Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From the NYC UN Hqtrs. Complex – an event open to non-UN Pass Holders:
“We cordially invite you to attend the UN Summit side event “Enabling and tracking business contribution to the SDGs”, hosted by the French Government and GRI.”
Enabling and tracking business contribution to the SDGs
September 25 |13:15-14:30 | Conference Room 7, UNHQ
How to inspire and monitor private sector contributions to the SDGs?
What are governments doing to encourage responsible business conduct?
This event will bring together representatives from the UN, national governments, the business community and civil society, to discuss initiatives that promote responsible business conduct and have the potential to contribute to sustainable development. The talks will also explore new tools to measure private sector contributions to the SDGs, and how to use business data in the follow-up and review process.
H.E. Mr. Manuel Sager, State Secretary and Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Switzerland
Ms. Jacqueline McGlade, UNEP Chief Scientist
Mr. Michael Meehan, Chief Executive, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
Ambassador Ms. Lisa Kubiske, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Finance & Development
Mr. François Gave, Head of Development and Sustainable Development Department, French Mission to the United Nations
Mr. Ivo Havinga, Assistant Director, United Nations Statistics Division
Mr. Balaji Ganapathy, Head of Workforce Effectiveness/ Corporate Social Responsibility, TATA Consultancy Services
Time and location
September 25, 2015 | 13:15–14:30 | Conference Room 7 (CR7) | UN Headquarters
13:15 | welcome & keynote
13:30 | short interventions
13:50 | Panel discussion
14:15 | Audience Q&A
14:25 | Closing remarks
Contact person during the Summit:
Anne Kullman | Advisor, Business Engagement on the SDGs, GRI | kullman at globalreporting.org | m: + 46 (70) 642 90 36
Should you need more information prior to this event, please contact: Justine Swordy | swordy at globalreporting.org
This is an open side event, which means that all those who have access to the UN Summit, or a valid UN Grounds pass will be allowed access to attend. There is no need to pre-register.
However, if you require an access/special pass for this event, please fill out this form (link) by Monday, September 21st at 5pm EST. All participants requesting a UN Summit pass for this particular event will be notified of where and when to pick up their tickets. Please bring a valid ID/ passport to pick up your tickets.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
In the run-up to Paris2015 Kevin Rudd of the New York based Asia Society argues that “U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris,” Lord Nicholas Stern said that there will be a complete change in what the planet will look like in 100 years from now, and Christiana Figueres said that what countries have prepared for Paris is insufficient, but she hopes that in those 100 coming years they will be more forthcoming.
On August 28, 2015 – on CNN International’s Amanpour – Kevin Rudd, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) President, discussed the effects of climate change – with Lord Nicholas Stern, chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, and international climate policy, with Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Noting that projected levels of greenhouse gas emissions would cause average temperatures to rise by three-and-a-half to four degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, Lord Stern said “that is very dangerous territory” that the planet hasn’t seen “for around three million years,” since the end of the last Ice Age.
“These kinds of temperature increases are just enormous and would rewrite where we could live, where the rivers are, where the seashores are, what the weather is like,” said Lord Stern.
The poorest areas of the world would be “hit strongest and earliest,” he added. “Probably most of Southern Europe would look like the Sahara Desert.”
Figueres said that countries’ national climate change plans, which governments have been announcing ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December, will fall short of “where we should be, according to science, to be on the two degree [temperature increase] pathway.”
The resulting gap “will not be filled in Paris,” Figueres said. “It will not be filled in January.”
She noted that the Paris climate agreement “is being constructed, actually, as a progressive effort over a certain period of timeframes, during which countries need, and will be able to, because of increased technology and further capital flows … increase their contribution to the solution.”
Video: Kevin Rudd discusses climate change with Lord Nicholas Stern and Christiana Figueres on CNN International’s Amanpour.
Kevin Rudd on CNBC: Don’t Confuse the Chinese Stock Market with Overall Economy
Kevin Rudd in the New York Times: U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris
THE UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 5, 2015
Ms. Christiana Figueres – the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC will end her contract at the end of this year after the conclusion of the Paris 2015 meeting – having guided the organization through all this preparatory years. It is being suggested that her candidacy be submitted for the 2016 selection process for next UN Secretary-General position. She would be the best informed person to lead the UN in the crucial 2017-2026 period when Climate Change and Sustainability become main UN topics under the incoming title from Paris – “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
The UN is in need of another period of reform, so it is ‘fit for purpose’ in ensuring that the new Sustainable Development Goals become the agenda of all its organs over the next 15 years.
UN climate chief: No such thing as ideal pace for pre-Paris talks
4. Sep, 13:47
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres countered criticism that preliminary talks for a Paris climate treaty were moving too slowly. “There is no such thing as an objective [ideal] pace of negotiations that everyone can agree on”, she said at a press conference Friday after a round of talks in Bonn.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
UN rights official who ignored African child rape by French troops resigns; UN Watch reacts.
Published on July 22, 2015 in Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by unwatch.
Flavia_Pansieri was Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the Geneva Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According to the UN she was not fired but resigned for Health Reasons – BUT her assistant the whistleblower was fired!
GENEVA, July 22, 2015 – The resignation of a top UN rights official who admitted she did nothing after receiving reports of child rape by French soldiers in Central African Republic — because she was “distracted” by budget cuts — underscores the dire need for greater accountability at the world body, said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental Geneva watchdog agency that measures the performance of the world body by the yardstick of its own charter.
“Not only did Deputy UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri fail to act,” said Neuer, “but she was part of a coterie of top UN officials who punished the only member of her office who sounded the alarm, veteran staffer Anders Kompass, by firing him.”
“The message heard loud and clear throughout the world body was that speaking out against the banality of bureaucratic complicity with evil will kill one’s career, that it’s better to stay silent.”
“Therefore, to the extent that Ms. Pansieri is in fact resigning over her office’s shameful inaction, indifference and cover-up concerning the rape of children by peacekeepers, then today marks a small step toward greater accountability for malfeasance by UN officials.”
“In this episode, as in many others throughout the UN, minimal levels of scrutiny and acceptance of responsibility are desperately required,” added Neuer.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 17th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Subject: The Greek Bailout
THANKS CLAUDIA FOR FORWARDING THIS TO IRITH – NOW EVERYBODY CAN HAVE AN EXAMPLE HOW THIS BAILOUT DOES MIRACLES.
It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted.
Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.
On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a EU100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.
The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the EU100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.
The butcher takes the EU100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt
to the pig farmer.
The pig farmer takes the EU100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.
The guy at the Farmers’ Co-op takes the EU100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna.
The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him “services” on credit.
Economics 101 . . .
It was Greek to me but
NOW I understand.
The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel
owner with the EU100 note.
The hotel proprietor then places the EU100 note back on the counter so the
rich traveller will not suspect anything.
At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the EU100
note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money,
and leaves town.
No one produced anything. No one earned anything.
However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future
with a lot more optimism.
And that is how the bailout package works!
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 15th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
International Business – The New York Times
I.M.F. Demands Greece Debt Relief as Condition for Bailout
By JACK EWING JULY 14, 2015
FRANKFURT — The International Monetary Fund threatened to withdraw support for Greece’s bailout on Tuesday unless European leaders agree to substantial debt relief, an immediate challenge to the region’s plan to rescue the country.
The aggressive stance sets up a standoff with Germany and other eurozone creditors, which have been reluctant to provide additional debt relief. The I.M.F role is considered crucial for any bailout, not only to provide funding but also to supervise Greece’s compliance with the terms.
A new rescue program for Greece “would have to meet our criteria,” a senior I.M.F. official told reporters on Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “One of those criteria is debt sustainability.”
Debt relief has been a contentious issue in the negotiations over the Greek bailout.
Athens has pushed aggressively for creditors to write down the country’s debt, which now exceeds €300 billion. Without it, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has argued the debt will remain a heavy weight on Greece’s troubled economy.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Arctic Icy hotspots in focus at climate talks?
Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle
July 8, 2015
With western Europe sweltering in a record-breaking heat wave, climate scientists are meeting in Paris this week for what is regarded as the last major climate science conference before the key COP 21 in Paris at the end of this year.
“Our Common Future under Climate Change” wants to be “solutions-focused,” but starts off with a resumé of the state of science as a basis.
Permafrost ‘carbon bomb’ unlikely, but worries over northern thaw persist
Outlook for September Arctic sea ice tilts toward small reduction from last year
One of the topics on the wide agenda is, of course, the cryosphere, with scientists reporting on rapid changes in the Arctic ice and permafrost, and worrying developments in the Antarctic.
As conference after conference works to prepare a new World Climate Agreement, to take effect in 2020, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) is concerned that the INDCSs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, i.e. the climate action countries propose to take are not in line with keeping global warming to the internationally set target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists tell us this itself would already have major impacts on the world’s ice and snow.
Climate pledges way too low
Pam Pearson, the founder and director of ICCI, told journalists during a recent visit to Bonn her indication of INDCS so far was that they are ”somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2 degrees” Celsius.
Pearson and her colleagues are working hard to make the scientific evidence on climate changes in our ice and snow regions accessible and “must-reads” for the politicians and others who are preparing to negotiate the new agreement at the Paris talks at the end of the year, to replace the Kyoto protocol. She was here in Bonn at the last round of UN preparatory climate talks last month, holding a side event and briefing media and negotiators.
Pearson was part of the original Kyoto Protocol negotiating team. She is a former U.S. diplomat with 20 years’ experience of working on global issues, including climate change. She says she resigned in 2006 in protest over changes to U.S. development policies, especially related to environmental and global issues programs. From 2007 to2009, she worked from Sweden with a variety of organizations and Arctic governments to bring attention to the potential benefit of reductions in short-lived climate forcers to the Arctic climate, culminating in Arctic Council ministerial-level action in the Tromsø Declaration of 2009.
Pearson founded ICCI immediately after COP 15 to bring greater attention and policy focus to the “rapid and markedly similar changes occurring to cryosphere regions throughout the globe” and their importance for the global climate system.
IPCC reports already out of date! At the briefing in Bonn a couple of weeks ago, she said:
“Certainly through AR5, (the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC) the science is available to feed into the negotiations. But I think what we see as a cryosphere organization, participating as civil society in the negotiations – and I think also, very importantly, what the IPCC scientists see — is a lack of understanding of the urgency of slowing down these processes and the fact that they are irreversible. This is not like air or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before. It cannot go back to the way it was before and I think that is the most important aspect that still has not made its way into the negotiations”.
Scientists taking part in the event organized by the ICCI in Bonn stressed that a lot of major developments relating especially to Antarctica and to permafrost in the northern hemisphere was not available in time for that IPCC report. This means the scientific basis of AR5 is already way out of date, and that it does not include very recent important occurrences.
Sea ice in decline
Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg heads a research group focusing on sea ice and rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic.
He told journalists in Bonn: “Over the last 10 years or so we’ve roughly seen a fifty percent loss of Arctic sea ice area, so this ice is currently retreating very, very rapidly. In the Antarctic, some people are talking about the increase of sea ice. Just to put things into perspective: there is a slight increase, but it’s nothing compared to the very rapid loss that we’ve seen in the Arctic.“
The slight increase in sea ice in the Antarctic is certainly not an indicator that could disprove climate warming, as some of a skeptical persuasion would like to have us believe.
“In the Antarctic, the changes in sea ice are locally very different. We have an increase in some areas and a decrease in other areas. This increase in one area of the southern ocean is largely driven by changes in the surface pressure field. So the winds are blowing stronger off shore in the Antarctic, pushing the ice out onto the ocean, and this is why we have more sea ice now than we used to have in the past. Our understanding currently says that these changes in the wind field are currently driven by anthropogenic changes of the climate system,“ said Notz.
He stresses that as far as the Arctic is concerned, the loss of sea ice is very clearly linked to the increase in CO2. The more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the less sea ice we have in the Arctic.
Changing the face of the planet
Notz stresses the speed with which humankind is currently changing the face of the earth:
“Currently in the Arctic, a complete landscape is disappearing. It’s a landscape that has been around for thousands of years, and it’s a landscape our generation is currently removing from the planet, possibly for a very long time. I think culturally, that’s a very big change we are seeing.”
At the same time, he says the decline in the Arctic sea ice could be seen as a very clear warning sign:
“Temperature evolution of the planet for the past 50 thousand years or so shows that for the past 10 thousand years or so, climate on the planet has been extremely stable. And the loss of sea ice in the Arctic might be an indication that we are ending this period of a very stable climate in the Arctic just now. This might be the very first, very clear sign of a very clear change in the climatic conditions, like nothing we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years since we’ve had our cultures as humans.”
Simulations indicate that Arctic summer sea ice might be gone by the middle of this century. But Notz stresses that we can still influence this:
“The future sea ice loss both in the Arctic and the Antarctic depends on future CO2 emissions. A rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice in this decade is possible but unlikely. Only a very rapid reduction of CO2 might allow for the survival of Arctic summer sea ice beyond this century.”
Antarctic ice not eternal
Whereas until very recently the Antarctic ice was regarded as safe from climate warming, research in the last few years has indicated that even in that area, some possibly irreversible processes are underway. This relates to land ice rather than sea ice.
Ricarda Winckelmann is a scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK). She told journalists and climate negotiators at the Bonn talks that Antarctica could be regarded as the “sea level giant.. The global sea level would rise by 5 meters (16.4 feet) if West Antarctica’s ice sheet melted completely, 50 meters (164 feet) for the East Antarctic ice sheet.
“Over the past years, a couple of regions in Antarctica have really caught our attention. There are four hotspots. They have all changed rapidly. There have been a number of dynamic changes in these regions, but they all have something in common, and that is that they bear the possibility of a dynamic instability. Some of them have actually crossed that threshold, some of them might cross it in the near future. But they all underlie the same mechanism. That is called the marine ice sheet instability. It’s based on the fact that the bottom topography has a certain shape, and it’s a purely mechanical, self-enforcing mechanism. So it’s sort of driving itself. If you have a retreat of a certain region that undergoes this mechanism, it means you cannot stop it. “
The hotspots she refers to are the Amundsen Basin in West Antarctica, comprising the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which are the fastest glaciers in Antarctica:
“It has been shown in a number of studies last year that it actually has tipped. Meaning it has crossed that threshold, and is now undergoing irreversible change. So all of these glaciers will drain into the ocean and we will lose a volume that is equivalent to about a meter (3.3 feet) of global sea level. The question is how fast this is going to happen.”
Next comes the Antarctic peninsula, where very recent research has indicated that warm water is reaching the ice shelves, leading to melting and dynamic thinning.
Even in East Antarctica, which was long considered virtually immune to climate change, Winckelmann and her colleagues have found signs that this same mechanism might be at work, for instance with Totten Glacier:
“There is a very recent publication from this year, showing that (…) this could possibly undergo the same instability mechanism. Totten Glacier currently has the largest thinning rate in East Antarctica. And it contains as much volume as the entire West Antarctic ice sheet put together. So it’s 3.5 meters’ (11.5 feet) worth of global sea level rise, if this region tips,” says the Potsdam expert.
Pulling the plug?
The other problematic area is the Wilkes Basin.
“We found that there is something called an ice plug, and if you pull it, you trigger this instability mechanism, and lose the entire drainage basin. What’s really striking is that this ice plug is comparably small, with a sea-level equivalent of less than 80 millimeters (3.15 inches). But if you lose that ice plug, you will get self-sustained sea level rise over a long period of time, of three to four meters,” or 9.8 feet to 13 feet.
This research is all so new that it was not included in the last IPCC assessment:
“We’ve known that this dynamic mechanism exists for a long time, it was first proposed in the 1970s. But the observation that something like this is actually happening right now is new,” Winckelmann stresses.
Clearly, this is key information when it comes to bringing home the urgent need for rapid climate action.
Pam Pearson stresses that these changes in themselves have a feedback effect, and have an impact on the climate:
“The cryosphere is changing a lot more quickly than other parts of the world. The main focus for Paris is that these regions are moving from showing climate change, being indicators of climate change, to beginning to drive climate change, and the risks of those dynamics beginning to overwhelm anthropogenic impacts on these particular areas is growing as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, as the temperature rises.”
Climate factor: permafrost
This applies in particular to the effect of thawing permafrost. Susan Natali from the Woods Hole Research Center is co-author of a landmark study published in Nature in April. She also joined the ICCI event in Bonn:
“Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The amount of carbon currently stored in permafrost is about twice as much as in the atmosphere. So our current estimate is 1,500 billion tons of carbon permanently frozen and locked away in permafrost. So you can imagine, as that permafrost thaws and even a portion of that gets released into the atmosphere, that this may lead to a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.”
The study was conducted by an international permafrost network. “The goal is to put our current understanding of the processes in permafrost regions into global climate models. The current IPCC reports don’t include greenhouse gas emissions as a result of permafrost thaw,” says Natali.
Permafrost regions make up some 25 percent of the northern hemisphere land area. The scientists say between 30 percent and 70 percent of it could be lost by 2100, depending on the amount of temperature rise. There is still a lot of uncertainty over how much carbon could be released, but Winckelmann and her colleagues think thawing permafrost could release as much carbon into the atmosphere by 2100 as the US, the world’s second biggest emitter, is currently emitting.
The time for action is now
“The thing to keep in mind is that the action we take now in terms of our fossil fuel emissions is going to have a significant impact on how much permafrost is lost and in turn how much carbon is released from permafrost. There is some uncertainty, but we know permafrost carbon losses will be substantial, they will be irreversible on a human-relevant time frame, and these emissions of GHGs from permafrost need to be accounted for if we want to meet our global emissions targets,” says Winckelmann.
The challenge is to convince politicians today to act now, in the interests of the future. Pearson and her colleagues are working to have a synthesis of what scientists have found to date accessible to and understandable for the negotiators who will be at COP21 in Paris in December.
In terms of an outcome, she says first of all we need higher ambition now, in the pledges being made by different countries. The lower the temperature rise, the less the risk of further dynamic change processes being set off in the cryosphere. The other key factor is to make sure there is flexibility to up the targets on a regular basis, without being tied to a long negotiating process. The current agreement draft envisages five year reviews.
“There are a number of cryosphere scientists who actually expect these kinds of signals from cryosphere to multiply, and that there may be some dramatic developments just over the next three to five years, that may finally spur some action,” Pearson says.
Here’s hoping the UN negotiators will not wait for further catastrophic evidence before committing to an effective new climate treaty at the end of this year.
This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
After a marathon European summit, Greece and its creditors have reached an agreement that should allow them to negotiate a new bailout for the troubled country.
The Greek government agreed to enact deep economic reforms under close supervision by its creditors in return for up to 86 billion euros ($96 billion).
Here is the full text of the agreement, obtained by CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne:
Euro Summit Statement
Brussels, 12 July 2015
The Euro Summit stresses the crucial need to rebuild trust with the Greek authorities as a prerequisite for a possible future agreement on a new ESM programme. In this context, the ownership by the Greek authorities is key, and successful implementation should follow policy commitments.
A euro area Member State requesting financial assistance from the ESM is expected to address, wherever possible, a similar request to the IMF1.
This is a precondition for the Eurogroup to agree on a new ESM programme. Therefore Greece will request continued IMF support (monitoring and financing) from March 2016.
Given the need to rebuild trust with Greece, the Euro Summit welcomes the commitments of the Greek authorities to legislate without delay a first set of measures. These measures, taken in full prior agreement with the Institutions, will include:
by 15 July
• the streamlining of the VAT system and the broadening of the tax base to increase revenue;
• upfront measures to improve long-term sustainability of the pension system as part of a comprehensive pension reform programme;
• the safeguarding of the full legal independence of ELSTAT;
• full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, in particular by making the Fiscal Council operational before finalizing the MoU and introducing quasi-automatic spending cuts in case of deviations from ambitious primary surplus targets after seeking advice from the Fiscal Council and subject to prior approval of the Institutions;
by 22 July
• the adoption of the Code of Civil Procedure, which is a major overhaul of procedures and arrangements for the civil justice system and can significantly accelerate the judicial process and reduce costs;
• the transposition of the BRRD with support from the European Commission.
Immediately, and only subsequent to legal implementation of the first four above-mentioned measures as well as endorsement of all the commitments included in this document by the Greek Parliament, verified by the Institutions and the Eurogroup, may a decision to mandate the Institutions to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) be taken. This decision would be taken subject to national procedures having been completed and if the preconditions of Article 13 of the ESM Treaty are met on the basis of the assessment referred to in Article 13.1.
In order to form the basis for a successful conclusion of the MoU, the Greek offer of reform measures needs to be seriously strengthened to take into account the strongly deteriorated economic and fiscal position of the country during the last year. The Greek government needs to formally commit to strengthening their proposals in a number of areas identified by the Institutions, with a satisfactory clear timetable for legislation and implementation, including structural benchmarks, milestones and quantitative benchmarks, to have clarity on the direction of policies over the medium-run.
They notably need, in agreement with the Institutions, to:
• carry out ambitious pension reforms and specify policies to fully compensate for the fiscal impact of the Constitutional Court ruling on the 2012 pension reform and to implement the zero deficit clause or mutually agreeable alternative measures by October 2015;
• adopt more ambitious product market reforms with a clear timetable for implementation of all OECD toolkit I recommendations, including Sunday trade, sales periods, pharmacy ownership, milk and bakeries, except over-the-counter pharmaceutical products, which will be implemented in a next step, as well as for the opening of macro-critical closed professions (e.g. ferry transportation). On the follow-up of the OECD toolkit-II, manufacturing needs to be included in the prior action;
• on energy markets, proceed with the privatisation of the electricity transmission network operator (ADMIE), unless replacement measures can be found that have equivalent effect on competition, as agreed by the Institutions;
• on labour markets, undertake rigorous reviews and modernisation of collective bargaining, industrial action and, in line with the relevant EU directive and best practice, collective dismissals, along the timetable and the approach agreed with the Institutions. On the basis of these reviews, labour market policies should be aligned with international and European best practices, and should not involve a return to past policy settings which are not compatible with the goals of promoting sustainable and inclusive growth;
• adopt the necessary steps to strengthen the financial sector, including decisive action on non-performing loans and measures to strengthen governance of the HFSF and the banks, in particular by eliminating any possibility for political interference especially in appointment processes.
On top of that, the Greek authorities shall take the following actions:
• to develop a significantly scaled up privatisation programme with improved governance; valuable Greek assets will be transferred to an independent fund that will monetize the assets through privatisations and other means. The monetization of the assets will be one source to make the scheduled repayment of the new loan of ESM and generate over the life of the new loan a targeted total of EUR 50bn of which EUR 25bn will be used for the repayment of recapitalization of banks and other assets and 50 % of every remaining euro (i.e. 50% of EUR 25bn) will be used for decreasing the debt to GDP ratio and the remaining 50 % will be used for investments.
This fund would be established in Greece and be managed by the Greek authorities under the supervision of the relevant European Institutions. In agreement with Institutions and building on best international practices, a legislative framework should be adopted to ensure transparent procedures and adequate asset sale pricing, according to OECD principles and standards on the management of State Owned Enterprises (SOEs);
• in line with the Greek government ambitions, to modernise and significantly strengthen the Greek administration, and to put in place a programme, under the auspices of the European Commission, for capacity-building and de-politicizing the Greek administration. A first proposal should be provided by 20 July after discussions with the Institutions. The Greek government commits to reduce further the costs of the Greek administration, in line with a schedule agreed with the Institutions;
• to fully normalize working methods with the Institutions, including the necessary work on the ground in Athens, to improve programme implementation and monitoring. The government needs to consult and agree with the Institutions on all draft legislation in relevant areas with adequate time before submitting it for public consultation or to Parliament. The Euro Summit stresses again that implementation is key, and in that context welcomes the intention of the Greek authorities to request by 20 July support from the Institutions and Member States for technical assistance, and asks the European Commission to coordinate this support from Europe;
• With the exception of the humanitarian crisis bill, the Greek government will reexamine with a view to amending legislations that were introduced counter to the February 20 agreement by backtracking on previous programme commitments or identify clear compensatory equivalents for the vested rights that were subsequently created.
The above-listed commitments are minimum requirements to start the negotiations with the Greek authorities. However, the Euro Summit made it clear that the start of negotiations does not preclude any final possible agreement on a new ESM programme, which will have to be based on a decision on the whole package (including financing needs, debt sustainability and possible bridge financing).
The Euro Summit takes note of the possible programme financing needs of between EUR 82 and 86bn, as assessed by the Institutions. It invites the Institutions to explore possibilities to reduce the financing envelope, through an alternative fiscal path or higher privatisation proceeds. Restoring market access, which is an objective of any financial assistance programme, lowers the need to draw on the total financing envelope. The Euro Summit takes note of the urgent financing needs of Greece which underline the need for very swift progress in reaching a decision on a new MoU: these are estimated to amount to EUR 7bn by 20 July and an additional EUR 5bn by mid August.
The Euro Summit acknowledges the importance of ensuring that the Greek sovereign can clear its arrears to the IMF and to the Bank of Greece and honour its debt obligations in the coming weeks to create conditions which allow for an orderly conclusion of the negotiations. The risks of not concluding swiftly the negotiations remain fully with Greece. The Euro Summit invites the Eurogroup to discuss these issues as a matter of urgency.
Given the acute challenges of the Greek financial sector, the total envelope of a possible new ESM programme would have to include the establishment of a buffer of EUR 10 to 25bn for the banking sector in order to address potential bank recapitalisation needs and resolution costs, of which EUR 10bn would be made available immediately in a segregated account at the ESM.
The Euro Summit is aware that a rapid decision on a new programme is a condition to allow banks to reopen, thus avoiding an increase in the total financing envelope. The ECB/SSM will conduct a comprehensive assessment after the summer. The overall buffer will cater for possible capital shortfalls following the comprehensive assessment after the legal framework is applied.
There are serious concerns regarding the sustainability of Greek debt. This is due to the easing of policies during the last twelve months, which resulted in the recent deterioration in the domestic macroeconomic and financial environment. The Euro Summit recalls that the euro area Member States have, throughout the last few years, adopted a remarkable set of measures supporting Greece’s debt sustainability, which have smoothed Greece’s debt servicing path and reduced costs significantly.
Against this background, in the context of a possible future ESM programme, and in line with the spirit of the Eurogroup statement of November 2012, the Eurogroup stands ready to consider, if necessary, possible additional measures (possible longer grace and payment periods) aiming at ensuring that gross financing needs remain at a sustainable level. These measures will be conditional upon full implementation of the measures to be agreed in a possible new programme and will be considered after the first positive completion of a review.
The Euro Summit stresses that nominal haircuts on the debt cannot be undertaken.
The Greek authorities reiterate their unequivocal commitment to honour their financial obligations to all their creditors fully and in a timely manner.
Provided that all the necessary conditions contained in this document are fulfilled, the Eurogroup and ESM Board of Governors may, in accordance with Article 13.2 of the ESM Treaty, mandate the Institutions to negotiate a new ESM programme, if the preconditions of Article 13 of the ESM Treaty are met on the basis of the assessment referred to in Article 13.1.
To help support growth and job creation in Greece (in the next 3-5 years) the Commission will work closely with the Greek authorities to mobilise up to EUR 35bn (under various EU programmes) to fund investment and economic activity, including in SMEs. As an exceptional measure and given the unique situation of Greece the Commission will propose to increase the level of pre-financing by EUR 1bn to give an immediate boost to investment to be dealt with by the EU co-legislators. The Investment Plan for Europe will also provide funding opportunities for Greece.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Reported by Irith Jawetz from Vienna
July 12. 2015
On Friday, July 10, 2015 – a very timely – at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna.
Since the Iran talks are being held in Vienna, the panel discussion was very appropriate and although many people have left the City for the Summer, or at least for the weekend, this round table – and the room were full.
I will try to give a somewhat concise reporting of that event.
The event was called: Iran und der Westen nach den Verhandlungen (Iran and the West after the talks).
The participants were:
Dr. Christian Prosl, Austrian Ambassador to Washingtion 2009-2011
Dr. Walter Posch, Institut für Friedenssicherung und Konfliktforschung an der Landesverteidigungsakademie Wien
( Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management, Vienna).
Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist, APA (the Austrian Press Agency) and Wiener Zeitung
The excellent moderator was Dr. Werner Fasslabend, President of the Politische Akademie und des AIES, former Austrian Minister for Defense.
Dr. Fasselabend opened the discussion stating that only 99.9% of the talks are completed.
He continued by by displaying historic and current maps of the Region, giving us a broad historic overview of Iran and its influence on the region. He stressed that because of Iran’s geographical location it was and still is a very large regional power and stability in the Middle East without Iran’s cooperation is impossible.
Dr. Arian Faal, Journalist for APA (Austrian Press Agentur) and Wiener Zeitung gave us an inside look from the perspective of the journalists covering the talks.
He recalled that after 17 days, 12-16 hours of work, 600 journalists and at a cost of about $1 million for the stay in Vienna by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation at the famous Imperial Hotel, there is still no deal. There have been many improvements since the beginning of the talks, but still no deal. Mr. Kerry has prolonged his stay yet again and said a deadline will not be a factor as long as an agreement can be achieved. The new deadline to be breached is Monday July 13th.
The three major problems that stand in the way of an agreement are:
1) The sanctions on Iran – the Iranian delegation insists those have to be lifted right away;
2) The UN Arms Embargo that includes conventional weapons;
3) Political readiness by President Obama and Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran. Both have to agree to a deal which will be accepted at home.
Dr. Faal said he is an optimist by nature and is still hopeful that an agreement will be reached.
Ambassador Dr. Christian Prosl addressed the matter from the US point of view. He said that for the US the stability of the region and the security of the State of Israel are the main factors and the two problems which the US faces are with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Both countries, though for different reasons, are against any deal with Iran since they do not trust the Iranian regime.
As for the supply of oil, this is not anymore a factor for the US because of the fracking industry. However, the strained relationship between President Obama and the Republican party may be a factor. The Republicans have tried for a long time now to see that President Obama fails, and they may try to fail him also in this endeavor. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech in Congress against the Iran deal, which was prompted by the invitation of Speaker of the House John Boemer, did not help. However Ambassador Prosl said that he cannot imagine that the Republicans will fail the agreement if it is iron clad and the treaty will be safe for the US.
Dr. Posch addressed the matter from the Iranian point of view and concluded that although the problems are being viewed from different perspective, i.e. US, the EU and Iran, the will is there. Regional security, oil supply and human rights in Iran all play a part in the talks. He also was hopeful that a deal will be signed
At the end of the panel presentations, Dr. Fasselabend invited to the podium Dr. Massud Mossaheb, General Secretary of the Austro-Iranian Society in Vienna.
Mr. Mossaheb said that there is mutual mistrust between the West and the Iranian Government.
In spite of the fact that the Iranian nuclear position has not changed in the last 40 years, there is still mistrust. The people of Iran hope for the lifting of the sanctions so they can have a better quality of life. They suffer from high inflation and lack of supplies, especially in medications. Dr. Mossaheb also hopes for a deal to be reached.
As the end, the consensus was that the talks will go on, of course not for ever, but without the threat of an immediate deadline, and an agreement, which will be safe and beneficial for all participants will be reached.
From the US MEDIA – I will add to the above that the personal insistence of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, the opinion is that the White House investment in these talks is so high that a failure to obtain an agreement is unthinkable.
The fact that the Iranians see this deep involvement of the Americans has in itself weakened the position of the United States in these negotiations. But then, the Iran Supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei – whose position is still strong as he is still blindly followed by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) who are in charge of the Nuclear Program – may be using tough talk now just to make sure that his agreeing to an agreement is not viewed as weakness. The Iranian people want an end to the sanctions provided it is not seen as a cave in (the CNN/GPS program of Fareed Zakaria).
The current round, now in its 16-th day, was supposed to conclude on June 30, but was extended until July 7, then July 10 and now July 13. The sides had hoped to seal a deal before the end of Thursday in Washington to avoid delays in implementing their promises.
By missing that target, the U.S. and Iran now have to wait for a 60-day congressional review period during which President Barack Obama can’t waive sanctions on Iran. Had they reached a deal by Thursday, the review would have been only 30 days.
En route to Mass at Vienna’s St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday.
Kerry noted that “a few tough things” remain in the way of agreement but added: “We’re getting to some real decisions.”
A senior State Department official also said Sunday that the department will not speculate about the timing of anything during the talks and that key issues remain unresolved.
Iran’s state-run Press TV cited Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday as calling the U.S. an “excellent example of arrogance.” It reported that Khamenei told university students in Tehran to be “prepared to continue the struggle against arrogant powers.”
His comments suggest Tehran’s distrust of Washington will persist whether a deal gets done or not. Khamenei’s comments also have appeared thus to be a blow to U.S. hopes than agreement will lead to improved relations with the country and possible cooperation against Islamic rebels.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, like Kerry, indicated talks could go either way. “We behaved so skillfully that if talks won’t succeed, the world would accept that Iran is for logic and dialogue and never left the negotiating table … and if we succeed by the grace of God, the world will know that the Iranian nation can resolve its problems through logic,” his website quoted him as saying.
The supreme leader’s comments also come after it was learned Saturday that the Islamic Republic’s spies have been seeking atomic and missile technology in neighboring Germany as recently as last month.
Iran’s illegal activities have continued since talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as rotating member Germany – began with a Joint Plan of Action in 2013, according to German intelligence sources. The JPOA was intended to stop Iran’s work on a nuclear weapon until a comprehensive agreement is reached.
“You would think that with the negotiations, [Iranian] activities would drop,” a German intelligence source said. “Despite the talks to end Iran’s program, Iran did not make an about-turn.”
With a final agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program set for Monday, the intelligence data from Germany raises disturbing questions about the success of the deal.
Tehran has sought industry computers, high-speed cameras, cable fiber, and pumps for its nuclear and missile program over the last two years, according to German intelligence sources. Germany is required to report Iran’s illegal procurement activities to the UN.
Iran is unlikely to begin a substantial rollback of its nuclear program until it gets sanctions relief in return.
But then the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers said they will come to Vienna for the signing of the agreement – and the news are that Mr. Sergei Lavrov has said he will be there on Monday.
An Iranian diplomat said that they have a 100 pages document to study and that logistically it cannot be done by Sunday night with parallel meetings going on.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 11th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Kurt Bayer’s Commentary // Global Economic Policy
Blog URL: kurtbayer.wordpress.com
July 11, 2015 · —
Die Eurozone nach “Griechenland”
Die Griechenlandkrise ist eigentlich eine Eurokrise, Griechenland nur eine extreme Ausprägung der Eurokrise.
Damit will ich keinesfalls die “Mitschuld” der griechischen Regierung an der Misere leugnen, jedoch: Die vielen, letztlich oft unnützen Treffen der Eurogruppe und der Staats- und Regierungschefs waren eine massive Verschwendung von karger Zeit der Politikerinnen. Sie zeugen auch von der Hilflosigkeit der Verhandlungsführung. Mehr aber noch zeigen die letzten sechs zermürbenden Monate seit Regierungsantritt von Syriza mehr als deutlich, dass die Eurozone nicht über ausreichende Institutionen zur Führung einer Währungsunion verfügt, und dass ganz offenbar die Ausrichtung der von der Eurozone verfolgten Wirtschaftspolitik falsch ist. Woran man dies sieht? Sieben Jahre nach Ausbruch der Finanzkrise (in den USA) erreicht die Eurozone erst heuer das Wirtschaftsleistungsniveau von 2007, während das Nationalprodukt der USA um 11% über jenem von 2007D liegt. Die Arbeitslosenrate der Eurozone ist in diesem Zeitraum von 7.5% auf 11.2.% gestiegen, die katastrophalen Zahlen der Jugendarbeitslosigkeit (eine politische Zeitbombe) von mehr als 50% in vielen Ländern stellen einen nicht zu überhörenden Weckruf dar – und die Schuldenquote der Euroländer, deren Senkung das erklärte Ziel der Euro-Wirtschaftspolitik ist, ist sogar von 68% des BIP auf 91% angestiegen. Wie viel mehr traurigen Beweises des Fehlschlagens einer Wirtschaftspolitik bedarf es noch?
Zu den institutionellen Mängeln hat kürzlich der Bericht der „5 Präsidenten“ Juncker, Tusk, Dijsselbloom, Draghi, Schulz ec.europa.eu/priorities/economic-…) ausführlich Stellung genommen (siehe dazu in diesem Blog den Beitrag vom 23.6.2015) . Er soll – wenn der Fall Griechenland es zuläßt, im ECOFIN und EU-Gipfel Mitte Juli 2015 erstmals diskutiert werden. Die Präsidenten fordern, dass eine Währungsunion von Ländern mit sehr unterschiedlicher Wirtschaftskraft, innerstaatlichen Institutionen und Geschichte Institutionen benötigt, die das „Europäische“ vor die Einzelinteressen der Mitglieder stellen, um funktionieren zu können. Es braucht neben der bestehenden gemeinsamen Geldpolitik (manifestiert in der Europäischen Zentralbank) viererlei: eine Bankenunion (gemeinsame Aufsicht, gemeinsamer Rettungsfonds, gemeinsame Einlagensicherung), eine Wirtschaftsunion (zur Festlegung eines gemeinsamen Rahmens für die Wirtschaftspolitik), eine Fiskalunion (zur gemeinsam an der Eurozone orientierten Budgetpolitik, zur Verhinderung des destruktiven Steuerwettbewerbs) und, über all diesen stehend, eine Politische Union, die es ermöglicht, im Dialog zwischen europäischen Behörden (Parlament, Kommission, Rat) und nationalen Behörden (Parlamenten, Zivilgesellschaft, Regierungen) gemeinsame europäische Linien zu finden, die breitest in der Bevölkerung unterstützt werden. Nur mit breiter Unterstützung sind die getroffenen Maßnahmen zur klaglosen Funktion der Währungsunion umsetzbar und wirksam.
Die 5 meinen zurecht, dass es all dieser „Unionen“ gemeinsam bedarf, um die Währungsunion zum Funktionieren zu bringen. Es gilt, den Mitgliedsländern der Währungsunion ganz klar zu machen, dass sie mit ihrem Eintritt in diese besondere Art der Währungsunion (die keinen „optimalen Währungsraum“ im Sinne der Wirtschaftstheorie darstellt) eigenstaatliche Souveränität aufgegeben und an die Euro-Organe abgegeben haben. Es geht dann nicht mehr, seine je eigenen Vorstellungen von Wirtschaftspolitik durchzusetzen. Vielmehr muss eine Wirtschaftspolitik für alle Eurozonenteilnehmer, für die Eurozone als Ganzes, gefunden und umgesetzt werden.
Im Inhaltlichen jedoch bleibt der Präsidentenbericht stumm. Er meint, mit der Vervollständigung der angesprochenen „Unionen“ sein Auslangen zu finden. Er sagt nichts zur Ausrichtung der Wirtschaftspolitik. Maggie Thatcher’s TINA („there is no alternative“) gilt nicht für die Richtung der Wirtschaftspolitik, dort gibt es immer Alternativen. Sieht man, dass die bislang verfolgte Richtung versagt hat, dann dann haben verantwortungsbewusste Europapolitikerinnen die Richtung zu ändern und die Fetischisierung der Budgetkonsolidierung („Austerität“) zugunsten einer breit gefächerten Wirtschaftspolitik aufzugeben. Bekämpfung der Arbeitslosigkeit und Armut, nachhaltiges Wirtschaftswachstum, niedrige Inflation und Ausgleich von Leistungsbilanzunterschieden sind mindestens so wichtig wie ein mittelfristig ausgeglichenes Budget. Der weit überwiegende Teil der EU-Wirtschaftspolitik bezieht sich jedoch auf Durchsetzung einer Budgetkonsolidierung. Eine Euro-weite Politik für ein „gutes Leben“ gibt es jedoch nicht.
Es ist höchst an der Zeit, das generelle Versagen der Eurozone einer durchgehenden Neubewertung zu unterziehen, und sowohl die „Geburtsfehler“ als auch die einseitig auf Budgetkonsolidierung ausgerichtete Wirtschaftspolitik zu korrigieren. Die nächste Krise kommt bestimmt. Ohne institutionelle und vor allem auch inhaltliche Neuausrichtung wird die Eurozone sie nicht überstehen!
G-20 Finance Ministers: Retreat into Statistics or Progress towards Solving Imbalances?In “Crisis Response”
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The Blog’s topics:topics
Financial Market Regulation
Die Eurozone nach “Griechenland” July 11, 2015
Zeitenwende in der Eurozone July 6, 2015
Europa – Griechenland- Verantwortung June 30, 2015
Wiener Festwochen und mehr June 26, 2015
Institutional Set-up and Conflict Resolution for Socio-Ecological Transition June 25, 2015
Der Bericht der “5 Präsidenten” zur Vollendung der Wirtschafts- und Währungsunion June 23, 2015
Geplänkel ums britische EU-Referendum als Vorboten der Schlacht June 17, 2015
“Generalverdacht” oder Durchbruch für Steuerehrlichkeit? May 26, 2015
Wie nutzt Österreich seine Beteiligungen an internationalen Finanzinstitutionen?- Schlecht May 21, 2015
Georgia on my mind: a tourist’s impression May 21, 2015
Die “Zentralmatura”-Absurdität der österreichischen Bildungsdebatte May 7, 2015
Hypo-Heta: nächster Akt jetzt! April 29, 2015
Form Beats Substance: Media as the Dismal Estate! April 28, 2015
Neue Demokratisierungsvorschläge – das Grünbuch von #besserentscheiden April 18, 2015
Am Golde hängt doch (fast) alles…. April 16, 2015
Hypo-Heta-Deutschland April 9, 2015
Two very different murder stories April 8, 2015
Wienkultur zu Frühlingsbeginn April 3, 2015
Lektionen aus der Griechischen Tragödie March 28, 2015
Kultur am Ende des Winters 2015 March 23, 2015
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 10th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
July 11, 2015
To be Greek
EVERYBODY HAS already voiced his (or her) opinion on the Greek crisis, whether he (or she) has an opinion or not. So I feel obliged to do the same.
The crisis is immensely complicated. However, it looks to me quite simple.
The Greeks spent more than they earned. The creditors, in their incredible impertinence, want their money back. The Greeks have no money, and anyhow, their pride does not allow them to pay.
So what to do? Every commentator, from Nobel prize-winning economists to my taxi driver in Tel Aviv, has a solution. Unfortunately, no one listens to them.
Angela Merkel and Alexis Tsipras go on fighting World War II. But the relations between the two nations played a role in my family long before that.
AS A boy, my father was a pupil in a German “humanist” high school. In these schools, pupils learned Latin and ancient Greek instead of English and French. So I heard Latin and Greek sayings before I went to school and learned Latin myself – for half a year before we fortunately left Germany for Palestine in 1933.
Educated Germans admired the Romans. The Romans were straight-minded people who made laws and obeyed them, almost like the Germans themselves.
Germans loved the ancient Greeks and despised them. As their most important poet, Wolfgang von Goethe, said: “Das Griechenvolk, es taugte nie recht viel” – the Greek people never amounted to very much.
The Greeks invented freedom, something the ancient Hebrews did not even dream of. The Greeks invented democracy. In Athens, everybody (except slaves, women, barbarians and other inferior folk) took part in public discussions and decision-making. This did not leave them much time to work.
That was the way my father looked at them, and this is the way decent Germans look at them now. Nice people to have around on vacation, but not serious people to do business with. Too lazy. Too life-loving.
I suspect that these ingrained attitudes influence the opinions of German leaders and voters now. They certainly influence the attitudes of Greek leaders and voters towards Germany. To hell with them and their obsession with law and order.
I HAVE stayed several times in Greece, and always liked the people.
My wife, Rachel, loved the island of Hydra and took me there. To find a ship to go there from Piraeus was quite an ordeal. That was of course before the internet. Every shipping agency had a timetable for its boats, but there did not exist a general timetable. That would have been too orderly, too German. (If Piraeus had been Haifa, there would have been an all-inclusive timetable in every shop window.)
I was invited to several international conferences in Athens. One was presided over by the wonderful Melina Mercouri, so intelligent and so beautiful, who served at the time as a cabinet minister. It concerned Mediterranean culture, and was mixed with a lot of good food and folk dances. I once helped to host Mikis Theodorakis in Tel Aviv.
So I have no prejudices against the Greeks. On the contrary. Before the last Greek elections I received an e-mail message from a person I did not know, asking me to sign an international statement of support for the Syriza party. After reading the material, I did. I sympathize with their heroic fight now.
I am reminded of the “Sailors’ Revolt” in Israel in the early 1950s. It was an uprising against the governing bureaucracy. I supported it with all my heart and was even arrested for a few hours. When it all ended in a glorious defeat, I met a famous leftist general and expected to be lauded. He said: “Only fools start a struggle they cannot win!”
It boils down to this: the Greeks owe a lot of money. A huge lot of money. It is now immaterial how this huge debt came about, and who is to blame. Europe (the very name is Greek) has no chance of getting the billions back. But they’ll be damned if they will pour more money into this bottomless pit. How can Greece survive without more money?
I don’t know. I strongly suspect that no one else does, either. Including the Nobel Prize laureates.
FOR ME, the most important aspect of the disaster is the future of the two great experiments: the European Union and the Euro currency.
When the European idea gained ground on the continent after the fratricidal World War II, there was a great debate about its future contours. Some proposed something like the United States of Europe, a federal union on the lines of the USA. Charles de Gaulle, a very influential voice at the time, objected strenuously and proposed l’Europe des Nations, a much more loose confederation.
Much the same debate took place in America before the final decision to create the United States, and again at the time of the civil war. In the end, the federalists won, and the confederate flags are being burned even now.
In Europe, de Gaulle’s idea won. There was no strong will to create a united European state. National governments were ready, after some years, to create a union of independent states, which grudgingly transferred some sovereign powers to the super-government in Brussels.
(Why Brussels? Because Belgium is a small country. Neither Germany nor France was ready to allow the union’s capital to be located in either of them. It reminds one of the Biblical King David, who moved his capital to Jerusalem, which belonged to no tribe, so as to avoid the jealousy between the powerful tribes of Judah and Ephraim.)
The Brussels bureaucracy seems to be heartily hated by all, but its power is inexorably growing. Modern reality favors larger and larger units. No future for small states.
This brings us to the Euro. The European idea led to the formation of a huge bloc, in which a common currency could flow freely. To a layman like me, it seemed like a wonderful idea. I don’t remember a single prominent economist warning against it.
Today it is easy to say that the Euro bloc was flawed from the beginning. Even I understand that you cannot have a single currency when each member state shapes its national budget according to its own whims and political interests.
That is the fundamental difference between a federation and a confederation. How would the USA operate if each of its 50 member states ran its own economy independently of the other 49?
As the economists teach us now, something like the Euro crisis cannot happen in the US. If the state of Alabama is in bad financial shape, all the other states step in automatically. The central bank (or Federal Reserve) simply shuffles money around. No problem.
The Greek crisis arises from the fact that the Euro is not based on such a federation. The Greek economic breakdown would have been stopped by the European central bank long before it had reached the present point. Money would have flowed from Brussels to Athens without anybody even noticing. Tsipras could have embraced Merkel in her chancellery and happily announced “Ich bin ein Berliner!” (I can’t really imagine Merkel going to Athens and proclaiming “Ich bin eine Griechin!”)
The first lesson of the crisis is that the creation of a currency union presupposes a readiness of all member states to give up their economic independence. A country that is not prepared to do so cannot join such a union. Each country can keep its precious football team, and even its sacred flag, but its national budget must be subject to the joint economic super-government.
Today that is quite clear. Unfortunately, it was not clear to the founders of the Euro bloc.
In this respect, a giant nation like China has a huge advantage. It is not even a federation, but in practice a unitary state, with a unitary currency.
Small states, like Israel, lack the economic security of belonging to a large union, but enjoy the advantage of being able to maneuver freely, and to fix our currency, the Shekel, according to our interests. If export prices are too high, you just devalue. As long as your credit rating is high enough, you can do what you want.
Fortunately, nobody invited us to join the Euro bloc. The temptation would have been too strong.
THIS BEING so, we can follow the Greek crisis with some equanimity.
But for those of us who believe that after achieving peace with the Palestinian people and the entire Arab world, Israel must become a part of some kind of a regional confederation, this is an instructive lesson.
I wrote about this even before the State of Israel was born, calling for a “Semitic Union”. It probably won’t happen while I am still around, but I am fairly sure that it will come about before the end of this century.
It cannot happen while the economic gap between Israel and the Arab countries is as immense as it is now – with per capita income 25 times higher in Israel than in Palestine and many Arab countries. But once the Arab world overcomes its present turmoil, they can hope for rapid progress, as is happening in Turkey and Muslim countries in East Asia.
Sometime in the not too remote future, in historical terms, the world will consist of large economic units striving to create a working economic world order, with a joint currency.
It may seem silly to think about this in the present situation. But it’s never too early to think.
Always remembering what Socrates said: “The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.”
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Why is it that just about only two true liberal economists – Nobel Prize Winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugmann – seem to have it right on Greece vs. the German dominance of Europe?
With so much in the media – most of it telling about the writer – not the subject – we did not find it interesting to enter the fray. Looking up the subject in the SustainabiliTank.info memory – we found only one article to-date. It is: the January 26, 2015 article: “Can Bolivia Chart a Sustainable Path Away From Capitalism? Will Greece try to come up with a Pachamama and an ALBA Charge? In this Globalized economy can a State honestly drop out and isolate itself?”
I posted some excerpts of a very interesting and long article I picked up from Truthout – this with my thinking of the latest changes in Greece and wondering if rhetoric is true change – and how can Greece fare in a capitalist world with management outside its borders, but vested interests residing also in the country itself. Will there be a Greek Pachamama in Europe’s future? Will the Tsipris Greece be the Morales of an ALBA Charge of anti-capitalist rhetoric in Europe? The article I was looking at the time did not deal with Greece but with countries in Latin America that did shake off impositions from the globalization of capitalism.
The true problem in Europe seems to be that Ms. Angela Merkel just does not have the knowledge of European history. Having grown up under the Communism of East Germany, then liberated by the reunification process, she transferred the communist zeal into a capitalist zeal that basically says – all is well if you make money of it. What she does not understand is that the First World War caused the Second World War by imposing debt on the losing side Germany, but then after the Second World War, a Democratic Administration in the US, having learned from the previous experience, made sure that the rebirth of Europe, and Germany being a main ingredient of Europe, will be made possible by avoiding the sort of debt situation that the Treaty of Versailles allowed.
Besides finally annulling the German debt from WWI eventually in 1953 the European debtors of a reborn West Germany, including Greece, decided on writing off the major part of the new debt.
Sustainability is thus based on writing off debt, rather then in puritanical insistence on repayment. This is not just a matter of an uninformed Ms. Angela Merkel, but also of a large part of US politics – the present Republican party of all its streams.
We find today that my question of January 2015 is becoming very relevant in the European negotiations of July 2015, and the two above Professors seem to have reached some very similar conclusions. It just makes better sense for Greece to bail out from a system full of directives and regain their independence by printing their own money, and running their own country by themselves – and for themselves.
The problem with all those conservative-puritanical blind a-National capitalism adherents that were trained also in blind Business Administration – they have no feelings for social issues, and the understanding that good income for the lower classes creates the customers for the goods that are produced in the country that finds employment for its citizens. Making profits overseas and not paying taxes at home – just does not lead to sustainability of a Nation.
Providing fake “bail-outs” by providing money to pay for the interest on old loans, is only an illusion of help and leads only to further decline of the debtor Nation. The Greeks were totally right in voting OXI over NAI. Now Ms. Merkel wants to charm them back into submission – but only Debt forgiveness provides a path to a solution.
In absence of such an approach, the Greeks are advised by the above two professors to leave the EURO, create a NEW DRACHMA, devalue it to the point it hurts – but it promisses a better future for their children – something that is in their hands to achieve and not decided for them from outside by a non-Union that only rules but does not tend to their social needs.
We wish the best luck to Prime Minister Tsipras. He already sacrificed his finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and brought in a milder speaking Euclid Tsakalotos, but the EU has not yet reciprocated by retiring Ms. Merkel. What Germany needs is a leader not afraid, or mentally opposed, to tackle their Bank Managers who on their own will never make the needed decisions.
Such decisions will have to be made with SUSTAINABILITY and the social needs of all 29 States of the EU with an eventual push for the creation of a true Union even if it is deemed to base it in a Federal System – something like the USE – the Unitted States of Europe. If not – the EURO has no place in their deliberations, and Tsipras might as well declare his admiration for the Bolivian Morales.
The Official debt of Greece is to:
Germany 68.2 bn EURO
France 43.8 bn
Italy 38.4 bn
Spain 25.0 bn
IMF 21.4 bn
ECB 18.1 bn
US 11.3 bn
UK 10.8 bn
Belgium 7.5 bn
Austria 5.9 bn
Finland 3.7 bn
Of these EU countries, Italy and Spain, are themselves heavily indebted and might very soon be in need of bailouts.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
From pro-American to pro-Russian? Nikola Gruevski as a political chameleon.
Vassilis Petsinis, 22 May 2015, openDemocracy, London
A former staunch ally of the US-led War on Terror, Macedonia PM Nikola Gruevski has gradually turned his country away from the west towards Russia – all the while keeping his neoconservative ideology intact.
Following the unrest in Kumanovo and the massive anti-government protests, FYR Macedonia has captivated the interest of the international press. The most recent mobilization has been the peak of a wave of discontent that commenced with the countrywide student protests some weeks ago. In the domestic front, opposition circles have issued a series of charges against the government led by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE such as: promotion of nepotism, unwillingness to combat corruption, illegitimate surveillance of political opponents and, on top of all, growing authoritarianism.
Meanwhile, political analysts have detected a certain rift in the relations between Skopje and the West which has resulted in the Macedonian government’s more decisive reorientation towards Moscow.
Russia has pledged its political support to Nikola Gruevski’s and the two sides have extended their cooperation in energy issues and other areas of economic concern. Without neglecting the crucial impact of shifting geopolitics, this brief piece mostly concentrates on VMRO-DPMNE’s, predominantly, neoconservative agenda under the leadership of Nikola Gruevski. It also sets in a comparative context how this neoconservative platform has remained intact despite the gradual readjustment of the state’s foreign policy from Euro-Atlantic institutions towards Moscow’s orbit of influence.
From one neocon to another:
In 2003, Nikola Gruevski succeeded Ljub?o Georgievski in the party’s leadership. An ambitious young politician back then, Gruevski’s main ambition was to centralize decision-making within VMRO-DPMNE and modernize the party’s structures.
The latter objective was achieved via the recruitment of a younger pool of cadres. Following a widespread trend all over Southeast Europe (e.g. Albania’s Edi Rama and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremi?), the party’s central committee and later the Cabinet of Ministers consisted of young, aspiring and, often, Western-educated individuals (e.g. the Foreign Minister between 2006 and 2011, Antonio Milošoski). Moreover, Gruevski maintained the central aspects of Georgievski’s strategy of rapprochement vis-à-vis the ethnic Albanian community.
Despite this, Gruevski’s term in office has been marked by the emphatic endorsement of Neo-Macedonism to the detriment of the modernist narratives over the Macedonian ethno-genesis in the nineteenth century. The adoption of Neo-Macedonism became further institutionalized through the endorsement of grandiose architectural projects, largely inspired by classical antiquity, which commenced in 2010.
On the domestic front, the Socialists/SDSM and other opposition circles accused the government of investing a disproportional percentage of the state’s budget on these projects. In foreign policy, the emphasis on Neo-Macedonism further complicated relations with the southern neighbour, Greece.
Since the early days of Nikola Gruevski’s term in office, the ‘new’ VMRO-DPMNE drew inspiration from the rather influential trend of neoconservatism among policymaking circles in the US. As it was the case with various other statesmen in Central and Southeast Europe (e.g. Romania’s Traian B?sescu), Nikola Gruevski underlined his firm commitment to Euro-Atlantic institutions and opted for the rapid liberalization of the economy along post-Keynesian lines.
Meanwhile, Gruevski constantly stressed his deep faith in God and highlighted the significance of Eastern Orthodoxy and its system of moral values as a fundamental pillar of the state’s identity. In the field of foreign policy, Nikola Gruevski soon emerged as a staunch supporter of George W. Bush’s policy-doctrine on the Middle East. Throughout the 2000s, FYR Macedonia had dispatched military personnel to Afghanistan and Iraq under the auspices of the US-led ‘Coalition of the Willing’.
The NATO summit in Bucharest (April 2-4, 2008) was a landmark. As a gesture of gratitude to its small Balkan ally, the US delegation elaborated possible ways to include FYR Macedonia in the NATO enlargement round irrespective of the state’s dispute with Greece. However, the Greek PM, Kostas Karamanlis, vetoed this proposal on the basis that any outstanding issues with the northern neighbour must be previously resolved in order for Greece to grant its assent.
The Greek veto was met with discontent in Washington and infuriated Skopje. Especially in the light of Karamanlis’ opening to Russia, Skopje-based policymakers and think-tanks did not simply charge Athens with ‘parochial and introverted nationalism’. They went a step further and accused Greece of acting as a ‘Trojan horse’ in Moscow’s service with the aim to destabilize NATO and sabotage its enlargement in Southeast Europe.
The pendulum shifts: Fluctuating geopolitics and disillusionment with the West
Barack Obama, who succeeded G.W. Bush to the US Presidency in 2009, watered down various aspects of his predecessor’s ‘hawkish’ foreign policy. Instead, the new administration in the White House opted for a doctrine of appeasement in regards to their regional competitors (e.g. Russia and Iran).
Meanwhile, the simultaneous advent of the economic crisis made European policymakers more introverted and reluctant to the prospects of the EU’s wider enlargement. With specific regard to FYR Macedonia, European policymakers and political analysts soon stroke a critical stance towards Nikola Gruevski and his apparatus. The main areas of concern were symptoms of nepotism and authoritarianism as well as accusations over the relentless propagation of ‘ethno-kitsch’.
This shifting landscape in global and regional politics had direct ramifications on the government circles in Skopje. Several commentators have argued that delaying the state’s accession to Euro-Atlantic institutions runs detrimental to FYR Macedonia’s stateness and it is largely to account for Skopje’s disillusionment with the West. From a more ‘ideological’ angle, though, the change of guard in the White House and the subsequent adoption of a new US foreign policy doctrine are not to be overlooked either.
In other words, Nikola Gruevski’s government has lost much of the patronage that it enjoyed during George W. Bush’s tenure in office. Moreover, we are currently experiencing the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. The last few years have witnessed the consolidation of semi-authoritarian models of governance among emerging regional actors (e.g. Recep Tayyip Erdo?an in Turkey and Vladimir Putin in Russia). The latter development has encouraged the, if only subtle, admiration of certain statesmen throughout Central and Southeast Europe towards the above-mentioned models.
For instance, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán recently coined the concept of illiberal democracy. According to the Hungarian PM, ‘it is not an imperative that contemporary democracy must be structured along the ideological frame of Liberalism…there can be numerous other models of democracy in Europe, nowadays’. Moreover, Viktor Orbán has also positioned Hungary’s foreign policy more solidly within Russia’s orbit of influence.
In particular, both FIDESZ and VMRO-DPMNE converge along a common axis. Both are post-Communist parties that commenced their engagement in politics as, anti-establishment, umbrella-initiatives that hosted a wide range of conservative as well as liberal standpoints. However, in the long run, local adaptations of neoconservatism evolved into the dominant intra-party trend.
Nikola Gruevski and/or Viktor Orbán are not merely unhappy with the outlook(s) of Euro-Atlantic institutions on their respective states or the way(s) that their rule has been portrayed in the Western press. They have also isolated specific elements in Vladimir Putin’s leadership which they deem rather akin to their brand(s) of neoconservatism. These are, namely, Russia’s leader-centred and strong government, the promotion of national and Christian values, and the safeguarding of ‘naturally ascribed’ gender-roles.
Especially in the light of a multipolar international system, one might contend that the neoconservative, ideological, core in parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and/or FIDESZ has remained intact despite the, apparent, foreign policy readjustment towards Moscow.
What next? Skopje amidst political polarization and fears of ethnic radicalization
In addition to the decline of popular confidence, the government in Skopje may also have to face the challenge of resurgent ethnic radicalization. During the last couple of weeks, a militant group, allegedly consisting of ethnic Albanians, became active in the northern town of Kumanovo. The apparent resurgence of militant Albanian ethno-nationalism triggered a series of conspiracy theories.
Pro-government circles have hinted at the involvement of ‘foreign decision-making centres’ who are not particularly content with the bilateral cooperation between Russia and FYR Macedonia. In the other end of the spectrum, opposition circles have suspected the government of engineering the Kumanovo troubles in an attempt to play the card of ‘national unity’ as a last resort. A third assumption that has not been examined to an adequate extent is the possibility of a peculiar, yet amorphous, blend between Albanian ethno-nationalism and elements of Islamic fundamentalism along the lines of the ‘Chechen precedent’.
Russia, on its part, has been quick to point the finger for both the Kumanovo incidents and the anti-government mobilization at the West. The US and the EU have been accused of orchestrating one more ‘Maidan-style’ coup with the aim to destabilize the government and obstruct cooperation with Russia in energy issues.
Russia Today and other pro-Kremlin media outlets dedicated considerable time to the coverage of pro-government demonstrations where Russian flags also featured among the crowd. Quite a few Western political analysts have expressed the wishful thinking that Nikola Gruevski may be forced to resign under popular pressure and be replaced by a coalition government with a Euro-Atlantic orientation.
Setting regional geopolitics aside, Nikola Gruevski’s opening to Russia reveals an additional pathology of Post-communist politics. Even back at the time when parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and FIDESZ had adjusted their foreign policy more firmly towards the West, their political activity and decision-making had been shaped by local adaptations of the neoconservative narrative. Within the context of their political development, such parties replaced their admiration for certain aspects of American neoconservatism with the endorsement of selected elements found in Vladimir Putin’s semi-authoritarianism while their (neoconservative) ideological core remained intact.
Apart from nominally right-wing parties, centre-left statesmen in the region have also detected, albeit more subtly, some ‘positive’ aspects in Vladimir Putin’s pattern of governance (e.g. the Bulgarian Socialist Party/BSP and Slovakia’s SMER). Therefore, in order to grasp such chameleonic mutations more adequately, one should also pay close attention to political culture among post-Communist parties in Central and Southeast Europe and its evolution.
Dr Vassilis Petsinis is a Visiting Researcher at the Herder Institute (Marburg, Germany). His main areas of specialization are European Politics and Ethnopolitics with a regional focus on Central and Southeast Europe. His academia.edu profile can be found here.
WE SUGGEST TO THINK ALSO THROUGH THE ELECTION RESULTS IN THE UK WHEN READING ABOVE ARTICLE – THIS SO THAT THE MAKINGS OF A EUROPEAN UNION ARE CONSIDERED WHEN LOOKING AT CENTRIPETAL MOVEMENTS LIKE THOSE APPEARING IN CENTRAL AND SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE.
ALSO, PLEASE DP NOT FORGET THE GREECE/MACEDONIA NAME DISPUTE AND EUROPE’S INCAPABILITY TO TELL THE GREEKS OFF IN THIS MATTER. WHAT A SHAME!
Related Articles: The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward – Heather Grabbe -the same source.
The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward.
Heather Grabbe 13 May 2015, openDemocracy, London
The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of a captured state machinery – by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance. This will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance.
For nearly two decades, Macedonia has been a pressure cooker of public anger at corruption, deteriorating governance and chronic unemployment. Now the valve has blown. This year, union-organised strikes were followed by student protests against flawed education reforms. Then the opposition party released recordings of conversations that exposed government wire-tapping of more than 20,000 citizens. Quickly dubbed “bombs”, these recordings were released over the last three months by the main opposition party leader at press conferences. On them appear the voices of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, senior officials, journalists, judges and security officials conspiring in electoral and judicial fraud, and organising systemic corruption. On the latest, released on 4 May, the prime minister discusses with interior ministry officials a cover-up of the murder in June 2011 by one of his bodyguards of 21-year old Martin Neshkovski, a student who supported the ruling party.
These revelations have led to a new wave of protests, led by grassroots networks of civil society rather than the opposition party. The young activists have become more radical in their demands under sustained attacks by riot police and government infiltrators, who provoked the protestors for five nights in a row. Last Friday, they pledged to come back to demand the resignation of the prime minister. Then the population awoke on Saturday morning to news of what the government called a “terrorist attack” in an ethnically mixed neighbourhood in Kumanovo, a town near the Serbia/Kosovo border. The results were the deaths of police officers and arrests of alleged terrorists. The government-controlled media called for unquestioning support for the government, and labelled as a traitor anyone who disputed the official interpretation of events. What is going on? Is this a security crisis or a consolidation of power by the ruling party in the face of mounting opposition?
High stakes – but for security or politics?
The shootings in Kumanovo have woken up the rest of the world because they are reminiscent of the security crisis fifteen years ago, when ethnic Albanians took to the hills with their guns to demand rights, representation and jobs. The country narrowly escaped a full-blown civil war thanks to the Ohrid Agreement, which gave the Albanians greater political and economic inclusion, including quotas for public-sector jobs and parliamentary seats.
It was NATO and the EU that took responsibility for Macedonia’s security in 2001, with Javier Solana, as EU High Representative for Foreign Policy at the time, and George Robertson, then NATO Secretary-General, as the main negotiators at Ohrid. But the current crisis is not primarily driven by ethnic tensions. The security framing by the government obscures a much deeper crisis in the body politic, and a looming one for the economy.
After 24 years of independence, Macedonia’s model is crumbling. The ruling party has held onto power by controlling the state and media, and borrowing on international markets to keep the economy going. This has undermined the country’s fragile democracy – despite the promises made at Ohrid, which are still not fully implemented – and failed to build rule of law and a sustainable economy. Prime Minister Gruevski won power nearly a decade ago on promises of clean government and economic development. But he then perfected the system of clientelism and state capture begun by Branko Crvenkovski, his predecessor as opposition leader and prime minister, and later president. Gruevski has used snap elections twice to keep his party in power, and his leadership has become increasingly coercive. The wiretap recordings have confirmed that his VMRO-DPMNE party has captured all vital areas of the economy and established complete control over media, even imprisoning critical journalists. Macedonia’s ranking has fallen from 36 to 136 in the freedom of media index produced by Reporters Without Borders.
The government dispensed with parliamentary debate at the end of 2013. Faced with a short deadline to approve the next loan to pay pensions before the Christmas and New Year holidays, they forcibly expelled the opposition and media from the parliament during a debate over the state budget rather than find an agreement.
The public is scared. More than half of Macedonians believe they cannot freely express their opinions. A staggering 81 percent believe that fear of consequences for them and their families prevent them and others from speaking out. Their political fears are heightened by their economic vulnerability.
The chronic economic malaise underlying acute political crisis.
The Macedonian economy appears to be financially stable. The government nurtures an image of business promoter and responsible borrower. Until recently, it was the region’s poster child for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. European banks were happy to earn good returns on Macedonian state bonds. Macedonia’s average GDP growth of 3% in the last three years is the highest in the region, completing this picture of prosperity.
But the economy is not sustainable. The government has used debt financing to invest in grandiose infrastructure projects, including the flagship “Skopje 2014” project, which erected statues and faux-classical buildings in the capital at a cost of over 600 million euro. Between 2008 and 2014, Macedonia’s public debt quadrupled, rising from 23% of GDP in 2008 to around 46% in 2014. Debt is projected to reach the 60% ceiling prescribed by the international financial institutions by 2019. The state budget increased by a third over the same period (from roughly 2 to 3 billion euro). Inflows of foreign direct investment averaged only 2.8% of GDP per year between 2009 and 2014, low even by regional standards.
Life for citizens has become more precarious. Around a third of the workforce is unemployed, the second highest rate in Europe after Kosovo. Without the heavy borrowing, the fragile economy could not sustain more than 300,000 pensioners, who rely on the state budget for half of their needs. Nor could it afford to pay the huge number of state employees. The last official number was 140,000 in 2008, and latest estimates range from 200,000 to 255,000. The total number of people employed in Macedonia is 700,000 – meaning that the state employs nearly a third of the workforce. No wonder people are leaving to seek better prospects abroad. A census has been postponed by the government, but Gallup estimates that more than 300,000 people have left the country. According to Deutsche Welle, most of the 120,000 Macedonians who acquired Bulgarian passports have already emigrated to the EU or elsewhere. Macedonia seems to have more registered voters (at 1,780,128) than residents.
VMRO-DPMNE has kept its hold on power in this unhappy state by resorting to strident nationalism and intimidation of its opponents, increasing the divisions in a multi-ethnic country. Ethnic Macedonians are understandably aggrieved by the lack of a solution to the dispute with Greece over the country’s name, which already blocked entry to NATO – and Gruevski has adroitly used the issue to rally nationalism in support of the government. Meanwhile, the ethnic Albanian political parties have been co-opted by their share in the spoils of mis-governance, even though their people remain even more alienated and poorer than the rest of the population.
The divisions are deepening right across society. Three-quarters of ethnic Albanians still firmly believe in EU and NATO accession as the way to a better future, but by now over 62 percent of other Macedonians think badly of joining the EU. Three-quarters of the ruling party’s supporters see the name dispute with Greece as the key reason for Macedonia’s now bleak EU accession prospects; but only 20% of opposition supporters agree. The biggest divide is between rich and poor, especially along party lines. The poor are undoubtedly getting poorer: resources available to the poorest fifth of citizens fell by 38% between 2008 and 2012. But business profits have grown by almost two and a half times since the year 2000. Nearly 80% of all Macedonians believe it is unfair that employment in state institutions and general prosperity is based on political party membership.
The way forward: a unity government with EU and NATO support
Macedonia is once again becoming a security threat on the EU’s borders. But this time it’s different: a non-partisan civic movement has taken to the streets for the first time to change the country. There is a real opportunity to use this energy to build democracy and a market economy in this multi-ethnic state.
No party is doing well in Macedonia: the secret recordings have lost the government all credibility, but the public has little faith in the leaders of the opposition and ethnic Albanian parties either. The immediate solution lies in collective action first by all those who have created the problem.
Now that three of the prime minister’s key allies have tendered their resignations, Macedonia should turn again to the solution that averted the civil war in 2001: a unity government composed of the four main parties. To foster the necessary compromises and offer a fresh start. it would not include the current prime minister, public prosecutor or speaker of the parliament – but opposition parties must be involved in open and credible oversight of the intelligence agencies, and take responsibility for the discredited interior ministry.
The most promising scenario is a government of national unity that lasts for 12-18 months, to prepare the country for free and fair elections, and create an independent commission to investigate all the events since the opposition was violently ejected from the parliament in 2013. And it should agree on a common negotiating platform on the name dispute with Greece. Macedonia’s newly reinvigorated civil society should also contribute to the work of the parliamentary commissions and monitor the new government’s progress in restoring the accountability of public institutions. The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of the captured state machinery, by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance.
As so often in the Balkans, such a scenario will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance. The default position among EU foreign ministers is to expect sovereign countries to sort out their own political problems through democratic institutions. But after a decade of unconsolidated democracy and state capture, Macedonia does not possess those institutions. Therefore, other levers of influence are needed. NATO could offer a tangible incentive to all parties by offering a possibility to re-open membership talks. EU accession negotiations are far off because so much time has been lost on necessary reforms, but the enlargement process is vital to offer hope, especially to the ethnic Albanians, and guidance to reformers who are seeking to take back captured parts of the state. The support of EU institutions, member-states and banks is vital for the country’s macroeconomic stability. Neighbouring governments could also exert more pressure, as their own security is at stake. Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov was the first to request Gruevski to step down.
The EU can no longer afford to indulge a model of governance in Macedonia that has been far more aggressive in its authoritarian zeal than nearby Montenegro or Turkey. The European People’s Party has a particular responsibility to get involved, having accepted and protected VMRO-DPMNE as a sister party for all these years. Now it must act to uphold the standards of democracy on which it was founded, by putting pressure on VMRO-DPMNE to relinquish its grip on power and join a unity government. The time to move is now, as the costs of inaction will continue to rise.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 30th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The THIRD ANNUAL ARCTIC CIRCLE ASSEMBLY
OCTOBER 16 – 18, 2015
PRESIDENT OF FRANCE – WILL ATTEND THE ASSEMBLY and Deliver an Opening Speech linked to the Climate Negotiations at COP 21.
At a meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris on April 17th, the President of France, François Hollande, accepted an invitation from President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to deliver an opening speech at the October Assembly. The attendance by President Hollande is linked to the upcoming climate negotiations COP21 in Paris in December and the relevance of the Arctic to those negotiations.
PRESIDENT XI JINPING – And Offered to host a special CHINA SESSION at the Assembly.
President of China XI Jinping has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson endorsed China’s participation in the Arctic Circle Assembly and declared his decision that China will host a special Plenary Session at the October Assembly in Reykjavík.
CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL – suggested a special plenary GERMANY and the ARCTIC SESSION at the Assembly.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has in a recent letter to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson announced her support for the Arctic Circle and its importance as a venue to present the involvement of Germany in the future of the Arctic. Consequently, the program of the October Assembly in Reykjavík will include a special Plenary Session on Germany and the Arctic.
More Assembly news in the coming weeks.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Kurt Bayer’s Commentary
April 28, 2015 · —
Form Beats Substance: Media as the Dismal Estate!
The international media rejoice in the fact that Greek Prime Minister Tsipras has removed finance minister Varoufakis from his role as the main negotiator with the EU authorities about the completion of the second bail-out program, which should release another 7.2 bill € to the Greek government.
During the past two months, much more attention was given to Varoufakis’ outfits, his mode of transport, his style, his eccentricities than to the substance of the Greek negotiating position. Admittedly, Varoufakis’ personal style must have been infuriating to his ECOFIN colleagues whom he lectured on how wrong their anti-crisis economic policy was.
True, his interventions were longer on generalities than on detail, because in order to argue that Eurozone policy had failed, detailed program assessments were not necessary: the fact that Eurozone output is still below its pre-crisis Peak (-24% for Greece), unemployment more than one third higher (25% for Greece), the combined debt Ratio 15 percentage points higher (now nearly 180% for Greece) should – in a rational discussion atmosphere – suffice to make a point. However, Varoufakis massively misjudged the Eurozone ministers’ readiness to engage in a constructive, very principled dialogue about the direction of Eurozone economic policy with a tiny Eurozone Country which had massively underperformed for decades, and needed help. While such a discussion would be more than called for, Varoufakis’ presumption that the dismal Greek case was the moment and opportunity to do this, was wrong: his ministerial colleagues would not have this, period!
What is truly disappointing to the outside observer is the fact that both traditional and electronic media talked more about the “pop-economist”, about his motorcycle, his upturned collar, the shouting matches and his enervating style than about substance.
Repeated reports that the Greeks did not produce any program changes, notwithstanding the fact that a few weeks ago Greece produced a 26-page paper describing their program, that Greece refused to engage in “structural reforms” and do “their homework”, dominated media reports. And this is not only true of superficial tabloids, but also of the Financial Times, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, The Guardian, BBC, CNN, ORF, ZDF – and so on.
Not one of the mainstream papers or media reported on the conflicts in substance between the new Greek government and the Eurozone Ministers.
Rather, the gist of the stories was “that the Greeks refused to deliver”. Very little mentioning of the fact that the disfunctionalities of the Greek economy and society were not the responsibility of the new government, but rather that of the previous government parties – which the populace had removed from government in the last election.
No mentioning that the new government is serious about tax collection, broadening the tax base, fighting corruption – in contrast to the previous governments when they had been under the watch of the infamous “Troika”.
No mentioning of the fact that the new government program puts first emphasis on (admittedly under-defined) growth strategies, instead of crippling the economy even further.
It seems that the European Mainstream media are so enthralled with the morals-based disciplinary arguments of the Eurozone Finance Ministers and heads of State (“old Agreements must be honored no matter what”) that they forget that democratic elections are the backbone of Europe, that the miserysation of large swaths of Greek population warrants rethinking of the strategy, that support from the Greek population for the anyhow very difficult recovery of the Greek economy, is crucial for the viability of an agreed program, and for the survival of the Eurozone. What is needed is to bring the Greek government to its feet.
To get the new Greek government thrown out, in order to bring the old Mainstream parties back, cannot be the consideration for driving finance ministers’ negotiations with the difficult Greeks, or can it?
By same author – Related:
An Open Letter to the Eurogroup Meeting on Feb. 11, 2015
The Greek Crisis as a Lesson for the Eurozone – In “Crisis Response”
Laokoon and the Serpents – In “Crisis Response”
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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Energy union attacked for continued reliance on gas supplies.
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News, The Parliament Magazine.
One of team Juncker’s flagship policy strategies, plans for the implementation of an energy union were finally unveiled last week. In its official communication, the commission explains, “our vision is of an energy union where member states see that they depend on each other to deliver secure energy to their citizens, based on true solidarity and trust”.
“Our vision is of an integrated continent-wide energy system where energy flows freely across borders, based on competition and the best possible use of resources, and with effective regulation of energy markets at EU level where necessary”, the document adds.
More importantly, one of the central aims of the energy union is to promote more effective EU-wide climate change policy and “secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy”. This is especially significant ahead of the UN Paris climate summit that will take place next December.
Late last year, the commission set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030, and increasing energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27 per cent.
Yet the energy efficiency target is not binding at national or EU level, and the renewables target is only binding at EU level. It is unclear how this will play into the new energy union plans, but the commission seems to have ignored any criticisms, referring to these targets in its communication as “ambitious”.
Moreover, “producing oil and gas from unconventional sources in Europe such as shale gas is an option, provided that issues of public acceptance and environmental impact are adequately addressed”.
The commission’s apparent commitment to “public acceptance” is interesting, as it was previously reported that during the course of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership negotiations, the EU planned to make provisions to import US gas and oil acquired through fracking.
“When the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”
There are also plans to “explore the full potential of liquefied natural gas, including as a back-up in crisis situations when insufficient gas is coming into Europe through the existing pipeline system”.
The commission also stresses, “to reach our goal, we have to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels”.
Additionally, the energy union is meant to serve as a political tool, with the Brussels executive hoping to diversify its gas and energy suppliers in order to reduce Russian president Vladimir Putin’s negotiating power in times of conflict.
According to the document, “when the conditions are right, the EU will consider reframing the energy relationship with Russia”. Unfortunately, team Juncker fails to specify what the “right” conditions are, nor what “reframing” the relationship would actually consist of.
The communication warns, “to ensure the diversification in gas supplies, work on the southern gas corridor must be intensified to enable central Asian countries to export their gas to Europe. In northern Europe, the establishment of liquid gas hubs with multiple suppliers is greatly enhancing supply security. This example should be followed in central and eastern Europe, and in the Mediterranean area, where a Mediterranean gas hub is in the making”.
This may seem like an ideal solution considering the situation in Ukraine seems unlikely to reach a peaceful conclusion any time soon. But the countries the commission plans to work with are hardly dream allies.
These include Azerbaijan, which human rights watch has condemned for its “poor record on freedom of expression” and “arrests and intimidation of opposition political activists” and Turkmenistan, which the organization called “one of the world’s most repressive countries”.
Unsurprisingly, last week’s announcement was met with a lukewarm response on the part of environmental organizations, with Juncker’s team accused of contradicting itself.
Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser Tara Connolly said, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing with this plan. The commission says the EU should move away from fossil fuels but it also wants to chase after new gas supplies and doesn’t rule out coal”.
Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe added, “we keep hearing repetitions of gas, gas, gas. But at the same time Europe has promised to cut emissions by up to 95 per cent by 2050 – it is saying one thing and doing another”.
And Roland Joebstl, European environmental bureau policy officer on energy and climate change, commented, “tackling climate change and the issue of energy security means that the 2030 targets and related policies must be revised upwards instead of spending political capital on looking for more fossil fuel suppliers”.
But not everyone was as critical of the energy union proposals, with representatives from the climate action network saying, “the commission’s move today will kick off a wave of pledges from countries over the course of the year – all of which will add up to the first collective signal that the world is moving out of fossil fuels and embracing the renewable energy era”.
MEPs were equally divided over the announcements.
Brussels’ energy union strategy is due to be discussed at this week’s council meeting.
About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine
Challenges ahead for EU energy union implementation, warn MEPs
Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 2 March 2015 in News. The Parliament Magazine.
The European parliament has cautiously welcomed commission vice-president Maroš Šef?ovi?’s energy union plans.
MEPs were quick to react after the commission outlined plans for an energy union last week.
Martin Schulz, president of the parliament, was broadly supportive, saying, “the energy union is needed to reinforce the EU’s stance ahead of the December Paris climate conference”, adding that “current events highlight the urgency for the EU to increase energy security”.
Jerzy Buzek, chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, commented, “an internal energy market with an excellent level of interconnection and without isolated ‘energy islands’ will enable us to help each other, guaranteeing energy supply to all regions”.
The former parliament president noted that “stable, sustainable, affordable and competitive energy is a challenge which no EU member state is capable of meeting by itself”.
He also stressed that “developments in relations with Russia might have been an impulse for us to shift up a gear in our energy considerations, but altering the EU’s relations with Russia or any other party is not one of the energy union’s goals”.
Representatives from the S&D group also appeared quite happy with the commission’s energy union plans. The Socialists’ spokesperson on climate and environment, Matthias Groote, said, “the paper on the energy union represents a first step towards a sustainable, decarbonised economy in Europe”.
Dan Nica, the group’s spokesperson on energy, praised them as “a good balance between the geostrategic need to reduce our energy dependency on expensive imports and the fair demand from families and industries to reduce the price of energy”.
Meanwhile, the Liberals were especially vocal on the proposal’s foreign policy aspects. ALDE group president Guy Verhofstadt highlighted that “an ambitious energy union will not only create jobs, growth and tackle climate change, it will also hit Putin where it hurts most”.
He added, “Europe can no longer afford its addiction to imported fossil fuels from Russia and the Middle East. Our dependence on external energy resources has affected our ability to conduct an independent foreign policy. It is time for a European energy union with teeth”.
And the group’s environment, public health and food safety committee coordinator Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy warned, “the true test of the energy union will be overcoming the current fragmentation of energy policy into 28 different systems and reaping the full benefits of a common European approach”.
Morgen Helveg Petersen, a vice-chair of parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, underlined that “investors will only put their money in the many projects of the energy union if the associated regulatory framework is put in place, environmental legislation is predictable and competition policy is sound. The biggest barrier is regulatory uncertainty – we need to fix that”.
Yet not everyone was impressed with the energy union plans. Marek Gróbarczyk, ECR group spokesperson on energy, called on council president Donald Tusk to “stick to the promises that he made – to build a real, coherent energy union including ‘gas solidarity’, rehabilitation of coal and substantial diversification”.
In his view, “these proposals are disappointing because I fear they offer a virtual energy union that is not adequate to meet our growing challenges”.
“If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence” – Claude Turmes
Over on the left, MEPs were equally cynical.
Greens/EFA energy spokesperson Claude Turmes criticised the commission’s proposals as “a missed opportunity for outlining a path to a real energy transition in Europe. The overarching focus is on finding new supply routes for gas and reviving nuclear power, rather than trying to wean us off our damaging dependence on unreliable energy exporters. If the EU wants to get serious about energy security, it should be prioritising energy efficiency as the first line of defence”.
Greens/EFA vice-chair Bas Eickhout pointed out that the proposed strategy “will not create the energy system we need to stop climate warming greenhouse gases and limit the increase in global temperatures to below two degrees, which is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change”.
GUE/NGL group member Josu Juaristi was also wary of the commission’s announcements, explaining that, “in some member states investment in renewables is almost disappearing. Very little account is taken of citizens or local government. What happens is that the big energy companies’ control over our citizens is strengthened.
“We need to avoid a situation where the EU just leaves its ideas for renewable energy on paper – as we see happening at the moment”, he concluded.
The energy union is due to be discussed at this week’s council summit.
About the author: Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine.
Something else relevant to this topic - SustainabiliTank.info feels important to include here – is the upcoming acquisition of a Russian energy concern – LI Energy – headed by oligarch Mikhail Fridman – of the German RWE Dea company and all its global oil and gas production assets for a neat 5 billion Euro.
The Germans seem to think it is OK but the British are of a different opinion because RWE Dea owns a large North Sea production area which in case of further sanctions against Russia because of Mr. Putin’s involvement in the Ukraine, might cause a stoppage of production from those wells and leading to loss in employment and danger to the environment. Passing the ownership of Energy assets of Europe to Russian hands in light of the EU Energy plans of decreasing dependence on the Russians – might just be the wrong signal to the seriousness of an EU Energy Policy plan in general and the position German business takes on the larger European interests.
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 25th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
Tauscht Europa jetzt seine Juden gegen Muslime aus?
Die neue Judenhetze in Europa richtet sich gegen unsere zentralen Werte, gegen aufgeklärtes Denken und Liberalität.
“Die Presse”, Print-Ausgabe, 24.02.2015
Ein Prediger in Saudiarabien verkündet, dass die Erde stillstehe. Bei uns werden massenweise Bücher verschenkt, die per manipulativer Vermischung von Islam und Wissenschaft im Stil des Kreationismus nachweisen wollen, dass Charles Darwin falschlag. So etwa „Der Evolutionsschwindel“ des türkischen Schriftstellers Adnan Oktar.
Schrullig, könnte man da einfach nur meinen. Jetzt das „Presse“-ePaper inklusive iPad Air 2 sichern!
Aber der Islamische Staat tötet im Namen seines Islam massenhaft „Ungläubige“, und besagter Autor leugnet nicht nur die Evolution, sondern auch den Holocaust. Munter verbreitet er bekannte jüdisch-freimaurerische Weltverschwörungstheorien gegen den Islam. Und natürlich inszenierte der US-Geheimdienst CIA 9/11 selbst, um einen Anlassfall für einen Kreuzzug des Westens gegen den Islam zu haben. Leider werden solche lächerlichen Ideen weltweit von vielen Muslimen geglaubt – auch in Europa.
Der Kern jeder modernen liberal-aufgeklärten und demokratischen Staatlichkeit ist die Trennung von Glauben und Wissen, von Religion und Staat. Dies ist aber dem Islam systemfremd. Mittlerweile ist er zwar Teil Europas, viele Muslime sind aber noch immer nicht angekommen, weil sie die europäischen Grundprinzipien weder verstehen noch akzeptieren wollen. Mit ein wenig Integration ist es nicht getan, zumal 70 Prozent der heimischen Imame diese ablehnen und torpedieren. Um wirklich anzukommen, muss der Islam sich letztlich selbst aufklären.
Europaweit glaubt eine seltsame Allianz zwischen einem islamischen und einem rechtsradikalen Bodensatz an die jüdische Weltverschwörung. Dass die Hetze gegen Juden da wieder in Schwung kommt, braucht uns daher nicht zu wundern.
Der Exodus aus Frankreich ist nur die Spitze des Eisbergs. Antisemitische Beschimpfungen und Schmierereien sind in Europa längst wieder „Normalität“, auch in Österreich. Die Schwelle zur physischen Gewalt sinkt beständig. Satte europäische Bürger schauen irritiert(?) weg – so wie damals, als Juden in Wien per Zahnbürste die Straßen putzen durften. Und ach so humanistische Linke skandieren auf ihren Demos gegen Israel antisemitische Parolen, schweigen aber zum neuen Megaskandal.
Angesichts der langen Geschichte der Pogrome wäre jede Begründung für den Schutz jüdischer Mitbürger eine zu viel. Dennoch: Juden waren und sind maßgebliche Träger der europäischen Kultur, der Wissenschaften und Künste. Beim Islam muss man sehr weit zurückgehen, um Ähnliches behaupten zu können.
Wien etwa verlor mit der Vertreibung und Vernichtung der Juden das kulturelle und wirtschaftliche Rückgrat, die Universität ihr großartiges wissenschaftliches Profil, wohl eine der nachhaltigsten Verwüstungen durch die Nazi-Herrschaft. Das mag nach Semitophilie klingen, ist aber im Kontrast zum mangelnden kulturell-wissenschaftlichen Beitrag des Islam zur europäischen Bürgergesellschaft schlicht eine Tatsachenfeststellung.
Die neue Hetze gegen die Juden in Europa richtet sich gegen unsere zentralen Werte, gegen aufgeklärtes Denken und Liberalität. Sie ist ein alarmierendes Symptom für ein Europa auf Talfahrt.Ob wir alle Charlie sein wollen, bleibe dahingestellt, angesichts der Skepsis gegenüber dem Ausleben von Meinungsfreiheit mittels Beleidigung. Aber es ist hoch an der Zeit, dass wir endlich alle Juden sind. Je sui Juif. Ganz ohne Wenn und Aber.
Kurt Kotrschal ist Zoologe an der Uni Wien und Leiter der Konrad-Lorenz-Forschungsstelle in Grünau.
E-Mails an: debatte at diepresse.com
Kurt Kotrschal is an Austrian intellectual, professor at the Vienna University – product of the State of Salzburg where he studied with an Erwin-Schrödinger fellowship and followed up with a year at the University of Colorado in Denver – his topic was the evolution of fish and the development of nervous systems.
We found in our e-mails that Kurt Kotrschal participated in 2012 in a discussion we attended – a Karl-Renner-Institut backed event.
ERÖFFNUNG DER LESEFESTWOCHE
Montag, 19. November 2012, 20.00 Uhr
Österreichische Postsparkasse, Großer Kassensaal
Georg Coch-Platz 2, 1010 Wien
GERALD SCHANTIN, Präsident des Hauptverbands des Österreichischen Buchhandels
CLAUDIA SCHMIED, Bundesministerin für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur
SYBILLE STRAUBINGER, Gemeinderätin der Stadt Wien
Podiumsdiskussion zu Richard Sennett: “ZUSAMMENARBEIT. Was unsere Gesellschaft zusammenhält.”
ALFRED GUSENBAUER, Bundeskanzler a.D., Professor am IGLP in Harvard
KURT KOTRSCHAL, Biologe und Verhaltensforscher
KONRAD PAUL LIESSMANN, Philosoph
ANTONELLA MEI-POCHTLER, Senior Partner & Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
Moderation: CORINNA MILBORN
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
As received from Lady Rabbi Judith Hauptman of the Ohel Ayalah community on New York City.
subject: Purim of levity or gravity?
Dear Ohel Ayalah community,
P U R I M P A R T Y for 20s/30s
Join us on Tues Mar 3, the night before Purim, at P E O P L E Lounge, 163 Allen St., 6:30 to 8:30 pm. First drink FREE for filling out a one-page survey. Special guest: Sarah Rosen, author of Kosher Porn, will sign and sell copies of her hilarious new “graphic” book. Want to know what kosher porn is? Show up and find out. The book costs $14, cash or check only. Directions: Take the F train to Second Ave, get out at the front of the train, and walk south on Allen St. for 2 mins.
P U R I M, in a serious vein: The Scroll of Esther (the Megillah) will be read in synagogues on Wed night, March 4. One suggested (fun) venue is: JTS, 3080 Broadway, at 122 St. Time: 7 pm.
Purim is the one Jewish holiday of pure levity. The message of the Megillah, however, is both light-hearted and serious. In today’s world, we are still dealing with some who would like Jews to disappear. To keep you looking at the bright side of Purim, seeing the Megillah partly as a domestic farce, I am copying below comments by Adele Berlin, the highly regarded Bible scholar (also a friend of mine!), author of the JPS commentary on the Scroll of Esther.
After Vashti refuses to show her beauty to the visiting dignitaries, the courtiers say to the king, “For the queen’s behavior will make all wives scorn their husbands, as they reflect that King Ahasuerus himself ordered Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come (Esther 1:17, JPS translation [slightly emended]).”
Berlin writes: The advisors are not worried that Vashti’s examples will provoke other Persian subjects to disobey the king; they are afraid that all the Persian women will scorn their husbands. . . . The advisors are trying to ward off a sexual strike by Persian women (a theme found in Greek literature of the Persian period, in Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata). They are as concerned about themselves as they are about the king (p13).
The danger that Memucan (one of the advisors) sees in Vashti’s refusal is preposterous. How will it provoke a rebellion by all the wives in the empire against their husbands? The burlesque of the great Persian empire, drowning in luxury, wine, courtiers, and incompetent management, reaches one of its high points here, with a touch of male sexual anxiety added for good measure (p17).
So read the rest of the Megillah in a communal setting on Wed night, Mar 4, or by yourself. Laugh but also cry. Here is a link to an online version of Megillat Esther: www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt3301….. You will need to click to get from one chapter to the next.
Please note: Passover is around the corner. Will be sending more information in a few weeks. Seder reservations open on Sunday, March 15. First night seder for all Ages, Fri April 3; Second night seder for 20s/30s, Saturday night, April 4.
Questions or comments? Write to me at Judith at ohelayalah.org.
Rabbi and Founder, Ohel Ayalah
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Posted in Archives, Austria, Canada, Denmark, European Union, France, Iran, Israel, New York, Reporting from Washington DC
Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 8th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)
The eighth part of the second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Ad-Hoc Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP – Ad-Hoc Durban Platform) will be held from 8-13 February 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the conference is the first conference of several meetings in preparation for the Paris Climate Change Conference that will be held in France in December. The Paris Conference is mandated to adopt “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all parties.” The agreement will be implemented from 2020 onwards.
The body tasked with developing the Paris Agreement is the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). In Geneva, the ADP will hold the eighth part of its second session (ADP 2-8).
Updated as of 7 February
pdf-icon Overview schedule (110 kB)
pdf-icon Schedule of the contact group work (168 kB)
In Focus: Meetings of the ADP
Scenario note by the Co-Chairs on the eighth part of the second session of the ADP
CADP at unfccc.int
The Cochairs are: Mr. Ahmed Djoghlaf and Mr. Daniel Reifsnyder and Ms. Yang Liu as the Rapporteur of the ADP, to serve until the conclusion of the ADP session to be held in conjunction with COP 21 in 2015.
IISD RS @ UNFCCC ADP 2.8 | 8-13 February 2015 | Geneva …
IISD Reporting Services, through its Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB), will cover the Geneva Climate Change Conference – February 2015, from 8 to 13 February 2015 …
ECO is a daily newsletter published by a group of NGOs active at UN Conferences – not as a reporting service like the ENB of the IISD that is backed financially by several Western governments, but rather as an outlet of several opinionated Civil Society groupings.
We post here the e-mail we received from ECO as posted at the opening of ADP 2.8
Managing the bumps on the Road to Paris.
The dust from COP20 has (barely) settled and now with just 10 months left before COP21 in Paris, Parties need to come together on the way forward to the 2015 agreement.
In Geneva, Parties will start from where they left off the draft negotiating text that is annexed to the Lima Call for Climate Action decision of COP 20 of the UNFCCC. The current draft has many options on most issues, some of them highly divergent.
There are several key issues that need to be grappled with if we are to get a robust and ambitious post-2020 agreement in December. One of the most difficult is coming to a shared understanding of CBDR&RC (differentiation). This is at the heart of many of the divergent areas, and the differences were just papered over with the last-minute compromise of language in Lima.
ECO believes that the earlier Parties attempt to move towards a common understanding on this issue, the easier it will become for the negotiations to make progress towards an ambitious outcome.
The need for a clear and transparent review mechanism within the Paris agreement is another issue. Even though there was no agreement in Lima to conduct a review of the first round of INDCs, an institutionalised review mechanism that not only assesses progress, but also enables countries to plug the ambition gap, is key to the environmental integrity of the agreement.
Civil society needs to be an active participant within this review and it should be conducted in earnest, and in 5-year intervals. The UNFCCC has in the past seen many reviews that only point to the problem without enabling solutions. The review mechanism within the 2015 agreement needs to be different: it should enable and equip countries to bridge the gap between what science requires and what is being put on the table by each country.
This week, Parties should work to narrow down the options in the current text and clarify ideas they had presented earlier in order to produce an acceptable legal negotiating text by the end of the session. As parties start discussing Section C of the draft negotiating text today, here are some suggestions.
First, the agreement should state an obvious fact which even ECO’s uncle and aunt would understand: the lower the level of mitigation ambition, the higher will be the adaptation needs, and the loss and damage from climate change impacts and the associated costs thereof, which will require much higher support to vulnerable countries and people who have not caused climate change. A good basis for addressing this continuum of mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage in Paragraph 4 of the current text. In today’s thematic session, Parties should support this language, and make further efforts to operationalise it.
ECO believes the phase out of fossil fuel emissions and phase in of 100% renewable energy as early as 2050 should be the long-tern goal of 2015 agreement. Language reflecting this option should be added to the text coming out of Geneva. The text should also note that achievement of this goal rests on up ramping mitigation ambition within the pre-2020 period, as well as countries putting ambitious INDCs on the table in Paris. Such timely action will not only reduce costs in the longer run, but can ensure that climate impacts are curtailed early on.
While these bumps collectively might appear daunting, they can be overcome through a mix of political will and good faith negotiating. People, businesses, and local authorities across the world are already showing the way; ECO calls on Parties here in Geneva to do the same.
Pathway to zero: Career coaches assert that in order to be successful, you need to have a clear goal for what you want to achieve, then develop a pathway to get you there.
Today’s negotiations on the long term goal of the Paris agreement are, therefore, critical to help define our ultimate objective. That is: to reduce carbon emissions to zero and achieve a 100% renewable-powered world by 2050.
To have a likely chance to remain within the maximum 2°C warming threshold, the IPCC has provided us with a carbon budget of 1000 gigatonnes (CO2eq). That’s it. It’s all we can spend until we achieve the magic zero by 2050. If current trends continue, we’ll have spent a full third of it by 2020.
A growing number of companies, have endorsed staying within this carbon budget, recognising that the benefits of action far outweigh the costs of climate impacts. Unilever’s CEO is just one of many calling for zero emissions by 2050.
The good news is that economics, as well as climate considerations, are already defining the end of the fossil era. China’s 2014 decline in coal use shows that with political determination and strong targets and measures, the world’s highest emitting country can peak their coal use well before 2020.
The Economist recently reported that Saudi Arabia’s profligate energy consumption means that “the country may have no oil to export by 2030” ? a real spur for domestic innovation and diversification.
Clean energy is already the low cost option. In Jamaica, the price of solar power is the same as that of wholesale fossil-fuelled power and in Nicaragua, electricity from wind is half as expensive as power from traditional sources. Renewables are rapidly becoming cheaper all over the world, making the 100% renewable goal ever more attractive, and the decline of fossil fuels an ever-clearer reality.
And back here in Geneva, much of what needs to be in the text for today is already there. A few changes to C3.1 Option b, so that it requires global GHG emissions to fall by 70% (not 50%) and to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050, gets us to where we need to be. Adding a reminder that we need to transform the energy system so that we have “100% sustainable and renewable energy that meets the needs of all” seems like a goal to endorse.
As Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, put it: going for zero emissions by 2050 “will drive innovation, grow jobs, build prosperity and secure a better world. Why would we wait any longer to do that?”
Human rights protections for all:
As you, dear negotiators, tackle Section C of the elements paper today, ECO urges you to think not just about numbers and principles, but about people. There should be unifying language in the general, operational section of the draft agreement text that recognises the human dimensions of climate change. We suggest:
“Parties shall, in all climate change-related actions, respect, protect, promote and fulfill human rights for all”.
240 organisations endorsed this language in a submission to the ADP co-chairs yesterday. It’s also what each of the 76 independent experts of the UN Human Rights Council recommended in a joint statement to the UNFCCC Parties during COP20.
Looks familiar, right? Yes, yes, it’s a lot like what’s in the shared vision of the Cancun Agreements. Since Cancun, however, we have noticed that this reference hasn’t done the job of ensuring that rights are adequately considered in climate policies. This language in Section C will help ensure that these principles apply to all pillars of the Convention.
Today is the day to make sure it lives on in Paris!
Why, you ask? Well, we can’t escape the fact that climate change has human consequences. The lives and livelihoods of literally billions of people are riding on what comes out of this process, and this language is relevant to every element of the negotiating text.
It’s also nothing new. Parties already have human rights obligations. This language, as in the Cancun Agreement’s shared vision, helps spell that out in the context of climate change. And it helps make sure that Parties are looking out for their own people. No matter what delegation or constituency you represent, you care about your people. ECO knows you do. After all, you are a person too.
So as we kick off this week of negotiations, ECO and 240 organisations call on you to make sure Section C ensures that Parties respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights for all. That shouldn’t be controversial, so just go do it!
When neutrality undermines Integrity:
When ECO thinks of Switzerland we think of skiing, watches, neutrality, delicious chocolate and of course, the Environmental Integrity Group.
ECO appreciates that Switzerland negotiates as part of a group with the stated priority of “environmental integrity”, but we wonder about Switzerland’s own integrity when it comes to its domestic emissions and commitments?
During the Multilateral Assessment in Lima, Switzerland became very evasive when asked why it would not opt for a conditional target of negative 30% emission reductions by 2020. Perhaps it’s because the country, to date, has merely achieved stabilisation of its absolute emissions. Switzerland offers population growth as a cheesy excuse for this lack of ambition. However, there is much more that Switzerland can do—like instituting policies to switch its population off of high-emitting oil heating systems, reducing per capita car ownership, addressing the startling fact that that average Swiss citizen racks up double the annual air miles of people in neighbouring countries.
ECO hopes that Switzerland will admit it has been off piste when it comes to climate ambition, and demonstrate its integrity by delivering on its 2014 United Nations Climate Summit announcement that it will become carbon neutral.
Minister Doris Leuthard, who made that commitment in New York last September, is in a perfect position to deliver on it. How could she not be when she’s responsible for Switzerland’s policies on climate, energy, transportation (including aviation), forestry, environment, spatial planning and (tele)communication. It’s exactly these sectors that need to change for Switzerland to make an ambitious effort in its INDC submission. ECO also seriously hopes the rumor that Switzerland intends to use carbon markets rather than striving for ambitious emission reductions at home is false. How would this fulfill a vision of carbon neutrality?
To top it off, Switzerland’s move in Lima to avoid talking about the next steps for climate finance makes it even harder to see how Switzerland can claim to be a champion of environmental integrity. ECO calls on Switzerland to check its watch and realise how late in the day it is for climate action. On this issue, being neutral isn’t a virtue – rather, it’s time for bold action.