links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter

United KingdomGermanyMediterranean MembersBenelux
BrazilChinaIrelandPoland
Other EuropeEast EuropeScandinavia

 
European Union:
parliamentcom-logo-120.jpg
EU Observer

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 29th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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.
 www.salon.com/2015/05/22/obama_ha…

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.”

——————————–
 krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05…

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 Sustainabilitank.info on May 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from Elzen, den Michel —  Michel.denElzen at pbl.nl


PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, NewClimate Institute, Ecofys and IIASA have published a report entitled “Enhanced policy scenarios for major emitting countries: Analysis of current and planned climate policies, and selected enhanced mitigation measures”.

This study provides an overview of projected greenhouse gas emissions of 13 major emitting countries up to 2030, taking into account the emission trajectories based on current and planned policies, and selected enhanced mitigation measures that are in line with national priorities.

Some countries are likely to achieve their 2020 pledges through current policies, while others require the effective implementation of planned policies or additional measures.


The policy brief can be downloaded at:

 www.pbl.nl/en/publications/enhanc…

The full report can be downloaded at:
 www.pbl.nl/en/publications/enhanc…

 www.pbl.nl/sites/default/files/cm…

This study, as well as an assessment of the INDCs, will be presented at SB 42:

Preparation and assessment of intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs)

Friday, 5 June
18:30—20:00
Bonn III (72)

————————————————-

PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

 Michel.denelzen at pbl.nl

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Environment
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 Sustainabilitank.info on May 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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 academia.edu profile can be found here.

WE SUGGEST TO THINK ALSO THROUGH THE ELECTION RESULTS IN THE UK WHEN READING ABOVE ARTICLE – THIS SO THAT THE MAKINGS OF A EUROPEAN UNION ARE CONSIDERED WHEN LOOKING AT CENTRIPETAL MOVEMENTS LIKE THOSE APPEARING IN CENTRAL AND SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE.
ALSO, PLEASE DP NOT FORGET THE GREECE/MACEDONIA NAME DISPUTE AND EUROPE’S INCAPABILITY TO TELL THE GREEKS OFF IN THIS MATTER. WHAT A SHAME!

============================

Macedonia

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 Sustainabilitank.info on May 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany; Biovision Foundation in Zurich, Switzerland; and Millennium Institute in Washington DC, USA organize, a few days before the May session of the Post?2015 Intergovernmental negotiations on follow?up and review, titled “Follow?up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the SDGs.”

They will address some key issues associated with this topic. The event’s main focus is on the management and governance of natural resources, but the options presented could be further developed and applied to other thematic and cross-cutting areas.
It examines options on how to address the conflicting uses and the need for protection of natural resources across and among different goals and targets.

“A High?Level Event on Follow?Up and Review Mechanisms for Natural Resource Management and Governance to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

12 – 13 May 2015

at the Millennium Broadway Hotel New York, 145 West 44th Street, New York.

This High?Level Event aims at providing a platform for UN Member States, UN organizations, ministries, non-governmental organisations, academia, civil society, and the private sector – to discuss options for follow?up and review mechanisms connecting national, regional and global levels.

It is an invitation only event – and for more information, please visit the event’s website:  globalsoilweek.org/thematic-areas…

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 1st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The Rise and Fall of a Modern ‘Devshirme’ in Erdogan’s Turkey

by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
April 30, 2015
 www.meforum.org/5210/turkey-moder…

Share: Facebook Twitter
Be the first of your friends to like this.

Originally published under the title, “How Non-Muslims “Survive” in Turkey.”

Prominent non-Muslims in Turkey, then and now. Left: an Ottoman Janissary officer. Right: the Armenian Christian intellectual Etyen Mahcupyan, who retired as advisor to Turkey’s prime minister after saying “what happened to Armenians in 1915″ was “genocide.”

Last October, Etyen Mahcupyan, a leading Turkish Armenian intellectual, “liberal” writer and columnist, was appointed as “chief advisor” to Turkey’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. At first glance, this was good news in a country where Islamists privately adhere to the old Ottoman millet system, in which non-Muslims were treated as second-class (if not third-class) citizens.

In reality, Mahcupyan was a reincarnation of the Ottoman “devshirme” system, in which the Ottoman state machinery produced several non-Muslim converts who enjoyed a place in the higher echelons of the palace bureaucracy, and the finer things of life, because their pragmatism earned them excellent relations with the ruling Muslim elite.

In a December interview with Turkey’s leading daily, Hurriyet, Mahcupyan said, “Whatever has been a [political] asset for Turkey’s Armenian community (they number around 60,000) is an asset for the Jewish community too. But… there is Israel… As long as the psychology of the Israel issue continues to influence politics in Turkey and relations between the two countries do not normalize…” The line, which Mahcupyan shyly did not finish, probably would have gone on like this: “Turkey’s Jews will keep on paying the price.”

Mahcupyan admitted that if Turkey’s Jews felt alienated, it was the government’s responsibility to do something about that.

What more? “I have lived through this personally for the past 60 years,” he explained. “Among Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities, including Jews and Armenians, there is an opinion about humiliating Muslims.” As Mahcupyan’s statement is not true, it therefore just seems a way to justify Islamists’ intimidation of Jews.

Next, Mahcupyan argued, “Both Jews and Armenians are better-educated [than Muslim Turks] and more open to the West. And this brings in a feeling of superiority complex.” In this view, daily attacks on Turkey’s Jews and other non-Muslims happen because Jews and Armenians humiliate Muslims — they are better-educated than Muslims and hence their superiority complex. The charge is, at best, silly.

As in Ottoman times, just one unpleasant utterance can suffice to end a devshirme’s career in government service.

Only a few months later, Mahcupyan would learn how wrong he was about the Islamist supremacists in Ankara and their inherent intolerance to liberal thinking.

Mahcupyan recently commented on Pope Francis’s remarks on April 12, in which the Pope described 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century,” and said that the Vatican had “thrown off a 100-year-old psychological burden.”

If, Mahcupyan said, accepting that what happened in Bosnia and Africa were genocides, “it is impossible not to call what happened to Armenians in 1915 genocide, too.”

It was probably the first time in Turkish history that a senior government official recognized the Armenian genocide. Once again, at first glance, that was good news in a country where outright denial has been the persistent official policy. But it seems Turkey was not quite as liberal as Mahcupyan had thought.

Immediately after his remarks became public, EU Minister Volkan Bozkir expressed unease, saying that “Mahcupyan’s description was not appropriate for his title of adviser.” But that was not the only price Mahcupyan would have to pay.

A few days after his remarks on genocide, Mahcupyan “retired” as chief adviser to Prime Minister Davutoglu — after only about six months in the job.

Officially, Mahcupyan had retired in March after turning 65, the mandatory retirement age for civil servants. But it was an open secret in Ankara that his departure came simply because Turkey’s Islamists were not quite the liberals he had claimed they were.

The “Mahcupyan affair” has a message to Turkey’s dwindling non-Muslim minorities: Just like an Ottoman devshirme, a non-Muslim can rise and become a darling of today’s neo-Ottoman Turks. He can win hearts and minds in important offices in Ankara — and a bright career. But to maintain his fortunes he must remain loyal to the official Islamist line, both in deed and rhetoric. Just one unpleasant utterance would suffice to end a devshirme’s career in government service.

That is the kind of collective psychology into which Turkey’s ruling Islamists force non-Muslims: either become a collaborator, or…

There is another Turkish Armenian columnist who looks more seasoned than Mahcupyan in his devshirme career. Markar Esayan, a writer for a fiercely pro-government daily, recently said in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 2014 statement about the Armenian victims of 1915: “[Erdogan's] message of condolences illustrates how we have achieved the Ottoman spirit in line with this century and its democratic practice. Furthermore, the practices in the last 13 years [of the Justice and Development Party's rule] have positively influenced our [Armenian] community and non-Muslims.”

Apparently Esayan is happy with Turkey’s neo-Ottomans and their Islamist rule, including their rigid policies of genocide-denial, which he claims have done good to Turkey’s Armenians and other non-Muslim citizens. Etyen Mahcupyan may have been punished, but Markar Esayan is being rewarded for his loyalty: he has been selected to run for parliament on the ticket of Prime Minister Davutoglu’s party!

———————————————-
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a columnist for the Turkish daily Hürriyet and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Related Topics: Turkey and Turks | Burak Bekdil

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 30th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The THIRD ANNUAL ARCTIC CIRCLE ASSEMBLY
OCTOBER 16 – 18, 2015
REYKJAVÍK, ICELAND

PRESIDENT OF FRANCE – WILL ATTEND THE ASSEMBLY and Deliver an Opening Speech linked to the Climate Negotiations at COP 21.

At a meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris on April 17th, the President of France, François Hollande, accepted an invitation from President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to deliver an opening speech at the October Assembly. The attendance by President Hollande is linked to the upcoming climate negotiations COP21 in Paris in December and the relevance of the Arctic to those negotiations.

PRESIDENT XI JINPING – And Offered to host a special CHINA SESSION at the Assembly.

President of China XI Jinping has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson endorsed China’s participation in the Arctic Circle Assembly and declared his decision that China will host a special Plenary Session at the October Assembly in Reykjavík.


CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL – suggested a special plenary GERMANY and the ARCTIC SESSION at the Assembly.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced her support for the Arctic Circle and its importance as a venue to present the involvement of Germany in the future of the Arctic. Consequently, the program of the October Assembly in Reykjavík will include a special Plenary Session on Germany and the Arctic.

More Assembly news in the coming weeks.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  kurtbayer.wordpress.com/2015/04/…

Kurt Bayer’s Commentary
April 28, 2015 · —

Form Beats Substance: Media as the Dismal Estate!

The international media rejoice in the fact that Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has removed finance minister Varoufakis from his role as the main negotiator with the EU authorities about the completion of the second bail-out program, which should release another 7.2 bill € to the Greek government.

During the past two months, much more attention was given to Varoufakis’ outfits, his mode of transport, his style, his eccentricities than to the substance of the Greek negotiating position. Admittedly, Varoufakis’ personal style must have been infuriating to his ECOFIN colleagues whom he lectured on how wrong their anti-crisis economic policy was.

True, his interventions were longer on generalities than on detail, because in order to argue that Eurozone policy had failed, detailed program assessments were not necessary: the fact that Eurozone output is still below its pre-crisis Peak (-24% for Greece), unemployment more than one third higher (25% for Greece), the combined debt Ratio 15 percentage points higher (now nearly 180% for Greece) should – in a rational discussion atmosphere – suffice to make a point. However, Varoufakis massively misjudged the Eurozone ministers’ readiness to engage in a constructive, very principled dialogue about the direction of Eurozone economic policy with a tiny Eurozone Country which had massively underperformed for decades, and needed help. While such a discussion would be more than called for, Varoufakis’ presumption that the dismal Greek case was the moment and opportunity to do this, was wrong: his ministerial colleagues would not have this, period!

What is truly disappointing to the outside observer is the fact that both traditional and electronic media talked more about the “pop-economist”, about his motorcycle, his upturned collar, the shouting matches and his enervating style than about substance.


Repeated reports that the Greeks did not produce any program changes, notwithstanding the fact that a few weeks ago Greece produced a 26-page paper describing their program, that Greece refused to engage in “structural reforms” and do “their homework”, dominated media reports. And this is not only true of superficial tabloids, but also of the Financial Times, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, The Guardian, BBC, CNN, ORF, ZDF – and so on.

Not one of the mainstream papers or media reported on the conflicts in substance between the new Greek government and the Eurozone Ministers.

Rather, the gist of the stories was “that the Greeks refused to deliver”. Very little mentioning of the fact that the disfunctionalities of the Greek economy and society were not the responsibility of the new government, but rather that of the previous government parties – which the populace had removed from government in the last election.

No mentioning that the new government is serious about tax collection, broadening the tax base, fighting corruption – in contrast to the previous governments when they had been under the watch of the infamous “Troika”.

No mentioning of the fact that the new government program puts first emphasis on (admittedly under-defined) growth strategies, instead of crippling the economy even further.

It seems that the European Mainstream media are so enthralled with the morals-based disciplinary arguments of the Eurozone Finance Ministers and heads of State (“old Agreements must be honored no matter what”) that they forget that democratic elections are the backbone of Europe, that the miserysation of large swaths of Greek population warrants rethinking of the strategy, that support from the Greek population for the anyhow very difficult recovery of the Greek economy, is crucial for the viability of an agreed program, and for the survival of the Eurozone. What is needed is to bring the Greek government to its feet.

To get the new Greek government thrown out, in order to bring the old Mainstream parties back, cannot be the consideration for driving finance ministers’ negotiations with the difficult Greeks, or can it?

———————————————————
By same author – Related:

An Open Letter to the Eurogroup Meeting on Feb. 11, 2015

The Greek Crisis as a Lesson for the Eurozone – In “Crisis Response”

Laokoon and the Serpents – In “Crisis Response”

Recent Comments:

trollwickk on Neue Demokratisierungsvorschläge – das Grünbuch von #besserentscheiden
Andreas Kovar on Neue Demokratisierungsvorschläge – das Grünbuch von #besserentscheiden
Anton Rainer on Am Golde hängt doch (fast) alles….
tnowotny on Am Golde hängt doch (fast) alles….
Mosaik – Am Golde hängt doch (fast) alles…. on Am Golde hängt doch (fast) alles….

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


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.”

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The “Possible Military Dimensions” Bomb That Could Blow Up the Iran Deal
.
Friday, 17 April 2015 10:46 By Gareth Porter — Truthout | News Analysis

At the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Fusion Energy Conference 13-18 October 2008, Geneva, Switzerland. Iran and the IAEA were close to reaching agreement on a framework for Iranian cooperation. Further information comes from IAEA October 28, 2008, from Geneva. Iran and the IAEA were close to reaching agreement on a framework for Iranian cooperation but it blew away because of the disagreements on credibility.

The United States and Iran may have agreed now on a vague framework for resolving issues between them, including the lifting of sanctions, but the final stage of the negotiations will bring a diplomatic confrontation over the sequence and timing of lifting sanctions.

And the most difficult issue in the coming talks will be how the “Possible Military Dimensions” or “PMD” – the allegations of Iranian nuclear weapons work that have been at the center of the entire Iran nuclear crisis for several years – is to be linked to lifting certain UN Security Council sanctions.

On that linkage Iran will insist that its cooperation in providing access to the International Atomic Energy Agency must be reciprocated with the lifting of certain sanctions on an agreed-upon timetable, regardless of how long the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) takes to make up its mind, and what judgment it renders, according to a source in close contact with the Iranian negotiating team (as per Mr. Porter).

The US “fact sheet” on the “parameters” of an agreement says, “All past United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneously with the completion by Iran of nuclear related activities addressing all key concerns,” and the list that follows includes “PMD.”

However, nothing was officially agreed on in Lausanne on how Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the PMD issue would be linked to sanctions relief, according to the source close to the Iranian negotiators. But the source said that an informal understanding was reached that the linkage would involve the lifting of UN Security Council sanctions directly involving Iran’s imports for its nuclear and missile programs.

Iran is prepared to cooperate to complete the IAEA investigation of past allegations, the source said, but will demand concrete limits that provide assurances that the process will not be prolonged indefinitely.

Iran continues to insist that the evidence being used to impugn its intentions was “manufactured.” Nevertheless, Iran “would be ready to give access to the IAEA on PMD even though that goes beyond NPT [Nonproliferation Treaty],” the source told Truthout.

But the source said Iran would not agree to make the lifting of those UN sanctions contingent on any IAEA judgment about the PMD issue. Instead, Iran will demand a list in advance of everything the IAEA wants. “We would give the IAEA access to everything on the list,” said the source.

Once the IAEA completed its visits and its environmental sampling, however, Iran will consider that the process is finished. “We don’t care what the IAEA analysis would be or how long it took,” the source said. “What Iranians cannot accept is that [the PMD issue] becomes an indefinite instrument for the Israelis, because they want to find out about Iranian capability and ask for this or that military site and a new inspection.”

The negotiations on the PMD-sanctions linkage will be part of a broader set of negotiations in which Iran will insist on a detailed set of arrangements on sanctions relief in return for each of its concessions in the agreement, according to the source. “Each of the elements listed in the US fact sheet must have a step-by-step plan with a timetable and proportionate reciprocation,” said the source.

Obama Under Pressure He Helped Create

The Obama administration has been under heavy pressure from the Israelis and their supporters in Washington to insist that Iran confess to having carried out nuclear weapons research and development as a condition for sanctions relief.

That pressure is the result of several years of news media coverage that has treated allegations that Iran carried out research and development on nuclear weapons, published by the IAEA in 2011, as established fact. The media have constantly repeated the theme that Iran has been “stonewalling” the IAEA to cover up its past nuclear weapons experiments.

Absent from the media narrative is the fact that the allegations that the IAEA is demanding that Iran explain are all based on intelligence that is now known to have come from Israel and which the IAEA itself suspected of being fabricated, from 2005 to 2009.

But the Obama administration itself helped to make PMD a hot button issue in American politics. It made Iran’s alleged refusal to cooperate with the IAEA investigation of the purported intelligence alleging an Iranian nuclear weapons research and development program the rationale for imposing punishing sanctions on Iran.

The US administration has been wary of demanding an actual admission of guilt, which it knew was unrealistic, but it has been unwilling to completely dismiss the position of the Israelis and their followers either. Last November a “senior Western official” told Reuters that the United States and the other five powers would try to “be creative” in finding a formula to satisfy both those who were insisting that Iran must “come clean” about its nuclear past and those who said it was not realistic to expect a confession.

In an April 8 interview with Secretary of State John Kerry, the host of “PBS NewsHour” Judy Woodruff asserted that the IAEA wanted Iran to “disclose past military-related activities” but that Iran was “increasingly looking like it’s not going to do this.” Woodruff then asked, “Is the US prepared to accept that?”

Without challenging the premise that Iran is expected to “disclose past military activities,” Kerry responded, “No. They have to do it. It will be done.”

Fabricated Intelligence and IAEA Investigation

The George W. Bush administration pressed documents supposedly from the laptop computer of an Iran scientist involved in an Iranian nuclear weapons research program on the IAEA in mid-2005. But Mohamed ElBaradei, then IAEA director general, refused to regard the documents as legitimate evidence because they had never been authenticated, and Bush administration officials refused to answer questions about their origins. In his memoirs published in 2011, ElBaradei writes, “The problem was, no one knew if any of this was real.

Information now available shows that the documents were created in Israel. According to a senior German office official, those documents were given to Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, in 2004 by the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), the armed exile Iranian opposition group that had been an Israeli client organization for several years.

A popular Israeli history of the most successful covert operations by Israel’s Mossad, originally published in Hebrew in Israel, asserts that Mossad provided some of the documents to the MEK that later become the centerpiece of the case against Iran.

ElBaradei also reveals in his memoirs that the IAEA received another series of purported Iranian documents directly from Israel in summer 2009. Among them was a two-page document in Farsi describing a four-year program to produce a neutron initiator for a fission chain reaction. The former IAEA chief inspector in Iraq, Robert Kelley has recalled that ElBaradei found that document to be lacking credibility because it had no chain of custody, no identifiable source, and no official markings or anything else that could establish its authenticity. But ElBaradei’s successor as IAEA director general, Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, gave the IAEA’s imprimatur to the entire collection as well as the earlier set of documents in an annex to the November 2011 report. After his election, Amano assured US officials that he was “solidly in the US court” in his handling of the Iran file.

The IAEA has never revealed that Israel was the source of the latter set of documents. The IAEA justified its decision to keep the identity of the member states that provided intelligence secret by citing the alleged necessity to protect “sources and methods.” The decision to maintain silence on the source has served to shield both Israel and the IAEA itself from questions about the obvious political motives behind the purported intelligence.

The other major purported intelligence find published by the IAEA was the claim from Israel that Iran had installed a large steel explosives containment cylinder at its military base in Parchin in 2000 for nuclear weapons-related testing. But no corroborating evidence has ever been produced, and Robert Kelley has challenged the IAEA’s adoption of the Israeli intelligence claim on the grounds it was technically implausible.

Relations between Iran and the IAEA on cooperation over the PMD issue have gone through three major phases. In a series of meetings in early 2012, Iran and the IAEA were close to reaching agreement on a framework for Iranian cooperation. Iran agreed on an IAEA visit to Parchin, where the bomb test cylinder was said to have been located, as part of the process. But the talks broke down over the IAEA’s insistence that the investigation would never have an end point, and that the Agency would have the right to return to any question or site, even after Iran had provided the necessary access and other cooperation.

A second phase of relations began when Iran and the IAEA reached agreement on a “Framework for Cooperation” in February 2014. Iran agreed to provide information and access in regard to a list of PMD issues, starting with the “Exploding Bridgewire” (EBW) issue.

But after Iran provided documentary evidence to show that its research in the field was for its oil and gas industry and not for nuclear weapons, Amano refused to acknowledge publicly that Iran had discredited one of the arguments about the intelligence documents.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akhbar Salehi, claimed that the IAEA had promised in the agreement to close issues once Iran had provided required information, and the IAEA did not challenge his claim. Amano insisted, however, that the IAEA would not issue any assessment until it had completed its investigation of all of the issues.

Iran apparently concluded from that experience that the IAEA would keep Iran on the hook as long as the United States and its allies wanted to maintain leverage over Iran. The Obama administration has now confirmed that conclusion by holding the lifting of sanctions hostage to Iran’s “cooperation” on PMD writes Porter.

US officials have never explained how they would expect Iran to satisfy the IAEA if the intelligence at issue was indeed fabricated.

===============
 www.wienerzeitung.at/nachrichten/…

WeltpolitikUpdate: 15.04.2015

Heinz Fischer: “Ich halte Netanjahus Kritik für falsch”

von Arian Faal, Wiener Zeitung

The Austrian President in above interview states clearly that Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong in his opposition to the deal President Obama and the heads of the other four powers are trying to strike with Iran. The point being th prospective deal is indeed the best that can rationally be expected from Iran.

Further, President Fischer expects the deal to be agreed upon and signed by all involved by July 1st 2015, and he expects to go on a State visit to Iran after the agreement has been obtained. He will thus be the first of a EU-Member-State leader to go to this newly cleaned Iran.

====================

Foreign Minister Sebastien Kurz wrote on his Facebook page today, April 17, 2015 about the return of the negotiations to Vienna
in a race with time as the agreement will be signed eventually in New York before the end of June.

Minister Kurz already told the Kurier yesterday that the Vienna negotiations that deal with the details that can allow the removal of sanctions will be hard and sensitive. Experts and politicians will be here next week for two days – the first time since last November. The Iranian deputy Foreign Minister is expected. But the Kurier article is not optimistic indeed that it all will be wraped up before the end of June and mentions the news from Tehran that an extension will be required.

Ende der Sanktionen

Diesmal soll es also weniger um den großen Wurf – an dem war man ja im November in Wien gescheitert – sondern um die heiklen Details gehen. Die politischen Direktoren der UN-Vetomächte sowie Irans Vize-Außenminister Araqchi werden erwartet.

Im Mittelpunkt steht vor allem die Frage, wann und wie die Sanktionen gegen den Iran im Falle einer Einigung aufgehoben werden sollen. Teheran will sie natürlich umgehend loswerden, um der ohnehin angeschlagenen iranischen Wirtschaft endlich neue Auftrieb zu geben. Im Westen will man weiterhin eine stufenweise Aufhebung und dazu die Möglichkeit, im Falle eines iranischen Vertragsbruchs sofort zu den Boykottmaßnahmen in voller Härte zurückzukehren. Darauf drängt auch der US-Kongress in Washington, der sich ohnehin eine Entscheidung über die Sanktionen nach einer Einigung Ende Juni vorbehält.

Inzwischen aber wachsen die Zweifel, dass die auch tatsächlich zustande kommt. In Teheran spricht inzwischen sogar Revolutionsführer Khamenei von einer weiteren Verlängerung.
(Kurier) Erstellt am 16.04.2015.

====================

And coincidenta;;y, when looking up the Kurier I found an April 3, 2015 article that shows the Austrian Oil Company OEMV is alreadty sharpening its pens to reach out to Iran, to fulfill agreement for oil and gas they started before the sanctions hit. So – this is a sign of high Austrian interest in the success of these negotiations and the end of sanctions.
OMV wartet noch ab

Ob die OMV, die vor den Sanktionen große Gasförder-Pläne im Iran hatte, auch bald wieder ins Iran-Geschäft zurückkehrt, ist noch offen. OMV-Sprecher Robert Lechner: „Wenn ein so großer Player im Energiebereich zurück auf die internationale Bühne kommt, muss man das zunächst neu bewerten. Derzeit ist es aber noch zu früh, konkrete Schlüsse zu ziehen.“ Die OMV unterhält noch immer ein Büro in Teheran.

Die OMV muss allerdings gegen riesige Konkurrenz antreten. Denn trotz des niedrigen Ölpreises dürften sich die Branchen-Riesen um Investitionen in neue Öl- und Gasfelder anstellen. Alexander Pögl von der Ölmarkt-Beratungsfirma JBC: „Grundsätzlich werden internationale Investoren vor der Tür stehen, so viele Möglichkeiten für einen Explorationszugang gibt es nicht.“ Der Iran verfüge zwar wegen der Sanktionen derzeit über große Lagerbestände, müsse aber nach deren Verkauf rasch in neue Fördertechnologien und -gebiete investieren.

In der österreichischen Wirtschaft und Politik findet derzeit geradezu ein Wettlauf statt, wer zuerst nach Teheran fliegt. Offiziell will man darüber nicht viel sagen. „Die Einladung des Iran an Bundespräsident Heinz Fischer ist aufrecht“, heißt es aus der Hofburg zum KURIER. Gut informierte Diplomaten erwarten, dass die Reise noch heuer stattfindet.

Autor: Franz Jandrasits

(kurier) Erstellt am 03.04.2015, 18:00

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 12th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

From: Avaaz.org [mailto:avaaz@avaaz.org]
Sent:Sunday, 12 April 2015

Liebe Freundinnen und Freunde,

Uruguay hat eines der besten Nichtrauchergesetze der Welt — und dafür wird das Land nun von Philip Morris verklagt. Der Tabakgigant könnte den Fall sogar gewinnen, es sei denn, wir schreiten ein.

Es ist erschreckend: Ein Konzern könnte mit einem tödlichen Produkt Gesetze kippen, die unsere Gesundheit schützen. Die Richter sind bereits unter Beschuss geraten, weil sie die öffentliche Meinung bei ähnlichen Fällen nicht beachtet haben. Sorgen wir dafür, dass das jetzt passiert: Wenn wir einen riesigen Aufruf starten und erstklassige Rechtsexperten engagieren, die unsere Stimmen in den Gerichtssaal tragen, können sie nicht weghören. So könnten wir verhindern, dass ihr Urteil einen schlimmen Präzedenzfall schafft.

Zeigen wir den Gerichten, dass es hier nicht nur um Uruguay geht — wenn Tabakgiganten ihren Willen durchsetzen, schaffen sie damit überall freie Bahn für Rechtsklagen. Mindestens 4 weitere Länder sind bereits ins Visier von Unternehmen geraten und auch in vielen anderen Ländern sind Nichtrauchergesetze bedroht.

Die Zeit ist knapp — vor Gericht werden bereits die Argumente angehört. Klicken Sie, um die öffentliche Gesundheit und unsere Demokratie vor der Habgier großer Unternehmen zu schützen. Unsere Namen werden dem Gericht überreicht:
 secure.avaaz.org/de/uruguay_vs_b…

In Uruguay müssen Zigarettenschachteln zu 80 Prozent mit gesundheitlichen Warnhinweisen und Schockbildern versehen werden. Das Rauchen war dort zu einer Krise ausgeartet, die täglich etwa sieben Uruguayern das Leben kostete. Doch seit es das Gesetz gibt, wird von Jahr zu Jahr weniger geraucht! Nun behauptet der Tabakriese Philip Morris jedoch, dass die Warnhinweise keinen Platz für seine Markenzeichen lassen.

All dies ist Teil einer weltweiten Strategie von Philip Morris: Länder zu verklagen und einzuschüchtern. Der Konzern hat Australien bereits einen teuren Gerichtsfall aufgedrückt, und wenn er jetzt gegen Uruguay Erfolg hat, könnte Philip Morris in über Hundert weiteren Ländern Klagen einleiten — darunter Frankreich, Norwegen, Neuseeland und Finnland. Denn in all diesen Ländern werden gerade neue lebensrettende Gesetze erwägt.

Experten sagen, dass Philip Morris gute Gewinnchancen hat. Schließlich wird das Verfahren hinter verschlossenen Türen vor einem internationalen Schiedsgericht behandelt, das letztes Jahr bei zwei Dritteln der Fälle zugunsten von Unternehmen geurteilt hat. Und das Urteil ist verbindlich, obwohl viele der Richter keine unparteiischen Rechtsexperten, sondern Privatpersonen mit Verbindungen zur Unternehmenswelt sind. Bringen wir sie also dazu, über die verheerenden Auswirkungen nachzudenken, die ihr Urteil für die weltweite Gesundheit haben könnte.

Uruguay hat sein eigenes Team von Rechtsexperten, doch diese konzentrieren sich zurecht auf ihre jeweiligen Verteidigungsargumente. Wir können jedoch ein einzigartiges rechtliches Argument zum Tragen bringen: dass dieses Urteil einen Präzedenzfall für jedes Land schaffen würde, in dem Rauchergesetze und ähnliche Handelsabkommen existieren. Wir können den Richtern außerdem zeigen, dass die Menschen hinter ihnen stehen, wenn sie zugunsten Uruguays und der öffentlichen Gesundheit urteilen.

Je mehr von uns unterschreiben, desto schwieriger ist es für die Richter, unseren Aufruf zu ignorieren. Klicken Sie unten, um mitzumachen, und verbreiten Sie diese Email:
 secure.avaaz.org/de/uruguay_vs_b…

Wenn Großkonzerne das Gemeinwohl in tödliche Gefahr bringen, tritt unsere Gemeinschaft in Aktion. Sei es bei Monsanto oder bei H&M — wir haben immer wieder dafür gesorgt, dass Profite nicht über das Wohl der Menschen gestellt werden. Und jetzt können wir das noch einmal tun.

Voller Hoffnung,

Emma, Maria Paz, Katie, Mais, Alice, Ricken, Risalat und das ganze Avaaz-Team

WEITERE INFORMATIONEN

Philip Morris klagt gegen Rauchverbot in Uruguay (Die Welt)
 www.welt.de/wirtschaft/article133…

Rechtsstreit um Geld oder Leben (Deutsche Welle)
 www.dw.de/rechtsstreit-um-geld-od…

Wie Konzerne Staaten vor sich hertreiben: Philip Morris vs Uruguay (Die Zeit Online)
 www.zeit.de/wirtschaft/2014-03/in…

Und auf Englisch:

Philip Morris verklagt Uruguay wegen Schockbildern auf Zigarettenschachteln (NPR)
 www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/20…

Jüngste Trends bei Investitionsschutzabkommen und Investor-Staat-Streitbeilegung (UNCTAD)
 unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary…

Das Spiel der Schiedsgerichte (The Economist)
 www.economist.com/news/finance-an…
  Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in Archives, Austria, European Union, Reporting From the UN Headquarters in New York, Reporting from Washington DC, Uruguay, Vienna

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 11th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Politics & Policy
Plagued By Smog, Krakow Struggles To Break Its Coal-Burning Habit.

April 11, 2015

by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson of NPR
 www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2015/…


Poland’s second-largest city is also a major tourist destination. Krakow (seen here at night from the Krakus Mound) is suffering some of the worst air pollution in Europe

Krakow is one of Europe’s top tourist destinations and attracts millions of visitors each year to soak up its history, culture and architecture. But its appeal wanes during colder months when another prominent feature of the Polish city is on display: air pollution.

Environmental officials say Krakow’s air is among the most polluted in Poland, which in turn, has the most polluted air in the European Union.

And what’s the source of the smog hanging over the city during colder months? It’s not Polish industry, but rather residents who burn coal to keep warm.

One such resident is Arleta Wolek. The 73-year-old retired production line worker keeps her coal-burning stove in her basement in a hillside neighborhood. The furnace is four years old, and she feeds it from a nearby pile of coal that’s almost as tall as she is.

“I used to have gas but switched to coal because it’s warmer,” Wolek explains.

Like many Krakow residents, she doesn’t believe coal smoke is the main contributor to the thick smog that hangs over the city like a dirty blanket. But she nevertheless has decided to switch her heating system back to gas after learning the local government will reimburse her for the retrofit.

“The switch is a good thing and will make my life easier because going into the basement to get coal and putting it into the stove takes time” and is strenuous, Wolek says.

It can take up to a year to get the government refund, but Wolek says she doesn’t mind. What she is concerned about, however, is how senior citizens on fixed incomes are supposed to pay for the gas each month. Most gas here comes from Russia and costs consumers in Krakow twice as much as coal.

Dr. Eva Konduracka, a cardiologist, says air pollution causes 30 percent of the chronic obstructive lung disease cases she and other doctors here treat, many of them in young people. High cancer rates are also linked to the toxins people are breathing.

That’s likely why more than 30,000 Krakow homeowners continue to use coal. Their intransigence leaves the air here hazy and sour-smelling, says Wolek’s neighbor, Andrzej Plebancyzk, 71, who moved back from the United States in 2010.

“I have a problem breathing and it was really connected to the air, because I didn’t have it in the States,” he says. “Sometimes, when I used to be a kid, before we’d go to sleep we’d open the window to get fresh air. Forget doing that now, especially when there is no wind.”

The health effects are even worse than the smell, says Dr. Eva Konduracka, who compares it to “smoking 2,000 cigarettes per year.”

The cardiologist says smog is causing 30 percent of the chronic obstructive lung disease cases she and other doctors here treat, many of them in young people. High cancer rates are also linked to the toxins people are breathing.

In Krakow, she says, doctors diagnose a new case of malignant tumor every three hours.

One was Anna Krokosz. She died a few days after being diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago, says her daughter, Aleksandra Bedek. The quality control engineer says her 77-year-old mother never smoked a day in her life, but coughed all the time.

Bedek, who is 58, says she coughs a lot, too. She avoids spending any more time outdoors than necessary because of the smog. But the smell of her neighbors’ coal smoke seeps into her apartment.
Anna Dworakowska, 35, helped found a grass-roots movement called the Krakow Smog Alert campaign, which educates residents about the dangers of air pollution.

Anna Dworakowska, 35, helped found a grass-roots movement called the Krakow Smog Alert campaign, which educates residents about the dangers of air pollution.
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson/NPR

“Whenever the wind stops, I feel like I’m suffocating, especially when I’m lying in bed at night,” Bedek says.

Anna Dworakowska, 35, helped found a grass-roots movement called the Krakow Smog Alert campaign, which educates residents about the dangers of air pollution.

“Of course the air in Krakow was much worse 20 years ago because, first of all, there were [many] more people heating their houses with coal,” Dworakowska says. “The second thing is we had much more industry, which was closed down after the anti-communist revolution. But on the other hand, we know much more about the impact of air pollution on our health than 20
years ago.”


One of those revelations is the high concentration of benzo(a)pyrene in Krakow’s air. The compound is found in coal tar and is highly carcinogenic. Dworakowska says Poles breathe in five times the EU-prescribed norms of benzo(a)pyrene.

Her group spurred the Krakow government into approving a ban on residential wood and coal-burning in the city starting in 2018. But a regional court last August overturned the measure, declaring it unconstitutional and unenforceable.
That ruling has been appealed, and the proposed ban remains in legal limbo.

————————————

Krzysztof Bolesta, a political adviser to the Polish environmental minister, says he isn’t surprised. In fact, it’s such a big problem that his ministry made air quality its highest priority for 2015.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The transformation to fair and sustainable regional economies requires place-based, citizen-driven tools. The principles behind these tools are universal, but their effective application will be shaped by the landscape, the people, the history, and the culture of each particular region.

On September 14, 2015 Schumacher College for New Economists will welcome its first class of students to the Berkshires for the first two months of a nine month program. The program will be unprecedented, involving over twenty partner organizations at multiple locations across the US and UK. The list of partners is still growing, and currently includes:

The initiative grows from a common recognition: every local economy will need its own community economists – part visionary theorists, part activists – imagining what can be achieved and organizing to achieve it. Schumacher College was formed to train these new economists.

Program graduates may not have all the answers – but they will have the resources and connections to know where to look. They will know, and be known by, their community, and be committed to sharing and applying what they have learned.

They will find allies in the Maker Community who value the hand-crafted over the mono-culture products of an anonymous global economy, in the new agrarians cultivating small lots to produce for a regional food system, in community bankers who still make loan decisions based on face to face interviews, in environmentalists who understand the carbon cost of transporting goods over long distance, and in all those who love the “sidewalk dance” of a vibrant local economy.

They will engage a community process to explore the financing structures, the land tenure structures, the community supported industry structures, and the ownership structures needed to sustain and grow locally-owned businesses that pay a living wage.

They will need community engagement and support for their training. See below for more information on how to send a student from your community.

To get further details on Schumacher sustainability and the education for a new economy – please go to:
  Permalink | | Email This Article Email This Article
Posted in Archives, European Union, Green is Possible, Massachusetts, United Kingdom

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Guardian Divests $1.2 Billion Fund From Fossil Fuels.

By Bill McKibben, EcoWatch

04 April 15
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…


Here’s how far we’ve come in just a couple of years: One of the world’s most respected and influential news organizations —
the Guardian Media Group — announced Wednesday that it will divest from fossil fuels.

The move follows the launch of The Guardian‘s own climate change campaign, in partnership with 350.org, to press two of the world’s largest charitable foundations to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.

The chairman of the Guardian Media Group called the move a “hard-nosed business decision” that is justified on both ethical and financial grounds. I couldn’t agree more.

It was also the second billion-dollar divestment commitment in just two days: Syracuse University in New York also ditched fossil fuels this week, demonstrating once again that cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry is both feasible and responsible.


Now is the time to increase the pressure on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust — two of the world’s largest charities, and both explicitly dedicated to global health — to do the same.

Can you help us reach 200,000 signatures this week?

Add your name to the petition calling on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to stop investing in the climate crisis.

The Guardian Media Group is leading by example by divesting its entire £800 million (aka $1.2 billion) fund from fossil fuels and committing to invest in socially responsible alternatives instead. You can watch a video and find out more about The Guardian decision here.

When the roll of honor for action on climate change is someday called, I believe The Guardian’s name will be high on the list. They’ve taken a bold step in joining the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground, both through their journalism and their own investments.

As Alan Rusbridger, their editor-in-chief said: “What was a trickle is becoming a river and will, I suspect, become a flood.”

Let’s make sure The Guardian’s divestment commitment sends a strong signal to other foundations—as well as universities, cities, states, churches and any institution that holds money and is dedicated to the public good—to get on the right side of history too.

———————————-

Comments:

+35 # Barbara K 2015-04-04 13:08
That is great news. Time to stop making the oil barons wealthier and support solar and wind energy for the sake of the planet, and us. Thank you “The Guardian”.

+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2015-04-04 18:00
Hydrogen? By product of combustion – water!

+22 # Corvette-Bob 2015-04-04 15:13
Fossil fuel is in a death spiral, the only question is whether or not it will take us with it.

-13 # brycenuc 2015-04-04 15:44
Divestment won’t phase the fossil fuel industry. They are well aware that global economy depends on it.

+12 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:50
Just because the fossil fuel is dominant now, does not mean that it cannot be replaced with a better source of energy. Wars have been fought to have the oil. It is time for the world to turn away from dependence on fossil fuels. We can dig and frack until it all runs out. The sun is there for everyone and will be always.

+3 # seeuingoa 2015-04-04 16:26
Barbara K:

thank you for always stating the obvious.

+8 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:41
Thank you Guardian! It takes a few to start the ball rolling. The Green Way is the right way to go to save our planet and to stop the oil barons from their pursuit of their rule over the earth from dependence on oil. There will be plenty of job growth from energy from the sun because of needing solar power panels and the expertise to develop solar power plants to get it to the people. Thomas Edison knew about the power of solar energy and wanted to see it developed in his time. Power from the sun and water will be here for us as long as the earth exists, not so for fossil fuels. Go Green!

+3 # rhgreen 2015-04-04 19:31
That’s great news, but pardon me from being a bit cynical and pointing out that with the fall in oil prices it’s a good time to be doing it out of self-interest, anyway.

+3 # Eliza D 2015-04-04 20:31
Mr. McKibben is a real hero of the grassroots environmental movement. He has few politicians with any power on his or our side.
Now is the time for us to support Green and Third parties and turn around this do-nothing, stuck-in-the-tw entieth century government of ours. If Costa Rica could run their electric grid on renewable energy since the new year, the US could make a good run at attaining 50% renewables in two years. The folks who are sick and having their farms torn up by fracking are about as happy about that “clean energy” as the families of the dozens killed in the NYC gas explosion this past week.

==================================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

INFORMATION NOTE – Sustainable Energy for All Partnership: Selection of Director-General

Headquartered in Vienna, Austria.


Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) is an initiative launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2011,
it aims to achieve three objectives by 2030:

(1) Ensuring universal access to modern energy services,
(2) Doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and
(3) Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

Meant to enable all stakeholders – both public and private – to take ownership of, and contribute to, the common efforts to achieve sustainable energy for all, a new international non-profit organization, to be named the “Sustainable Energy for All Partnership” will be established. The Sustainable Energy for All Partnership will be led by a Director-General who is to be appointed through a competitive process led by the SE4All Executive Committee. Both public and private entities will be invited to take part in the governance of the non-profit organization.


Candidates who wish to be considered for this position should send a CV and cover letter no later than 15 April 2015 to the following email address:  egonzehnder.com.

For more information, please visit: appointments.egonzehnder.com/

Any inquiries regarding this selection process should be directly addressed to:

The Egon Zehnder team with attention to:
Mr. Alejandro Henning
E-mail:  Alejandro.henning at egonzehnder.com
Tel.: +41228496885

——-====================——

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Argument
The Kremlin Pulls on Georgia

It’s time for the West to stop taking Tbilisi for granted.

By Michael Cecire
Foreign Policy Magazine, March 9, 2015

As Russian forces consolidate their gains in Ukraine over the flat protests of Western leaders, the specter of Russian revanchism is keeping much of Eastern Europe on edge. But lumbering tanks and legions of insta-separatists aren’t the only concern. Ukraine isn’t Russia’s only target.

Perhaps most alarming are the warning signs going off in Georgia, a steadfast Euro-Atlantic partner where a pro-Western political consensus has long been a foreign-policy calling card. A long-standing opponent of Russian military adventurism, Georgia sought escape velocity from Russian regional dominance by courting membership in Euro-Atlantic structures and earned a reputation as an enthusiastic and credible Western partner. But

Western quiescence in the face of Russian territorial aggression is starting to have an effect.

Western quiescence in the face of Russian territorial aggression is starting to have an effect. After decades of acrimony in which Georgians have watched Russian proxies occupy 20 percent of their territory and ethnically cleanse some 300,000 of their compatriots, certain groups are starting to ask if maintaining close ties to the West is worth all the loss. Increasingly, Georgians are beginning to think that it isn’t.

The groups spearheading Russian influence operations in Georgia fly beneath the international radar under the cloak of local-language media and the oft-repeated surety of pro-Western sentiment. But they can be seen protesting in Tbilisi streets, preaching in Georgian churches, and holding improbably well-funded campaign rallies ahead of elections. The evidence shows that Russian influence in Georgia is growing stronger. (In the photo, a Stalin impersonator poses at a memorial service for the Soviet dictator in his Georgian hometown of Gori.)

But at Washington roundtables and in private conversations, Western officials and experts tend to downplay the possibility of Russian-exported propaganda taking root in Georgia. The root of this complacency is tied to regular polling from the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) that has consistently showed public support for Euro-Atlantic integration at between 60 and 70 percent. Successive governments have relied on this popular approval to justify their Western-facing foreign-policy agendas.

So support for Euro-Atlantic integration is broad. But is it deep? Those who have spent time with ordinary Georgians say the reality, as is often the case, is far more complex.

There, in a scene in the popular Georgian soap opera Chemi Tsolis Dakalebi (My Wife’s Best Friends), revelers at a wedding reception are interrupted by an announcement that Georgia has just been awarded a long-coveted “MAP” (membership action plan), a prelude to NATO membership. The announcement shocks the crowd into a stunned silence, which then gives way to raucous cheers. One character, while clapping and celebrating along with the others, turns to another partygoer and asks: “What’s a MAP?”

While the scene colorfully illuminates NATO’s outsized social, and even civilizational, pull among Georgians, it also suggests a harsher truth: that Georgian society’s Western moorings may be more emotive than well-informed. The headline numbers from public opinion polls don’t tell the whole story. Look deeper into the data, and the picture is much more worrisome.

According to an NDI poll last August, integration with the West was at best a tertiary issue for Georgians. Instead, “kitchen table” issues dominated respondents’ concerns, with worries about jobs (63 percent) and poverty (32 percent) eclipsing other issues. NATO and EU integration came in far behind at 10th and 17th, respectively. And of 21 issues polled, Georgians picked NATO and EU membership as the top issues the government spent too much time discussing.

But most concerning, buried deep in the survey results, were signs of growing support for joining the Eurasian Union, a Moscow-led EU “alternative.” A full 20 percent favored the idea of Georgian membership. This percentage has risen steadily from 11 percent in late 2013 to 16 percent in mid-2014. Who are these Georgians who would surrender their country’s sovereignty to the same power that keeps a steely grip on Georgian territory and carves other neighboring states with impunity?

Part of the answer can be found in a budding segment of the nongovernmental sector, consisting of innocuously named pro-Russian groups like the “Eurasian Institute,” “Eurasian Choice,” and “The Earth Is Our Home.” Many of these organizations pop in and out of existence as needed — the “Peace Committee of Georgia” one week, something else the next — but they are often tied to the same group of pro-Russian ideologues and policy entrepreneurs who make regular pilgrimages to Moscow and, according to Georgian officials in the ruling party and the opposition, almost certainly receive Kremlin funding. Their common message isn’t high-church Russian apologia or Soviet nostalgia, but rather “Eurasianism” and “Orthodox civilization” — Kremlin shorthand for Putinism. Appeals to Georgian social conservatism, economic vulnerability, and lingering anger over past government abuses are winning converts within a population increasingly impatient with Georgia’s unrequited love affair with the West.

In mid-2014, Eurasianist groups made headlines for their raucous opposition to an anti-discrimination bill making its way through the Georgian parliament. Their opposition centered on language in the bill banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which opponents claimed was tantamount to promoting non-heterosexual lifestyles. But they didn’t come to the protests alone — accompanying the pro-Russian activists were unmistakably garbed clerics from the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The church, too, was nonplussed over the anti-discrimination bill and called for language protecting sexual minorities to be ejected. One of the oldest existing Christian churches in the world, the Georgian Orthodox Church is both a touchstone for Georgian nationalism and reliably polls as the most trusted institution in the country. But the church’s common cause with the Eurasianists was not limited to tactical alliances over anti-gay rhetoric. Although nominally in favor of Georgian membership in the European Union, influential factions within the Orthodox hierarchy openly stoke religious nationalism and express admiration for Russia.

Today, church representatives are increasingly seen as a vanguard for reactionary activity. In mid-2013, clergy members were on the front lines of a horrifying anti-gay pogrom in central Tbilisi. Church officials have justified protests against and attacks on Georgian Muslims. And church leaders have called the West “worse than Russia,” sometimes describing the 2008 Russian invasion as a kind of heavenly intervention against Western integration. Such language is echoed by Georgia’s Eurasianist NGOs.

The growing profile of pro-Russian organizations and the sharpening anti-Western stance of the church is converging with a third leg in an emerging pro-Russian triad: the revitalization of anti-Western political parties.

Since the 2012 change in power, pro-Russian politicians have risen from the darkest margins of Georgian political life into an increasingly viable political force.

Since the 2012 change in power, pro-Russian politicians have risen from the darkest margins of Georgian political life into an increasingly viable political force.

Onetime pro-Western advocate turned pro-Russian political agitator Nino Burjanadze has fashioned a political coalition aimed squarely at breaking Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic consensus. In presidential and local elections in 2013 and 2014, respectively, Burjanadze managed to get about 10 percent of the vote, armed with Eurasianist rhetoric and fueled by massive influxes of what was likely Russian money. And the rapidly growing Alliance of Patriots — a populist party with anti-Western leanings, which recently held a major rally in Tbilisi — won almost 5 percent in June 2014. If these numbers hold, parliamentary elections in 2016 could very well yield a very differently oriented Georgian government. A 15 percent result would be more than enough to send pro-Russian deputies into parliament in force, shattering cross-partisan foreign-policy unity and potentially playing kingmakers in coalition talks.

Irakli Alasania, Georgia’s former defense minister, has Russia on his mind. “There are very active pro-Russia groups and thousands of protesters who are against Western integration,” he told me recently, referring to the Alliance of Patriots rally. He expressed worry that the current government is downplaying a growing Russian threat. With his own Free Democrats now part of the parliamentary opposition, the ruling Georgian Dream coalition’s ranks of solidly pro-Western parties has noticeably thinned, and the leverage of socially conservative, protectionist factions within the coalition has increased.

But this is probably only the beginning. If trends hold, Georgia’s foreign-policy consensus — long taken for granted in the West — could begin to unravel in earnest. Although Georgian Dream, to its credit, has managed to skate the knife’s edge between geopolitical pragmatism and Euro-Atlantic enthusiasm, it is increasingly losing popularity among once-hopeful voters. As things stand, parliament in 2016 looks like it will be very different from today’s parliament. The pro-Western opposition United National Movement will likely see its 51 seats slashed by half or more. In its place is likely to be a collection of openly anti-Western deputies from Burjanadze’s coalition and the Alliance of Patriots. If it stays together, Georgian Dream may well remain the largest parliamentary bloc, but the introduction of large anti-Western groupings into parliament could compel it to dilute, or even abandon, its pro-Western policies out of political necessity.

This trajectory ought to be a cause for deep concern. Even a Georgia that tried to split its orientation between the West and Moscow would likely sink into the quicksand of Russian dominance, as have each of the other paragons of this strategy — Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. This result would mean the consolidation of Russian geostrategic supremacy over the Caucasus and, with it, a complete Russian monopoly over trans-Eurasian energy and trade flows.

There are ways the West could throw a much-needed lifeline to Georgian liberals.

There are ways the West could throw a much-needed lifeline to Georgian liberals. While the association agreement with the European Union signed last June is surely a welcome symbol, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area has great future potential, the real prize for most ordinary Georgians is the prospect of visa-free travel to the EU. If this is introduced this year, as widely hoped, this could be a real boon for Western credibility. And if not outright NATO membership, other strong gestures, such as U.S. major non-NATO ally status, would be a relatively painless upgrade that would enshrine what is essentially the status quo while recognizing Georgia’s long-outsized dedication and contributions to the Euro-Atlantic space.

What is clear is that the days of taking Georgia’s pro-Western consensus for granted are quickly coming to a close. Russian influence is resurgent across its periphery, from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus to Central Asia, and Georgia remains a long-coveted prize. It may have taken successive military interventions, information warfare, and influence operations, but Moscow looks to be turning a corner in its bid to regain Georgia — both by hook and by crook.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Peace and reunification in Korea: in our life time
.
Christine Ahn 6 March 2015, the 50.50 blog of UK based openDemocracy

International women peacemakers are planning a peace walk across the De-Militarized Zone to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country.

The year 2013 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War. The temporary ceasefire has never been replaced with a peace treaty, and the 2 mile-wide and 155 mile-long demilitarized zone (DMZ) continues to divide the Korean peninsula with recurring tensions that serve as a sobering reminder of the possibility of renewed war.

Traversing the seemingly impermeable border, five New Zealanders crossed the DMZ in August 2013. They rode their motorbikes from Mt. Paekdu on the northern border with China all the way down the peninsula to Mt. Halla on the southernmost island of Jeju. This inspired me to begin imagining a women’s peace walk across the DMZ by international women peacemakers – many from countries that fought in the Korean War – to bring global attention to the unresolved Korean War and amplify women’s leadership to help reunify the country. After talking to one of the organizers of the August 2013 crossing, I decided to sequentially follow their blueprint and reached out first to the North Korean government

A year ago, I went on this peacebuilding mission to Pyongyang to discuss an international women’s peace walk across the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas. To my relief, Pyongyang responded very favourably towards our proposal, but with a stern caveat: only if the conditions were favourable.

Today, despite New Year calls for engagement by both Korean leaders, tensions remain very high. And this month, the United States and South Korea are conducting a two-month long period of military exercises called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, which the North Korean Rodong Sinmun believes are “aimed to occupy the DPRK through pre-emptive strikes.”

The conditions are not favourable, but we are still planning the women’s peace walk across the DMZ this May. We have formed an organization called Women De-Militarize the Zone, and thirty women from more than a dozen countries have signed dup to walk for peace and the reunification of Korea. They range from Nobel peace laureates to artists, academics, humanitarian aid workers, and faith leaders.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the division of Korea by the United States and the former Soviet Union. For nearly seven decades, Koreans on both sides of the DMZ have long awaited a peace treaty to formally resolve the 1950-53 Korean War that only ended with a ceasefire agreement. Instead, 70 million Koreans across the peninsula, from the northern border of China down to the southern-most Jeju Island, have endured political repression and an endless arms race.

In 1945, after Japan’s defeat in WWII, the United States landed in Korea, which had been under brutal Japanese colonization for 35 years. Without the consent of Koreans, who were awaiting its liberation and sovereignty after an entire generation under Japanese occupation, the two Cold War powers – Washington and Moscow – divided the peninsula along the 38th parallel. It was supposed to be a temporary division, but instead the creation of two separate states precipitated the 1950-53 Korean War.

Despite the massive loss of human life and destruction, the Korean War has come to be known as the “forgotten war.” More bombs were dropped on Korea from 1950 to 1953 than on all of Asia and the Pacific islands during World War II, and President Truman came seriously close to deploying an atomic bomb. One year into the Korean War, US Major General Emmett O’Donnell Jr. testified before the Senate, “I would say that the entire, almost the entire Korean Peninsula is just a terrible mess. Everything is destroyed. There is nothing standing worthy of the name . . . There [are] no more targets in Korea.” According to University of Chicago historian Bruce Cumings, during the Korean War, U.S. airstrikes led to the destruction of 18 of 22 major North Korean cities. Cumings cites Hungarian journalist Tibor Meray, who recalled, “I saw destruction and horrible things committed by American forces… Everything which moved in North Korea is a military target, peasants in the field often were machine gunned by pilots, who, this was my impression, amused themselves to shoot targets which moved.”

In 1953, after nearly 4 million people were killed, mostly Korean civilians, North Korea, China and the United States, representing the United Nations Command, signed the armistice agreement with a promise within three months to sign a peace treaty. Over 60 years later, we are still waiting for a peace treaty to end war.

What has ensued instead for the past six decades is an endless arms race between North and South Korea. Whether we like it or not, the fact that the Korean War ended with a temporary cease-fire rather than a permanent peace treaty gives both Korean governments justification to invest heavily in the country’s militarization. According to the Ploughshares Fund World Nuclear Stockpile Report, North Korea possesses less than 10 nuclear weapons of the 16,300 worldwide that are predominantly held by Russia and the United States. North Korea invests approximately $8.7 billion — significantly higher than the $570 million Pyongyang claims — or one-third of its GDP in the military, according to the South Korean government-run Korea Institute of Defense Analyses. In 2013, to great surprise, Pyongyang acknowledged how the un-ended war has forced it “to divert large human and material resources to bolstering up the armed forces though they should have been directed to the economic development and improvement of people’s living standards.”

But it’s not just North Korea. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2014 Yearbook, South Korea was the world’s 10th highest military spender, with its expenditures reaching $34 billion for the year. World Bank data shows that in 2012, 13.6 percent of the central government’s expenditures in South Korea went towards defence spending. According to a North Korea expert at Seoul National University, Suh Bohyuk, in 2011, South Korea became the world’s number-two weapons importer. In September 2014, South Korea spent $7 billion for 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets. “The reason that we are building up our military is to counter North Korea’s attacks and provocations,” said a South Korean military official. According to political science professor Yang Seung-ham of Yonsei University, “The Park administration is rapidly purchasing many advanced weaponry for military security, which does not help in easing inter-Korea tensions.” Conservative hawks in Washington are also pushing South Korea’s militarization. According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, although Washington withdrew 11 types of nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991, hawks in U.S. Congress are now advocating for the return of U.S. nukes.

North Korea’s heavy military spending isn’t just to defend against South Korea, but against the world’s most powerful military in the world: the United States, which has since it landed on Korean soil in 1945 maintained thousands of soldiers and bases throughout the southern half of the peninsula. Washington regularly conducts military exercises with Seoul, simulating the invasion of North Korea. In January, in order to promote dialogue on the Korean peninsula, Pyongyang offered a moratorium on nuclear testing in exchange for the United States to postpone war game exercises with South Korea. The olive branch came a day after the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Years Day speech in which he offered to meet President Park if “the mood was right” and that the two Koreas should promote reconciliation on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule. North Korea’s gesture to lessen tensions was rebuffed by Washington, which recently passed another round of sanctions against North Korea for its alleged hacking of the corporation, Sony.

In 2012, Washington spent $682 billion on its military, or 39 percent of the world’s total spending. While the Pentagon uses China’s military spending, which has grown annually in the double digits, to justify Washington’s Asia-Pacific Pivot, the unresolved Korean War gives regional powers such as the United States, China, and Japan justification to further militarize, including expanding missile defence systems and building new military bases, as they continually lack funds for social welfare, such as education or childcare. Last year, at a March 25 Senate Defense Committee hearing on the 2015 budget, the commander of the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), General Curtis Scaparrotti, argued that while the 28,500 U.S. troops based in South Korea were “fully resourced,” he was concerned about the readiness of “follow-on” forces needed if fighting erupted. According to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, during heightened tensions with Pyongyang in 2013, Washington deployed a new THAAD portable defense system to Guam and that plans are underway for a massive expansion of the U.S. missile defense system in Alaska and along the west coast as a “precautionary” measure against a possible North Korean missile strike.

Since military intervention is not an option, the Obama administration has used sanctions to pressure North Korea to de-nuclearize. Instead, North Korea has since conducted three nuclear tests, calling sanctions “an act of war”. That is because sanctions have had deleterious effects on the day-to-day lives of ordinary North Korean people. “In almost any case when there are sanctions against an entire people, the people suffer the most and the leaders suffer least,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on his last visit to North Korea.

International sanctions have made it extremely difficult for North Koreans to access basic necessities, such as food, seeds, medicine and technology. Felix Abt, a Swiss entrepreneur who has conducted business in North Korea for over a decade says that it is “the most heavily sanctioned nation in the world, and no other people have had to deal with the massive quarantines that Western and Asian powers have enclosed around its economy.”

A less obvious legacy of the Korean War is how governments use the state of war to justify repression in the name of preserving national security. Whether in Pyongyang, Seoul or Washington, the threat of war or terrorism is used to justify government repression and overreach, such as warrantless surveillance, imprisonment and torture in the name of preserving national security.

While repression in North Korea is widely known, less known is how the South Korean government uses the antiquated 1948-enacted National Security Law (NSL) to prosecute political dissidents, particularly those sympathetic towards or seeking to engage North Korea. In South Korea, the Constitutional Court recently abolished the Unified Progressive Party, a liberal opposition party, on charges of being pro-North. Amnesty International says that this case “has seriously damaged the human rights improvement of South Korean society which has struggled and fought for freedom of thoughts and conscience and freedom of expression.” And in January, the South Korean government used the NSL to deport and ban for five years Shin Eun-mi, a 54-year old Korean-American housewife who had written about her travels to North Korea, including describing North Koreans as warm-hearted and urging Korean reunification.

There is wide consensus that replacing the temporary armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty would go a long way towards de-escalating tensions that have long plagued Korea and the region. In a 2011 paper, the U.S. Army War College warns that the only way to avert a catastrophic confrontation is to “reach agreement on ending the armistice from the Korean War” and “giv[e] a formal security guarantee to North Korea tied to nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” U.S. Ambassadors to Korea since the 1980s have argued for engagement and a formalized peace process. James Laney, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea in the Clinton administration prescribed, “to remove all unnecessary obstacles to progress, is the establishment of a peace treaty to replace the truce that has been in place since 1953. One of the things that have bedeviled all talks until now is the unresolved status of the Korean War…. Absent such a peace treaty, every dispute presents afresh the question of the other side’s legitimacy.”

Perhaps most tragic about Korea’s division is the two-mile wide De-Militarized Zone that separates millions of Korean families. In April 2014, South Korean President Park said in her Dresden speech on Korean reunification that in 2013, “some 3,800 people who have yearned a lifetime just to be able to hold their sons’ and daughters’ hands — just to know whether they’re alive – passed away with their unfulfilled dreams.”

To end the state of war and help reunite families, international women peacemakers have come together to form Women De-Militarize the Zone, an organization dedicated to promoting the peaceful reunification of Korea through women’s leadership. From Northern Ireland to Liberia, we have seen how women’s participation in peace negotiations makes peace attainable, and that peace itself is inextricably linked with the advancement of women. We will work towards seeing the passage of a peace treaty to defuse dangerous tensions in Northeast Asia and de-militarizing our world. We must act now to give hope to Koreans that peace and reunification is tenable in their lifetimes and to the thousands of Korean elders that they will be able to embrace their loved ones across the DMZ before they pass away.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Energy union attacked for continued reliance on gas supplies.
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News, The Parliament Magazine.

One of team Juncker’s flagship policy strategies, plans for the implementation of an energy union were finally unveiled last week. In its official communication, the commission explains, “our vision is of an energy union where member states see that they depend on each other to deliver secure energy to their citizens, based on true solidarity and trust”.

“Our vision is of an integrated continent-wide energy system where energy flows freely across borders, based on competition and the best possible use of resources, and with effective regulation of energy markets at EU level where necessary”, the document adds.

More importantly, one of the central aims of the energy union is to promote more effective EU-wide climate change policy and “secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy”. This is especially significant ahead of the UN Paris climate summit that will take place next December.

Late last year, the commission set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, and increasing energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27 per cent.

Yet the energy efficiency target is not binding at national or EU level, and the renewables target is only binding at EU level. It is unclear how this will play into the new energy union plans, but the commission seems to have ignored any criticisms, referring to these targets in its communication as “ambitious”.

Moreover, “producing oil and gas from unconventional sources in Europe such as shale gas is an option, provided that issues of public acceptance and environmental impact are adequately addressed”.

The commission’s apparent commitment to “public acceptance” is interesting, as it was previously reported that during the course of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership negotiations, the EU planned to make provisions to import US gas and oil acquired through fracking.

“When the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”

There are also plans to “explore the full potential of liquefied natural gas, including as a back-up in crisis situations when insufficient gas is coming into Europe through the existing pipeline system”.

The commission also stresses, “to reach our goal, we have to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels”.

Additionally, the energy union is meant to serve as a political tool, with the Brussels executive hoping to diversify its gas and energy suppliers in order to reduce Russian president Vladimir Putin’s negotiating power in times of conflict.

According to the document, “when the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”. Unfortunately, team Juncker fails to specify what the “right” conditions are, nor what “reframing” the relationship would actually consist of.

The communication warns, “to ensure the diversification in gas supplies, work on the southern gas corridor must be intensified to enable central Asian countries to export their gas to Europe. In northern Europe, the establishment of liquid gas hubs with multiple suppliers is greatly enhancing supply security. This example should be followed in central and eastern Europe, and in the Mediterranean area, where a Mediterranean gas hub is in the making”.

This may seem like an ideal solution considering the situation in Ukraine seems unlikely to reach a peaceful conclusion any time soon. But the countries the commission plans to work with are hardly dream allies.

These include Azerbaijan, which human rights watch has condemned for its “poor record on freedom of expression” and “arrests and intimidation of opposition political activists” and Turkmenistan, which the organization called “one of the world’s most repressive countries”.

Unsurprisingly, last week’s announcement was met with a lukewarm response on the part of environmental organizations, with Juncker’s team accused of contradicting itself.

Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Tara Connolly said, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing with this plan. The commission says the EU should move away from fossil fuels but it also wants to chase after new gas supplies and doesn’t rule out coal”.

Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe added, “we keep hearing repetitions of gas, gas, gas. But at the same time Europe has promised to cut emissions by up to 95 per cent by 2050 – it is saying one thing and doing another”.

And Roland Joebstl, European environmental bureau policy officer on energy and climate change, commented, “tackling climate change and the issue of energy security means that the 2030 targets and related policies must be revised upwards instead of spending political capital on looking for more fossil fuel suppliers”.

But not everyone was as critical of the energy union proposals, with representatives from the climate action network saying, “the commission’s move today will kick off a wave of pledges from countries over the course of the year – all of which will add up to the first collective signal that the world is moving out of fossil fuels and embracing the renewable energy era”.

MEPs were equally divided over the announcements.

Brussels’ energy union strategy is due to be discussed at this week’s council meeting.
 www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/art…

About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine

———————————————————————————————

Challenges ahead for EU energy union implementation, warn MEPs
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News. The Parliament Magazine.

The European parliament has cautiously welcomed commission vice-president Maroš Šef?ovi?’s energy union plans.

MEPs were quick to react after the commission outlined plans for an energy union last week.

Martin Schulz, president of the parliament, was broadly supportive, saying, “the energy union is needed to reinforce the EU’s stance ahead of the December Paris climate conference”, adding that “current events highlight the urgency for the EU to increase energy security”.


Jerzy Buzek, chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, commented, “an internal energy market with an excellent level of interconnection and without isolated ‘energy islands’ will enable us to help each other, guaranteeing energy supply to all regions”.

The former parliament president noted that “stable, sustainable, affordable and competitive energy is a challenge which no EU member state is capable of meeting by itself”.

He also stressed that “developments in relations with Russia might have been an impulse for us to shift up a gear in our energy considerations, but altering the EU’s relations with Russia or any other party is not one of the energy union’s goals”.

Representatives from the S&D group also appeared quite happy with the commission’s energy union plans. The Socialists’ spokesperson on climate and environment, Matthias Groote, said, “the paper on the energy union represents a first step towards a sustainable, decarbonised economy in Europe”.

Dan Nica, the group’s spokesperson on energy, praised them as “a good balance between the geostrategic need to reduce our energy dependency on expensive imports and the fair demand from families and industries to reduce the price of energy”.


Meanwhile, the Liberals were especially vocal on the proposal’s foreign policy aspects. ALDE group president Guy Verhofstadt highlighted that “an ambitious energy union will not only create jobs, growth and tackle climate change, it will also hit Putin where it hurts most”.

He added, “Europe can no longer afford its addiction to imported fossil fuels from Russia and the Middle East. Our dependence on external energy resources has affected our ability to conduct an independent foreign policy. It is time for a European energy union with teeth”.

And the group’s environment, public health and food safety committee coordinator Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy warned, “the true test of the energy union will be overcoming the current fragmentation of energy policy into 28 different systems and reaping the full benefits of a common European approach”.

Morgen Helveg Petersen, a vice-chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, underlined that “investors will only put their money in the many projects of the energy union if the associated regulatory framework is put in place, environmental legislation is predictable and competition policy is sound. The biggest barrier is regulatory uncertainty – we need to fix that”.

Yet not everyone was impressed with the energy union plans. Marek Gróbarczyk, ECR group spokesperson on energy, called on council president Donald Tusk to “stick to the promises that he made – to build a real, coherent energy union including ‘gas solidarity’, rehabilitation of coal and substantial diversification”.

In his view, “these proposals are disappointing because I fear they offer a virtual energy union that is not adequate to meet our growing challenges”.

“If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence” – Claude Turmes

Over on the left, MEPs were equally cynical.

Greens/EFA energy spokesperson Claude Turmes criticised the commission’s proposals as “a missed opportunity for outlining a path to a real energy transition in Europe. The overarching focus is on finding new supply routes for gas and reviving nuclear power, rather than trying to wean us off our damaging dependence on unreliable energy exporters. If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence”.

Greens/EFA vice-chair Bas Eickhout pointed out that the proposed strategy “will not create the energy system we need to stop climate warming greenhouse gases and limit the increase in global temperatures to below two degrees, which is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change”.

GUE/NGL group member Josu Juaristi was also wary of the commission’s announcements, explaining that, “in some member states investment in renewables is almost disappearing. Very little account is taken of citizens or local government. What happens is that the big energy companies’ control over our citizens is strengthened.

“We need to avoid a situation where the EU just leaves its ideas for renewable energy on paper – as we see happening at the moment”, he concluded.

The energy union is due to be discussed at this week’s council summit.
 www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/art…

About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine.

—————————————————————————————–

Something else relevant to this topic - SustainabiliTank.info feels important to include here – is the upcoming acquisition of a Russian energy concern – LI Energy – headed by oligarch Mikhail Fridman – of the German RWE Dea company and all its global oil and gas production assets for a neat 5 billion Euro.

The Germans seem to think it is OK but the British are of a different opinion because RWE Dea owns a large North Sea production area which in case of further sanctions against Russia because of Mr. Putin’s involvement in the Ukraine, might cause a stoppage of production from those wells and leading to loss in employment and danger to the environment. Passing the ownership of Energy assets of Europe to Russian hands in light of the EU Energy plans of decreasing dependence on the Russians – might just be the wrong signal to the seriousness of an EU Energy Policy plan in general and the position German business takes on the larger European interests.

=======================

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Naomi Klein: ‘The Economic System We Have Created Also Created Global Warming.”

Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel, writes: “Can we still stop global warming?” – “Only if we radically change our capitalist system” – argues author Naomi Klein.

By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel

28 February 2015

PIEGEL: Ms. Klein, why aren’t people able to stop climate change?

Klein: Bad luck. Bad timing. Many unfortunate coincidences.

SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?

Klein: The worst possible moment. The connection between greenhouse gases and global warming has been a mainstream political issue for humanity since 1988. It was precisely the time that the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” the victory of Western capitalism. Canada and the US signed the first free-trade agreement, which became the prototype for the rest of the world.

SPIEGEL: So you’re saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?

Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.

SPIEGEL: You’re an activist, and you’ve blamed capitalism for all kinds of things over the years. Now you’re blaming it for climate change too?

Klein: That’s no reason for irony. The numbers tell the story. During the 1990s, emissions went up by 1 percent per year. Starting in 2000, they started to go up by an average of 3.4 percent. The American Dream was exported globally and consumer goods that we thought of as essential to meet our needs expanded rapidly. We started seeing ourselves exclusively as consumers. When shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?

Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we’re out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don’t act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to another question: Are you not misappropriating the issue of climate change for use in your critique of capitalism?

Klein: No. The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. I didn’t make this up. The system is broken, income inequality is too great and the lack of restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.

SPIEGEL: Your son Toma is two-and-a-half years old. What kind of world will he be living in when he graduates from high school in 2030?

Klein: That is what is being decided right now. I see signs that it could be a radically different world from the one we have today — and that change could either be quite positive or extremely negative. In any case, it’s already certain that it will at least in part be a worse world. We’re going to experience global warming and far more natural disasters, that much is certain. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. We also have time to change our economic system so that it does not become more brutal and merciless as it deals with climate change.

SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?

Klein: We have to make some decisions now about what values are important to us and how we really want to live. And of course it makes a difference if temperatures only rise by 2 degrees or if they rise by 4 or 5 degrees or more. It’s still possible for us humans to make the right decisions.

SPIEGEL: Twenty-six years have passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988. We have known at least since then that CO2 emissions from the burning of oil and coal is responsible for climate change. Yet little has been done to address the problem. Haven’t we already failed?

Klein: I view the situation differently given the enormous price we will have to pay. As long as we have the slightest chance of success or to minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.

SPIEGEL: Several years ago, the international community set a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Do you still consider that to be achievable?

Klein: Well, it’s still a physical possibility. We would have to immediately reduce global emissions by 6 percent a year. The wealthier countries would have to carry a greater burden, meaning the United States and Europe would have to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Immediately. It’s not impossible. It is just profoundly politically unrealistic under our current system.

SPIEGEL: You are saying our societies aren’t capable of doing so?

Klein: Yes. We need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.

SPIEGEL: Is a society focused on economic growth at all capable of fighting climate change successfully?

Klein: No. An economic model based on indiscriminate growth inevitably leads to greater consumption and to greater CO2 emissions. There can and must be growth in the future in many low carbon parts of the economy: in green technologies, in public transportation, in all the care-giving professions, in the arts and of course in education. Right now, the core of our gross domestic product is comprised of just consumption, imports and exports. We need to make cuts there. Anything else would be self-deception.

SPIEGEL: The International Monetary Fund makes the opposite claim. It says that economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive.

Klein: They’re not looking at the same numbers as I am. The first problem is that at all these climate conferences, everyone acts as if we will arrive at our goal through self-commitments and voluntary obligations. No one tells the oil companies that, in the end, they are really going to have to give up. The second problem is that these oil companies are going to fight like hell to protect what they don’t want to lose.

SPIEGEL: You seriously want to eliminate the free market in order to save the climate?

Klein: I am not talking about eliminating markets, but we need much more strategy, steering and planning and a very different balance. The system in which we live is overly obsessed with growth — it’s one that sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth that are clearly not good. It’s clear to me that my position is in direct conflict with neo-liberalism. Is it true that in Germany, although you have accelerated the shift to renewables, coal consumption is actually increasing?

SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.

Klein: To me that is an expression of this reluctance to decide on what is necessary. Germany is not going to meet its emissions targets in the coming years either.

SPIEGEL: Is the Obama presidency the worst thing that could have happened to the climate?

Klein: In a way. Not because Obama is worse than a Republican. He’s not. But because these eight years were the biggest wasted opportunity of our lives. The right factors came together in a truly historic convergence: awareness, urgency, the mood, his political majority, the failure of the Big Three US automakers and even the possibility of addressing the failed unregulated financial world and climate change at the same time. But when he came to office, he didn’t have the courage to do it. We will not win this battle unless we are willing to talk about why Obama viewed the fact that he had control over the banks and auto companies as more of a burden than as an opportunity. He was a prisoner of the system. He didn’t want to change it.

SPIEGEL: The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.

Klein: Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.

SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?

Klein: Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.

Klein: Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.

SPIEGEL: If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.

Klein: Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?

SPIEGEL: You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?

Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.

SPIEGEL: You don’t appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.

Klein: Because the system can’t think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example …

SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …

Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system’s self-preservation capacity isn’t that great.

SPIEGEL: A particularly unsettling chapter in your book is about Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group.

Klein: Yes. I wouldn’t have expected it.

SPIEGEL: Branson has sought to portray himself as a man who wants to save the climate. It all started after an encounter with Al Gore.

Klein: And in 2006, he pledged at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that he would invest $3 billion in research into green technologies. At the time, I thought it was truly a sensational contribution. I didn’t think, oh, you cynical bastard.

SPIEGEL: But Branson was really just staging it and only a fraction of that money was ever spent.

Klein: He may well have been sincere at the time, but yes, only a fraction was spent.

SPIEGEL: Since 2006, Branson has added 160 new airplanes to his numerous airlines and increased his emissions by 40 percent.

Klein: Yes.

SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?

Klein: That we need to question the symbolism and gestures made by Hollywood stars and the super rich. We cannot confuse them with a scientifically sound plan to reduce emissions.

SPIEGEL: In America and Australia, a lot of money is spent on efforts to deny climate change. Why?

Klein: It’s different from Europe. It’s an anger that is similar to that held by those who oppose abortion and gun control. It’s not only that they are protecting a way of life they don’t want to change. It’s that they understand that climate change challenges their core anti-government, free-market belief system. So they have to deny it to protect their very identity. That’s why there’s this intensity gap: Liberals want to take a little bit of action on climate protection. But at the same time, these liberals also have a number of other issues that are higher on their agenda. But we have to understand that the hardcore conservative climate change deniers will do everything in their power to prevent action.

SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?

Klein: With all of that, of course.

SPIEGEL: Does that explain why you are connecting all of these issues — the environment, equity, public health and labor issues — that are popular on the left? Is it out of purely strategic considerations?

Klein: The issues are connected, and we also need to connect them in the debate. There is only one way that you can win a battle against a small group of people who stand to lose a lot: You need to start a mass movement that includes all the people who have a lot to gain. The deniers can only be defeated if you are just as passionate as them, but also when you are superior in numbers. Because the truth is that they really are very few.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you believe that technology has the potential to save us?

Klein: There has been tremendous progress in the storage of renewable energies, for instance, and in solar efficiency. But climate change? I, in any case, don’t have enough faith to say, “We’ll come up with some invention at some point, so let’s just drop all other efforts.” That would be insane.


SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.

Klein: And I find their technology fetish naïve. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some really big failures where some of the smartest guys in the room screwed up on a massive scale, be it with the derivatives that triggered the financial crisis or the oil catastrophe off the coast of New Orleans. Mostly, we as people break things and we don’t know how to fix them afterwards. Right now, it’s our planet that we’re breaking.

SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that the climate crisis is a gender issue.

Klein: Why would you say that?

SPIEGEL: Bill Gates says we need to keep moving forward and come up with new inventions to get the problem, and ultimately our complicated Earth, under control. You on the other hand are saying: Stop, no, we have to adapt ourselves to this planet and become softer. The US oil companies are run by men. And you, as a critical woman, are described as hysterical. It’s not an absurd thought, is it?

Klein: No. The entire industrialization was about power or whether it would be man or nature that would dominate Earth. It is difficult for some men to admit that we don’t have everything under control; that we have amassed all this CO2 over the centuries and that Earth is now telling us: Well, you’re just a guest in my house.

SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?

Klein: That’s too cheesy. But you’re still right. The oil industry is a male-dominated world, a lot like high finance. It’s very macho. The American and Australian idea of “discovering” an endless country and that endless resources can be extracted is a narrative of domination, one that traditionally casts nature as a weak, prone woman. And the idea of being in a relationship of interdependence with the rest of the natural world was seen as weak. That’s why it is doubly difficult for alpha men to concede that they have been wrong.

SPIEGEL: There’s one issue in the book that you seem to steer clear of. Although you revile the companies, you never say that your readers, who are customers of these companies, are also culpable. You also remain silent about the price that individual readers will have to pay for climate protection.

Klein: Oh, I think that most people would be happy to pay for it. They know that climate protection requires reasonable behavior: less driving, less flying and less consumption. They would be happy to use renewable energies if they were offered them.

SPIEGEL: But the idea isn’t big enough, right?

Klein: (laughs) Exactly. The green movement spent decades educating people that they should compost their garbage, that they should recycle and that they should ride their bikes. But look at what has happened to the climate during these decades.

SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?

Klein: Not enough. I bike, I use transit, I try to give speeches by Skype, I share a hybrid car and I cut my flying to about one-tenth of what it was before I started this project. My sin is taking taxis, and since the book came out, I’ve been flying too much. But I also don’t think that only people who are perfectly green and live CO2-free should be allowed to talk about this issue. If that were the case, then nobody would be able to say anything at all.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, we thank you for this interview.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 27th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


EINLADUNG ZUM 2. HIETZINGER ENERGIEBERATUNGSTAG

Holen Sie sich Informationen fu?r die optimale Energienutzung!

Freitag, 13. Ma?rz 2015 von 15.30 bis 20.00 Uhr Großer Festsaal der Bezirksvorstehung Hietzing 1130 Wien, Hietzinger Kai 1-3

Anfragen und Anmeldungen unter 01/4000-13116 oder per E-Mail unter  post at bv13.wien.gv.at

Ero?ffnung durch Bezirksvorsteherin Mag. Silke KOBALD Einfu?hrung durch Landtagsabgeordneten
GR KommR Ing.Mag. Bernhard DWORAK

Kurzfu?hrung und Vorstellung der Firmen durch
Umwelt-Bezirksrat Prof. Arch. Dipl.-Ing. Edwin PISKERNIK

Vortrag Fa. KORKISCH, Hr. Gerhard Korkisch,
“Solarthermie – Warmwasser und Heizen mit der Sonne”, Vortrag Fa. O?KOFEN, Hr. Michael Figl, “Heizen mit Pellets”,

Vortrag Fa. RAYMANN Kraft der Sonn e, Hr. Dipl.-Ing. Rudolf Raymann, “Photovoltaik – Sonnenstrom ernten und speichern”,

Fragestunde und Publikumsdiskussionsrunde zu Erneuerbaren Energien unter der Leitung von BR Prof. Arch. Dipl.-Ing. Edwin Piskernik

Vortrag ARGE Erneuerbare Energien, Hr. Andreas Reiter, “Erneuerbare Energien in Wien – Chancen und Mo?glichkeiten”

Vortrag BAUPHYSIK SPERL, Fr. Dipl.-Ing. Alexandra Sperl, „Energieausweis – Fluch oder Segen?“
Gerhard KAINDL, EUROSOLAR Austria, “Plusenergiehaus – Bauen und Erleben “

?Parallel laufend Internet-Recherche u?ber Computer und Beamer: www.oekonews.at oder www.biotrieb.at oder www.wien.gv.at (zu Fo?rderungen) auf Zuruf!
Die anwesenden Experten beraten Sie gerne zwischen 15.30 und 20.00 Uhr!

###