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

Saturday Aug. 1′st 2015

EUOBSERVER Analysis

Google has own idea of what ‘right to be forgotten’ means

By Peter Teffer The EUObserver, Brussels.

Since a landmark ruling on the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ by the Court of Justice of the European Union, Google has received requests to remove over a million website links from its search results in Europe.

Of those 1,057,561 uniform resource locators (URLs), it deleted 370,112, or 41.3 percent, Google says.

The court had ruled in May 2014 that if an internet search into an EU citizen’s name yielded results which were “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”, that citizen may request the search engine to have those removed from the list of results.

For example, Google complied with a request from a Belgian whose conviction of a crime was quashed on appeal to remove an article about them. It also removed an article about a rape victim in Germany.

However, it did so only for the European versions of its search engine. That means the articles can still be found by those using google.com. This has come to the attention of the French data protection authority.

It sent Google a formal notice in June, saying “delisting must be carried out on all extensions of the search engine”.

On Thursday, the US company asked the French data watchdog to withdraw the notice. It interprets the court ruling as obliging Google only to apply the ‘right to be forgotten’ on its European versions of Google Search.

“While the ‘right to be forgotten’ may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally”, Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer wrote in a blog post.

However, in its ruling the EU court did not differentiate between the worldwide and national versions of the search engine.

Google, in its blogpost, also noted that the French order “is disproportionate and unnecessary, given that the overwhelming majority of French internet users—currently around 97%—access a European version of Google’s search engine like google.fr, rather than Google.com or any other version of Google”.

But this statement is misleading at best. Many people don’t use a national variant of Google instead of the global one, but in addition to it.

Google.fr is indeed the most visited web domain in France, according to internet traffic pollster Alexa. But Google.com is ranked third, between Facebook.com and Youtube.com.

According estimates, Facebook has about 26 million users, and Youtube around 22 million, in France.

While calculation methods may vary, this means that Google.com is used by, roughly, between 22 and 26 million French internet users – or along the lines of between 40 and 47 percent.

The picture is similar all over Europe, where the national version of Google is the most popular website, and the international version ranks as high as number two in the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, number three in Poland.

Google did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Free speech

Fleischer also argued that if the French data protection authority CNIL had its way, this would affect internet users in the rest of the world.

“If the CNIL’s proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place,” he wrote.

Google warned of a risk of “serious chilling effects on the web”, noting examples of content that is illegal in one country but which is legal in others.

“Thailand criminalises some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalises some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be “gay propaganda.””, he wrote.

But Fleischer is overstating the effect a national – or in the EU case regional – court order has on the wider development of the Internet.

In 2002, there were similar fears after a ruling in an Australian libel case against American company Dow Jones over the publication of an online article from its business magazine Barron’s. The highest Australian court decided that because the article was available in Australia, the subject could sue for defamation there.

Following the decision, the New York Times wrote in an editorial the case “could strike a devastating blow to free speech online”.

But the conclusion of authors Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu in their 2006 book “Who controls the Internet?, Illusions of a Borderless World”, that the predicted devastation has been held off, is still valid today.

Moreover, they criticised the US-centrism that is present among Internet freedom activists as much as in the rhetoric of American companies like Google.

Goldsmith and Wu wrote that “the First Amendment does not reflect universal values … and they are certainly not written into the Internet’s architecture”.

However, some of the most used websites worldwide are American, and they inherently carry some of those American values, which slightly differ from European values, where privacy is generally regarded as much more important.

Google said it disagreed with the French data protection authority “as a matter of principle”.
Principle or also profit?

But it could well be that part of the company’s motivation comes from the costs that would be involved with extending the right to be forgotten to its other domain names.

Technically, it is not impossible for Google to do it. But it may reduce the public company’s profit margin.

As Goldberg and Wu noted, “national Internet laws are no more burdensome than the scores of conflicting national laws that multinational firms typically face”. In return, companies gain access to an enormous market.

Having to adhere to different laws when providing services around the world, is part of the deal for running a global company. Even online.

###

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

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

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

The panel included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

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

UN rights official who ignored African child rape by French troops resigns; UN Watch reacts.

Published on July 22, 2015 in Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by unwatch.

Flavia_Pansieri was Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Geneva Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According to the UN she was not fired but resigned for Health Reasons – BUT her assistant the whistleblower was fired!


GENEVA, July 22, 2015 – The resignation of a top UN rights official who admitted she did nothing after receiving reports of child rape by French soldiers in Central African Republic — because she was “distracted” by budget cuts — underscores the dire need for greater accountability at the world body, said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental Geneva watchdog agency that measures the performance of the world body by the yardstick of its own charter.


“Not only did Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri fail to act,” said Neuer, “but she was part of a coterie of top UN officials who punished the only member of her office who sounded the alarm, veteran staffer Anders Kompass, by firing him.”

“The message heard loud and clear throughout the world body was that speaking out against the banality of bureaucratic complicity with evil will kill one’s career, that it’s better to stay silent.”


“Therefore, to the extent that Ms. Pansieri is in fact resigning over her office’s shameful inaction, indifference and cover-up concerning the rape of children by peacekeepers, then today marks a small step toward greater accountability for malfeasance by UN officials.”

“In this episode, as in many others throughout the UN, minimal levels of scrutiny and acceptance of responsibility are desperately required,” added Neuer.

###

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

Subject: The Greek Bailout

THANKS CLAUDIA FOR FORWARDING THIS TO IRITH – NOW EVERYBODY CAN HAVE AN EXAMPLE HOW THIS BAILOUT DOES MIRACLES.

It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted.

Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a EU100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.
The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the EU100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the EU100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt
to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer takes the EU100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.
The guy at the Farmers’ Co-op takes the EU100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna.

The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him “services” on credit.

Economics 101 . . .
It was Greek to me but
NOW I understand.

The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel
owner with the EU100 note.

The hotel proprietor then places the EU100 note back on the counter so the
rich traveller will not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the EU100
note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money,
and leaves town.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything.
However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future
with a lot more optimism.

And that is how the bailout package works!


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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

International Business – The New York Times

I.M.F. Demands Greece Debt Relief as Condition for Bailout

By JACK EWING JULY 14, 2015

FRANKFURT — The International Monetary Fund threatened to withdraw support for Greece’s bailout on Tuesday unless European leaders agree to substantial debt relief, an immediate challenge to the region’s plan to rescue the country.

The aggressive stance sets up a standoff with Germany and other eurozone creditors, which have been reluctant to provide additional debt relief. The I.M.F role is considered crucial for any bailout, not only to provide funding but also to supervise Greece’s compliance with the terms.

A new rescue program for Greece “would have to meet our criteria,” a senior I.M.F. official told reporters on Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “One of those criteria is debt sustainability.”

Debt relief has been a contentious issue in the negotiations over the Greek bailout.

Athens has pushed aggressively for creditors to write down the country’s debt, which now exceeds €300 billion. Without it, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has argued the debt will remain a heavy weight on Greece’s troubled economy.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Arctic Icy hotspots in focus at climate talks?

Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle
July 8, 2015

With western Europe sweltering in a record-breaking heat wave, climate scientists are meeting in Paris this week for what is regarded as the last major climate science conference before the key COP 21 in Paris at the end of this year.

“Our Common Future under Climate Change” wants to be “solutions-focused,” but starts off with a resumé of the state of science as a basis.

Related:
Permafrost ‘carbon bomb’ unlikely, but worries over northern thaw persist
Outlook for September Arctic sea ice tilts toward small reduction from last year


One of the topics on the wide agenda is, of course, the cryosphere, with scientists reporting on rapid changes in the Arctic ice and permafrost, and worrying developments in the Antarctic.

As conference after conference works to prepare a new World Climate Agreement, to take effect in 2020, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) is concerned that the INDCSs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, i.e. the climate action countries propose to take are not in line with keeping global warming to the internationally set target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists tell us this itself would already have major impacts on the world’s ice and snow.
Climate pledges way too low

Pam Pearson, the founder and director of ICCI, told journalists during a recent visit to Bonn her indication of INDCS so far was that they are ”somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2 degrees” Celsius.

Pearson and her colleagues are working hard to make the scientific evidence on climate changes in our ice and snow regions accessible and “must-reads” for the politicians and others who are preparing to negotiate the new agreement at the Paris talks at the end of the year, to replace the Kyoto protocol. She was here in Bonn at the last round of UN preparatory climate talks last month, holding a side event and briefing media and negotiators.

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Pearson was part of the original Kyoto Protocol negotiating team. She is a former U.S. diplomat with 20 years’ experience of working on global issues, including climate change. She says she resigned in 2006 in protest over changes to U.S. development policies, especially related to environmental and global issues programs. From 2007 to2009, she worked from Sweden with a variety of organizations and Arctic governments to bring attention to the potential benefit of reductions in short-lived climate forcers to the Arctic climate, culminating in Arctic Council ministerial-level action in the Tromsø Declaration of 2009.

Pearson founded ICCI immediately after COP 15 to bring greater attention and policy focus to the “rapid and markedly similar changes occurring to cryosphere regions throughout the globe” and their importance for the global climate system.

IPCC reports already out of date! At the briefing in Bonn a couple of weeks ago, she said:

“Certainly through AR5, (the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC) the science is available to feed into the negotiations. But I think what we see as a cryosphere organization, participating as civil society in the negotiations – and I think also, very importantly, what the IPCC scientists see — is a lack of understanding of the urgency of slowing down these processes and the fact that they are irreversible. This is not like air or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before. It cannot go back to the way it was before and I think that is the most important aspect that still has not made its way into the negotiations”.

Scientists taking part in the event organized by the ICCI in Bonn stressed that a lot of major developments relating especially to Antarctica and to permafrost in the northern hemisphere was not available in time for that IPCC report. This means the scientific basis of AR5 is already way out of date, and that it does not include very recent important occurrences.

Sea ice in decline

Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg heads a research group focusing on sea ice and rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic.

He told journalists in Bonn: “Over the last 10 years or so we’ve roughly seen a fifty percent loss of Arctic sea ice area, so this ice is currently retreating very, very rapidly. In the Antarctic, some people are talking about the increase of sea ice. Just to put things into perspective: there is a slight increase, but it’s nothing compared to the very rapid loss that we’ve seen in the Arctic.“

The slight increase in sea ice in the Antarctic is certainly not an indicator that could disprove climate warming, as some of a skeptical persuasion would like to have us believe.

“In the Antarctic, the changes in sea ice are locally very different. We have an increase in some areas and a decrease in other areas. This increase in one area of the southern ocean is largely driven by changes in the surface pressure field. So the winds are blowing stronger off shore in the Antarctic, pushing the ice out onto the ocean, and this is why we have more sea ice now than we used to have in the past. Our understanding currently says that these changes in the wind field are currently driven by anthropogenic changes of the climate system,“ said Notz.

He stresses that as far as the Arctic is concerned, the loss of sea ice is very clearly linked to the increase in CO2. The more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the less sea ice we have in the Arctic.
Changing the face of the planet

Notz stresses the speed with which humankind is currently changing the face of the earth:


“Currently in the Arctic, a complete landscape is disappearing. It’s a landscape that has been around for thousands of years, and it’s a landscape our generation is currently removing from the planet, possibly for a very long time. I think culturally, that’s a very big change we are seeing.”

At the same time, he says the decline in the Arctic sea ice could be seen as a very clear warning sign:

“Temperature evolution of the planet for the past 50 thousand years or so shows that for the past 10 thousand years or so, climate on the planet has been extremely stable. And the loss of sea ice in the Arctic might be an indication that we are ending this period of a very stable climate in the Arctic just now. This might be the very first, very clear sign of a very clear change in the climatic conditions, like nothing we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years since we’ve had our cultures as humans.”


Simulations indicate that Arctic summer sea ice might be gone by the middle of this century. But Notz stresses that we can still influence this:

“The future sea ice loss both in the Arctic and the Antarctic depends on future CO2 emissions. A rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice in this decade is possible but unlikely. Only a very rapid reduction of CO2 might allow for the survival of Arctic summer sea ice beyond this century.”
Antarctic ice not eternal

Whereas until very recently the Antarctic ice was regarded as safe from climate warming, research in the last few years has indicated that even in that area, some possibly irreversible processes are underway. This relates to land ice rather than sea ice.

Ricarda Winckelmann is a scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK). She told journalists and climate negotiators at the Bonn talks that Antarctica could be regarded as the “sea level giant.. The global sea level would rise by 5 meters (16.4 feet) if West Antarctica’s ice sheet melted completely, 50 meters (164 feet) for the East Antarctic ice sheet.

“Over the past years, a couple of regions in Antarctica have really caught our attention. There are four hotspots. They have all changed rapidly. There have been a number of dynamic changes in these regions, but they all have something in common, and that is that they bear the possibility of a dynamic instability. Some of them have actually crossed that threshold, some of them might cross it in the near future. But they all underlie the same mechanism. That is called the marine ice sheet instability. It’s based on the fact that the bottom topography has a certain shape, and it’s a purely mechanical, self-enforcing mechanism. So it’s sort of driving itself. If you have a retreat of a certain region that undergoes this mechanism, it means you cannot stop it. “

The hotspots she refers to are the Amundsen Basin in West Antarctica, comprising the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which are the fastest glaciers in Antarctica:

“It has been shown in a number of studies last year that it actually has tipped. Meaning it has crossed that threshold, and is now undergoing irreversible change. So all of these glaciers will drain into the ocean and we will lose a volume that is equivalent to about a meter (3.3 feet) of global sea level. The question is how fast this is going to happen.”

Next comes the Antarctic peninsula, where very recent research has indicated that warm water is reaching the ice shelves, leading to melting and dynamic thinning.

Even in East Antarctica, which was long considered virtually immune to climate change, Winckelmann and her colleagues have found signs that this same mechanism might be at work, for instance with Totten Glacier:

“There is a very recent publication from this year, showing that (…) this could possibly undergo the same instability mechanism. Totten Glacier currently has the largest thinning rate in East Antarctica. And it contains as much volume as the entire West Antarctic ice sheet put together. So it’s 3.5 meters’ (11.5 feet) worth of global sea level rise, if this region tips,” says the Potsdam expert.
Pulling the plug?

The other problematic area is the Wilkes Basin.

“We found that there is something called an ice plug, and if you pull it, you trigger this instability mechanism, and lose the entire drainage basin. What’s really striking is that this ice plug is comparably small, with a sea-level equivalent of less than 80 millimeters (3.15 inches). But if you lose that ice plug, you will get self-sustained sea level rise over a long period of time, of three to four meters,” or 9.8 feet to 13 feet.

This research is all so new that it was not included in the last IPCC assessment:

“We’ve known that this dynamic mechanism exists for a long time, it was first proposed in the 1970s. But the observation that something like this is actually happening right now is new,” Winckelmann stresses.

Clearly, this is key information when it comes to bringing home the urgent need for rapid climate action.

Pam Pearson stresses that these changes in themselves have a feedback effect, and have an impact on the climate:

“The cryosphere is changing a lot more quickly than other parts of the world. The main focus for Paris is that these regions are moving from showing climate change, being indicators of climate change, to beginning to drive climate change, and the risks of those dynamics beginning to overwhelm anthropogenic impacts on these particular areas is growing as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, as the temperature rises.”
Climate factor: permafrost

This applies in particular to the effect of thawing permafrost. Susan Natali from the Woods Hole Research Center is co-author of a landmark study published in Nature in April. She also joined the ICCI event in Bonn:

“Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The amount of carbon currently stored in permafrost is about twice as much as in the atmosphere. So our current estimate is 1,500 billion tons of carbon permanently frozen and locked away in permafrost. So you can imagine, as that permafrost thaws and even a portion of that gets released into the atmosphere, that this may lead to a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The study was conducted by an international permafrost network. “The goal is to put our current understanding of the processes in permafrost regions into global climate models. The current IPCC reports don’t include greenhouse gas emissions as a result of permafrost thaw,” says Natali.

Permafrost regions make up some 25 percent of the northern hemisphere land area. The scientists say between 30 percent and 70 percent of it could be lost by 2100, depending on the amount of temperature rise. There is still a lot of uncertainty over how much carbon could be released, but Winckelmann and her colleagues think thawing permafrost could release as much carbon into the atmosphere by 2100 as the US, the world’s second biggest emitter, is currently emitting.
The time for action is now

“The thing to keep in mind is that the action we take now in terms of our fossil fuel emissions is going to have a significant impact on how much permafrost is lost and in turn how much carbon is released from permafrost. There is some uncertainty, but we know permafrost carbon losses will be substantial, they will be irreversible on a human-relevant time frame, and these emissions of GHGs from permafrost need to be accounted for if we want to meet our global emissions targets,” says Winckelmann.

The challenge is to convince politicians today to act now, in the interests of the future. Pearson and her colleagues are working to have a synthesis of what scientists have found to date accessible to and understandable for the negotiators who will be at COP21 in Paris in December.

In terms of an outcome, she says first of all we need higher ambition now, in the pledges being made by different countries. The lower the temperature rise, the less the risk of further dynamic change processes being set off in the cryosphere. The other key factor is to make sure there is flexibility to up the targets on a regular basis, without being tied to a long negotiating process. The current agreement draft envisages five year reviews.

“There are a number of cryosphere scientists who actually expect these kinds of signals from cryosphere to multiply, and that there may be some dramatic developments just over the next three to five years, that may finally spur some action,” Pearson says.

Here’s hoping the UN negotiators will not wait for further catastrophic evidence before committing to an effective new climate treaty at the end of this year.

——————–
This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

After a marathon European summit, Greece and its creditors have reached an agreement that should allow them to negotiate a new bailout for the troubled country.

The Greek government agreed to enact deep economic reforms under close supervision by its creditors in return for up to 86 billion euros ($96 billion).
Here is the full text of the agreement, obtained by CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne:

Euro Summit Statement

Brussels, 12 July 2015

The Euro Summit stresses the crucial need to rebuild trust with the Greek authorities as a prerequisite for a possible future agreement on a new ESM programme. In this context, the ownership by the Greek authorities is key, and successful implementation should follow policy commitments.

A euro area Member State requesting financial assistance from the ESM is expected to address, wherever possible, a similar request to the IMF1.

This is a precondition for the Eurogroup to agree on a new ESM programme. Therefore Greece will request continued IMF support (monitoring and financing) from March 2016.

Given the need to rebuild trust with Greece, the Euro Summit welcomes the commitments of the Greek authorities to legislate without delay a first set of measures. These measures, taken in full prior agreement with the Institutions, will include:

by 15 July

• the streamlining of the VAT system and the broadening of the tax base to increase revenue;

• upfront measures to improve long-term sustainability of the pension system as part of a comprehensive pension reform programme;

• the safeguarding of the full legal independence of ELSTAT;

• full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, in particular by making the Fiscal Council operational before finalizing the MoU and introducing quasi-automatic spending cuts in case of deviations from ambitious primary surplus targets after seeking advice from the Fiscal Council and subject to prior approval of the Institutions;

by 22 July

• the adoption of the Code of Civil Procedure, which is a major overhaul of procedures and arrangements for the civil justice system and can significantly accelerate the judicial process and reduce costs;

• the transposition of the BRRD with support from the European Commission.

Immediately, and only subsequent to legal implementation of the first four above-mentioned measures as well as endorsement of all the commitments included in this document by the Greek Parliament, verified by the Institutions and the Eurogroup, may a decision to mandate the Institutions to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) be taken. This decision would be taken subject to national procedures having been completed and if the preconditions of Article 13 of the ESM Treaty are met on the basis of the assessment referred to in Article 13.1.

In order to form the basis for a successful conclusion of the MoU, the Greek offer of reform measures needs to be seriously strengthened to take into account the strongly deteriorated economic and fiscal position of the country during the last year. The Greek government needs to formally commit to strengthening their proposals in a number of areas identified by the Institutions, with a satisfactory clear timetable for legislation and implementation, including structural benchmarks, milestones and quantitative benchmarks, to have clarity on the direction of policies over the medium-run.

They notably need, in agreement with the Institutions, to:

• carry out ambitious pension reforms and specify policies to fully compensate for the fiscal impact of the Constitutional Court ruling on the 2012 pension reform and to implement the zero deficit clause or mutually agreeable alternative measures by October 2015;

• adopt more ambitious product market reforms with a clear timetable for implementation of all OECD toolkit I recommendations, including Sunday trade, sales periods, pharmacy ownership, milk and bakeries, except over-the-counter pharmaceutical products, which will be implemented in a next step, as well as for the opening of macro-critical closed professions (e.g. ferry transportation). On the follow-up of the OECD toolkit-II, manufacturing needs to be included in the prior action;

• on energy markets, proceed with the privatisation of the electricity transmission network operator (ADMIE), unless replacement measures can be found that have equivalent effect on competition, as agreed by the Institutions;

• on labour markets, undertake rigorous reviews and modernisation of collective bargaining, industrial action and, in line with the relevant EU directive and best practice, collective dismissals, along the timetable and the approach agreed with the Institutions. On the basis of these reviews, labour market policies should be aligned with international and European best practices, and should not involve a return to past policy settings which are not compatible with the goals of promoting sustainable and inclusive growth;

• adopt the necessary steps to strengthen the financial sector, including decisive action on non-performing loans and measures to strengthen governance of the HFSF and the banks, in particular by eliminating any possibility for political interference especially in appointment processes.

On top of that, the Greek authorities shall take the following actions:

• to develop a significantly scaled up privatisation programme with improved governance; valuable Greek assets will be transferred to an independent fund that will monetize the assets through privatisations and other means. The monetization of the assets will be one source to make the scheduled repayment of the new loan of ESM and generate over the life of the new loan a targeted total of EUR 50bn of which EUR 25bn will be used for the repayment of recapitalization of banks and other assets and 50 % of every remaining euro (i.e. 50% of EUR 25bn) will be used for decreasing the debt to GDP ratio and the remaining 50 % will be used for investments.

This fund would be established in Greece and be managed by the Greek authorities under the supervision of the relevant European Institutions. In agreement with Institutions and building on best international practices, a legislative framework should be adopted to ensure transparent procedures and adequate asset sale pricing, according to OECD principles and standards on the management of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs);

• in line with the Greek government ambitions, to modernise and significantly strengthen the Greek administration, and to put in place a programme, under the auspices of the European Commission, for capacity-building and de-politicizing the Greek administration. A first proposal should be provided by 20 July after discussions with the Institutions. The Greek government commits to reduce further the costs of the Greek administration, in line with a schedule agreed with the Institutions;

• to fully normalize working methods with the Institutions, including the necessary work on the ground in Athens, to improve programme implementation and monitoring. The government needs to consult and agree with the Institutions on all draft legislation in relevant areas with adequate time before submitting it for public consultation or to Parliament. The Euro Summit stresses again that implementation is key, and in that context welcomes the intention of the Greek authorities to request by 20 July support from the Institutions and Member States for technical assistance, and asks the European Commission to coordinate this support from Europe;

• With the exception of the humanitarian crisis bill, the Greek government will reexamine with a view to amending legislations that were introduced counter to the February 20 agreement by backtracking on previous programme commitments or identify clear compensatory equivalents for the vested rights that were subsequently created.

The above-listed commitments are minimum requirements to start the negotiations with the Greek authorities. However, the Euro Summit made it clear that the start of negotiations does not preclude any final possible agreement on a new ESM programme, which will have to be based on a decision on the whole package (including financing needs, debt sustainability and possible bridge financing).

The Euro Summit takes note of the possible programme financing needs of between EUR 82 and 86bn, as assessed by the Institutions. It invites the Institutions to explore possibilities to reduce the financing envelope, through an alternative fiscal path or higher privatisation proceeds. Restoring market access, which is an objective of any financial assistance programme, lowers the need to draw on the total financing envelope. The Euro Summit takes note of the urgent financing needs of Greece which underline the need for very swift progress in reaching a decision on a new MoU: these are estimated to amount to EUR 7bn by 20 July and an additional EUR 5bn by mid August.

The Euro Summit acknowledges the importance of ensuring that the Greek sovereign can clear its arrears to the IMF and to the Bank of Greece and honour its debt obligations in the coming weeks to create conditions which allow for an orderly conclusion of the negotiations. The risks of not concluding swiftly the negotiations remain fully with Greece. The Euro Summit invites the Eurogroup to discuss these issues as a matter of urgency.

Given the acute challenges of the Greek financial sector, the total envelope of a possible new ESM programme would have to include the establishment of a buffer of EUR 10 to 25bn for the banking sector in order to address potential bank recapitalisation needs and resolution costs, of which EUR 10bn would be made available immediately in a segregated account at the ESM.

The Euro Summit is aware that a rapid decision on a new programme is a condition to allow banks to reopen, thus avoiding an increase in the total financing envelope. The ECB/SSM will conduct a comprehensive assessment after the summer. The overall buffer will cater for possible capital shortfalls following the comprehensive assessment after the legal framework is applied.

There are serious concerns regarding the sustainability of Greek debt. This is due to the easing of policies during the last twelve months, which resulted in the recent deterioration in the domestic macroeconomic and financial environment. The Euro Summit recalls that the euro area Member States have, throughout the last few years, adopted a remarkable set of measures supporting Greece’s debt sustainability, which have smoothed Greece’s debt servicing path and reduced costs significantly.

Against this background, in the context of a possible future ESM programme, and in line with the spirit of the Eurogroup statement of November 2012, the Eurogroup stands ready to consider, if necessary, possible additional measures (possible longer grace and payment periods) aiming at ensuring that gross financing needs remain at a sustainable level. These measures will be conditional upon full implementation of the measures to be agreed in a possible new programme and will be considered after the first positive completion of a review.

The Euro Summit stresses that nominal haircuts on the debt cannot be undertaken.

The Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and in a timely manner.

Provided that all the necessary conditions contained in this document are fulfilled, the Eurogroup and ESM Board of Governors may, in accordance with Article 13.2 of the ESM Treaty, mandate the Institutions to negotiate a new ESM programme, if the preconditions of Article 13 of the ESM Treaty are met on the basis of the assessment referred to in Article 13.1.

To help support growth and job creation in Greece (in the next 3-5 years) the Commission will work closely with the Greek authorities to mobilise up to EUR 35bn (under various EU programmes) to fund investment and economic activity, including in SMEs. As an exceptional measure and given the unique situation of Greece the Commission will propose to increase the level of pre-financing by EUR 1bn to give an immediate boost to investment to be dealt with by the EU co-legislators. The Investment Plan for Europe will also provide funding opportunities for Greece.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Reported by Irith Jawetz from Vienna
July 12. 2015

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

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

The participants were:

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

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

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

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

—————————–

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) The UN Arms Embargo that includes conventional weapons;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


What is the economic potential of the manufacture of transport fuels from CO2?

from: Dimitriou, Ioanna –  dimitri1 at aston.ac.uk

July 12, 2015

to Energy

Dear all,

Our study, entitled “Carbon dioxide utilisation for production of transport fuels: process and economic analysis” has been recently published by the prestigious Energy and Environmental Science journal. The study aims to support policy makers and businesses in their decision-making by establishing whether the production of liquid transport fuels from CO2 using current technology is economically feasible and identifying the modifications required to improve the economic competitiveness of Carbon Dioxide Utilisation (CDU).

The article is open-access and available through the following link: pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlela…

Abstract:

Utilising CO2 as a feedstock for chemicals and fuels could help mitigate climate change and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. For this reason, there is an increasing world-wide interest in carbon capture and utilisation (CCU). As part of a broader project to identify key technical advances required for sustainable CCU, this work considers different process designs, each at a high level of technology readiness and suitable for large-scale conversion of CO2 into liquid hydrocarbon fuels, using biogas from sewage sludge as a source of CO2. The main objective of the paper is to estimate fuel production yields and costs of different CCU process configurations in order to establish whether the production of hydrocarbon fuels from commercially proven technologies is economically viable. Four process concepts are examined, developed and modelled using the process simulation software Aspen Plus? to determine raw materials, energy and utility requirements. Three design cases are based on typical biogas applications: (1) biogas upgrading using a monoethanolamine (MEA) unit to remove CO2, (2) combustion of raw biogas in a combined heat and power (CHP) plant and (3) combustion of upgraded biogas in a CHP plant which represents a combination of the first two options. The fourth case examines a post-combustion CO2 capture and utilisation system where the CO2 removal unit is placed right after the CHP plant to remove the excess air with the aim of improving the energy efficiency of the plant. All four concepts include conversion of CO2 to CO via a reverse water-gas-shift reaction process and subsequent conversion to diesel and gasoline via Fischer–Tropsch synthesis. The studied CCU options are compared in terms of liquid fuel yields, energy requirements, energy efficiencies, capital investment and production costs. The overall plant energy efficiency and production costs range from 12–17% and £15.8–29.6 per litre of liquid fuels, respectively. A sensitivity analysis is also carried out to examine the effect of different economic and technical parameters on the production costs of liquid fuels. The results indicate that the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels using the existing CCU technology is not economically feasible mainly because of the low CO2 separation and conversion efficiencies as well as the high energy requirements. Therefore, future research in this area should aim at developing novel CCU technologies which should primarily focus on optimising the CO2 conversion rate and minimising the energy consumption of the plant.

Kind regards,

Ioanna Dimitriou

——————————————————————————

Dr ??anna Dimitriou

Research Associate at Sustainable Energy Systems Engineering

University of Sheffield

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

Room C67a, Sir Robert Hadfield Building, Sheffield, S1 3JD

Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 7594

Email:  i.dimitriou at sheffield.ac.uk

4CU:  4cu.org.uk/

###

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

Kurt Bayer’s Commentary // Global Economic Policy
Blog URL: kurtbayer.wordpress.com

July 11, 2015 · —

Die Eurozone nach “Griechenland”
 kurtbayer.wordpress.com/2015/07/…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

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

Which Is the Real IMF? In “Crisis Response”

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Die Eurozone nach “Griechenland” July 11, 2015
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Institutional Set-up and Conflict Resolution for Socio-Ecological Transition June 25, 2015
Der Bericht der “5 Präsidenten” zur Vollendung der Wirtschafts- und Währungsunion June 23, 2015
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Uri Avnery

July 11, 2015

To be Greek

EVERYBODY HAS already voiced his (or her) opinion on the Greek crisis, whether he (or she) has an opinion or not. So I feel obliged to do the same.

The crisis is immensely complicated. However, it looks to me quite simple.

The Greeks spent more than they earned. The creditors, in their incredible impertinence, want their money back. The Greeks have no money, and anyhow, their pride does not allow them to pay.

So what to do? Every commentator, from Nobel prize-winning economists to my taxi driver in Tel Aviv, has a solution. Unfortunately, no one listens to them.

Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras go on fighting World War II. But the relations between the two nations played a role in my family long before that.

AS A boy, my father was a pupil in a German “humanist” high school. In these schools, pupils learned Latin and ancient Greek instead of English and French. So I heard Latin and Greek sayings before I went to school and learned Latin myself – for half a year before we fortunately left Germany for Palestine in 1933.

Educated Germans admired the Romans. The Romans were straight-minded people who made laws and obeyed them, almost like the Germans themselves.

Germans loved the ancient Greeks and despised them. As their most important poet, Wolfgang von Goethe, said: “Das Griechenvolk, es taugte nie recht viel” – the Greek people never amounted to very much.

The Greeks invented freedom, something the ancient Hebrews did not even dream of. The Greeks invented democracy. In Athens, everybody (except slaves, women, barbarians and other inferior folk) took part in public discussions and decision-making. This did not leave them much time to work.

That was the way my father looked at them, and this is the way decent Germans look at them now. Nice people to have around on vacation, but not serious people to do business with. Too lazy. Too life-loving.

I suspect that these ingrained attitudes influence the opinions of German leaders and voters now. They certainly influence the attitudes of Greek leaders and voters towards Germany. To hell with them and their obsession with law and order.

I HAVE stayed several times in Greece, and always liked the people.

My wife, Rachel, loved the island of Hydra and took me there. To find a ship to go there from Piraeus was quite an ordeal. That was of course before the internet. Every shipping agency had a timetable for its boats, but there did not exist a general timetable. That would have been too orderly, too German. (If Piraeus had been Haifa, there would have been an all-inclusive timetable in every shop window.)

I was invited to several international conferences in Athens. One was presided over by the wonderful Melina Mercouri, so intelligent and so beautiful, who served at the time as a cabinet minister. It concerned Mediterranean culture, and was mixed with a lot of good food and folk dances. I once helped to host Mikis Theodorakis in Tel Aviv.

So I have no prejudices against the Greeks. On the contrary. Before the last Greek elections I received an e-mail message from a person I did not know, asking me to sign an international statement of support for the Syriza party. After reading the material, I did. I sympathize with their heroic fight now.

I am reminded of the “Sailors’ Revolt” in Israel in the early 1950s. It was an uprising against the governing bureaucracy. I supported it with all my heart and was even arrested for a few hours. When it all ended in a glorious defeat, I met a famous leftist general and expected to be lauded. He said: “Only fools start a struggle they cannot win!”

It boils down to this: the Greeks owe a lot of money. A huge lot of money. It is now immaterial how this huge debt came about, and who is to blame. Europe (the very name is Greek) has no chance of getting the billions back. But they’ll be damned if they will pour more money into this bottomless pit. How can Greece survive without more money?

I don’t know. I strongly suspect that no one else does, either. Including the Nobel Prize laureates.

FOR ME, the most important aspect of the disaster is the future of the two great experiments: the European Union and the Euro currency.

When the European idea gained ground on the continent after the fratricidal World War II, there was a great debate about its future contours. Some proposed something like the United States of Europe, a federal union on the lines of the USA. Charles de Gaulle, a very influential voice at the time, objected strenuously and proposed l’Europe des Nations, a much more loose confederation.

Much the same debate took place in America before the final decision to create the United States, and again at the time of the civil war. In the end, the federalists won, and the confederate flags are being burned even now.

In Europe, de Gaulle’s idea won. There was no strong will to create a united European state. National governments were ready, after some years, to create a union of independent states, which grudgingly transferred some sovereign powers to the super-government in Brussels.

(Why Brussels? Because Belgium is a small country. Neither Germany nor France was ready to allow the union’s capital to be located in either of them. It reminds one of the Biblical King David, who moved his capital to Jerusalem, which belonged to no tribe, so as to avoid the jealousy between the powerful tribes of Judah and Ephraim.)

The Brussels bureaucracy seems to be heartily hated by all, but its power is inexorably growing. Modern reality favors larger and larger units. No future for small states.

This brings us to the Euro. The European idea led to the formation of a huge bloc, in which a common currency could flow freely. To a layman like me, it seemed like a wonderful idea. I don’t remember a single prominent economist warning against it.

Today it is easy to say that the Euro bloc was flawed from the beginning. Even I understand that you cannot have a single currency when each member state shapes its national budget according to its own whims and political interests.

That is the fundamental difference between a federation and a confederation. How would the USA operate if each of its 50 member states ran its own economy independently of the other 49?

As the economists teach us now, something like the Euro crisis cannot happen in the US. If the state of Alabama is in bad financial shape, all the other states step in automatically. The central bank (or Federal Reserve) simply shuffles money around. No problem.

The Greek crisis arises from the fact that the Euro is not based on such a federation. The Greek economic breakdown would have been stopped by the European central bank long before it had reached the present point. Money would have flowed from Brussels to Athens without anybody even noticing. Tsipras could have embraced Merkel in her chancellery and happily announced “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (I can’t really imagine Merkel going to Athens and proclaiming “Ich bin eine Griechin!”)

The first lesson of the crisis is that the creation of a currency union presupposes a readiness of all member states to give up their economic independence. A country that is not prepared to do so cannot join such a union. Each country can keep its precious football team, and even its sacred flag, but its national budget must be subject to the joint economic super-government.

Today that is quite clear. Unfortunately, it was not clear to the founders of the Euro bloc.

In this respect, a giant nation like China has a huge advantage. It is not even a federation, but in practice a unitary state, with a unitary currency.

Small states, like Israel, lack the economic security of belonging to a large union, but enjoy the advantage of being able to maneuver freely, and to fix our currency, the Shekel, according to our interests. If export prices are too high, you just devalue. As long as your credit rating is high enough, you can do what you want.

Fortunately, nobody invited us to join the Euro bloc. The temptation would have been too strong.

THIS BEING so, we can follow the Greek crisis with some equanimity.

But for those of us who believe that after achieving peace with the Palestinian people and the entire Arab world, Israel must become a part of some kind of a regional confederation, this is an instructive lesson.

I wrote about this even before the State of Israel was born, calling for a “Semitic Union”. It probably won’t happen while I am still around, but I am fairly sure that it will come about before the end of this century.

It cannot happen while the economic gap between Israel and the Arab countries is as immense as it is now – with per capita income 25 times higher in Israel than in Palestine and many Arab countries. But once the Arab world overcomes its present turmoil, they can hope for rapid progress, as is happening in Turkey and Muslim countries in East Asia.

Sometime in the not too remote future, in historical terms, the world will consist of large economic units striving to create a working economic world order, with a joint currency.

It may seem silly to think about this in the present situation. But it’s never too early to think.

Always remembering what Socrates said: “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Why is it that just about only two true liberal economists – Nobel Prize Winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugmann – seem to have it right on Greece vs. the German dominance of Europe?

With so much in the media – most of it telling about the writer – not the subject – we did not find it interesting to enter the fray. Looking up the subject in the SustainabiliTank.info memory – we found only one article to-date. It is: the January 26, 2015 article: “Can Bolivia Chart a Sustainable Path Away From Capitalism? Will Greece try to come up with a Pachamama and an ALBA Charge? In this Globalized economy can a State honestly drop out and isolate itself?”
 www.sustainabilitank.info/wp/wp-a…

I posted some excerpts of a very interesting and long article I picked up from Truthout – this with my thinking of the latest changes in Greece and wondering if rhetoric is true change – and how can Greece fare in a capitalist world with management outside its borders, but vested interests residing also in the country itself. Will there be a Greek Pachamama in Europe’s future? Will the Tsipris Greece be the Morales of an ALBA Charge of anti-capitalist rhetoric in Europe? The article I was looking at the time did not deal with Greece but with countries in Latin America that did shake off impositions from the globalization of capitalism.

The true problem in Europe seems to be that Ms. Angela Merkel just does not have the knowledge of European history. Having grown up under the Communism of East Germany, then liberated by the reunification process, she transferred the communist zeal into a capitalist zeal that basically says – all is well if you make money of it. What she does not understand is that the First World War caused the Second World War by imposing debt on the losing side Germany, but then after the Second World War, a Democratic Administration in the US, having learned from the previous experience, made sure that the rebirth of Europe, and Germany being a main ingredient of Europe, will be made possible by avoiding the sort of debt situation that the Treaty of Versailles allowed.

Besides finally annulling the German debt from WWI eventually in 1953 the European debtors of a reborn West Germany, including Greece, decided on writing off the major part of the new debt.

Sustainability is thus based on writing off debt, rather then in puritanical insistence on repayment. This is not just a matter of an uninformed Ms. Angela Merkel, but also of a large part of US politics – the present Republican party of all its streams.

We find today that my question of January 2015 is becoming very relevant in the European negotiations of July 2015, and the two above Professors seem to have reached some very similar conclusions. It just makes better sense for Greece to bail out from a system full of directives and regain their independence by printing their own money, and running their own country by themselves – and for themselves.

The problem with all those conservative-puritanical blind a-National capitalism adherents that were trained also in blind Business Administration – they have no feelings for social issues, and the understanding that good income for the lower classes creates the customers for the goods that are produced in the country that finds employment for its citizens. Making profits overseas and not paying taxes at home – just does not lead to sustainability of a Nation.

Providing fake “bail-outs” by providing money to pay for the interest on old loans, is only an illusion of help and leads only to further decline of the debtor Nation. The Greeks were totally right in voting OXI over NAI. Now Ms. Merkel wants to charm them back into submission – but only Debt forgiveness provides a path to a solution.

In absence of such an approach, the Greeks are advised by the above two professors to leave the EURO, create a NEW DRACHMA, devalue it to the point it hurts – but it promisses a better future for their children – something that is in their hands to achieve and not decided for them from outside by a non-Union that only rules but does not tend to their social needs.

We wish the best luck to Prime Minister Tsipras. He already sacrificed his finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and brought in a milder speaking Euclid Tsakalotos, but the EU has not yet reciprocated by retiring Ms. Merkel. What Germany needs is a leader not afraid, or mentally opposed, to tackle their Bank Managers who on their own will never make the needed decisions.
Such decisions will have to be made with SUSTAINABILITY and the social needs of all 29 States of the EU with an eventual push for the creation of a true Union even if it is deemed to base it in a Federal System – something like the USE – the Unitted States of Europe. If not – the EURO has no place in their deliberations, and Tsipras might as well declare his admiration for the Bolivian Morales.

The Official debt of Greece is to:

Germany 68.2 bn EURO
France 43.8 bn
Italy 38.4 bn
Spain 25.0 bn

IMF 21.4 bn
ECB 18.1 bn

US 11.3 bn

UK 10.8 bn

Belgium 7.5 bn
Austria 5.9 bn
Finland 3.7 bn

Of these EU countries, Italy and Spain, are themselves heavily indebted and might very soon be in need of bailouts.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 4th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


WikiLeaks Reveals NSA’s Top Brazilian Political Targets

By Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda, The Intercept

04 July 15 – reported by RSN

Top secret data from the National Security Agency, shared with The Intercept by WikiLeaks, reveals that the U.S. spy agency targeted the cellphones and other communications devices of more than a dozen top Brazilian political and financial officials, including the country’s president Dilma Rousseff, whose presidential plane’s telephone was on the list. President Rousseff just yesterday returned to Brazil after a trip to the U.S. that included a meeting with President Obama, a visit she had delayed for almost two years in anger over prior revelations of NSA spying on Brazil.

That Rousseff’s personal cell phone was successfully targeted by NSA spying was previously reported in 2013 by Fantastico, a program on the Brazilian television network Globo Rede. That revelation – along with others exposing NSA mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Brazilians, and the targeting of the country’s state-owned oil company Petrobras and its Ministry of Mines and Energy – caused a major rupture in relations between the two nations. But Rouseff is now suffering from severe domestic weakness as a result of various scandals and a weak economy, and apparently could no longer resist the perceived benefits of a high-profile state visit to Washington.

But these new revelations extend far beyond the prior ones and are likely to reinvigorate tensions. Beyond Rousseff, the new NSA target list includes some of Brazil’s most important political and financial figures, such as the Finance Ministry’s Executive Secretary Nelson Barbosa; Luiz Awazu Pereira da Silva, a top official with Brazil’s Central Bank; Luiz Eduardo Melin de Carvalho e Silva, former Chief of Staff to the Finance Minister; the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s chief of economics and finance, Luis Antônio Balduíno Carneiro; former Foreign Affairs Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado; and Antonio Palocci, who formerly served as both Dilma’s Chief of Staff and Finance Minister under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Most notable about the list, published simultaneously by WikiLeaks, is the predominance of officials responsible for Brazil’s financial and economic matters (last four digits of the listed telephone numbers are redacted; click to enlarge):

NSA list covering the high priority targets in Brazil. (photo: The Intercept)
 readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

Next to each name on the list, there are codes which indicate the purpose of the surveillance and the group of analysts within NSA responsible for it. The codes appear under under the column entitled “TOPI,” which stands for “Target Office of Primary Interest.”

Alongside most of the government officials’ phone numbers is the designator “S2C42,” a reference to an NSA unit that focuses on intelligence collected from Brazil’s political leadership. The same code was seen in the previously reported document revealing NSA’s targeting of Dilma’s cellphone:

But even more revealing on this new list is the designation next to several of the targeted officials responsible for financial and economic issues. Many of these individuals have a different code next to their phone number – S2C51 – which refers to NSA’s “international financial policy branch.” Brazilians are particularly sensitive to economic espionage by the U.S., both for historical reasons (as a hallmark of American imperialism and domination on the continent) and due to current economic concerns (for that reason, the story of NSA’s targeting of Petrobras was arguably the most consequential of all prior surveillance stories).

Several Brazilian officials expressed anger over the latest revelations. Gilberto Carvalho, former Chief of Staff to Lula and a top aide to Dilma, harshly denounced the spying in an interview with the Intercept. He described his reaction as “maximum indignation,” declaring it a “violation of Brazilian sovereignty” which the U.S. “does not have the right to do.” Carvalho added that the fact that Brazil “is trying to repair our relationship with the U.S. does not in any way diminish the gravity of these new revelations.”

For his part, the Central Bank’s Pereira da Silva said his reaction is to fully embrace the stinging denunciation of NSA’s electronic surveillance contained in Dilma’s September, 2013 United Nations speech, delivered while Obama waited in the hallway to speak. That blistering speech was widely regarded in Brazil as a high point of Dilma’s leadership on the world stage.

Speaking from the General Assembly podium, she declared that “tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations.” She condemned U.S. mass surveillance as a “grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties” and, in a rare invocation of her own personal history as a rebel against the country’s oppressive military dictatorship, said: “As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship, and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country. In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy.”

Other Brazilian targets on the newly released NSA list include the long-time diplomat and author André Amado, as well as a current official with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Fernando Meirelles de Azevedo Pimentel. It also includes the “cell” numbers for several of the key targets along with their office numbers. And it lists the Brazilian ambassadors in Paris, Berlin and Geneva, with the official “residence” of the latter targeted.

Questions submitted to NSA were not answered by the time of publication. Prior to the disclosure about its spying on Petrobras, the NSA insisted to the Washington Post that (emphasis in original) “the department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.” In response to the Petrobras report, however, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that “it is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters” but claimed that it does not “use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies.”

The list obtained by The Intercept from WikiLeaks is extracted from an NSA database. Dates that appear on it indicate that the eavesdropping on several of the officials began in early 2011, but others were first targeted in 2010 while Lula, Rousseff’s predecessor, was still President. There is no indication that the surveillance has stopped. Rather than a one-time document created on a single day, the list appears to be an aggregate list of targets continually compiled and updated by the NSA. Last week, WikiLeaks released similar documents showing surveillance of French and German political and financial officials, and that spying took place over many years.

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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?

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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)

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PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

 Michel.denelzen at pbl.nl

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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…

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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!

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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

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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.

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