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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 22nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Small-scale farmers struggle for EU funds.

21.05.2008 – 11:10 CET | By Leigh Phillips for the EUobserver.

From BRUSSELS – While large EU states are scrapping over how to get more environmental bang for the EU’s agricultural buck, in the southeast corner of the EU, small-scale farming – which contributes the most to biodiversity – is not getting the support it needs.

This is the initial conclusion of a series of studies jointly realised by the WWF and the Dutch government which were presented to European Commission on Thursday (15 May).

The EU has made some €2.6 billion available for supporting rural development and the environment in Bulgaria and Romania up to 2013, but not much of this finds its way to subsistence farmers, according to the investigation.

There are currently 4 million subsistence farmers in Romania with less than 2 hectares of land that are not eligible for any kind of support.

In Bulgaria, there are 139,00 semi-subsistence farmers, of which only 30 percent are eligible for area-based payments.

“[These farmers] make a significant contribution to securing environmental benefits and services, from biodiversity to drinking water and flood management,” said Yanka Kazakova of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.

In the Danube-Carpathian region, many local species and their characteristic habitats depend upon continued good management of small farms to sustain diversity.

This sort of farming depends on low-input farming practices and tend to be a more environmentally friendly form of agriculture than its industrialised cousin.

The highest concentration of well-maintained high nature value areas is in the countries of Central and South Eastern Europe, largely due to the traditional farming practices that remain in use. In Bulgaria, roughly one-third of the farmland is considered of high nature value.

EU agricultural support is supposed to help precisely this sort of farming, but instead is mostly directed at large landowners and agribusiness.

The WWF studies found that the basic problem is the focus on the economic viability of farms – effectively disqualifying the subsistence and semi-subsistence farms.

The investigation also found that although EU funding programmes include measures for supporting high nature value farmland, many farmers cannot apply for these or indeed any support as their land is not officially considered as agricultural land, although it may be rich in biodiversity.

Another problem plaguing many areas of the region is unclear land tenure. As a result, farmers can often apply only for funds for considerably less land than they actually use.

“The fact that high nature value farmland payments exist at all in these rural development programmes is noteworthy,” Ms Kazakova said. “Now they just need to be targeted more effectively.”

“It is essential that EU as well as national policy makers take into account not only economic but also environmental and social benefits of EU funding programmes,” she added.

 

{But what is economic benefit in a world that will become less petroleum based? What about the benefits of subsistem farming and local/decentralized markets – the so called farmers markets that survived even the Soviet collectivization drive? Is now the EU going to “Americanize those remaining vestiges of real private enterprise – the family agricultural plot? www.SustainabiliTank.info comment}

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

A NAGORNO-KARABAKH FOREIGN MINISTRY IN DISCUSSIONS WITH THE EU?

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The Nabucco pipeline – the EU hopes construction will begin in 2010
(Photo: Nagorno-Karabakh foreign ministry)

Turkmenistan to cut EU dependence on Russian gas.

April 14, 2008 – By Renata Goldirova, for the EUobserver.

Turkmenistan has agreed to supply 10 billion cubic metres of natural gas to the European Union each year – something that should cut the energy-hungry bloc’s dependence on gas from Russia.

“The president [Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov] gave us assurances that 10 bcm will be set aside for Europe in addition to possibilities in new fields to be tendered,” EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told the Financial Times on Sunday (13 April).

Ms Ferrero-Waldner described the deal as “a very important first step” in energy cooperation, although she acknowledged the amount agreed by the two sides does not represent a “vast quantity”.

The former Soviet Republic in Central Asia has the world’s fifth largest reserves of natural gas and substantial deposits of oil. It annually produces 60 billion cubic metres of natural gas, but two-thirds are exported to Russia’s state-run Gazprom.

Demand for energy is sharply rising in the European Union. By 2020, it is expected to import at least 360 bcm – out of 500 bcm consumed – from third countries.

The 27-nation bloc has been trying to diversify its energy supplies away from Russia and is currently pushing for a new energy corridor, the Nabucco pipeline.

The pipeline – connecting Turkey with Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary – would enable the transportation of Caspian energy resources to the European market. Main gas supplies could come from countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan or Egypt.

Speaking about the fresh deal with Turkmenistan, Ms Ferrero-Waldner called on European business to invest in infrastructure in order to bring the project to life.

It is still unclear how Turkmen gas will be imported to Europe, with the commissioner suggesting three possible short-term scenarios in the interview with the Financial Times.

Under the first one, a 60-kilometre gap between Azeri and Turkmen offshore installations could be closed with a mini-pipeline.

Secondly, an onshore link to Kazakhstan could be built to connect with a route to Azerbaijan.

Under the third option, the gas could be compressed into liquid form and taken by tanker across the sea.

————————-

Russia questions value of Nabucco energy pipeline.

April 18, 2008 – By Renata Goldirova from Brussels for EUobserver:

Moscow has questioned the viability of the EU-backed Nabucco energy corridor, a pipeline designed to lessen the bloc’s dependency on Russia.

“I know few things about political geography. The only way to fill the Nabucco pipeline is to rely on Iranian gas,” Russian ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told journalists earlier this week (15 April). He added: “But then, it’s up to the West, I would not tell the EU, to make up its mind how to deal with Iran. Either bomb Iran or buy its gas.”



Mr Chizhov’s blunt comments came only hours after Turkmenistan had agreed to supply 10 billion cubic metres of natural gas to the EU each year – something that should cut the energy-hungry bloc’s dependence on gas from Russia.

“There have been some euphoric comments about Turkmenistan,” the ambassador said, stressing that the volume agreed by the two sides is “not enough”. In addition, he questioned the ability of Azerbaijan, another potential source, to fulfil the union’s sharply rising energy demand.

The European Commission considers Nabucco to be “essential” to the EU as it is designed to bring gas from non-traditional suppliers via a new transport route.

The pipeline – connecting Turkey with Austria, via Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary – would enable the transportation of gas from the resource-rich Caspian region to the European market.

Its capacity amounts to 31 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year. The bulk of the supplies are expected to come from countries such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan or Egypt.

The EU is also hoping to secure natural gas from Iraq, with Baghdad earlier this week pledging to provide five billion cubic metres of gas each year. The two sides are set to sign a so-called energy security memorandum of understanding in coming days.

In response to Mr Chizhov’s statements, the commission said that a list of source countries was yet to be defined. It addmitted, however, that once the problems with Iran are solved, Tehran can be taken into consideration on the longer term.

Meanwhile, Moscow – the world’s largest producer of natural gas – has been pushing for its own project, the South Stream pipeline. It should connect Russia’s Black Sea coast and Italy, with Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Serbia already saying they will take part in the project.

According to the Russian ambassador to Brussels, there will be enough room for the South Stream, Nabucco and perhaps for another pipeline due to growing energy consumption in Europe – but only in the long run.

In the short run, the defining difference is that the South Stream can rely on real gas supply, whereas Nabucco does not have gas, Mr Chizov said.

The South Stream project is seen by some as a rival to Nabucco, with the European Commission saying “it is not promoting it actively” because the pipeline will bring more gas from Russia.

“The two projects are complementary, not contradictory,” reads the commission’s official line on the issue. The EU needs 80 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year on top of current consumption.

But some experts on EU-Russia energy relations have also suggested that Moscow has made a valid point.

According to Marco Giuli from the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies, the Nabucco pipeline is “economically viable only with Iranian gas”.

He cited political tensions in Central Asia, the proximity of Chinese market as well as the US’ tough stance on Iran among those factors that cloud Nabucco’s prospects.

Within the 27-nation EU, France and the UK seem to have the toughest position towards the Iranian regime, wanting to stop its nuclear ambitions not only through dialogue, but also via sanctions.

On the other hand, Italy’s oil and gas producer ENI is set to undertake some investments in Iran – something, Mr Guili says has been endorsed by the country’s outgoing as well as incoming political leadership.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 9th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

International Conference

Opportunities and challenges for a sustainable development of bioenergy

Bucarest Romexpo Exhibitional Center, 22 April 2008

Hall Nicolae Balcescu Pav 18

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During

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April 21-24 2008, Romexpo International Fair

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AGENDA

10.30 – 10.40
Opening and welcome address
Corrado Clini, GBEP Chair

10.40 – 11.00
Biofuels: a solution for climate change
Luca Belelli Marchesini, University of Tuscia, Department of Forest Science and Resources

11.00 – 11.20
Case study of bioenergy project
Gian Piero Latini, Agrotec spa

11.20 – 11.40
Opportunities to promote biofuels production in Central and Eastern Europe – EUBIA experience and perspective
Angela Grassi, EUBIA European Biomass Industry Association

11.40 – 12.00
Strategy to meet EU target on biofuel production and consumption – Italian scenario and perspective
Giuseppe Caserta, ITABIA Italian Biomass Industry Association

12.00 – 12.20
The European Commission proposal for a new Directive on the promotion of biofuels – opportunities and challenges for the private sector
Raffaello Garofalo, EBB European Biodisel Board

12.20 – 12.30
Conclusion

 www.sepromania.it

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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

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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.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Thursday, March 6, 2008, The European Union Studies Center of The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, with the help of the Alexander S. Onasis Public Benefit Foundation (USA), had the great opportunity to hear from one of Greece’s important political figures – Dr. Yannos Papantoniou.
Dr. Papantoniou currently serves as an Onassis Foundation Senior Visiting Scholar at the University of Athens. In 1981, he was elected as a member of the European Parliament and in 1984 became adviser to the prime minister on European Economic Community affairs.

Since June 1989, he has been an elected member of the Greek Parliament. He served as deputy minister of National Economy, then variously as minister of Commerce, minister of National Economy and Finance, and minister of National Defense under the Socialist, or Pasok, government.

On February 27, 2008, Greece Named Yannos Papantoniou As its Candidate To Lead the the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development , (EBRD). He has also been Governor of the National Bank of Greece in 2000.

Over the 12-month period in 2002-03, when Greece held the presidency of the European Union’s Council of Defense Ministers, Dr. Papantoniou helped to coordinate the policies that led to the creation of the European Military Force and its engagement in international peacekeeping operations as well as the establishment of the European Defense Agency.

Dr. Papantoniou studied economics at the Universities of Athens and Wisconsin, history at the Sorbonne (France), and obtained his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Cambridge (U.K).

The topic at the CUNY presentation was: “Regional Security in Southeastern Europe.” We got obviously an explicit Greek point of view.

At first we got a tour of the European expansion from 15 to 27 States and we saw how this was possible. The Three Baltic States were adopted by the Scandinavian States and this helped their economic integration into the EU. Poland was helped by foreign investment and its relations to US Poles. The Central Europeans were helped by Germany and Austria (Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians – also Slovenia and the future accession of Croatia. The Creation of a partnership for peace at NATO helped Bulgaria and Romania.

So now we are left with the remnants of the Balkans. The situation came to an edge with Kosovo declaring unilaterally independence on February 17, 2008 and being by now recognized as an independent State by over 100 countries. Obviously Serbia and Russia do not recognize Kosovo – neither does Greece. We found in effect, on the internet, a 2007 official statement from Greece saying that they do not agree to an “imposed’ solution for Kosovo. They think of the old concept of Sovereignty under which you cannot dismember Serbia, this because if that succeeds, North Cyprus will also want to become an independent Turkish State …

Turkey? As an attached State to the West would be an important role player to stabilize the Middle East – that gave me a reason to think that one should also ask the Turks what they think.

“The EU is an economic organization with political ambitions.”

The requirements for accession are: a. Democracy; b. A market Economy; and c. Adaptation of EU law into National law.

“Turkey is a strong regional power. If it were to come into the EU it would come in as a 100 million bloc that would change the balance of power in the EU. They might have more power then Germany and the UK combined, and this is unacceptable. The EU would prefer a special linkage to be offered to Turkey. After 12 additions the enlargement may have reached a limit. The EU has already become less homogeneous and less coherent.”

For the Balkans, joining the EU gives them the best motivation to normalize their society and economy. The speaker would like this to happen eventually, but not immediately.

Here, Professor Hugo M. Kaufmann, Professor of Economics at Queens College and at the Graduate Center, who chaired the event, opened up for questions, and there were many very interesting questions. I will bring up mainly our own question that came about because of the suggestion of having special relationships between the EU and countries like Turkey, that want to join the EU, but are rebuffed – then offered a special compensation that looks good to some at the EU, but which they cannot accept. Internally their governments will look like losers, and they will become losers indeed because of internal politics.

My question was why look at special arrangements with single countries, while a special arrangement with a large group of countries would be much more palatable to these outsiders – and I named three such groups: The Mediterranean Group, The Black Sea Group, and the Turkic Group.

The Mediterranean group does exist in effect – this as a result of the Barcelona Process. It started as an alliance to clean up the Mediterranean Sea – as such it had to include the Southern States of the EU – those reaching the sea shores – the North African States, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey etc. It includes countries that do not have good relations with each other – but they have to cooperate – and you know what – it works and gives results.

The Black Sea International Council started out as an environmental organization with Greece as the only participating EU member. Now after the EU accession of Romania and Bulgaria, a new Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation was created. This group that obviously also includes Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, has been extended to include the ‘frozen conflicts’ in Georgia, Moldova and between Armenia and Azerbaijan. (To others this reminds of the GUAM countries) This is indeed also an economic power house that can deal with quite a few oil and gas pipelines as well.

The Turkic group includes obviously Turkey and the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia. It could include also Azerbaidjan and Georgia. In effect it could be an oil backyard of the EU.

The bottom line of all this is that Turkey is a central part of all these three groups – it could in effect come in with all this dowry and thus be welcome in its special arrangement as leader of outside EU alliances. This – rather then thinking of Turkey as the EU opening to a Middle East where Turkey is indeed not welcome to the Arab feast – surely, even less, then its welcome to the EU table.

I had also a short question – what about Albania? Why actually not putting it ahead of all this talk about Turkey?

 

The respected Greek speaker said that Albania was one of the poorest countries in the world and he did not think Germany will want to finance Albania. (I clearly could not reopen this point – if I could I would have reminded him that the Kosovars are also Albanians, so are some 15% of the people of Macedonia. Nobody speaks now of a greater Albania, like nobody speaks now of rejoining the present Greek part of Cyprus with Greece. The latter came about because some sort of solution was found, but leaving Albania dangling brought once Mao to this country, now it could be Al Qaeda. This is just unsound policy.)

On the Barcelona process the answer was again money. The process does not go forward because of lack of money. Again I do not think that this is the case – it seems to be rather a jelousy of North EU not wanting to fund deals that favor the South States of the EU – sort of shooting themselves in the feet in the process. The speaker did not pick up the other two groups beyond saying that these are interesting ideas.

On the other hand, to a question about the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia, the speaker explained that the problem was that it worries Greece if later Macedonia would put claim to the areas in Turkey and Bulgaria that carry that name. He recognized that you cannot restrain people from naming themselves what they wish, but for international relations purpose they will have to pick for themselves some neutral name because even the temporary name of FYROM is not acceptable to Greece. Because of this – in our eyes total nonsense – Greece is vetoing Macedonia’s entrance to NATO – thus in effect hurting more NATO then Macedonia.

 

After all of this, when the meeting was called to end, in overtime, a Turkish Consul in New York asked for his right to say also a few words. He said flat that for 200 years Turkey is part of Europe. Turkey’s per capita income is now 1/5 to 1/4 of the average of the EU, but when Spain and Portugal entered the EU they were only 1/10. It is already 45 years that Turkey is trying to get recognition for its potential.

With the final end of the meeting I had the chance to talk to Mr. Basar Sen the Turkish Consul. He explained to me that the expectation of joining the EU has created its own logic and the government is now trapped by it, and turning away will have internal consequences. Surely I remember that starting with Ataturk and his “Young Turks,” a secular new Turkey was created out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire – a secular Turkey that wanted to be recognized, already then, as part of Europe. How can the speaker try to push them back into the Middle East from where these military men tried already then to escape?

But, sensing a friendly person, I followed up with a question I posed years ago to the Turkish Ambassador to the UN. Something that I think was the cardinal sin of Turkish thinking of last century. The question of the Kurds.

The Young Turks wanted to create a homogenized people out of the remnants of the Empire. They still had many – many different ethnic groups in the large piece of land that became Turkey – some say 154 ethnicities with language differences. But even if this was the case, there was only one minority that counted – these were the Kurds. What Turkey feared was that the Kurds will seek independence for their part of the land – so the Turkish government pursued them vehemently and turned them into real enemies. But even if the Kurds might have dreamt of having a larger Kurdistan to include also parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Azerbaijan, those other Kurds where not yet convinced that they, themselves, were ready to go for such a frame, with all this uncertainty hanging over the heads of their Turkish brethren. On the other hand, had Turkey realized that there were tremendous benefits in turning Turkey into a bi-national Turkish-Kurdish State, they could have indeed lured into their sphere of influence the Kurds of Iraq – the oil world would have looked differently, and the chances of having created an EU interest in their future would have helped more modernize Turkey, then the way they ended up fighting the greater majority of their people without showing for real economic results. We hope now that the Consul will find a way to provide us with think-tank material to help explain the the thinking of the Turkish leadership – past and present.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 THE EU LOOKS TO THE MEDITERRANEAN AND TO THE BLACK SEA AS ITS NATURAL FRONTIERS. SYNERGIES IN THESE AREAS WILL SERVE ITS INTERESTS. IN THE CASE OF THE BLACK SEA, VIA EU NEW MEMBERS BULGARIA AND RUMANIA, THE EU IS ALREADY PART OF LOCAL REGIONAL ORGANIZATIONS.

[Comment by Fabrizio Tassinari on Euobserver] Sailing the black sea at last.

February 7, 2008EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – At a meeting between the EU and Black Sea countries foreign ministers in Kiev on February 14th, the EU will finally kick off its new Black Sea policy.

In view of the 2007 expansion of the EU to Bulgaria and Romania, and after some ten years since the European Commission’s only communication on Black Sea cooperation, the launch of the Black Sea Synergy last spring was a long-awaited and welcome step.

Now it’s time to deliver, which is where things could begin to look difficult.

In this new initiative, the commission identifies as many as thirteen cooperation areas. It plans to draw the EU closer to the existing regional organisations, primarily the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation. And it aims to correlate region-wide developments with the resolution of the ‘frozen conflicts’ in Georgia, Moldova and between Armenia and Azerbaijan. All this is not endowed with new financial means, but will draw on existing resources, as well as on mechanisms for joint financing with other international actors operating in the region.

These indications appear sensible and promising, but they also raise a number of important questions that the Black Sea countries and the commission will have to address if the proposed policy is to be effective and sustainable.

First, there is the sector-specific focus of the initiative. The commission places a strong emphasis on sectors such as the environment, energy and transport, where EU programmes and initiatives are already up and running. This is understandable. EU-sponsored mechanisms in these fields deserve a new boost, particularly the case of energy, where enhanced Black Sea cooperation could play a key role in the EU’s fledging goal of supply diversification.

The inclusion in the Synergy of issues such as democracy and internal security is also noteworthy.

Regional cooperation and exchange of best practices in these fields could potentially have a major impact on the fragile governance structures of most former Soviet countries. Likewise, EU initiatives when it comes to the promotion of democracy could take particular advantage of the interest shown for the Synergy by local and regional authorities, as well as non-governmental actors in the region.

Overall, however, the list of priorities is a bit on the long side: issues such as employment, science and technology have little regional specificity and could in the long run dilute the effectiveness of the new initiative.

The second question relates to the institutional level. The Synergy will not create new institutions, and the commission has obtained observer status in the BSEC. These are, as such, sound moves. Black Sea cooperation is already a jungle of agreements, associations, and acronyms. And BSEC, with a membership spanning from the western Balkans to the Caspian shores, represents the most comprehensive forum to discuss pan-regional issues.

At the same time, the EU would be well advised not to rely exclusively on this organisation for its Black Sea policy. What should warn against it is, on the one hand, BSEC’s relatively modest implementation record over the past fifteen years. Furthermore, the EU would have much to gain from including in its plans the other regional initiatives and their main sponsors: Romania, Ukraine and Georgia. As these countries emerge from a turbulent couple of years of domestic power struggles, they should be encouraged to revive and streamline the core business of organisations such as the Black Sea Forum and the Community of Democratic Choice.

Third, the launching of a Black Sea Synergy presents unavoidable challenges at the broader strategic level. Russia’s assertiveness in the region is of course the major stumbling bloc here. Should the new EU policy really fulfil its promise, it may further ratchet up Moscow’s aggressive posturing, especially in relation to its western neighbours, energy and the frozen conflicts. But this need not necessarily be so. Moscow’s recent constructive BSEC chairmanship suggests that the prospect of isolation can give way to a more cooperative attitude towards the EU in due course.

Lastly, and just as importantly, there is the issue of visibility and ‘branding’ of the region. A new framework organising Black Sea cooperation should send a strong signal about the importance that the EU attaches to this region. At the same time, regional leadership must necessarily come from the region itself, not from Brussels. One indirect outcome of the new EU initiative, in this respect, has to be a more concerted effort of the littoral actors to enhance cooperation and promote the region at the wider European level.

May the meeting next week point the way in that direction.

Fabrizio Tassinari, author of “A Synergy for Black Sea Regional Cooperation” (CEPS, 2006), is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen, a non-resident Fellow at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University and at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Brussels.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 18th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Romania must plant trees to avoid desertification – an opinion piece on EUobserver.com

18.07.2007 By Rupert Wolfe Murray EUOBSERVER / DEBATE   A COMMENT.

The climate is changing in Romania. The land is being dried up by increasingly hot summers, torrential downpours are becoming the norm and the side-effects of rapid economic growth are damaging the environment.

Parts of eastern Romania have become so arid that farming is impossible and in other areas, over-grazing threatens to destroy all plant life and usher in an era of desertification.

The Romanian city of Giurgui is located on the banks of the Danube, by the Bulgarian border. The temperature in Giurgiu reached 47 degrees celsius last month and Bucharest, Romania’s capital, is often hotter than 40 degrees. Romania’s agricultural sector is being decimated by these unusually high temperatures, and what is not dried up by the sun is often carried away by an increasing number of floods.

Despite the torrential downpours, water supplies have never been more unstable. As Romania’s economy starts to boom, new factories, supermarkets and houses are being constructed with a frenzy that has never been seen here before. Each of these new units consumes a lot of water and there is an absence of regulations limiting water consumption. There are no restrictions about sinking new boreholes, no recycling of waste water, no hosepipe bans, no debate about water resources or the need for regulations.

Romania’s groundwater sources are not only falling but they are being increasingly contaminated by pollution. One of the features of Romania’s cities is the presence of massive garbage dumps, many of which are located by rivers and all of which leach toxins into the groundwater.

In Bucharest, a city of 2 million, the outlying village of Glina has a smoking rubbish heap the size of a small town. Only a handful of Romania’s cities have garbage recycling systems and it does not seem to be an issue of urgent political or public interest.

Since joining the EU in January this year, little progress has been made on any of these issues – although Structural Funds for environmental projects should become available from 2008.

One effect of EU membership has been the dramatic increase in the purchase of agricultural land by foreign investors, but these plots tend to be too small and scattered to justify modern farming and they are allowed to go fallow.

At the same time, increasing numbers of Romanian peasants (about a third of the population) are giving up farming the land completely and more land is being left to the elements.

A TREE PLANTING CAMPAIGN:

A massive tree planting campaign would address many of these problems. Forests are a good way to protect vulnerable land from excessive heat and they can also soak up a lot of the torrential rain before flooding occurs.

British environmental writer George Monbiot advises policy makers to collect rainwater in order to prepare for future water shortages, and while this is feasible for individual buildings it isn’t practical for large tracts of land. What better way of retaining the water (and slowly releasing it) than trees?

Romania has a relatively good forestry management system and large parts of mountain area are covered in pine and mixed hardwoods. But there is increasing demand for timber from industry, a very lucrative export market, and more trees urgently need to be planted.

Currently in Romania, trees are only planted in mountainous or hilly areas. But this could change and forests should be planted in the low lying areas which have been abandoned or allowed to go fallow.

A range of incentives should be provided for landowners and local authorities to encourage tree planting, and urgent measures should be taken to deal with those areas that have already become semi-desert.

But planting trees shouldn’t be just about forests. Lines of trees can be planted by the sides of fields and these can play an important double role of soaking up excess water as well as acting as a wind break. And there is nothing more attractive than a single oak tree in the middle of a field.

Alternative to agriculture
Forestry can also provide a viable alternative to agriculture. Not only can trees provide an income from the sale of timber, but fruit and nut trees (both of which flourish in Romania) can provide the basis for new businesses. Forests are also of interest to tourists, as well as for locals trying to escape the heat of the city

Only extensive tree coverage will protect Romania’s land from the pattern of heatwaves and floods that is currently afflicting Romania.

A massive tree planting campaign would also provide short term employment and medium term profit for Romania’s peasant farmers – who are feeling increasingly vulnerable now that they are part of the Common Agriculture Project.

Rupert Wolfe Murray is a PR consultant and project manager based in Romania. He can be contacted on  gmail.com

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(Comment by Pincas Jawetz of www.SustainabiliTank.info) We have visited Giurgiu with a member of the Austrian Consulate in Bucarest, on our way to crossing the Danube to Bulgaria. Five years ago the temperatures were already insuportable, and we were amazed how things seemed actually better after we crossed into Bulgaria at Russ (?). Seemingly the situation got worse lately, but the lack of attention to environmental issues came down from the previous regime – it is not really just a product of the opportunities created by joining the EU. Rather it is an ingrained lack of attention to human caused destruction of the environment – and an educational campaign is neede.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety GFA Envest is organizing the Workshop:

Biomass Cooperation in Europe and CIS by Joint Implementation Projects

on March 6th 2007, a side event of the international fair Terra and EnerTec in Leipzig, Germany  www.terratec-leipzig.de/)

The workshop focuses five countries (Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland) with country specific highlights regarding the implementation of JI biomass projects. Experts of mentioned countries outline project examples and discuss challenges and opportunities in the implementation of Joint Implementation projects.

Attached please find the anticipated programme.
For further information please contact:  christine.clashausen at gfa-envest.com

kind regards,
Christine Clashausen
<<JI CIS and Europe Programme Terra Tec_.pdf>>

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 6th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

2. – 4. April 2007
Beja, Alentejo, Portugal -European Meeting Point: Energy for Development

The current energy policy context of in Portugal is a very interesting case-study in terms of renewable energy promotion and development in Europe. Portugal is becoming a “land of opportunity” for investment in renewable energy, and Alentejo region is starting to play an increasingly important role in this new vision. Beja is located in the heart of Alentejo!

Topics:

Domain 1 – Bio-energy cluster
bio-resources management, multi-fuel production routes, bio-fuels economics.

Domain 2 – Energy services
contracting strategies, regulative framework and technology integration.

Domain 3 – sustainable energy communities
project financing, architectural proposals, urban sustainable management.

Domain 4 – Carbon economy
monitoring technologies, market strategies, accounting and certification.

Domain 5 – Energy citizenship
sustainable communities, enabling and communication strategies, funding mechanisms.

Domain 6 – Energy and regional development
regional innovation and clusters, multi-regional energy initiatives, new and renewable energy projects.

Call for papers:
A call for papers concerning the presentation of project results, case studies and investments opportunities is open until February 23rd.

 www.energyanddevelopment-2007.net…

19. – 21. April 2007
Budapest, Hungary – RENEXPO Central and South-East Europe
International trade fair and congress for renewable energy and energy efficient construction and renovation

Kontakt:
REECO GmbH
Unter den Linden 15, 72762 Reutlingen
Tel.: +49-7121-3016-0, Fax: +49-7121-3016-100
www.energie-server.de

24. – 26. April 2007
Sofia,   Bulgaria – International Congress and Exhibition for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Sources

 viaexpo.com/congress-ee-vei/eng/c…

28. April – 6. Mai 2007
Deutschland / Österreich / Schweiz

Woche der Sonne // “Week of the Sun”

in enger Kooperation mit
dem Tag der Erneuerbaren Energien am 28. April in Deutschland sowie
dem Tag der Sonne am 4. und 5. Mai in Österreich und der Schweiz

Weitere Informationen
 www.woche-der-sonne.de
 www.austriasolar.at/Sonne-und-Ene…
 www.tagdersonne.ch

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

“Gypsy-haters, holocaust-deniers, xenophobes, homophobes, anti-semites: the EU’s new political force,”   writes Stephen Castle from Strasbourg in The Independent of January 16, 2007.

Europe’s far-right, xenophobic and extremist parties crossed a new threshold yesterday, winning more speaking time, money, and political influence in the European Parliament than ever before.

Claiming the backing of 23 million Europeans, ultra-nationalists secured enough MEPs to make a formal political grouping, underlining the growing challenge posed by the far right across the continent. For the first time since the Second World War a series of elections has swept nationalistic, far-right parties into office in municipal, regional, national and European parliament elections. The admission of Romania and Bulgaria in January of this year brought in enough far-right MEPs to form a bloc.

Mainstream politicians have been struggling for years to contain the threat from hardline nationalists and extremists who have entered coalitions or supported ruling governments in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Poland and Slovakia.

Amid formal protests and jeers in the Strasbourg Parliament, 20 MEPs yesterday signed up to the new formation called Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty (ITS). As a formal group, they are entitled to up to €1m in central funding. It is led by Bruno Gollnisch of France’s National Front, who is awaiting a court verdict on charges of Holocaust denial.

Made up of ultra-nationalists the group includes one Bulgarian parliamentarian, Dimitar Stoyanov, who yesterday attacked the “Jewish establishment” and accused Roma parents of selling 12-year-olds into prostitution.

Even the ringtone of Mr Stoyanov’s phone points to his hardline politics. It features a former Bulgarian national anthem which, he says, “tells of the atrocities of the Turkish army in the second Balkan war, how the rivers were flowing with blood and the widows weeping, and urges people to fight for Bulgaria”.

A previous far-right grouping in the European Parliament faltered in the 1980s and rival MEPs predict that ITS will have a limited impact on the Strasbourg assembly.

Martin Schulz, leader of the socialist group which is the second-largest in the Parliament, appealed to other MEPs to unite to prevent ITS from securing senior positions in Strasbourg. He said: “We must not abandon this Parliament, which symbolises the integration of Europe, to those who deny all European values.”

The new political group was established despite efforts by socialist MEPs to block its formation. One British MEP, Ashley Mote, has joined the group. A former Ukip member, Mr Mote was suspended from that party in 2004 when he faced prosecution for housing benefit fraud and has since sat as an independent.

Prominent members of the far-right alliance include Jean-Marie Le Pen, veteran member of the French National Front, who shocked Europe by reaching the second stage of the last French presidential elections, Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Benito Mussolini, Frank Vanhecke, leader of Belgium’s separatist Flemish nationalist party, Vlaams Belang, and Andreas Mölzer, a former aide to the Austrian far-right leader, Jörg Haider.

Under the Parliament’s rules a formal grouping requires 20 MEPs from at least six countries. That requirement was reached only after Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU this month.

As MEPs converged on Strasbourg, Mr Stoyanov, who at 23 is the Parliament’s youngest member, claimed the ITS had crossed a threshold of power. “We will be able to table amendments,” said Mr Stoyanov. “We will have longer speaking time in the plenary sessions and, eventually, we will win chairman, or deputy chairman, positions on committees.” Mr Stoyanov, of Bulgaria’s Ataka party, denied being anti-Semitic but said he opposed the ” Jewish establishment” which used ordinary Jewish people “like pawns” .

In the parliamentary chamber Mr Gollnisch claimed that the new group ” will speak on behalf of 23 million Europeans who would not be represented without us”.

He added: “We will be the Parliament’s conscience. We will be vigilant defenders of the peoples and nations of Europe who want our continent and civilisation to be great.”

The sweep of extremism in expanded Europe

Romania:
Party: Partidul Romania Mare (Greater Romania)
Leader: Corneliu Vadim Tudor
No. of MEPs: 5

Has five ITS members, all from racist, homophobic Greater Romania party, a, nationalist organisation that voted against joining the EU. Among other things, the party despises ethnic Hungarians, Jews and Romas.

United Kingdom:
Party: N/A (Independent)
No. of MEPs: 1

British membership of ITS is limited to South East England’s independent MEP Ashley Mote. Mr Mote first entered European politics with UKIP but was ejected in 2004 after being tried for benefit fraud.

Austria:
Party: Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs)
Leader: Heinz-Christian Strache
No. of MEPs: One

The Austrian Freedom Party, which Jorg Haider made a household name is still winning votes even after his departure. The FP promises stronger anti-immigration laws, stricter law enforcement and more funds for families.

Italy:
Party: Alternativa Sociale, Fiamme Tricolore
Leaders: Alessandra Mussolini and Luca Romagnoli respectively
No. of MEPs: 2

MEPs Alessandra Mussolini, and Luca Romagnoli are both remnants of the Fascist party that ruled Italy for two decades. Mussolini, grand-daughter of Il Duce, is a former glamour model. Neither enjoy mainstream support.

A long-cherished ambition, and a step further than before

Yesterday’s developments are the culmination of a long-cherished ambition by Europe’s far-right parties to form a recognised bloc in the European Parliament. They have had self-declared groups before, notably when Jean-Marie Le Pen of France’s National Front led an alliance called the European Right in Strasbourg in 1984-89, followed by the Technical Group of the European Right in 1989-94. On the ground and away from the parliament, the far right has prospered in several countries since the mid-Eighties. In Austria, Jörg Haider emerged in 1986 as leader of the Freedom Party. The Swiss People’s Party, led by Christoph Blocher, became Switzerland’s second-strongest political force in 1999 (not members of the EU). In Denmark, the ultra-right Danish People’s Party swept into parliament as the country’s third-largest party following the 2001 elections. In Italy, the xenophobic Northern League entered a right-wing coalition in the same year. In Belgium, far-right Flemish separatists have gained support throughout the decade, and the Netherlands was convulsed by the rise of the populist anti-immigration campaigner, Pim Fortuyn.

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

“Spain and Luxembourg call for ‘pride’ in EU constitution” writes Helena Spongenberg from Brussels
“Those of us that have ratified [the constitution] must be proud of it,” said Spanish foreign affairs minister Miguel Angel Moratinos adding that the ratifiers should not have to justify their choice.

“[We should be] open and constructive but defending our principles and values, and the existence of a treaty that we consider a fundamental element,” he said, according to Spanish daily El Mundo.

The minister was in Luxembourg on Monday (8 January) to meet with the country’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn.

The two are preparing a conference on 26 January for the 18 EU member states that have ratified the constitution – both before and after French and Dutch voters rejected the charter in 2005.

Mr Asselborn said the objective of the conference was to analyse the political situation of the EU and “help” the German EU presidency in the debate on the reform of the bloc’s institutions after it was paralyzed by the votes in France and the Netherlands.

Mr Moratinos said reactions had generally been positive, despite the fact that the plan has received some criticism – EU liberal constitutional spokesman and UK MEP Andrew Duff said last month the initiative “carries the serious risk of dividing the union.”

He added that Ireland and Portugal – countries which have not ratified the constitution – had shown interest in taking part in the Madrid conference.

Mr Asselborn pointed out that at the Madrid conference, it would be decided if a second conference should take place in Luxembourg at the end of February, which would include the seven member states that have not yet ratified the constitution.

He made assurances, however, that the two countries “do not want to constitute a block” against those that have rejected or not yet ratified the constitution. “On the contrary, we try to encourage them to ratify and to help the German presidency to find keys that impel dialogue.”

Spain and Luxembourg are the only two countries that ratified the EU constitution by referendum, with 77 percent of Spaniards and 56 percent of Luxembourgish voting “yes” to the document.

The Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom parked the process of ratification after it was rejected in 2005.

Bulgaria and Romania which entered the EU in January already ratified the constitution before accession.

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