links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic
SustainabiliTank

 
 
Follow us on Twitter


 
Slovakia:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 25th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Header

Freedom of The Media in a ‘News-for-Free’ Age.

Josh Cohen, Google News

Google News & The Race Down the Information Highway. In this week’s newsletter, we bring you an interview with two of our panellists Josh Cohen, Senior Business Product Manager at Google News and Susan Pointer, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations for Southern and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Google. Cohen will be featuring on our “Found News? The New Platforms for Delivering Information” panel.

Susan Pointer, Google

We asked him and Pointer about Google News’ and Google’s role in the media as well as its commitment to freedom of information.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Cohen, on the perceived clash between Google News and newspaper publishers:

It’s a misunderstanding of how Google News works. We absolutely do not see publishers as competitors to what we’re trying to do. To the contrary, it’s very much a symbiotic relationship. We help people discover the information that all these sites produce… where they have the opportunity to monetise it.

…We absolutely honour and respect copyright. We never show, whether it’s on news or a web search, anything more than a snippet, the first sentence or in many cases the headline – and a link to the source itself.

————————————————

Pointer, on Google’s role in censorship:

We believe that more access to information is better than less access to information… Access to information is a good thing. Freedom to express oneself and exchange ideas and content is a good thing.

That obviously doesn’t come without limits.

———————————————–

What do you think?

Is Google a help or a hindrance to newspapers? Is it aiding or stifling freedom of expression?  Read the rest of our feature here, and share your views through Twitter, Facebook and our comments page.

And don’t forget to join us in September at our World Congress in Vienna and Bratislava!

Haven’t registered yet?

It’s not too late. Register before 1 July and you’ll save money on our registration fee, and get the best hotel rates and a free, signed copy of our commemorative 60 World Press Freedom Heroes book. Check out the benefits with our latest offer here.

Ways to Register

Give us a call and we will take care of your registration for you!
Phone: + 431 512  90 11

Download the form, fill it in and send it back to us.
Fax: + 431-512 90 14    Email: cklint(at)freemedia.at

Or simply click here and register online!

Questions?

Contact us:
Tel: +43 1 512 90 11    Fax: + 43 1 512 90 14   E: ipi(at)freemedia.at

Web: www.ipiworldcongress.com & www.freemedia.at

Twitter: IPI_WoCo2010 & globalfreemediaFacebook

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 5th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Thursday, 04 March 2010

IPI to Hold 60th Anniversary World Congress in Vienna and Bratislava

Thinking the Unthinkable: Are We Losing the News?

The International Press Institute (IPI) will hold its annual World Congress in Vienna, Austria, and Bratislava, Slovakia, from 11-14 September 2010, the organisation today officially announced.

The 2010 World Congress will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of IPI, and the organisation will celebrate 60 years of defending press freedom in a series of events, culminating in the World Congress in the “twin cities” of Vienna and Bratislava. Under the overall theme, “Thinking the Unthinkable: Are We Losing the News? (Media Freedom in the New Media Landscape),” the three-day conference will focus attention on the state of the news media itself, providing new business models and solutions for the media, and the unique opportunity to meet and interact with major players from both traditional and new media outlets.

The Congress will also look at the new ways of delivering information and how new technologies are proving to be a powerful ally of freedom of opinion and expression.

“The new information platforms are having an enormous impact not only on mainstream journalism, but also on press freedom in countries where authoritarian regimes seek to curtail freedom of opinion and expression,” said IPI Director David Dadge.

At a special Gala Dinner and Ceremony, to be held at Vienna City Hall, IPI will honour “60 World Press Freedom Heroes” to commemorate the 60 years of its existence. IPI’s Press Freedom Heroes are individuals who have made a significant contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom, especially – but not only – if this involved acts of resistance or bravery under hardship conditions. “We will pay tribute to these brave men and women, who displayed the utmost courage in defending press freedom in their country or region,” said Dadge. “Many of them paid the ultimate price, murdered for what they wrote or said.” IPI intends to invite all surviving Heroes to the ceremony in Vienna.

For the first time, IPI will also hold – parallel to the Congress – a “New Media & High-Tech Innovations Exhibition”, showcasing the latest in new media technologies and information platforms.

The Congress programme features a roster of world-class speakers, including Alex Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; Jeff Howe, contributing editor at Wired Magazine and author of the best-selling book, “Crowdsourcing”; Jim VandeHei, co-founder and executive editor of the influential Politico website; Martin Figueiredo, publisher and editor-in-chief of i Daily in Portugal; Guy Black, executive director of the Telegraph Media Group in the United Kingdom; Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, editor-in-chief of Der Standard in Austria; Sarah Montague, presenter, BBC, London, and many more. The event is expected to draw over 400 participants and their guests from around the world.

Confirmed partners for the Congress are: Google; OMV; Samsung; Telekom Austria Group; City of Vienna; Twin City Liner; and Austrian Airlines, as official carrier.

IPI’s media partners for the Congress are: ORF; Der Standard & APA.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 18th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This weekend, as expected, the TV was plastered with the Russians in Georgia and the Beijing Olympics.

President Bush and Secretary Condaleezza Rice said that Russia will not get away with this like it happened in Hungary.

On CNN, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the man with the Kosovo and Bosnia experience, said this was not Kosovo. The Russians were ready to stage this action already two years ago. It happened now because there was a Russian provocation and there has been indeed a real ethnic cleansing going on in Ossetia and in Abkhazia that caused many thousands of refugees pouring continuously into Georgia. The US says the number is 150,000 displaced people.

Holbrooke looks back into history and thinks of Budapest of 19956, Prag of 1966, Afghanistan of 1968 – so this is the invasion of Georgia that was executed in similar methodology.

Dmitry Simes, President of the Washington DC Nixon Center, and Rose Gottemoeller, Director of Carnegie, Moscow, agree to the above and say that the fact that this happened again at the time of the Olympics, just shows the Putin self confidence and that Putin does not worry that this will harm Russia’s Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014. That area is in fact just across the border from were fighting was going on now.

Governor Bill Richardson stressed that this is not time for high US talk, simply, “we have no leverage on Russia,” so we have to engage them and not isolate them. He knows the area, problems, has been there – all as part of his UN Ambassadorship.

Georgia was incorporated into Russia in 1801 and stayed under Russian rule for 190 years. They re-emerged as an independent state only in 1991. The Ossentians always considered themselves different from the Georgians – and also not similar to the Russians. The same goes for Abkhazia and Azaria as per Rick Stengel, editor of Time Magazine, who was this Sunday’s coordinator of the GPS program that is usually brought out by Fareed Zakaria.

So, can one ostracize Russia from world business? Will this bring about a renewal of the Cold War?

He does not think that Russia has become a revisionist State and that it is fighting for a larger Russia. His idea is that the area is specially complicated – something like the Balkans, and that there were many reasons to what went on.

———
putin004.gif

***

putin005.gif

putin007.gif

putin011.gif

Cold Friends, Wrapped in Mink and Medals.

By BILL KELLER
Published in The New York Times August 16, 2008

Writing in The Financial Times last week, Chrystia Freeland recalled Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay “The End of History?,” which trumpeted the definitive triumph of liberal democracy. The great nightmare tyrannies of last century — the Evil Empire, Red China — had been left behind by those inseparable twins, freedom and prosperity. Civilization had chosen, and it chose us.

Related
Map
Russia Marches, Neighbors Check Their Cards (The New York Times, August 17, 2008)
Specter of Arrest Deters Demonstrators in China (The New York Tines, August 14, 2008)

Chrystia Freeland’s Article: The New Age of Authoritarianism  www.ft.com August 12, 2008)

So much for that thesis. Surveying the Russian military rout of neighboring Georgia and the spectacle of China’s Olympics, Ms. Freeland, editor of The Financial Times’s American edition and a journalist who started her career covering Russia and Ukraine, proclaimed that a new Age of Authoritarianism was upon us.

If it is not yet an age, it is at least a season: Springtime for autocrats, and not just the minor-league monsters of Zimbabwe and the like, but the giant regimes that seemed so surely bound for the ash heap in 1989.

The Chinese have made their Olympics an exultant display of athletic prowess and global prestige without having to temper their impulse to suppress and control. From the dazzling locksteps of that opening ceremony, to the kowtowing international V.I.P.’s, to the carefully policed absence of protest, this was an Olympics largely free of democratic mess.

Individualism has been confined between lane markers. The pre-Olympics promises that attention would be paid to international norms of behavior went unredeemed. The New York Times’s Andrew Jacobs followed one citizen who decided to take up the government’s Olympic offer of designated protest zones for aggrieved parties who had filed the proper paperwork. Zhang Wei applied for the requisite license and was promptly arrested for “disturbing social order.” Take that, International Olympic Committee.

The striking thing about Russia’s subjugation of uppity Georgia was not the ease or audacity but the swagger of it. This was not just about a couple of obscure border enclaves, nor even, really, about Georgia. This was existential payback.

It turns out that if 1989 was an end — the end of the Wall, the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire, if not in fact the end of history — it was also a beginning.

It gave birth to a bitter resentment in the humiliated soul of Russia, and no one nursed the grudge so fiercely as Vladimir V. Putin. He watched the empire he had spied for disbanded. He endured the belittling lectures of a rich and self-righteous West. He watched the United States charm away his neighbors, invade his allies in Iraq, and, in his view, play God with the political map of Europe.

Mr. Putin is, in this sense of grievance, a man of his people, as visitors to the New York Times Web site can see in the sampling of breast-beating commentary from Russian bloggers. It is safe to assume that Mr. Putin’s already stratospheric popularity at home has grown to Phelpsian proportions, not least among the long-suffering military.

In China, 1989 was the year that a spark of liberal aspiration flickered on Tiananmen Square, and was decisively extinguished. That was another beginning, or at least a renewal: of Chinese resolve. In May of that year, in the midst of the Tiananmen euphoria, Mikhail S. Gorbachev visited Beijing, and two visions of a new communism stared each other in the face.

The protesters on the Chinese pavilion held banners welcoming Mr. Gorbachev as a champion of the greater freedom they sought. Meanwhile, the visiting Russian delegation marveled at the abundance in Chinese stores, the bounty of a policy that chose economic liberalization without political dissent.

The Chinese and Russians scorned each other’s neo-Communist models, but in some ways they have evolved toward one another. Both countries now tolerate a measure of entrepreneurship and social license, as long as neither threatens the dominion of the state. Both countries have calculated that you can buy a measure of domestic stability if you combine a little opportunity with an appeal to national pride. (The Chinese “street” felt no more sympathy for restive Tibetans than the Russian blogosphere felt for Georgia.) And both have discovered that if you are rich the world is less likely to get in your way.

President Bush was mocked from both sides for his seeming impotence. Neoconservatives were appalled by photos of President Bush sharing a laugh with Mr. Putin in Beijing while Russian armor gathered at the Georgian border. For a president who has made the export of democracy his signature doctrine, that looked to the stand-tough crowd like a “Pet Goat” moment.

Others argued that this was a crisis Mr. Bush tacitly encouraged by talking up Georgia’s rambunctious president as a friend and NATO candidate. By midweek, possibly goaded by the wailing of neoconservatives and the aggressively anti-Putin rhetoric of Senator John McCain, Mr. Bush had abruptly amped up his opprobrium and dispatched an American airlift of humanitarian aid. And by the weekend there was a cold war chill in the air.

But Mr. Bush’s predicament is not just his. The question of how to deal with these reinvigorated autocracies bedevils the Europeans and will surely rank high among the legacy issues that confound Mr. Bush’s successor.

This time it is not — or not yet — the threat of nuclear apocalypse that limits the West’s options toward our emboldened Eastern rivals. The Chinese, in fact, are acting as if they have gotten past the saber-rattling stage of emerging-power status; they lavish diplomacy on Taiwan and Japan, and deploy the might of capital instead. The Russians may be in a more adolescent, table-pounding stage of development, but Mr. Putin, too, prefers to work the economic levers, bullying with petroleum.

The United States, meanwhile, is mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, estranged from much of the world, and bled by serial economic crises.

History, it seems, is back, and not so obviously on our side.

Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, covered the last years of the Soviet Union for the newspaper.

***

putin012.gif
——————

The New Age of Authoritarianism.
By Chrystia Freeland
Published: August 12 2008 in The Financial Times.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, democracy was on the march and we declared the End of History. Nearly two decades later, a neo-imperialist Russia is at war with Georgia, Communist China is proudly hosting the Olympics, and we find that, instead, we have entered the Age of Authoritarianism.

It is worth recalling how different we thought the future would be in the immediate, happy aftermath of the end of the cold war. Remember Francis Fukuyama’s ringing assertion: “The triumph of the west, of the western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to western liberalism.”

Even in the heady days of 1989, that declaration of universal – and possibly eternal – ideological victory seemed a little hubristic to Professor Fukuyama’s many critics. Yet his essay made such an impact because it captured the scale, and the enormous benefits, of the change sweeping through the world. Not only was the stifling Soviet – which was really the Russian – suzerainty over central and eastern Europe and central Asia coming to an end but, even more importantly, the very idea of a one-party state, ruthlessly presiding over a centrally planned economy, seemed to be discredited, if not forever, then surely for our lifetimes.

That collapse brought freedom and prosperity to millions of people who had lived under Soviet rule. Moreover, the implosion of Soviet communism inspired hundreds of millions of others around the world to embrace freer markets and demand more responsive governments. The great global economic boom of the past 20 years, which has brought more people out of poverty more quickly than at any other time in human history, would not have been possible had the Soviet way of ordering the world not been discredited first.

Yet today, in much of the world, the spread of freedom is being checked by an authoritarian revanche. That shift has been most obvious in the petro-states, where oil is casting its usual curse. From Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, the black-gold bonanza has given authoritarian regimes the currency to buy off or to repress their subjects. In Russia, oil has fuelled an economic boom that prime minister Vladimir Putin, and some of his foreign admirers, mistakenly attribute to his careful demolition of the chaotic democracy of the 1990s.

For Russians, that argument is strengthened by the fact that the rising economic power of the moment – China – is unashamedly sticking to its faith in one-party rule. The end of the cold war made it tempting to believe that as countries opened up their markets, and became richer in the process, they would inevitably open up their societies, too. George W. Bush, US president, reiterated that hopeful thesis on his Asia tour last week, insisting: “Young people who grow up with the freedom to trade goods will ultimately demand the freedom to trade ideas.”

But the Chinese mandarins and the Russian siloviki are taking a different view – and acting on it. As China scholar David Shambaugh recounts in his new book, China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation , the CCP studied the collapse of Soviet communism with great care. And rather than seeing it as proof of the inevitable, global triumph of western liberalism, the Chinese comrades treated the Russian example as a textbook case of what a ruling Communist party ought not to do.

In this version of history, sinologist Andrew Nathan tells me, 1989 is also a turning point, but not because that was when communism’s most notorious wall came down. Instead, the key event of that year was the bloody suppression of protesters in Tiananmen Square: “As a propaganda position they have put it out that we had a crackdown in 1989 and we saved the party and we saved the country,” he says. “We didn’t have a failure of will like the Russians. Without that, we wouldn’t have been a great, modern power.” That’s a point of view Mr Putin has embraced, too, describing the collapse of the Soviet Union as a tragedy and his own reconstruction of a neo-authoritarian state as the only way to restore Russian “greatness”.

The west has been remarkably sanguine about this resurgence of authoritarianism, and one reason is that, this time, the comrades have money. Even as the Kremlin repeatedly confiscates the assets not just of its own businesspeople but of foreign ones, too, investment bankers, and plain old investors, are flocking to a Moscow flush with petro-roubles. The same is true of the Gulf states. China, on a path to become the world’s largest economy, is the most attractive of all.

But the Age of Authoritarianism is bad news for all of us, not just the human rights campaigners that businesspeople and practitioners of realpolitik love to dismiss. Like all overly rigid objects, authoritarian regimes conceal a tremendous fragility in their apparent strength – and their leaders know it. It is this realisation that has driven Mr Putin’s systematic destruction of all forms of civil society – an eminently pragmatic measure, although it has mystified some outside observers, who wonder why so popular a leader needs to be so heavy-handed. China’s chiefs have figured this out, too, hence their anxiety about everything from the Muslim Uighurs to the internet to the former Soviet Union’s “colour revolutions”.

Of course, another way to ensure popular support for your authoritarian regime is by playing up nationalist sentiment. We are more tolerant of our home-grown bullies if we think we need them to fight our enemies abroad – as even democratic America has demonstrated in recent years. Mr Putin has understood this all along, launching a brutal attack on Chechnya even before his coronation as president in 2000.

Russia’s expert taunting of the hotheads in Georgia, followed by immediate and massive retaliation the moment Tbilisi took the bait, is the latest evidence that, for the Kremlin, neo-imperialism is an essential bulwark of neo-authoritarianism. Bringing down the walls really did make the world safer. Now that so many leaders are building them back up again, figuring out how to contain the 21st century’s monied authoritarians is our most pressing foreign policy dilemma.

 chrystia.freeland at ft.com

putin013-1.jpg

putin014.gif

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 15th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Georgia and the Ukraine made moves to get closer to the West – they applied to become members of NATO. Georgia also worked with Western Europe in order to help the EU with access to Azerbaijan and Central Asia petroleum and gas. Russia clearly did not regard this bypassing of its traditional authority over what it considers as its brood. At the UN they still are bunched as former CIS and other Eastern bloc friends. Georgia had to be punished and Ukraine had to be thought that its future may be of the same sort.

Now, did the Georgians think that the US will be more then a paper tiger? Lots of promise, social help – but militarily? Then – it really is not direct US interests, but rather EU interests. So, why would Russia not say to itself that showing the EU that the US is a paper tiger – nu – that is something that can also help loosen further the EU-US ties.

Will the US react by telling the Russians that their economy does not justify their being members of the G8? That would be a reasonable game-play, but who will pick this up in the US Presidential contests?

Aha! so here we go. Bush looked into Putin’s eyes and saw honesty. Perhaps he was right of sorts and Putin has now provided a pay-back. Russia’s moves strengthen McCain in his competition with Obama.

Was this move intended to help the Republican’s in the Presidential competition, and a sign of an oil-hungry party in charge, that barks but does not bite, rather then a new force that would make the world less dependent on oil – and oil these days is indeed the only thing going for the present version of a degraded Russia. The future is bleak for Russia in a world that will be dominated by China and India with the billion-plus people, and their booming internal economies that by now whistle at Russia as there is very little except brute nuclear power that this country has to offer them. Oil – yes – but the oil to China and India will arrive by ship rather then by pipe – and if it is a pipe – that pipe will come from Central Asia and not Russia.

Do we think that National borders are holly? No! But then South Ossetia belongs together with North Ossetia to one Free Ossetia State – and that is clearly not what Russia wants. They did not let go of Chechnia either. So the question here is whose ox is being gored – and the ox will suffer just the same under this or another regime. The South Ossetians of Georgia had at least a chance at a new and better life. By playing the Russian cards they blew it and that is why the civilized world is on Georgia’s side. If this sort of game digs deep into the Ukraine, our best advise to the Ukraine government is to take the Czech example of friendly divorce, and let go of those eastern territories that want some more Russian punishment. Ukraine will then soon find out that they are better thereof – and the Russian Ukrainians will just be set back and have to start their lives anew.

georgia001.gif

georgia003.gif

georgia004.gif

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 4th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We received an e-mail showing how little costs to buy gasoline (in German called Benzin) and diesel fuel if you live in a so called developing oil-exporting country or in the USA

Date: July 4, 2008

1 Liter = 0.264174 gal (US Liq)
US$ 1 = Euro 1.5682 as of 7/4/2008

The Austrian e-mail evokes the following list. We went then and looked up other countries and found that Austria is actually a bargain when compared to other developed economies.

The Austrian 1.32 Euro/liter is 2.16 times what the complaining American sissies are paying, but only 78.7% of what Norwegians are paying or 80.7% of what the Dutch are paying.

On the other hand Japan at 0.99 Euro/liter is another chaeap-shot so is Canada at 0.88 Euro/liter.

And you know already what we think? Those that pay more for their gasoline have also decreased their dependence on oil by efficiency methods and conservation – they also developed alternatives to oil and have started building the economy of the future. So, it is actually the US that is falling behind while it transfers its funds to the Gulf States hoping that the increased National Debt will devalue the US$ to the point that it remains valueless paper in their hand.The problem is that they do not sit on the money anymore. They actually buy assets with that money – among that buying spree they also buy up chunks of America. So what then? Will they agree to American taxation without representation – or the US will eventually find out that Bush made a Faustian Deal with the US oil companies and with his Arab friends.

Our advice to our Austrian readers is thus – DO NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT THE TAX ON FUEL – BUT MAKE SURE THE MONEY IS USED SO THAT EVENTUALLY YOU WILL HAVE TO BUY LESS OF IT.

The following is what we got in the mail – then look at what we added for the sake of analysis. if our other readers want to get the actual numbers in US dollars, please use the above conversion factors.

BENZINPREISE INTERNATIONAL

Benzin that is Gasoline – but much of the posting is about Diesel – this because in Europe the motor-fuel of choice is high quality Diesel.

Afghanistan Normalbenzin € 0,43

Algerien Diesel € 0,11

Aserbaidschan Diesel € 0,31

Ägypten Diesel € 0,14

Ãthiopien Super € 0,24

Bahamas Diesel € 0,25

Bolivien Super € 0,25

Brasilien Diesel € 0,54

China Normal € 0,45

Ecuador Normal € 0,24

Ghana Normal € 0,09 !!!!!!!

Grönland Super € 0,50

Guyana Normal € 0,67

Hong Kong Diesel € 0,84

Indien Diesel € 0,62

Indonesien Diesel € 0,32

Irak Super € 0,60

Kasachstan Diesel € 0,44

Katar Super € 0,15

Kuwait Super € 0,18

Kuba Normal € 0,62

Libyen Diesel € 0,08 !!!!!!!

Malaysia Super â‚ ¬ 0,55

Mexico Diesel € 0,41

Moldau Normal € 0,25

Oman Super plus € 0,20

Peru Diesel € 0,22

Philippinen Diesel € 0,69

Russland Super € 0,64

Saudi Arabien Diesel € 0,07 !!!!!!

Südafrika Diesel € 0,66

Swasiland Super € 0,10 !!!!!!

Syrien Diesel € 0,10 !!!!!

Trinidad Super € 0,33

Thailand Super € 0,65

Tunesien Diesel € 0,49

USA Diesel € 0,61

Venezuela Diesel € 0,07 !!!!!

Vereinigte Arabische Emirate Diesel € 0,18

Vietnam Diesel € 0,55

Weißrussland Diesel € 0,51

EU und dem Finanzminister sei dank ist der Österreicher bzw. Europäer dumm
genug sich abzocken zu lassen (Mineralölsteuer und Mehrwertsteuer auf
Benzin).

Bitte dieses E-Mail weiter zu schicken damit wenigstens einige Leute
erkennen wie stark Österreich geneppt wird.

Benzinpreise auf der eigenen Webseite

And looking at international prices for July 4, 2008 at – benzinpreis.de/international.phtm…

Land Normalbenzin in € Superbenzin in € SuperPlus in € Diesel in €

Österreich 1,26 1,29 * 1,28 1,32 *

UK 1,40 1,46 1,50 1,58

Finnland 1,47 1,50 1,50 1,36

Frankreich 1,39 1,34 * 1,44 1,37 *

Irland 1,26 1,26 1,15 1,43

Island 1,35 1,40 1,47 1,50

Israel – 1,05 – –

Italien 1,36 1,46 1,34 1,45

Japan 0,99 1,08 – 0,79

Kanada 0,88 0.87 0.82 0.90

Neuseeland 1,03 0,97 – 1,46

Niederlande 1,56 1,61 1,69 1,31 **

Norwegen 1,60 1,61 1,46 1,56

Schweden 1,37 1,39 1,36 1,47

Schweiz 1,24 1,21 * 1,23 1,37 *

Ungarn 1,29 1,26 1,20 1,31

unknown.png

unknown-1.png

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Budapest to house EU Techonology Institute – the Europe’s answer to MIT.
RENATA GOLDIROVA, June 19, 2008 EUobserver/Brusells.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Hungary’s capital, Budapest, has been selected to house the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the union’s flagship project to boost innovation, research and higher education.

On Wednesday (18 June), ministers in charge of competitiveness met in Brussels to put an end to the wrangling over the institute’s seat. Last month, they failed to agree due to a Polish veto on the matter.

Slovene education minister Mojca Kucler – who was responsible for steering the dossier through the European Council, which represents EU states – praised “efforts invested by member states for the common good of the EU” and described the institute as “a special milestone in the European research policy”.

The European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has also welcomed the ministerial deal, saying that the EIT will add to Europe’s capacity to bridge the innovation gap with its major competitors, the US and Japan.

In 2006, the 27-nation EU invested 1.85 percent of GDP into research and development, far from its 2010 goal of three percent. By contrast, the US spends around 2.7 percent.

According to EU education commissioner Jan Figel, the work of the institute would be organised through so-called knowledge and innovation communities – partnerships of universities, research organisations and companies.

The commission believes that such networks could help transform education and research and attract bright young brains from within and beyond Europe.

“It is not going to be one dot on the map,” Mr Figel told EUobserver, referring to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which inspired the EIT concept. “We offer co-operation so the EU becomes more innovative,” he said.

Budapest was the only applicant able to meet the two criteria set by ministers – that the winner should be a “new” member state and not already be home to an EU agency.

But regarding the latter point, EU diplomats feared Poland’s behaviour at the negotiation table.

The country, also bidding for seat, had previously threatened not to withdraw its own application, unless it won some level of participation. It wanted, for example, the new institute’s governing board to meet in the Polish city of Wroclaw, one diplomat told EUobserver.

Besides Budapest and Wroclaw, three other applicants were keen to host the administrative headquarters of the institute – Germany’s Jena, Spain’s Sant Cugat del Valles, while Slovak capital Bratislava joined forces with Vienna in launching a cross-border bid.

The Budapest-based institute will operate with a total budget of €2.37 billion from 2008-2013, with €308.7 million of that coming from EU coffers. The rest of the monies are supposed to come from public and private partners as well as from the new institute’s own activities.

————–

We hope that, for the sake of coherence, the Budapest headquarters of EIT will find ways to cooperate with the Bratislava-Vienna group also. The Wroclaw push seemed out of place and was rather a clear effort at grand-standing.
We realize that   the City of Wroclaw is involved in such issues as the organisation of a European Citizens’ Forum (over two days) entitled: Towards a Europe of solidarity, but we insist that an EIT will have to deal with such technical issues as the development of technologies in view of changes that will have to happen because of global warming/climate change.   The institute will need laboratories and not just talk-estivals. Poland seems to have misread this intent.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 28th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Final countdown for housing of European technology institute.

April 28, 2008, By Renata Goldirova from Brussels for the EUobserver:

The final countdown has begun on where to place the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), the EU’s flagship innovation and education project, as the official application deadline expired at the end of last week.

Four applicants are keen to host the administrative headquarters of the institute – Hungary’s capital, Budapest, the Polish city of Wroclaw, Spain’s Sant Cugat del Valles, while Slovak capital Bratislava has joined forces with Austria’s Vienna in launching a cross-border bid.

The EIT is meant to bridge the innovation gap between the 27-nation EU and its major rivals, the US and Japan.

In practice, it should result in a network of universities, research centres and companies in order to transform education and research while developing commercially successful results – as well as to attract the best young brains from within and beyond Europe.

Slovakia-tailored ‘twin city headquarters’
For the institute to be up and running from January next year, the 27-nation bloc must unanimously agree on its future seat. The Slovene EU presidency expects this could be done during a meeting of ministers in charge of competitiveness on 30 May.

But none of the EIT-hopefuls has so far gathered clear majority support around the table, shifting backstage talks into high gear.

Slovakia is setting its hopes on the idea of a twin-city headquarters, pairing Bratislava and Vienna – cities only 60 kilometres apart and well connected to other EU capitals.

By uniting the capital of a “dynamic new EU state and an experienced old one”, the project argues it is tailored to demonstrate a “Europe-without-borders way of thinking.”

According to the Slovak ministry of education, the twin-city approach is also an example of turning the institute’s very goal – stronger ties and better networking between the union’s top universities, research facilities and businesses – into practice.

While Bratislava is home to approximately 75,000 students, Vienna accommodates some 130,000 students. There are also some 25,000 researchers working in the two capitals.

Hungary, Poland and Spain
The biggest competition to the joint EIT bid comes from nearby Hungary, as its nominee, Budapest, also offers similar benefits concerning its geographic location.

Budapest is “a traditional educational, scientific and research centre … at the same time, one of the most important logistics and business centres in the Central-Eastern European region,” reads the official candidacy paper.

The country also underlines its network of several research institutions affiliated with universities and industry as well as the fact it has produced a total of 14 Nobel Prize winners over the years.

Poland has also voiced its interest in hosting the EIT headquarters and nominated the city of Wroclaw – a well-known academic centre, home to 27 higher education schools, two scientific institutions, over 150,000 students and 9,000 academic teachers.

However, some diplomats suggest that the country has a smaller chance of succeeding in its bid, as it already houses Frontex, an EU agency responsible for security of the bloc’s external borders.

Sant Cugat del Valles in the Spanish region of Catalonia closes the list of contestants. The town often described as a rich suburb of Catalonian capital Barcelona has several education centres, and is also active in the field of high technology.

It is estimated that the total cost of establishing the EIT could reach some €2.37 billion. Brussels is set to contribute €309 million of that figure for the 2008-2013 period, with the rest coming from national grants and industry investments.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 4th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From: Polish Cultural Institute [mailto:mail@polishculture-nyc.org]
Sent: Montag, 31. März 2008 18:25
To:  mail at polishculture-nyc.org
Subject: No. 312: “BORDERLANDERS: FINDING THEIR VOICE” FESTIVAL


The Polish Cultural Institute
presents
image001.jpg

The Borderland Foundation in Sejny, Poland,
and the work of its Borderland Center of Arts, Cultures, and Nations
– practising dialogue where the paths of cultures and people cross –

image002.jpg

Festival Program:
l
SEJNY CHRONICLES
American Premiere at La MaMa E.T.C.
April 10-20, 2008
10
CAFÉ EUROPA
An Evening of Arts and Letters on the Theme of “Borderlanders”
The Bowery Poetry Club
April 14, 2008
10
FILMS ABOUT THE BORDERLANDS
Millennium Film Workshop, Inc.
April 9-17, 2008
101
BETWEEN THE PAST AND THE FUTURE: MEMORY WORK IN THE BORDERLANDS
A Conversation with Krzysztof Czyzewski, president of the Borderland Foundation
The New School for Social Research
April 16, 2008

The Borderland Foundation’s work involves an artistic rediscovering of the area’s rich multicultural heritage, which had been all but destroyed by two world wars.                                                                                         – Ian Fisher, The New York Times

In just over a decade Mr. Czyzewski has won an international reputation, helping to set up about a dozen similar centres as far afield as Mostar in Bosnia, Uzhgorod in Ukraine and Arad in Romania.
– Stefan Wagstyl, The Financial Times

Before multitudes from the Eastern European borderlands emigrated to the Lower East Side around 1900, and before many others perished or were resettled in the hell of WWII, the little town of Sejny in northeast Poland was home to Lithuanians, Poles, Jews, Russian Old-believers, Belarusians, Roma, and Germans. As immigrants, they brought their borderland identity with them to the multicultural experiment of America.

For a long time people had been emigrating from Sejny. Today, this little town is exporting to diversified societies worldwide its pioneering methods of community work as a laboratory for multiculturalism. The aim of Borderlanders: Finding Their Voice is to present the ideas and practices of the Sejny-based Borderland Foundation in building bridges between cultures and ethnicities. Multiple identity, exile, immigration, and the arts’ creative role in multicultural community work are the themes that relate the festival’s events to each other.

All performance events are presented in the Lower East Side as a tribute to the multicultural heritage of a district that was home to many Eastern European immigrants in the early 20th century.

BORDERLANDERS: FINDING THEIR VOICE is presented by the Polish Cultural Institute in New York in association with La MaMa E.T.C., Bowery Poetry Club, Millennium Film Workshop, Inc., and the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies, New Schoolfor Social Research.

Special thanks to Professor Elzbieta Matynia of the New School for Social Research for her dedication and creative input.

image003.jpg   image004.jpg   image005.jpg   image006.jpg

Special thanks to LOT Polish Airlines CARGO image007.jpg

 www.PolishCulture-NYC.org

image008.jpg

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 2nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Vienna and Bratislava make joint bid for European tech institute.

02.04.2008, By Leigh Phillips for THe EUobserver.


Vienna and Bratislava have launched a cross-border joint bid to be host to the administrative headquarters of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), Europe’s planned network of universities modelled on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Austrian and Slovakian capitals submitted a joint application to the European Union on Tuesday (1 April) along with a letter signed by Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, according to the Wiener Zeitung.


The two countries argue that the EIT headquarters would benefit from an “economic boom zone” between the nearby cities where national boundaries begin to blur, the newspaper reports.

Rather than a single university or institute on one site, the European Commission favoured a pan-European network of universities, research institutes and other organisations made up of two levels: an administrative headquarters and a series of “knowledge and innovation communities” (KICs).

Official applications have also been submitted by Budapest, Wroclaw, the German cities of Aachen, Braunschweig, Karlsruhe and Nuremburg. France has also suggested that it be located near Paris, and is considering launching its own technology institute whether or not it is successful in its aim to be host to the EIT headquarters.

The Austrian chancellor said the joint submission was the two cities’ only chance of winning the bid for the EIT.

Mr Fico said that the possiblity of Vienna and Bratislava being home to the centre was “a fantastic opportunity for both countries.”

Should the two cities be chosen, two EIT departments would be situated in Vienna’s Tech-Gate and another two at locations in Bratislava.

The commission estimates the total cost of establishing the EIT – planned to be completed by 2013 – to be some €2.37 billion. Brussels is to contribute €309 million of that figure, with the rest coming from national grants and industry investments.

The selection of a location for the institute’s headquarters is expected to be made by 2009 at the latest, although Vienna and Bratislava are hoping for a decision by mid-2008.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

At the five years’ mark, we still think that deposing Saddam was right – staying in Iraq for oil was wrong. Investing that over half trillion dollars waisted (costs are already over $800 billion considering also the fight to depose Saddam) in creating an economy less dependent on oil would have been a much more reasoned choice. What now?

www.SustainabiliTank.info posts the following Washington Post article as a memorial to what we were saying since the start of our website. Sure – the surge has started to work, but to what end? Will the US be able to hold Iraq together as one state common to all its communities? Is it really important to have it as one integrated oil exporting source, at a time that we will anyway start to decrease our economy’s dependence on oil? After removing Saddam we could have left the Iraqi’s to sort out their future by themselves. Had they come up with a Saddam-alike, the US could have gone in a third time – less cost and nothing lost. If the US still insists in keeping Iraq in one piece – will this not push the country even more into future collusion with Iran? The Shiia are the majority and the only part of Iraq that really seeks independence are the Kurds. Why hold them back from achieving their goal? Even Turkey starts to understand that a secure Kurdistan, cards played right, could be to their advantage, and the EU, without pressure from the US, would also shine some light in that direction. The Sunni monarchs of the League of Arab States are yet years away from understanding the emerging new neighborhood in which extreme religious interpretation is bound to highjack also their own states – this because they had that false hope that the oil-money can help them deflect the ire of their own people to targets abroad – the likes of Israel, and even their own benefactor – the United States. This sounds sick – but sick it is. It was that oil-money, that to different degrees, paved the way and paid for the radicalization of the world’s two billion Muslims.

And what did all of this do to the value of the dollar and to US economy at large?

Surely, The Washington Post does not make our points, but then it presents a reasonable description of how sad America feels on this day – after five years of war and just one year after the start of a real attempt to manage that war.

The EU Observer looks into the damages the continuation of the war did to EU-US relations and to the split it created within the EU. What is the value loss to the US from above? How long will take the healing process?

 www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con…

 euobserver.com/9/25856/?rk=1

Five Years In Iraq
Iraqis and Americans Offer Perspectives on the War
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2008; A01

ph2008031803822.jpg
The planning ministry in Baghdad explodes after being hit during the second day of U.S. raids on the Iraqi capital March 20, 2003. (Faleh Kheiber – Reuters)

For a majority of Americans, today marks the fifth anniversary of the start of an Iraq war that was not worth fighting, one that has cost thousands of lives and more than half a trillion dollars. For the Bush administration, however, it is the first anniversary of an Iraq strategy that it believes has finally started to succeed.

It has been about a year since Army Gen. David H. Petraeus arrived to command U.S. forces in Iraq, Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker took over as the chief U.S. diplomat, and the military deployed 30,000 more troops to protect and rebuild neighborhoods.

Officials now running the U.S. effort express frustration that the gains wrought by their new political, security and economic policies — in particular, sharply reduced violence — are continually weighed against the first four years of the war, when Iraq unraveled in insurgency and sectarian strife.

“I came to Washington to describe what we’re doing,” Charles P. Ries, Crocker’s senior deputy in charge of reconstruction and the Iraqi economy, said during a visit last week. “At almost every meeting, somebody wants me to describe what we used to do. . . . I know why people raise these questions, but I don’t feel it’s something I can speak to. The times were different then.”

Today’s policy is fundamentally different from the impatient mind-set of 2003, in both lowered U.S. expectations and a less imperious approach to dealing with Iraqi authorities. “In those days,” Ries said, “we decided what [the Iraqis] needed, and we built it.” Today, he said, Iraqis are asked what they want, and then told that while the United States will help, they will have to pay for most of it themselves.

Yet as the administration requests additional war funding and calls for a pause in promised troop withdrawals, some question its right to a second chance. “Like a tourniquet,” the troop increase “has stopped the bleeding,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a former Army Ranger and senior member of the Armed Services Committee, reported last week after his 11th trip to Iraq. What he has not seen, Reed said, are the surgery and recovery that would begin to heal the wound that Iraq has become. And even U.S. officials acknowledge that the “surge” has not led to the political reconciliation the administration had hoped for.

Others see the past year’s successes as fragile and reversible, and less consequential than the pain that preceded them. “I think they have it righter than they ever have before,” Daniel P. Serwer, an Iraq expert with the U.S. Institute of Peace, said of the administration. “But the fact is that those four other years did exist, and they condition a lot of what can and cannot happen now. There’s a history here, there’s a lot of blood and guts on the floor — literally.”

The White House tends to dismiss such longer memories. While it recognizes the inclination to “relitigate the past” when a milestone such as the fifth anniversary is reached, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, “our focus is on the way ahead and making sure that the current situation and the future situation gets better.”

In addition to new directions on the ground in Iraq, officials point to a newly effective structure designed to avoid the kind of ad hoc decision-making that led to early bureaucratic gridlock and mistakes, such as decrees dissolving the Iraqi army and banning Baath Party members from government jobs. President Bush‘s appointment last spring of Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute as deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan has “helped streamline the process and made sure that there is . . . a senior-level official who can devote his full, undivided attention” to the subject, Johndroe said.

The once-bickering State Department and Pentagon are reporting new levels of cooperation. Diplomats who recall Donald H. Rumsfeld‘s insistence that the Defense Department control all aspects of early postwar policy note approvingly that it was his successor as defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, who recently called on Congress to increase the State Department’s budget.

Many U.S. officials participating in the new efforts talk about those years as though they belonged to another administration. “We weren’t here five years ago,” said one who, like several interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity about past policy on the grounds that it would undermine the present.

“In the early days, they had an idea of something, a plan, of how it was going to be,” the official said. “They would remove Saddam, and democracy would flower. They took this plan and rammed it down into the reality of Iraq, which nobody understood. What did they know about Iraq? Who were they listening to?” In the past year, the official said, “there has been a coming to grips across the board with Iraqi reality.”

One of the more troublesome realities is that Iraqi leaders have been slow to take advantage of the “breathing space” that the troop increase was supposed to create. The administration has often noted that Washington and Baghdad operate on different clocks, with the U.S. timetable for demonstrable progress running far faster than its Iraqi counterpart. In an interview last week, Petraeus, the U.S. military commander, acknowledged that “no one” in the U.S. and Iraqi governments “feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation” or in the provision of basic public services.

In congressional testimony scheduled for early next month, both Petraeus and Crocker are expected to make the case that enough forward movement has been made to justify continuing the current strategy, and to warn that an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops could jeopardize the gains of the past year.

But while a strong congressional appearance by the two men last September quieted talk of funding cutoffs and brought a brief rise in public attention, their upcoming testimony appears to have sparked little anticipation.

As the administration struggles to focus on Iraq’s future, it is competing with a presidential race locked in debate about how the war began and how to end it, a Democratic Congress determined to fight over every additional dollar, and a weary, distracted public.

Indeed, once a top public concern, Iraq has been muscled aside by the economy and the political campaigns. In a survey released last week by the Pew Research Center, more people knew the names of the head of the Federal Reserve Board and the president of Venezuela than knew the approximate number of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

Some public views about the situation in Iraq have eased over the past year. But others, including baseline judgments about the war itself, have hardly budged. In the latest Washington PostABC News poll, nearly two-thirds said the war was not worth waging. Less than half, 43 percent, think the United States is making significant progress, and majorities continue to judge the war’s benefits as not worth its costs.

Polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.

——————————-

And From the EUobserver – Iraq and the EU: Five Years On.

20.03.2008 – 09:21 CET | By Renata Goldirova from Brussels.
It has been five years since the United States began its military operation dubbed ‘Iraqi Freedom’. The war resulted in a deep rift in transatlantic relations, caused a split within the European Union and made Iraqis the single largest group seeking refuge in Europe.

On 20 March 2003, thousands of troops from four countries – the US (250,000), the United Kingdom (45,000), Australia (2,000) and Poland (194) – invaded Iraq. The invasion led to a quick defeat of the Iraqi regime, with its leader, Saddam Hussein, being captured in December 2003 and executed in December 2006.

The US and its allies cited allegations that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed and was actively developing weapons of mass destruction as the reason for the invasion. However, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction have been found in the country’s territory.

“Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting … The answer is clear to me: removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision,” US president George W. Bush said on Wednesday (19 March).

Some estimates suggest that up to one million Iraqis have been killed since 2003, while the financial burden amounts to some $9 billion for London and $845 billion for Washington. Former head of the IMF Joseph Stiglitz has recently estimated the cost to be as high as $3 trillion.

But Mr Bush referred to the costs of the war as “exaggerated estimates”. “No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure – but those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq,” he said.


EU split:

The issue of military intervention against Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian regime became the biggest ever test for the EU’s common foreign and security policy, as member states were not able to speak with one voice.

Several countries, led by France and Germany, were opposed to US-led invasion, while others took part.

At the time, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld exacerbated the divisions by saying: “Germany has been a problem and France has been a problem.”

“You’re thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don’t. I think that’s old Europe,” Mr Rumsfeld famously said.

Since 2003, a number of EU countries such as Italy, Lithuania, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and the Netherlands have withdrawn their soldiers from the violence-torn country, mainly due to public opinion.

At the same time, troops from Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Romania and the Czech Republic remain deployed in Iraq.



Pressure from Iraqi refugees:

According to fresh numbers released by the UN high commissioner for refugees earlier this week (18 March), asylum requests from Iraqis climbed to 38,286 in 2007, a sharp increase from the 19,375 claims in 2006.

A number of non-governmental organisations have therefore blamed the EU for not doing enough over a major refugee crisis, pointing to the fact that the treatment of Iraqis varies significantly from one member state to another.

For example, Sweden’s reception facilities have been under huge pressure, as the Scandinavian country is the only one within the 27-nation bloc granting refugee status or other protection to almost all Iraqi asylum seekers. A total of 9,065 Iraqis applied for refugee status there in 2006, compared to 2,330 the previous year.

The EU “cannot continue to ignore one of the world’s major displacement crises,” says a statement of a group of eight NGOs, including Amnesty International and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles.

In general, it is estimated that six million people inside Iraq need urgent humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict. Some 2.5 million are internally displaced, while an additional two million are hosted by neighbouring countries such as Syria and Jordan.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

NGOs warn against use of EU money for environmentally harmful projects.

25.02.2008 – 17:40 CET | By Elitsa Vucheva, for the EUobserver, February 25, 2008.

A number of environmentally controversial projects such as the construction of waste incinerators and motorways that traverse valuable natural areas in Central and Eastern Europe are receiving financing by the EU or have applied to do so, two NGOs have said, who are calling on the EU to stop “wasting” money and look into alternative possibilities.

NGOs Friends of the Earth Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network – an organisation monitoring financial institutions in central and eastern Europe – on Monday (25 February) presented a map detailing 50 projects that they say are “environmentally damaging, economically ineffective, present legal deficiencies and face opposition from the local populations”.

The projects are in member states Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as EU candidates Croatia and Macedonia and have a total cost of €22 billion.

While some have already been approved, the pressure groups are hoping to change the course of the projects still in the pipeline for the 2007-2013 period – the years covering the bloc’s current multi-annual budget.

“We don’t want to block the projects, but to prevent the problems before they have happened,” said Martin Konecny, coordinator for EU funds at Friends of the Earth Europe.

Mr Konecny underlined that the issue was not the EU funding for the countries as such – which is “necessary and welcome”, but the “significant amount of money spent on controversial projects”.

The NGOs say projects include those aimed at promoting the use of waste incinerators rather than recycling; the construction of motorways whose routes may damage “valuable natural areas or residential zones regardless of possible alternative routes” and water management projects that will harm rivers and other natural sites.

They plan to write letters to various EU commissioners, as well as to member states’ national representations in Brussels, to highlight the controversial projects and ask them to consider alternatives.

The most harmful projects outlined by the NGOs include a scheme for building nine waste incinerators in Poland, as well as two expressways – one in Poland and one in the Czech Republic.

For its part, the European Commission declined to comment on the substance of the projects and the criticism expressed by the NGOs.

“We can’t comment in details before seeing what they propose,” a commission spokesperson said.

“But we welcome their interest in what is happening. We want an open discussion, so that EU money can be spent in the best possible way. It is our duty to listen,” she added.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

EUobserver [Comment] On Kosovo – The 28th EU Member State.

{The article shows that A UN sponsored organization, like UNMIK, is not capable to take a task to its desired end – but if the major powers within the EU decide to move on in unison, even when some lesser UN stars disagree because of their own home grown reasons, if those major powers are consistent in their efforts – there is hope that something positive will be born.}

February 18, 2008, By Pim de Kuijer, a policy officer in the European Parliament and election observer for the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

Its anthem (for the moment) is Beethoven ´s Ninth Symphony, its currency the euro and it houses more EU civil servants than any other place outside Brussels. Welcome to Kosovo, 28th Member State of the European Union.

Or it would be, if it were not for the fact that not all EU members will recognise Sunday ´s declaration of independence, casting doubts on future membership prospects. In the meantime though, the EU will have a great say in running the new country. Perhaps more so than if it really were a new member state. The EU will deploy not one but three so-called pillars, the International Civilian Office (ICO), the EULEX mission with a focus on the rule of law and the European Commission’s Liaison Office. Confused locals are already clamouring for just one EU interlocutor in the field.

The ICO’s stated aim is to prepare for a transfer of authority from UNMIK, which currently administers Kosovo for the UN, towards the Kosovo authorities. But how long this will take is anyone’s guess. Milosevic’s termination of Kosovo’s administrative autonomy in the late eighties has left a whole generation of Kosovars without much experience of good governance, although Kosovars themselves will claim that the parallel structures set up clandestinely provided them with the best training possible.

Still, with tensions remaining high between Kosovar Albanians and Serbs living in Kosovo, it may be a long time yet before it is decided the ICO is no longer needed. This, coupled with the presence of up to 2000 European police officers, judges and legal experts in the form of the EULEX mission, might lead Kosovars to question what self-determination actually means for them in practice.

Already signs of discontent are visible. Overnight, walls in the new capital Pristina as well as in other cities have been covered by graffiti saying no to the EULEX mission. Traffic lights light up stickers saying Jo EUMIK (a play of words on UNMIK), vetëvendosje, or ‘no to EUMIK, forwards.’

The Vetëvendosje movement, made up mostly of young Kosovars, does not limit its activities to spray-painting walls.

A year ago, in February 2007, two men died during demonstrations against the international presence. One of the leaders of Vetëvendosje, Albin Kurti, is currently under arrest, accused of organising violent protests. Vetëvendosje claims thousands of followers but it is hard to tell how much support, if any, it enjoys among the general population. However, if prolonged EU presence will not be seen as helpful to resolving the people’s day-to-day problems, support for Vetëvendosje or similar movements is likely to grow.

This means the EU should put sufficient energy into winning over the local population. After a recent visit to what was then still the province of Kosovo and having spoken to many locals as well as internationals, I believe this can be done in three ways.
Getting economy right:
Firstly, the EU should look beyond its own interests in the region. The EULEX mission will focus on the rule of law, with the EU standing to lose if organised crime gets even more of a foothold in Kosovo. Already, women traffickers and drug traffickers use Kosovo as a stopover on the way to EU member states.

But the local population is more concerned about the economy. Roughly half the country is made up of young people under the age of 25, with unemployment at over 60%. Many young Kosovars think about leaving Kosovo for France, Germany or, most popular of all, the USA. The poor level of education and the lack of jobs are their two foremost reasons to think about leaving. The EU presence should work with local authorities on strengthening the economy and improving education.

Secondly, the EU should build up local capacity. Kosovars need to see that the way is being paved for them to take over the reins of their own country. Kosovars say one of the faults of the UNMIK administration was to use local staff almost exclusively as translators and drivers. The EULEX preparatory mission for one is planning to give local staff real career opportunities within the new mission. It is also foreseen that its international police officers, judges and legal experts will be coupled with local colleagues, thereby leaving behind knowledge and skills by the time the mission leaves.


Colonial power?

The third way is perhaps the most difficult one. The European expats who will be working in Kosovo over the next few years should try their utmost to get along with the local population, if they are not to be perceived as colonial powers. Differences in lifestyle, income, language skills and values will make this integration very difficult.

Kosovar society, despite the modern look of its inhabitants, shops and European television programmes, is still quite traditional. It is influenced by an old moral code known as the canons of Lekë Dukagjini, a mediaeval prince. Many Kosovar Albanians deny that this code is still in force, but police in the country side still have to take people into custody simply to protect them from blood feuds. The European expats will have to tread a careful line between respecting local culture and adressing its wrongs.

All in all, the EU’s presence in Kosovo is likely to be a learning experience for all involved. As the biggest foreign EU presence with more powers than any other EU mission, it will be a test of the limits of the European Common Foreign and Security Policy as well as the European Security and Defense Policy. With the Reform Treaty in its ratification process, Kosovo may also prove to be a future training ground for the new post-Lisbon foreign policy of the EU. If Kosovo turns out to be another Bosnia, where internationals have been running the show for the last 13 years, the EU will have years to hone its skills.

To end on a positive note, it should be said that the fact that the EU is on the ground in Kosovo is already a success in itself. Although the EU is divided on the issue of recognition of Kosovo, the new mission can go ahead thanks to the formula of constructive abstention, which gives member states such as Cyprus the possibility of not agreeing to send a mission to Kosovo, without obstructing it.

Finally, the EU is learning how to agree to disagree.

——————–

EU remains split on Kosovo.

February 18, 2008, EUobserver from Brussels | By Renata Goldirova.

The question of whether the 27-nation European Union will be able to come up with a unified reaction to the self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo currently rests with Spain, as the country is refusing to sign up to a common position drafted by the Slovenian EU presidency.

According to a draft document discussed by EU foreign ministers, “the council noted that member states can decide, in accordance with national practice and legal norms, to establish their relations with Kosovo as an independent state under international supervision.”

However, Spain has refused to agree to the text and has instead tabled its own proposal. Cyprus also strongly opposes the current text proposed by the Slovenian EU presidency.

“The council notes that member states will decide, in accordance with national practice and international law, on their relations with Kosovo,” reads the Madrid-sponsored paper.

Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said before the ministers’ meeting on Monday morning that his country will not recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence – made on Sunday (17 February) – as it is not in accordance with international law.

“The Spanish government has always shown respect for international law,” the minister added, pointing to the fact that following the US-led invasion of Iraq, the Socialist government withdrew troops from the country upon its election in 2004.

He concluded by saying that should Serbia’s territory be split, it should be via an agreement reached between Belgrade and Pristina or via a decision taken by the UN Security Council.

Spain, which is to hold parliamentary elections on 9 March, has its own worries about separatist movements in the Basque country and Catalonia.

The Spanish draft proposal also says: “Kosovo constitutes a sui generis case, which does not set any precedent. The council reiterates the EU’s commitment to the principle of territorial integrity of states as enshrined in the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act.”

But Madrid’s version is also facing opposition. The UK is said to prefer that the EU’s position has some reference to Kosovo’s status, rather than the more general statement that Spain has drawn up.

According to diplomats, if the EU bloc fails to agree on the common position, its is unlikely to see swift recognition by individual member states.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already been cited by AFP as saying Berlin would not decide on Monday whether to give formal recognition.

Germany will wait for the EU meeting “to put in place a platform that will allow each member to take a position on the declaration of independence.”

——————-

EU fudges Kosovo independence recognition.

February 18, 2008, EUobserver from Brussels| By Elitsa Vucheva.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (18 February) adopted a common text in reaction to Kosovo’s proclamation of independence, leaving it up to the bloc’s member states whether to recognise the newly proclaimed state.

“The council takes note that the resolution [of independence adopted by the Kosovo assembly on Sunday] commits Kosovo to the principles of democracy and equality of all its citizens, the protection of the Serb and other minorities, the protection of the cultural and religious heritage and international supervision,” read the final text.

“The council [the EU’s foreign ministers] notes that member states will decide, in accordance with national practice and international law, on their relations with Kosovo,” the document continues.

Due to the conflict in the late 1990s, and the extended period of international administration, ministers also felt that Kosovo constitutes a sui generis case that does not call into question the territorial integrity principles of the UN Charter.

Announcing the decision, Slovenian foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, expressed his “happiness that we managed to see a uniformed decision, a unified stance and that we protected the unity of the EU.”

“We managed to react accordingly to a historic event,” he added.

The refusal of some member states – such as Spain, Cyprus, Romania and Greece – to recognise Kosovo ensured that Monday’s debates were heated and lengthy.

But while those countries reiterated their positions during the meeting, they did not object to the council’s final text, which had itself been significantly revised from earlier versions.

An earlier draft – rejected by member states – read: “Member states can decide, in accordance with national practice and legal norms, to establish their relations with Kosovo as an independent state under international supervision.”

Spain had strongly opposed this text and put forward its own, very similar to the one eventually adopted by the ministers.

France, UK, Italy to recognise independence.
Some member states declared their intention to recognise Kosovo immediately after Monday’s meeting.
“We intend to recognise Kosovo,” French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner told journalists, the AP reports.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has written a letter informing Pristina that Paris would establish diplomatic ties with the new country, Mr Kouchner said.

The UK, Italy, Belgium and Germany also said they would recognise Kosovo.

“A majority of [EU] member states will recognise a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo founded on the rule of law. Germany, too, will make this step,” the country’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said.

At least half the bloc’s members will formalise their recognition of Kosovo by the end of the week, the UK’s David Miliband predicted.

“The British government has decided to recognise Kosovo,” he said.
On the other hand, Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos stated that his country would not “recognise the unilateral act proclaimed… by the assembly of Kosovo”.

Romania, Cyprus and Greece have also reaffirmed their earlier positions opposing independence at this stage.

For now, Slovakia will not recognise Kosovo either and will again assess the situation after the deployment of the EU’s civilian mission to Kosovo, which will be finalised in four months.

Another group of states, including Bulgaria and Denmark, have expressed their readiness to recognise Kosovo, provided that its government implements the principles to which it has committed itself – such as democracy and the respect of the rights of all minorities living on Kosovo’s soil.

Bulgarian foreign minister Ivailo Kalfin told journalists that if Kosovo sticks to its commitments, Sofia could decide to establish diplomatic relations with Pristina in the next few weeks.

—————-

The Wall Street Journal finds that the Serbs caused recent wars that left a quarter million dead, so their resort to mere rhetoric counts as a Balkan progress.

The new flag of Kosovo will be a blue banner featuring a golden map of Kosovo and six stars, one for each of its main ethnic groups.

Kosovo’s population of two million has 90% ethnic Albanians the most of whom are Muslims. There are also 130,000 ethnic Serbs, half of them in the area of the northern town of Mitrovitsa. Many historic relics of original Serb culture are in Kosovo. The EU has now an opportunity to lead the Kosovars in establishing a good relationship with their Serb minority and the other smaller minorities. This while we saw on TV that in their celebration, the Kosovars displayed many more red Albanian flags with the double headed eagle, then their new blue flag.

The greatness of the EU is that it makes it possible to have small Nations – from Estonia to Macedonia and this has enhanced stability and democracy. Obviously there is a limit to smallness, and the EU will not want to see Bosnia and Herzegovina split up. On the other hand, lets take the case of Spain. The Eu might indeed someday make it possible for Spain to agree to independent Basque and Catalan entities, even though that at present time it may yet be premature and this is the reason for Spain’s difficulty with the Seb/Kosovo split – this simply because Kosovo was only a province of Serbia, while Slovenia, for example, was a separate Republic in the Yugoslav Federation. On the other hand, Turkey was an immediate backer of a Kosovo State, this because they think of what this could do to have a separate future State for North Cyprus. Obviously, all of this has little to do with the merits of the Kosovo case, and the reasons for objection from Russia and China are thus again for self-serving reasons. Now think of the slowness of enthusiasm from the majority of Arab States who think of Sudan – the obvious next candidate for disintegration – an empire that was set up by others and now serves only its ruling Arab elite. And what about Iraq? Aha! This is a Turkish/Kurdish problem?

Our own favorite example is the split of Bangladesh from Pakistan – the example par excellance of a success story that managed to overcome the “Sovereignty” objections that were had by Pakistan.

 —————–

 

Rift Emerges at the U.N. Over Kosovo.

By BENNY AVNI
Staff Reporter of the New York Sun, Correspondent at the UN
February 19, 2008

UNITED NATIONS — Kosovo’s declaration of independence over the weekend is creating an international split, as the top Western powers, including America, rush to recognize the newborn country and others caution against regional and world turmoil that would result from other unilateral secessions.

The international debate came to a head yesterday at the U.N. Security Council, where the country that until Sunday was the uncontested sovereign over Kosovo, Serbia, called an emergency session. President Tadic of Serbia called on Secretary-General Ban to term Kosovo’s independence “null and void,” but the U.N. chief sidestepped the issue and declined to rule on the legality of Pristina’s weekend declaration. Similarly, the divided council came to no decision.

“Recognition of states is for the states, and not for the secretariat,” Mr. Ban told reporters after the council session yesterday. While America, Britain, and France were quick to recognize the new state, European countries such as Spain, which is concerned about the secession of its Basque region, were hesitant to do so. Despite the majority Muslim population in Kosovo, international groupings of Islamic and Arab states also refrained from taking decisions. Concerns over disintegration of current recognized states stopped many other countries from making statements.

Serbia, which considers Kosovo’s declaration illegal, recalled its ambassador in Washington for “consultations” yesterday, and the Serbian foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, told U.N. reporters that his country planned to act in a similar fashion with any country that recognizes Kosovo. However “Serbia will not resort to force” in Kosovo, relying instead on diplomatic means and persuasion, the president, Mr. Tadic, told the council.

“There are dozens of various Kosovos in this world and all of them lie in wait for Kosovo’s act of secession to become reality and be established as an acceptable norm,” Mr. Tadic said. “If a small, peace-loving, and democratic country in Europe, a member state of the United Nations, can be deprived of its own territory illegally and against its will, historic injustice will have occurred because a legitimate democracy has never before been punished in this way.”

Although the European Union said in its statement yesterday that the case of Kosovo, with its unique history, is “sui generis” in the affairs of states, Mr. Tadic’s argument was powerful for many countries, including some of those that emerged out of the former Soviet bloc. Russia and China, concerned about their own separatists in Chechnya and Taiwan and Tibet, led the charge at the council yesterday. As permanent council members, they can block U.N. membership for Kosovo.

“Safeguarding sovereignty and international integrity is one of the cardinal principles of contemporary international law,” the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, told the council. “The unilateral action by Kosovo may rekindle conflicts and turbulences in the region.”

It is “too early” to make a decision on recognition, the Egyptian ambassador to the United Nations, Maged Abdelaziz, told The New York Sun, adding that neither the Arab League nor the Organization of Islamic Conference has agreed on a common approach. “I don’t expect we will have a unified position,” he said.

Many people in the Arab and Muslim world identify with the fight of Muslims in Kosovo against the rule of a Christian country, and some Arab fighters joined the Balkan wars out of such solidarity. But countries like Morocco and Sudan are concerned about secession of ethnic groups within their own territories.

Turkey, which has sought to join the European Union for years, yesterday became one of the first countries to recognize Kosovo, even as some Turks fear a Kurdish rebellion in the southeastern part of their country. But Turkish nationals also have maintained an Ankara-backed autonomous region in the northeast of Cyprus, where locals have long called for secession.

“The United States has today formally recognized Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state,” Secretary of State Rice said in a statement yesterday. “We congratulate the people of Kosovo on this historic occasion.”

The European Union dispatched a “rule of law” mission of 1,900 troops to Kosovo in addition to the existing 5,000-troop NATO force there. But the European Union has not been able to unify its members behind a single position on recognition.

The Bush administration has been criticized by some Republicans for its Balkan policies. “Recognition of Kosovo’s independence without Serbia’s consent would set a precedent with far-reaching and unpredictable consequences for many other regions of the world,” a former secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger, and a former American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, wrote in the Washington Times late last year, urging the administration to “reconsider” its decision to urge independence.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 8th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Slovenia hopes for Kosovo solution by end of EU presidency.

By Elitsa Vucheva, for EUobserver, January 8, 2008
Slovenia is hoping the status of the Serbian breakaway province of Kosovo will be solved by the end of its EU presidency in June, and has indicated that an outcome other than independence for the province is unlikely.

Legally still a part of Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 and wants full independence from Belgrade.

“For Kosovo it’s clear what will happen, it’s more a question of how to do it”, Slovenian prime minister Janez Jansa told journalists on Monday (7 January) in Ljubljana.

It is “obvious” that a solution that satisfies both parties cannot be found and “it’s not possible” to force Serbs and Kosovars to live together after the way ethnic Albanians were treated during the regime of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, Mr Jansa was reported as saying by AFP.

Kosovo will probably not obtain “total independence” right away though, he added.

It is likely to remain internationally supervised and dependent on NATO troops to guarantee its internal security.

While avoiding giving a concrete timetable, the Slovene premier has expressed the hope that the future status of Kosovo would be solved by the end of June – when his country’s presidency of the 27-member bloc comes to an end, according to French daily Liberation.

Further developments on the thorny issue are unlikely before the Serbian presidential elections, which take place on 20 January and 3 February.

The EU is still struggling to come up with a common position on Kosovo, with Mr Jansa stating that “it won’t be easy” to reach a unified stance among the 27 EU members.

While a large majority of member states are ready to recognise an independent Kosovo, some – such as Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia – are still reluctant to do so fearing this may set a precedent for other separatist regions.

Besides Kosovo, Slovenia is hoping to make headway on another sensitive dossier during its presidency.

It will try to push ahead with Turkey’s EU accession talks, despite opposition from some member states, notably France.

“We will try and enter negotiations on some new chapters” with Turkey, Mr Jansa said, but did not give any guarantees that there would be progress.

The opening of legislative chapters to be negotiated on the way to EU membership has to be approved by all national capitals.

“Of course we need total support from other member states. We will work on that but we cannot guarantee the outcome”, the Slovene premier added, according to Reuters.

—————————–

Further, as you can find on our EUobserver.com link, there is a change in the position of France regarding EU enlargement – this could make easier for the Slovenes to achieve what they set out to do.

France open to further EU enlargement – 08.01.2008                                           —————————————————————————-
France has indicated that it is ready to support further enlargement of the
European Union, no longer believing that a greater number of member states
will prevent the effective working of the union.

 euobserver.com/9/25406/?rk=1

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 1st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Cyprus and Malta adopt the EURO.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS, January 1, 2008, by Elitsa Vucheva – The European currency is today (1 January) replacing the national currencies of the two Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus, bringing the number of EU states using the euro to 15 out of the 27 member states.

The euro will replace the Cypriot pound and the Maltese lira, which currently equal €1.71 and €2.33 respectively.

Cyprus and Malta joined the EU on 1 May 2004 together with eight other states and follow Slovenia which in January 2007 became the first “new” EU state to join the euro club.

They will add around 1.2 million people to the euro zone – some 800,000 Cypriots and around 400,000 Maltese – bringing the number of those EU citizens using the euro as a national currency to 320 million out of the EU’s total 495-million large population.

The new euro coins in circulation as of 1 January also add six new “national sides” to the already existing ones.

The Maltese €1 and €2 coins represent the eight-pointed Maltese cross, seen as a symbol of the Maltese identity; the 10-, 20- and 50-euro cent coins feature the Maltese coat of arms; while the Mnajdra temples, considered to be one of the world’s oldest free-standing temple groupings, are seen on the 1-, 2- and 5-cent coins.

The Cypriot €1 and €2 coins feature the idol of Pomos, seen as representing the country’s contribution to civilisation since prehistory; the 10-, 20- and 50-euro cent coins represent the ancient Kyrenia ship symbolising the island’s historical importance from a trading point of view; and the 1-, 2- and 5-cent coins depict a species of wild sheep representing the island’s wildlife.

Cyprus and Malta got the green light to introduce the euro in May 2007, after fulfilling the necessary criteria, including a government deficit lower than three percent of GDP, a government debt not higher than 60 percent of GDP, as well as price and exchange rate stability.

On both islands, thousands of euro converters have been distributed to households to facilitate the transition to the new currency.

However, both Cypriots and Maltese citizens have indicated they fear the euro entry may be followed be a possible price rise – as it happened in Slovenia in 2007.

Strangely, Britain also introducing the euro because of its bases in Cyprus! As a side-effect of Cyprus’ adoption of the euro, the European currency will also be used in British military bases on the island.

Britain kept its sovereign military bases under an agreement signed in 1960 which released Cyprus from colonial rule.

The bases include Dhekelia, Episkopi and RAF Akrotiri, and some 10,000 British service personnel and their dependents are currently stationed on the island, according to French news agency AFP.

“It’s good news for Cyprus so we have to mirror the republic’s harmonisation with the EU as far as possible, otherwise it would make life unbelievably impossible”, British forces Cyprus spokesman Captain Nick Ulvert told the press agency.

The euro could also bring the economies of the divided island closer together, as the northern Turkish part of Cyprus may adopt the currency unilaterally, according to Reuters.

Northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey internationally, is currently using the Turkish lira, but would have no objection to introducing the euro, the agency reports.



Slovakia is expected to be the next member state to adopt the euro in 2009, while the two newest EU states, Bulgaria and Romania, hope to be able to follow suit by 2010-2011 and 2014 respectively.

Of the remaining 12 countries currently not in the euro zone, only the UK and Denmark have chosen not to adopt the European currency for reasons of economic sovereignty – but they have the option to join in the future.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 5th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


“The EU is the only ‘geopolitical innovation’ based on the respect for cultural diversity in the world, and, as such, is an attractive model to share,” the Slovak commissioner Jan Figel said ahead of the official presentation of the “European Year of Intercultural Dialogue” on 4 December.

Business is ‘not enough’ to keep Europeans together.

04.12.2007 By Teresa Küchler for the EUobserver.
The EU’s commissioner for culture, Jan Figel, has embarked on a mission to promote dialogue between different cultures both inside and beyond the European Union.

In an interview with Euobserver, he explains why the EU is in a good position to talk about cultural values, despite past and present clashes between different cultures on its own soil.

With a budget of €10 million, a series of community programmes involving culture, education, youth, sport and citizenship will be initiated throughout 2008. The aim is to create closer links between European peoples themselves and between their respective cultures.

“Building the EU, they had to start with simple materials and realities: coal and steel, then the single market… But the European Union today is a more mature community, we all agree that market or business is not enough to keep people together,” the commissioner said.

“Europe should be a community of people, of values,” he continued, praising as an asset the somewhat contradictory notion of many cultures being a single entity and yet separate.

“We are living in one European home with a mosaic of pieces. The similarities are best seen from a distance, from other parts of the world,” he explained.     Speaking about his own experience, Mr Figel said that before the EU’s enlargement eastwards in 2004, lack of knowledge and trust between the old East and West prevailed in Europe.

“The old West did not look to the East as much as the East looked to the West. When my daughter went on a study trip to France some years ago, she was asked if we had running water in our homes, if she had ever seen a water tap,” he said.

He added that the debacle over the “Polish plumber”- Western countries fearing that Eastern Europeans would flood their countries to take their jobs and dump wages – seemed to be more based on “fear of the other”, than on actual economic considerations.

“Chopin is not a threat”, Mr Figel said jokingly, referring to the Polish 19th century composer.

“Enlargement was part of the solution, not the problem. Enlargement made the Union more European”, the commissioner continued, although admitting that there is still distrust between groups in the EU of today, shown in the discrimination against Roma in many parts of the bloc, or in the rise of extremist, xenophobic politics.

Religious dialogue:   The commission’s initiative to place the rather abstract notion of culture at the heart of European politics follows some tumultuous years of clashes between different ethnic and religious groups both in Europe and between Europe and the rest of the world.

“After enlargement, and in times of globalisation, in times of growing migration, so-called ‘multi-culti’ realities are very visible,” Mr Figel said, using a popular German expression for multi-ethnic communities.

“And in many cases we have seen difficult, problematic or even conflicting expressions of this,” he continued, referring to the uproar in the Islamic world in 2005 caused by a Danish newspaper’s decision to publish of drawings of the prophet Mohammed.

Several European officials have since called for a “completely new dialogue” between the EU and the Muslim world.

Others argue that dialogue is being too lenient towards those who do not respect the freedom of expression.

“Dialogue is not a sign of weakness, but of maturity”, Mr Figel said by way of reply.

Taking an example, he said that the aim of such a dialogue would not be to play “the good guys” while pointing the finger at Muslims.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 27th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

EU-US summit to see trade move but no climate deal – writes Renata Goldirova from Brussels.The EUobserver,   April 26, 2007. This Ahead of the EU/US Summit in Washington DC scheduled for Monday, April 30, 2007.

www.SustainabiliTank.info finds above quite bothersome because it explains that EU leadership will put success in business relations ahead of its professed and justified worries about Global Warming. Also, we know quite well Mr. Boyden Gray from his pro-oil stand of 25 -30 years ago. Also then he was an important Washington lawyer who made frequent appearances on Capitol Hill working in essence counter-purpose to Congressional efforts at alternate fuels. He was a main advocate when it came to closing the door to Brazilian ethanol imports to the US. As Ambassador to the EU now, we can see him as a point man in the effort to derail EU-US negotiations on CO2 emissions. The question is now if ahead of the G8+5 meeting of June, the German Presidency will be ready to put Doha and other trade interests ahead of the professed main stress   on global warming. Will it all turn around the International Chamber of Commerce?   Will they just accept the US hiding behind China, India and others, as it became clear at the April 17, 2007, UK led, Slovakia seconded, Open Debate at the UN Security Council? }

The EUobserver article says:
“Three days before the EU and the US meet to inject new energy into transatlantic relations, it looks likely that the two continents will fail to agree on climate change but transatlantic economic ties will be strengthened.”

“The [EU-US] summit will not be a defining moment,” the US ambassador to the EU, C. Boyden Gray, told journalists ahead of the meeting due on 30 April, when asked about the thorny issue of the fight against climate change.

Mr Gray admitted that Washington would not commit itself to any cap on greenhouse gas emissions, while stressing the US’ ultimate condition remains to get emerging economies such as China and India – which he said would be the biggest polluters soon – on board as well.

The EU, which sees itself as a leader on environmental issues, has been pushing hard to engage the White House in a new framework to replace the Kyoto protocol, which runs out in 2012. US president George W. Bush pulled out of the Kyoto treaty in 2001, arguing it would hurt his country’s competitiveness.

The two continents do not see eye to eye when it comes to ways in which to address this highly topical issue, however.   In Europe, the fight against climate change is closely linked to energy security, with renewable energy, such as solar, wind or biomass, expected to diminish the bloc’s dependency on external energy sources, particularly from Russia. Recently, Moscow turned off the energy taps to Ukraine and Belarus, a move which also affected several EU states.

On the other side of the Atlantic, new technologies are seen as essential, with ambassador Gray saying “we must have an answer before setting binding limits.”

He added that this view is shared by the Republicans as well as the Democrats in the United States.

One EU diplomat speaking to EUobserver indicated that the negotiations are lengthy and problematic, saying “we would spend four to five hours talking via video-link, but not move a bit.”

Breakthrough on economy : But things are brighter on the economic front, with the summit set to place transatlantic economic relations on a new footing.   President Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Jose M. Barroso are expected to sign an economic pact, setting up the so-called transatlantic economic council.

“There will be meat on the bone,” ambassador Gray said on Thursday (26 April), adding “the credit has to go to Mrs Merkel,” who prioritised the idea of having a strong transatlantic market without barriers during Germany’s six-month EU presidency.

The agreed common market conditions would mean recognising the same norms for various industries and services, such as admission procedures for pharmaceutical, cosmetics and chemical companies, as well as for the car and banking sector.

It is estimated that breaking down the regulatory barriers could see a boost of 3.5 percent in gross domestic product in the world’s two largest economic blocs.

According to some media reports, EU industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen has been tipped to chair the transatlantic economic council.

In addition, the EU is set to push the US to lift visa restrictions for new EU states plus Greece during the meeting next Monday, although no major breakthrough is expected here either.

“It is not the US administration, but the Congress which sets the rules,” the US ambassador to Brussels said, dampening the EU’s hopes. He indicated the legislation process could be wrapped up by the end of 2007.

—————————

Further realities:

Strong transatlantic ties appeals to the public –   and, a new study by the Bertelsmann Foundation shows that the great majority of Europeans and Americans have overcome the tensions triggered by the US-led war in Iraq in 2003 and support now closer trans-Atlantic links.

Nevertheless, the German electorate are leading the European chart, with 90 percent of German people favouring greater cooperation on climate change.   On the other hand, support for the abolition of trade restrictions between Europe and the US is quite low – 54 percent in Europe and 65 percent in the US. Exporting nations like Germany or Finland support the project, while the French and Austrians are circumspect (28 percent and 38 percent, respectively).

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 14th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

sc001.gif

sc002.gif

sc003.gif

sc004.gif

sc005.gif

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 8th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

British push on CO2 at security council:
· Diplomats seek to put climate change on agenda,
· Foreign Office argues it is a matter of global stability.

THE GUARDIAN – Ed Pilkington in New York and David Adam – Thursday March 8, 2007.


The British government is considering putting climate change on to the agenda of the UN security council for the first time to underline the urgency of the issue.

UK officials are holding talks with the other 14 member states ahead of Britain taking over the council presidency for the month of April. Early soundings have met resistance from countries such as the US and South Africa. Britain would only propose bringing climate change into security council business if it had unanimous support.

Global warming has thus far been considered outside the remit of the council, which is mandated under the UN charter to maintain “international peace and security”.
But the British government – led by key figures including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Miliband – has come to the view that it is a matter of international security as it will cause mass migrations and aggravate disputes over borders, water and other resources.


The foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, raised what she called climate security in her speech to the UN general assembly in September. “Our climate presents us with an ever-growing threat to international security. Dealing with climate change is no longer a choice, it is an imperative,” she said.

A report commissioned by the US government warned at the weekend that the US must prepare to intervene in a growing number of major crises across the world brought on by climate change, such as water shortages, collapses in civil order and “the implosion of one or more major cities”.

Unrestrained greenhouse gas emissions and the expected temperature rise over the coming decades could provoke social unrest in vulnerable places from Delhi and Mexico City to Lima, said the report by Global Business Network (GBN), a consultancy group in San Francisco.

It said action may be needed soon to “forestall the worst effects of collapsing ecosystems, water systems, or radical restructuring of the global insurance industry” and warned that US policies on global warming could threaten its strategic interests abroad and weaken its bargaining power on key issues such as trade and security.

The initial reaction to bringing climate change into the security council has been less than enthusiastic on the part of the US government, one of the council’s five permanent members along with the UK, which has consistently favoured voluntary measures to deal with emissions and has refused to sign the Kyoto protocol.

Other member states have been hesitant because they are suspicious of land grabs by the big developed powers of the security council on the territory of the UN’s general assembly, which tends to represent the interests of developing nations. South Africa, which holds a temporary seat on the council, has expressed such a doubt despite being in favour of more robust action on global warming.

Foreign Office officials point to the example of Richard Holbrooke, the US ambassador to the UN between 1999 and 2001, who put Aids on to the security council agenda with beneficial results.

——

At SustainabiliTank.info we knew about the British intent since the beginning of the year. We also know that the South African Presidency of the UNSC is a dead time for the subject – but the UK takes over on April 1-st AND THERE IS HOPE. The Slovakia Presidency could have started the process by presenting   Africa climate change derived problems at the root of some conflict areas, this specially that the UN Secretary-General came to brief the SC with information from his trip to the seat of the African Union in Adis Ababba. The AU Summit was called on topics of climate change and no-one at the UN in New York paid any attention. At the briefing by the Secretary-General the subject was raised side-wise by Congo, but it did not take off. Even Ghana, the incoming lead-country of the AU, did not seem to push for the obvious link between loss of grazing lands in the Sahel and the conflicts that stretch from Somalia to Mauritania. Darfur, with all its problems, the involvement of more and less Islamisized tribes, nomads, and agriculturalists, can be seen as having started as an old fashioned tribal warfare that got enhanced because of the effects of climate change. By not talking about the basics, the UNSC, as all of the UN system, is geared only to lick humanity’s woonds, but remains blind to what guaranties bigger woonds tomorrow. The Ghana Ambassador told me thatclimate change is not an Africa proble, but a problem for all nations alike – so he does not want to stress it as an African Problem. We understand his point, but we also know that the poor of Africa are those that suffer the most.

The UK Presidency and the willingness of Tony Blair to pick up the leadership mantle, may be seen eventually as an effort to save the UN.

The UK will be followed in May by the US, in June by Belgium, in July by China, in August by Congo, in September by France, in October by Ghana, in November by Indonesia and in December by Italy.

if the UK manages to look under the climate change blanket, it might eventually allow a face saving position for the US, and as the Guardian mentions Richard Holbrooke as the US Ambassador that put AIDS on the Security Council Agenda, it might be that Ambassador Wolf will now put Biofuels on the Agenda, and help the UK created topic roll to some positive conclusions. The further line-up will then also not stop progress, and eventually Indonesia, in November, might become the new Japan of old Kyoto Protocol times. This because of the UNFCCC meeting in Bali December 3-14, 2007, and Indonesia’s interestof not being remembered as the failure of the climate change negotiations.

All   of the above was known to us before, but we did not think appropriate to write about it before the UK having made their actual move. Now The Guardian makes it official, and we hope that there will develop a larger interest in the press accredited to the UN.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 16th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

“Slovakia gets set for legal action against Brussels over CO2 plan” is the title of an EUobserver, January 16, 2007 article by Renata Goldirova.

Slovakia looks set to provoke a legal row with the European Commission in a bid to avert Brussels’ proposal to slash the amount of carbon dioxide Slovak businesses can emit between 2008 and 2012.

“A 25-percent cut could harm the current industrial boom, especially after Slovakia closed down part of its nuclear power plant at the end of 2006, set to be replaced by coal-production [of electricity]”, environmental minister Jaroslav Izak told EUobserver after talks with environment commissioner Stavros Dimas on Monday (15 January).

In November last year, the commission accused Slovakia of handing in over-generous figures for it national plan to slash carbon pollution – as part of the EU’s emission trading scheme.

Brussels is now demanding that Bratislava reduce its carbon emissions by a quarter, from 40.3 million tonnes per year to 30.9 million tonnes.

But Bratislava is ready to fight this plan at the European Court of Justice, with Mr Izak saying “legal action is high on the agenda” ahead of a 24 January government meeting where a decision is due to be taken.

The EU executive has so far refused to bow to pressure from Bratislava to reconsider its proposal, as it could encourage other member states to get better deals as well.

“Member states are giving more pollution permits that industrial plants need”, a commission spokesperson said, adding “it undermines the basic economics of the bloc’s emissions trading scheme”.

So far, only the UK’s plan – out of ten national pollution-reducing plans for trading period of 2008-2012 evaluated by the European commission – fulfilled all necessary criteria.

Germany softens its tone:   Germany is also considering legal action over the amount of pollution it is being allowed to emit, with economics minister Michael Glos saying the EU plan would hurt German competitiveness.

But Berlin – which currently holds the EU presidency – on Monday played down the prospect of a court case by pointing to a letter sent by environment minister Sigmar Gabriel to the European Commission on 28 December. “The letter has signalled Germany’s intention to engage in negotiations”, a German diplomat told EUobserver, adding that “talks are expected to be concluded by the end of January, while legal option is currently not on the table”.

Europe’s biggest economy has been asked to lower its carbon emissions by six percent to 453.1 million tonnes per year, an amount which Berlin considers “costly and harmful”.

More plans rejected:

Meanwhile, three more member states – Belgium, Cyprus and the Netherlands – are expected to be criticised as the European Commission prepares to release a second set of decisions on national allocation plans today (16 January).

According to a European Commission official, all three member states have allotted more permits to pollute than industrial plants need and will be formally requested to cut CO2 quotas.

Under the EU’s emission trading scheme, which covers energy-intensive business sectors such as electricity generation and steel-making, companies are being allocated allowances for each tonne of carbon dioxide they may emit. These can be traded between companies, encouraging them to reduce their emissions by selling their allowances.

The trading system is seen as the cornerstone of EU efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions under the international Kyoto Protocol against climate change.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 9th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

“EU favours renewable energy for the future”, writes Helena Spongeborg from Brussels for the EUobserver of January 8, 2007.

EU citizens largely favour renewable energies while only 20 percent are for nuclear energy, according to a new European Commission survey.

The Eurobarometer study – published on Monday (8 January) just two days ahead of the publication of the commission’s major EU energy plan – shows that 80 percent of EU citizens back solar energy while 71 percent are in favour of wind energy.


The Danes are most in favour with 95 percent and 93 percent saying solar- and wind energy, respectively, is a good thing. More than 20 percent of the electricity used in Denmark is generated by wind turbines – the highest percentage of any country in Europe.

The low figures are 70 percent of Latvians and 63 percent of Italians are in favour of solar and wind energy, respectively.

Other sources of popular renewable energies include hydroelectric and ocean energy favoured by 65 percent and 60 percent, respectively, of EU citizens.

The commission’s “Ambitious Energy Review Package” – to be published on Wednesday (10 January) – is expected to outline ways to lessen the bloc’s dependence on foreign imports of oil and gas which is associated with volatile prices and unreliable sources.

———————-

When it comes to nuclear – The EU citizens remain are very polarised on the issue of nuclear energy with the majority being against it.

Twenty percent of EU citizens are in favour of nuclear energy in their country while 37 percent oppose it and 36 percent are divided on the issue.

The Austrians (80%), Greeks (73%) and Cypriots (70%) are the most against it as a source of energy -. None of the countries uses nuclear power plants.

A higher percentage of Swedes (41%), Slovaks and Lithuanians (both 37%) favour nuclear energy as a source of energy in their country.

Around 70 percent of energy in Lithuania, 56 percent in Slovakia and 47 percent in Sweden is produced by nuclear power.

Nuclear energy is a tough sell among Europeans, especially after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in Ukraine and Belarus.

EU citizens expect the energy mix to be more diversified in the future than it is today where oil and gas are the two main sources, with solar energy anticipated to be a key energy source in the future.

All the 25 nationalities asked – except for Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden – place it among the three energy sources most likely to be used in 30 years time.

And despite strong opposition to nuclear energy, EU citizens expect its share to stay the same in the future.

——————

On the Citizens’ role: One of the commission’s main solutions for cutting down energy consumption in Europe is to save on energy by making the EU more energy efficient.

But despite the fact that 54 percent of EU citizens find it very important to save on energy and become more energy efficient, only 21 percent admit they have actually taken action to do so, such as cut down on lighting and heating or replacing their cars with public transport.

“Citizens are not completely aware – they are well aware that energy is a challenge but they are not yet fully concerned,” a commission official told journalists in Brussels. He added EU citizens do not fully grasp their own role in overall energy consumption.

###