro-Atlantic institutions on their respective states or the way(s) that their rule has been portrayed in the Western press. They have also isolated specific elements in Vladimir Putin’s leadership which they deem rather akin to their brand(s) of neoconservatism. These are, namely, Russia’s leader-centred and strong government, the promotion of national and Christian values, and the safeguarding of ‘naturally ascribed’ gender-roles.

Especially in the light of a multipolar international system, one might contend that the neoconservative, ideological, core in parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and/or FIDESZ has remained intact despite the, apparent, foreign policy readjustment towards Moscow.
What next? Skopje amidst political polarization and fears of ethnic radicalization

In addition to the decline of popular confidence, the government in Skopje may also have to face the challenge of resurgent ethnic radicalization. During the last couple of weeks, a militant group, allegedly consisting of ethnic Albanians, became active in the northern town of Kumanovo. The apparent resurgence of militant Albanian ethno-nationalism triggered a series of conspiracy theories.

Pro-government circles have hinted at the involvement of ‘foreign decision-making centres’ who are not particularly content with the bilateral cooperation between Russia and FYR Macedonia. In the other end of the spectrum, opposition circles have suspected the government of engineering the Kumanovo troubles in an attempt to play the card of ‘national unity’ as a last resort. A third assumption that has not been examined to an adequate extent is the possibility of a peculiar, yet amorphous, blend between Albanian ethno-nationalism and elements of Islamic fundamentalism along the lines of the ‘Chechen precedent’.

Russia, on its part, has been quick to point the finger for both the Kumanovo incidents and the anti-government mobilization at the West. The US and the EU have been accused of orchestrating one more ‘Maidan-style’ coup with the aim to destabilize the government and obstruct cooperation with Russia in energy issues.

Russia Today and other pro-Kremlin media outlets dedicated considerable time to the coverage of pro-government demonstrations where Russian flags also featured among the crowd. Quite a few Western political analysts have expressed the wishful thinking that Nikola Gruevski may be forced to resign under popular pressure and be replaced by a coalition government with a Euro-Atlantic orientation.

Setting regional geopolitics aside, Nikola Gruevski’s opening to Russia reveals an additional pathology of Post-communist politics. Even back at the time when parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and FIDESZ had adjusted their foreign policy more firmly towards the West, their political activity and decision-making had been shaped by local adaptations of the neoconservative narrative. Within the context of their political development, such parties replaced their admiration for certain aspects of American neoconservatism with the endorsement of selected elements found in Vladimir Putin’s semi-authoritarianism while their (neoconservative) ideological core remained intact.

Apart from nominally right-wing parties, centre-left statesmen in the region have also detected, albeit more subtly, some ‘positive’ aspects in Vladimir Putin’s pattern of governance (e.g. the Bulgarian Socialist Party/BSP and Slovakia’s SMER). Therefore, in order to grasp such chameleonic mutations more adequately, one should also pay close attention to political culture among post-Communist parties in Central and Southeast Europe and its evolution.

Dr Vassilis Petsinis is a Visiting Researcher at the Herder Institute (Marburg, Germany). His main areas of specialization are European Politics and Ethnopolitics with a regional focus on Central and Southeast Europe. His profile can be found here.




Related Articles: The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward – Heather Grabbe -the same source.

The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward.

Heather Grabbe 13 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of a captured state machinery – by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance. This will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance.

For nearly two decades, Macedonia has been a pressure cooker of public anger at corruption, deteriorating governance and chronic unemployment. Now the valve has blown. This year, union-organised strikes were followed by student protests against flawed education reforms. Then the opposition party released recordings of conversations that exposed government wire-tapping of more than 20,000 citizens. Quickly dubbed “bombs”, these recordings were released over the last three months by the main opposition party leader at press conferences. On them appear the voices of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, senior officials, journalists, judges and security officials conspiring in electoral and judicial fraud, and organising systemic corruption. On the latest, released on 4 May, the prime minister discusses with interior ministry officials a cover-up of the murder in June 2011 by one of his bodyguards of 21-year old Martin Neshkovski, a student who supported the ruling party.

These revelations have led to a new wave of protests, led by grassroots networks of civil society rather than the opposition party. The young activists have become more radical in their demands under sustained attacks by riot police and government infiltrators, who provoked the protestors for five nights in a row. Last Friday, they pledged to come back to demand the resignation of the prime minister. Then the population awoke on Saturday morning to news of what the government called a “terrorist attack” in an ethnically mixed neighbourhood in Kumanovo, a town near the Serbia/Kosovo border. The results were the deaths of police officers and arrests of alleged terrorists. The government-controlled media called for unquestioning support for the government, and labelled as a traitor anyone who disputed the official interpretation of events. What is going on? Is this a security crisis or a consolidation of power by the ruling party in the face of mounting opposition?

High stakes – but for security or politics?

The shootings in Kumanovo have woken up the rest of the world because they are reminiscent of the security crisis fifteen years ago, when ethnic Albanians took to the hills with their guns to demand rights, representation and jobs. The country narrowly escaped a full-blown civil war thanks to the Ohrid Agreement, which gave the Albanians greater political and economic inclusion, including quotas for public-sector jobs and parliamentary seats.

It was NATO and the EU that took responsibility for Macedonia’s security in 2001, with Javier Solana, as EU High Representative for Foreign Policy at the time, and George Robertson, then NATO Secretary-General, as the main negotiators at Ohrid. But the current crisis is not primarily driven by ethnic tensions. The security framing by the government obscures a much deeper crisis in the body politic, and a looming one for the economy.

After 24 years of independence, Macedonia’s model is crumbling. The ruling party has held onto power by controlling the state and media, and borrowing on international markets to keep the economy going. This has undermined the country’s fragile democracy – despite the promises made at Ohrid, which are still not fully implemented – and failed to build rule of law and a sustainable economy. Prime Minister Gruevski won power nearly a decade ago on promises of clean government and economic development. But he then perfected the system of clientelism and state capture begun by Branko Crvenkovski, his predecessor as opposition leader and prime minister, and later president. Gruevski has used snap elections twice to keep his party in power, and his leadership has become increasingly coercive. The wiretap recordings have confirmed that his VMRO-DPMNE party has captured all vital areas of the economy and established complete control over media, even imprisoning critical journalists. Macedonia’s ranking has fallen from 36 to 136 in the freedom of media index produced by Reporters Without Borders.

The government dispensed with parliamentary debate at the end of 2013. Faced with a short deadline to approve the next loan to pay pensions before the Christmas and New Year holidays, they forcibly expelled the opposition and media from the parliament during a debate over the state budget rather than find an agreement.

The public is scared. More than half of Macedonians believe they cannot freely express their opinions. A staggering 81 percent believe that fear of consequences for them and their families prevent them and others from speaking out. Their political fears are heightened by their economic vulnerability.

The chronic economic malaise underlying acute political crisis.

The Macedonian economy appears to be financially stable. The government nurtures an image of business promoter and responsible borrower. Until recently, it was the region’s poster child for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. European banks were happy to earn good returns on Macedonian state bonds. Macedonia’s average GDP growth of 3% in the last three years is the highest in the region, completing this picture of prosperity.

But the economy is not sustainable. The government has used debt financing to invest in grandiose infrastructure projects, including the flagship “Skopje 2014” project, which erected statues and faux-classical buildings in the capital at a cost of over 600 million euro. Between 2008 and 2014, Macedonia’s public debt quadrupled, rising from 23% of GDP in 2008 to around 46% in 2014. Debt is projected to reach the 60% ceiling prescribed by the international financial institutions by 2019. The state budget increased by a third over the same period (from roughly 2 to 3 billion euro). Inflows of foreign direct investment averaged only 2.8% of GDP per year between 2009 and 2014, low even by regional standards.

Life for citizens has become more precarious. Around a third of the workforce is unemployed, the second highest rate in Europe after Kosovo. Without the heavy borrowing, the fragile economy could not sustain more than 300,000 pensioners, who rely on the state budget for half of their needs. Nor could it afford to pay the huge number of state employees. The last official number was 140,000 in 2008, and latest estimates range from 200,000 to 255,000. The total number of people employed in Macedonia is 700,000 – meaning that the state employs nearly a third of the workforce. No wonder people are leaving to seek better prospects abroad. A census has been postponed by the government, but Gallup estimates that more than 300,000 people have left the country. According to Deutsche Welle, most of the 120,000 Macedonians who acquired Bulgarian passports have already emigrated to the EU or elsewhere. Macedonia seems to have more registered voters (at 1,780,128) than residents.

VMRO-DPMNE has kept its hold on power in this unhappy state by resorting to strident nationalism and intimidation of its opponents, increasing the divisions in a multi-ethnic country. Ethnic Macedonians are understandably aggrieved by the lack of a solution to the dispute with Greece over the country’s name, which already blocked entry to NATO – and Gruevski has adroitly used the issue to rally nationalism in support of the government. Meanwhile, the ethnic Albanian political parties have been co-opted by their share in the spoils of mis-governance, even though their people remain even more alienated and poorer than the rest of the population.

The divisions are deepening right across society. Three-quarters of ethnic Albanians still firmly believe in EU and NATO accession as the way to a better future, but by now over 62 percent of other Macedonians think badly of joining the EU. Three-quarters of the ruling party’s supporters see the name dispute with Greece as the key reason for Macedonia’s now bleak EU accession prospects; but only 20% of opposition supporters agree. The biggest divide is between rich and poor, especially along party lines. The poor are undoubtedly getting poorer: resources available to the poorest fifth of citizens fell by 38% between 2008 and 2012. But business profits have grown by almost two and a half times since the year 2000. Nearly 80% of all Macedonians believe it is unfair that employment in state institutions and general prosperity is based on political party membership.
The way forward: a unity government with EU and NATO support

Macedonia is once again becoming a security threat on the EU’s borders. But this time it’s different: a non-partisan civic movement has taken to the streets for the first time to change the country. There is a real opportunity to use this energy to build democracy and a market economy in this multi-ethnic state.

No party is doing well in Macedonia: the secret recordings have lost the government all credibility, but the public has little faith in the leaders of the opposition and ethnic Albanian parties either. The immediate solution lies in collective action first by all those who have created the problem.

Now that three of the prime minister’s key allies have tendered their resignations, Macedonia should turn again to the solution that averted the civil war in 2001: a unity government composed of the four main parties. To foster the necessary compromises and offer a fresh start. it would not include the current prime minister, public prosecutor or speaker of the parliament – but opposition parties must be involved in open and credible oversight of the intelligence agencies, and take responsibility for the discredited interior ministry.

The most promising scenario is a government of national unity that lasts for 12-18 months, to prepare the country for free and fair elections, and create an independent commission to investigate all the events since the opposition was violently ejected from the parliament in 2013. And it should agree on a common negotiating platform on the name dispute with Greece. Macedonia’s newly reinvigorated civil society should also contribute to the work of the parliamentary commissions and monitor the new government’s progress in restoring the accountability of public institutions. The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of the captured state machinery, by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance.

As so often in the Balkans, such a scenario will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance. The default position among EU foreign ministers is to expect sovereign countries to sort out their own political problems through democratic institutions. But after a decade of unconsolidated democracy and state capture, Macedonia does not possess those institutions. Therefore, other levers of influence are needed. NATO could offer a tangible incentive to all parties by offering a possibility to re-open membership talks. EU accession negotiations are far off because so much time has been lost on necessary reforms, but the enlargement process is vital to offer hope, especially to the ethnic Albanians, and guidance to reformers who are seeking to take back captured parts of the state. The support of EU institutions, member-states and banks is vital for the country’s macroeconomic stability. Neighbouring governments could also exert more pressure, as their own security is at stake. Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov was the first to request Gruevski to step down.

The EU can no longer afford to indulge a model of governance in Macedonia that has been far more aggressive in its authoritarian zeal than nearby Montenegro or Turkey. The European People’s Party has a particular responsibility to get involved, having accepted and protected VMRO-DPMNE as a sister party for all these years. Now it must act to uphold the standards of democracy on which it was founded, by putting pressure on VMRO-DPMNE to relinquish its grip on power and join a unity government. The time to move is now, as the costs of inaction will continue to rise.


Posted on on April 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

President Rivlin: Armenians were the first victims of modern mass killing
– Despite working for years to achieve recognition of the Armenian genocide, president refrains from using the word ‘genocide’ is his remarks at Jerusalem ceremony.
By Barak Ravid | Apr. 26, 2015, in HAARETZ

President Rivlin on Sunday hosted an event at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, but refrained from using the word “genocide” in his remarks. At the ceremony, attended by leaders of Israel’s Armenian community, Rivlin said, “The Armenian people were the first victims of modern mass killing.”

In the recent weeks leading up to the anniversary, the Foreign Ministry exerted pressure on the President’s Residence to make sure Rivlin not deviate from the terminology used by the Israeli government to describe the events of 1915.

The Foreign Ministry did so after Rivlin, in his speech at the United Nations marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, said, “In the year 1915…the murder of the Armenian people took place.” This part of his speech was delivered in Hebrew, and he did not use the term “genocide.”

While Sunday’s ceremony was the first such event held at the President’s Residence, it was described as a gathering to mark the anniversary of the “Armenian tragedy.” Rivlin’s remarks didn’t make reference to the “murder of the Armenian people” as his UN speech did; instead Rivlin used the word “massacre.”

“In 1915, when the members of the Armenian nation were being massacred, the residents of Jerusalem, my parents and the members of my family, saw the Armenian refugees arriving in their thousands,” Rivlin said.

“No one in Jerusalem denied the massacre that had taken place. As you know, this has been my personal view ever since. We are morally obligated to point out the facts, as horrible as they might be, not ignore them,” he said.”

“The Armenian people have been the first victims of modern mass killing,” Rivlin said, adding that after the Holocaust, “commemorating the tragedy of the Armenian people is our Jewish obligation, a human and moral one.”

Over the years, both as a lawmaker and as Knesset speaker, Rivlin was among the leaders of the campaign to recognize the Armenian genocide. Rivlin initiated Knesset discussions on the matter and, up until December 2014, consistently signed a petition calling for the recognition of the Armenian genocide. This year, for the first time, a Knesset delegation participated in a ceremony marking the anniversary of the genocide in the Armenian capital, Yerevan.

In the years 1915-1916, one-third of the Armenian people – one to one and a half million people – perished. The Armenians blame the Turks for committing genocide and have waged a public campaign for the international community to recognize the killings as such.

Turkey, for its part, has worked hard to prevent international recognition, claiming that no genocide occurred, but that during the Armenian struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire, between 250,000 and half a million Armenians – and a similar number of Turks – were killed.

Over the years, Israeli government policy has been not to recognize the Armenian genocide for fear of damaging Israel’s strategic alliance with Turkey. More recently, as Israeli-Turkish ties have soured, the Foreign Ministry has warned that recognition of the Armenian genocide would only further escalate the crisis.

In his remarks Sunday, Rivlin emphasized that Israel does not seek to blame any particular country for what happened in 1915, “but rather [to] identify with the victims and the horrible results of the massacre.”