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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 

Eurovision and Euro elections: the final straw in Polish gender wars.

 

 

 How is the victory of Conchita Wurst being politicized in Poland? What is the connection between Eurovision and the upcoming European Parliamant elections?

 

The Polish political scene was electrified following the Austrian win in the Eurovision song contest. Right-wing parliamentarians and candidates in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament held numerous press conferences in order to complain about  this ‘new’ Europe, which allows the victory of a ‘woman with a beard’.  Also Polish social media exploded with homo- and transphobic comments and memes.

‘Europe takes away our shipyards and sugar factories and gives us bearded weirdoes instead!’ a
right wing political party spokesperson tweeted yesterday. Another tweet by a Polish candidate for the European Parliament epitomizes the general mood yesterday: ‘Europe has lost it! They promote
a bearded weirdo from Austria instead of beautiful and talented girls. This madness needs to be done away with!’

The victory of the Austrian singer Conchita Wurst (drag alias of performer Thomas Neuwirth) politicized Eurovision for Poland (to see how political Eurovision has always been in other parts of Europe, it is enough to follow voting patterns in the Balkans or the Caucasus). Politicians and commentators alike were going out of their way to deride the debauchery they saw. ‘Conchita Wurst is a symbol of the direction, in which Europe is heading (…) a symbol of Europe I don’t want. My Europe is based on Christian values’, said the spokesperson of the main Polish opposition party, Law and Justice (currently polling first for European elections).

‘Very disquieting things are going on in Europe, things that show decadence, downturn and we would like to reverse this trend’ Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice, pointed out. ‘Any propaganda aiming to efface differences between men and women is the road to decay (…) we should definitely not celebrate such things, these events do not bode well’ he added.

The Polish Catholic Church lost no time in putting their two cents in as well: ‘This is another form of promoting groups that sneer at human dignity (…) another confirmation that backgrounds priding themselves on sexual licentiousness are protected by the dominant media and “politically correct” authorities’ said priest Marek Drzewiecki. ‘It seems that the victory of Conchita Wurst was a result of the propagation of genderism. And here we should have concerns, because in the long run this destroys the family’, commented the Polish media go-to priest Dariusz Oko.

It has to be said that Polish commentators were outdone only by the Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who stated that this was the end of Europe and that the Soviet army should have never left Austria 50 years ago…

 

Polish gender wars:

Trolling and hate speech are a common blight of internet memes and fora. But the Polish political and social media reaction to this year’s Eurovision winner is part of a larger war which has been waged against the term ‘gender’ in Poland. As outrageous as it sounds, for the past two years or so, mainstream conservative and right wing forces (which dominate the Polish political scene) have constructed and maintained a discursive fight over the meaning and application of the seemingly obscure academic concept of gender. The virulent attacks were mostly aimed at feminist and queer academia, gender equality programs and policies especially in school and kindergarten education.

The ‘war on gender’ discourse originated in the catholic church and quickly spilled over into parliamentary and local politics. By conflating and mixing terms and phenomena this discourse attempts to hammer the message home that ‘gender’ (or ‘gender ideology’ and ‘genderism’ as used by the proponents) destroys traditional Polish family values (through divorce and same-sex relationships), promotes and ‘spreads homosexuality’, causes child sexual abuse (gender equality education is supposed to ‘sexualise children’), and turns everyone into transvestites. There is no knowledge or education on the differences between sexual reassignment, cross-dressing or transgender and queer identities and essentially no awareness on issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Hence, the ‘war on gender’ in Poland is intensely trans- and homophobic and plays into the wider anti-feminist and anti-LGBT moods within Eastern Europe. According to the 2013 ‘EU LGBT Survey’ by the Fundamental Rights Agency, 57% of people self-identifying as LGBT felt discriminated against in Poland (EU average – 47%), with only Lithuania and Croatia ranking higher (61% and 60% respectively). The lack of improvement in the social position of sexual minorities paired with attempts to roll back women’s rights (restrictions on abortion law, lack of civil partnerships legislation, problems with the implementation of anti-discrimination clauses) are a wider feature in the region. After the fall of state socialism, Eastern Europe has seen waves of growing religious and nationalistic intolerance. The rhetoric of ‘return to tradition’ (where ‘tradition’ stands for normality and nature, meaning mono-ethnic patriarchy) has become an ever-present image and dominant component of the revived and mythologized national identities in Poland, Russia, the Baltic states, the Balkans, Slovakia and Hungary.

 

‘We are Slavs’ vs. Wurst

According to such narratives ‘women are women and men are men’, because there are undeniable biological differences which give the two sexes specific gender roles, since men and women must have inherently different emotional and psychological qualities. This gender essentialism emerges most strikingly if you compare the Polish Eurovision performance – the song ‘We are Slavic’ and Conchita Wurst’s ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’. Eurovision is a proud feat of kitsch, but the two performances give a perfect illustration of competing gender perspectives. Conchita Wurst embodies everything that conservative Eastern Europe fears from the EU – subversion and transgression in terms of gender roles, gender ambiguity and flexibility in gender expression (translated in Poland into moral decay, rampant trans- and homosexuality, as well as going against nature or god’s law). What about ‘us, Slavs’? The song depicts perfectly the Polish heteronormative natural and traditional vision of gender roles: ‘We Slavic girls know how our charms and beauty work/We like to shake what mom gave us in our genes/ This is Slavic blood!/(…) What’s ours is best, because it’s ours!’ Whether you think the performance was pastiche, soft porn or just good fun, the not-so-subtle message was that Slavic women know ‘how to use what mother nature gave them’ and half-dressed do the laundry and churn butter by hand in sexually inviting ways for their men.

 

War on gender and European Parliament elections

The Polish ‘war on gender’, which had somewhat died down in the past couple of months, reached another apogee this week thanks to the Eurovision song contest. The amount of bile, hate speech and trans- and homophobia that spilled from Polish political elites and social media in response to the event shows how dominant the ‘gender war’ thinking has become as a comfortable rhetoric tool in debates. It also gave conservative Eurosceptics an image to point to before the European Parliament elections later this month. Given the already extremely low interest and weak voter turnout (never exceeding 25% so far) in European elections, the Polish right wing gained an emotive picture to scare people with and to rally against. An image that plays perfectly into the political game they have been playing since mid-2012, when they took on fighting ‘gender’ and trying to curb gender equality, women’s and sexual minority rights even further. Image of a woman with a beard.

 —————————————-

Barbara Gaw?da is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on gendered political discourses in Eastern Europe.

Related Articles of Open Democracy:
The lead-up to the European elections in Bulgaria: how not to do politicsNikolay Nikolov
We don’t talk about politics in PolandMarzena Sadowska
—————————————–
And from the ECONOMIST of  May 19, 2014 by T.J. in Eastern approaches – Ex-communist Europe:“The Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church and another senior churchman have used the floods to attack the country’s lesbian and gay community as well as Conchita Wurst, the bearded Austrian drag queen who won the Eurovison song contest on May 10th. They claim that the floods were a punishment from God for their vices.”
But this is not all – similar arguments come in Vienna also from Muslim sources. Personally  – I was lectured today by my good Macedonian Muslim tailor on how from above angels punish us for the ways women behave,  and he gave me full description of the way these angels, under Gabriel, act according to the Koran and tradition.He also reminded me of Lot’s daughters and the upheaval they caused and the hole in the earth that is now the Dead Sea! To show how series this is he gave me to take home some booklets that were given to him.
In short, a poor rational person like myself is pushed to take cover by these Eastern minds – be they from the Eastern Christian Churches or Muslims.    Europe is still far away from enlightenment.
And what about the Christian right or the extreme Jewish Orthodoxy in America? Are they any better?
Too bad that in the 21st Century we still have to hear such arguments while we try to analyze man-induced climate change.
==============================
On the other hand, according to the “Heute” paper of today, the husband of Conchita Wurst (Tom Neuwirth) is Jacques Patriaque – who is a “Boylesque” dancer – that is the men parallel to Burlesque that shows mostly women.

This information became available as Mr. Patriaque will be performing in an upcoming festival – www.boylesque festivalvienna.com – This new angle to Conchita’s story story is bound to be reason for new criticism.
Whatever – we will continue to hold to our idea that people’s preferences do not entitle them to prejudice that impacts human rights of others.

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 24th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

 
Via Expo is an organizer of high level international exhibitions and conferences in Bulgaria ( www.via-expo.com ) We will highly appreciate including in your listing the information and new dates of our events to be held in Sofia (Bulgaria) during 5-7 March 2014:
 
10th Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy Congress and Exhibition for South-East Europevia-expo.com/en/pages/ee-re-exhibition. It corresponds to the  world trends and presents latest energy efficient solutions, technologies for the production of bio-, hydro, solar, geothermal and wind energy, energy from waste and electric vehicle innovation. The EE & RE Congress will bring together  all relevant players from the Region: from  the energy sector, grid operators and utilities, building industry, finance and state administration.
 
Save the Planet – 5-th Conference and Exhibition on Waste Management, Recycling, Environment for South-East Europevia-expo.com/en/pages/waste-management-recycling-exhibition.  The event encourages the waste and recycling technology transfer to South-East Europe. It will be again a meeting place for executives from the sectors: waste management, recycling, ecology and related industry branches, investors and entrepreneurs; municipal representatives e.g. government officials, mayors, ecologists; branch associations.
 
SEE Solar – South-East European Solar PV & Thermal Exhibition  – via-expo.com/en/pages/see-solar.  In line with recent trends, the 2014 edition will put the focus on the building-integrated photovoltaics and autonomous solar systems in industrial and residential buildings, energy storage products, as well  as  innovative home appliances.
‘Smart Cities’ – South-East European Exhibition & Forumvia-expo.com/en/pages/smart-cities. The  event will focus exclusively on Intelligent Energy, Intelligent Mobility & Transport, Intelligent Emergencies Management and ICT, Intelligent Waste Management. Smart Cities Exhibition and Conference are the logical successor of  Smart Buildings 2013 Expo. The event will be held in parallel to the 10th Forum and Exhibition on Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Waste Management & Recycling and Solar PV & Thermal Exhibition.
LiftBalkans – South-East European Exhibition on Elevators and Escalatorsvia-expo.com/en/pages/liftbalkans . ‘LiftBalkans’ is the only specialized show in Bulgaria devoted to elevators, escalators, components and accessories, monitoring and safety systems, etc. The event will shape the forthcoming priority directions in the industry development – safety, accessibility and energy efficiency improving. A parallel Seminar will strengthen the networking between attendees and exhibitors which will debate on the new Lift Directive, safety rules and security solutions, noise prevention, retrofitting of the existing lifts, etc. LiftBalkans will be held parallel to events covering close related topics: Energy Efficiency and Smart Cities.
 
5-7 March 2014, Sofia, Bulgaria
Organizer: Via Expo
T/F +359 32 512 900, 960 011

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 17th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Mr. Martin Nesirky, the Spokesperson for The UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, speaking to the UN accredited PRESS, Monday July 15th, ended his daily briefing by saying:

“This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General spoke to a large group of representatives from non-governmental organizations and the private sector on international migration and development. He emphasized the need to establish sustained and strong partnerships between different actors to harness the benefits of migration and improve the situation of migrants. He also commended the role played by civil society in building such partnerships.

He said that the General Assembly was meeting on international migration and development in October, and that this was an opportunity for member States to lay the foundation for improved local, regional and international migration policies.” That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes, Pam?

There was not a single question on this topic!

This statement relates to full three days of activities right here at the UN Headquarters in New York and across the street in the Church Center – which followed a full year of preparations outside the UN in a process that was started in 2006 when there was a UN General Assembly mandated first “High-Level” Dialogue on this topic and was succeeded by yearly meetings and further regional meetings.

Now we are at the preparation stage for the October 3-4, 2013 Second United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development with next planned meeting already for 2014 in Sweden, the home turf of Ambassador Ian Eliasson, the current Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. And all of this in the name of figuring out the UN activities in the post-2015 era – as mandated at the 2012 RIO+20 Conference.

At Rio the recommendations included the removal of the non-producing Commission on Sustainable Development and its replacement with a High-Level Panel that will look into the creation of a system of Sustainable Development Goals that will follow in 2015 after the expiring Millennium Development Goals – and this allows for an unusual opportunity to try for making the avoidance of the need of Migration into a Sustainable Development Goal. But the UN seems to oppose this by all the means it has – and I will explain.

You see – when I walk the streets of New York these days I bump into people. This is because the daily temperature reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit and people do not walk in a straight line. You must try to anticipate which way they will deviate – and I am as guilty as anyone else – this because global warming and Climate Change are already here with us. Relating to our topic here – MIGRATION occurs now not just because people are attracted by magnets of freedom from dictatorships, from religious or sexual oppression, or because of a chance to better education, but now – more and more – there is the push of hunger – climate change has made it impossible to support populations in their country of origin and this migration has become the highest security issue in our days. If heat and Climate Change is impacting New York, just think what this has done in Mali or Darfur!

The UN is not blind to this. The UN Secretary-General was supposed to be the opening speaker at the Monday, July 15, 2013 event at the meeting at the UN General Assembly with Mr. Vuk Jeremik, President of the General Assembly as Chairman of the session. But Mr. Ban Ki-moon chose to be on a July fact finding tour of Europe that took him to see the effects of glaciers melting in Iceland, and a visit in Paris on Bastille Day with the French troops fighting in Mali.

Both above visits, as well as the meetings in-between, would have made a great story had the UN Secretary-General returned to New York and told on Monday July 15th his impressions to the meeting here. But this seemingly did not cross his mind, and surely this is no reflection on the way Mr. Elliason presented the case. It must be said that seven years ago – at the first dialogue – Mr. Eliasson presided because it was his position of President of the UN General Assembly, so he is well versed with the issues – the roles of Civil Society, Labor Unions and Employers’ organizations, diaspora organizations, and academics. He stressed that the challenge is to reach to the help of the media – “Knowing the facts is the source of wisdom” he quoted.

Mr. Eliasson said he wants to see as a post 2015 program a five year action program in five areas of priority:
– the cooperation between States,
– a comprehensive data system of migration facts,
– the integration of the migrants into our societies and economies,
– plan migration with labor markets and development consideration,
– a framework for managing migration from crisis and violence regions.

What he did not mention is the right of people to avoid migration that was pushed upon them because of changes in the local environment.

Mr. Jeremik reminded us of the Rio vision for the post-2015 as an aspiration to strive for equitable approaches to overcome poverty and inequality.

At the meeting on Monday participated over 200 Civil Society organizations and 80 UN member States.
The main organization was in the hands of Switzerland and Swiss based NGOs like Caritas, The International Catholic Migration Commission, The Global Economic Forum, with with Ms. Susan Martin of Georgetown University, Institute for the Study of International Migration that awards you a Certificate on the subject, and Mr. Dennis Sinyolo, Education and Employment Coordinator at Education International, as moderators.

I sat through the full three days and saw that very good people from all over the globe were present – but by no means was this an objective success.

Starting with the strong Swiss presence I must say that as Migration means Emigration from one place and Immigration to another – this except Migration within the same country, Switzerland is a country of poor record as it does not allow citizenship except when the candidate is weighed in gold – and I am not abstract on this – Just think of the Agha Khan and his Swiss based Foundation. So, when A good looking lady presented herself as a migrant from El Salvador to Switzerland, with dual nationality and diamonds sparkling from her earrings, spoke about the Global Economic Forum backing the economic advantages that come from migration – I had to wonder about what I was hearing. Then let us not forget that simple mortals could not stay in Switzerland when their life was in peril. In general – I was more impressed by the people in the room then by some of the presenters, as in UN fashion – the good turns easily into the trite, and good ideas can produce easily flying meetings that are not free to the introduction of ideas born outside the initiating circle. Trying to introduce the notion that the UN is changing and that MDGs are ending with new SDGs taking their place, and the fact that the UN just opened this month the office for Sustainable Energy – the SE4All concept, and that right now there is an opportunity to talk of migration in context of Climate Change – all that was beyond the interest of the organizers and the moderators – but very much of interest of many of the participants.

Civil Society is surely a mixed bag, and the stress on remittances from the Migrants back to their families in the homeland become very important part of the economies of some oppressive governments – so, indiscriminately stressing the economic value may not be any better idea then using military from countries in trouble in order to beef up the troops of UN Peace-Keeping forces in other countries in trouble, when the pay for this service is income for the government that sends these troops. This comment may have nothing to do with the subject at hand but is important to the understanding of the depth of the problem when you work in he UN context.

Without delving further in depth of what was said, this because the meetings were just an interactive exercise that will generate its own papers, the real news this Monday were not the Civil Society NGOs that were allowed to participate – but rather those organizations that were excluded in total lack of transparency and thus gave a blue eye to the UN institution as a whole.

The subject came up when the United States pointed out that three NGOs were eliminated from participation this last week by being BLACKBALLED by some secret member State. These were three organizations – one registered in the UK and two in Israel and the UN does not release the names of the countries that objected to their participation. TO ME THIS WAS THE REAL NEWS OF THE MEETING – COVERING ON ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT WERE SAID AT THE MEETING.

After the US, spoke also Israel and the EU, and eventually this became an important part in the summary of the meeting, when at the end it was presented by the Chef de Cabinet to the UNGA President, Mr. Dejan Sahovic, who is also from Serbia like the UNGA President.

Mr. Sahovic explained that this had nothing to do with the organizers of the event but is a UN given. Whenever there is an event at the UN, after Civil Society makes up the list of registered NGOs, these lists are distributed to all governments which have then the veto right against any line on that list.

OK, we knew that China will take out any NGO that is based in Taiwan, but how is it that an observer organization at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), that is competent in the subject matter and is very active, could be eliminated? To make it sound even worse – the UN does not release the name of the blackballing country and the delegate for the EU said clearly that the EU is worried about the lately decreasing importance of Civil Society at the UN.

I followed up trying to find who are these three blackballed organizations, but will not allow myself to express a guess to who was the blackballing State as this guesswork is easy – but we refuse to do it. Nevertheless, we must say that wonders do happen at the UN sometimes.

In this case it was with two NGOs with interest in Human Rights of Women – specifically women in Arab lands – even more specific – in Saudi Arabia – they DID SPEAK UP.
Lala Arabian from a Beirut based NGO INSAN, part of the Arab Network for Migrants, which I was told speaks a fluent English, decided to speak out in Arabic against the treatment of Arab women – specifically in Saudi Arabia. Further – A woman in an impeccable English, coming from a United Arab Emirates NGO, but probably living overseas, made a similar statement from the floor. I did not note her name but she came from www.migrant-rights.org/category/g…


The Three NGOs that were absent are:

1. The Institute for Human Rights and Business Limited (IHRB) is the British organization.
They partner with the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) on issues like the establishment of the new Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business headed by Vicky Bowman.
They specifically look at how to persuade business to respect Human Rights with Migration one of the specific topics. June 17-18, 2013 they just had a meeting in Tunis on the subject of Free Internet. Is this what some despot did them in for?

2. Microfy – “Microfinance for African refugees and migrant workers in Israel” – an Israeli based NGO that provides assistance to African refugees and asylum seekers, many of them who fled the genocide in Darfur. www.microfy.org Clearly a highly ethical organization that might have difficulty being listened to by despots.

3.”The Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI)” advises governments and NGOs around the world on migration and integration.
CIMI has Observer Status wit the International Organization foe Migration (IOM) since 2003 and participates actively in all its meetings.
CIMI also partners with many other national and International organizations including the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
This information was confirmed by Ms. Michele Klein Solomon, the Permanent Observer for IOM at the United Nations. CIMI is also based in Israel.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 13th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

A Festival of singing people – 440 of them – from 18 choirs – in 16 European Cities – May 9-12, 2013 – held with workshops at the reestablished historic Odeon Theater in Leopoldstadt – the previously mainly Jewish Second District of Vienna.

The Festival culminated in a public concert on Sunday May 12, 2013 at the Austria Center back-to-back with the offices of the Vienna UN compound. The Honorary Chairman of the event was Austria’s President – the Honorable Heinz Fischer.

This after the 2011 revival of the European States Makkabi sports-competitions that brought at the time 60,000 out-of-town visitors to Vienna.

The present event was dedicated to the revival of Jewish culture in European Communities – and at times the choirs including non-Jews as well.

The timing seems symbolical – it started May 9th – the Victory Day over Nazism and ended on Mothers’ Day – if you wish in memory of those Jewish self sacrificing mothers that helped continue Judaism in Europe that proving that Hitler was defeated.

At the workshops the choirs were taught new songs that were then performed jointly by all participants at the grand-finale of the Sunday event. These included Adon Olam with the Chief cantor of Vienna’s Jewish Community Shmuel Barzilay, Ose Shalom, and the israeli National anthem – The Hatikah (Hope).

The professional leader of the event was Choirmaster Roman Grinberg of the Vienna Jewish Choir whose President is a Young man Florian Pollack who was the organizer of the Sunday concert. Though performing also liturgical music, this choir is cultural in content – including both men and women, something that might have been difficult to do if it were directly part of the Orthodox stream of the majority of Vienna Synagogues – though quite normal with the Or Chadash Reform Vienna Synagogue. Nevertheless the Orthodox Chief Rabbi of Austria, Rabbi Chaim Eisenberg, who himself has in the past performed with the Vienna Jewish Choir outside the Synagogue, wrote an introductory note to the Sunday program booklet.

The MC on Sunday was Ms. Danielle Spera who is a well known Austrian TV personality, and in 2010 became the Director of the Vienna Jewish Museum. She was the top choice of Vice Mayor Renate Brauner, who is in charge of the Vienna Holding Company that owns the buildings of the two Vienna Jewish Museums that were up for renovation in the 2010-2011 years.

The meeting of the choirs cost 200.000 Euro and the money came from institutional contributions. The main backer was the Bruxells based European Jewish Union that was described by the MC as The Jewish European Parliament.

At the workshops, the nine choirs that belong to the Renanim organization – choirs from Amsterdam, Bruxelles, Dijon, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Paris, Toulouse, and Utrecht chose to appear in a large united choir – thus reducing the number of choirs on Sunday from 18 to 10 facilitating a more manageable situation.

The Sunday event started with one choir on stage and all the others in various locations in the hall – singing together Uru Ahim- Hava Neranna. . .  with an added 1400 people in the large and full hall of the Austria Center (In the audience I spotted also several women with Muslim head-covers). Then, after the introductory, thankfully rather short  speeches, the line-up was thus as follows:

1. The Vienna Jewish Choir led by Roman Grinberg that was created 20 years ago by Dr. Timothy Smolka with 8 people and counts now on 50 active singers having performed at many events all over Europe. Their contribution was mainly in Jidish – old folk-songs.

2. The Assoziazione Coro-Kol of Rome led by Choirmaster Andrea Orlando that started with Verdi’s Va Pensiero and moved to Hebrew Shabbat and wedding songs. This choir was established in 1993 by the Great Synagogue of Rome and has usually a repertory that includes Ladino as well as Yiddish songs.

3. The Masel Tov Choir of Wuppertal, Germany with Rokella Rachel Verenina, formerly of Odessa, the Ukraine, as choirmaster.It is a choir established 15 years ago by Russian immigrants that finally wanted to express themselves freely. It has now 35 active members – Jews and non-Jews and is one of the best in Germany. They sang Yiddish and German. In the choir I spotted also one black man and many of the singers looked like hardened industrial workers – what they probably are indeed.

4. The Boys Choir of The Vienna City Tempel – the Main Synagogue of Austria Shmuel Barzilai, the Chief Cantor in charge. It had 7 boys under the age 13. This Choir is modeled after the famous Vienna Boys Choir. Their songs were all in Hebrew and from the liturgy and were received with warm applause.

5. The Shalom Chor of Berlin led by Nikola David who is an operatic singer who after graduating from cantorial school has now a position with the Erfurt Synagogue. The 37 active members are from the community and from churches around Berlin. They sang in Hebrew and interestingly wore shawls of single colors – red, green, orange, blue, light green – which left me with the impression that they covered the political spectrum of Germany. I wonder if this was indeed the intent of these colors.

6. The Ensemble Vocal Zamir of Paris with Albert Benzaquen as choirmaster ranging in music from Shlomo Carlebach and Naomi Shemer to Chasidic and Ladino. It was created in 1980 from basically members of families from the Sephardic community. They have had many appearances in France and do not miss the choir festival in Israel – the Zimrya in Jerusalem. Working people – they clearly enjoy what they are doing and we were told meet twice a week.

7. The Jewish Choir “Eva” of Saint Petersburg with Elena Rubinovich as choirmaster. An all girls choir. The teen-age girls dressed in white blouses and blue long skirts. They had a large Magen David attached to their blouses above the heart. They started with Jerusalem of Gold in Hebrew, had a Russian song and moved to Yidddish – “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” the Jewish American song. Interesting – this was different then in the written program and clearly they have a large repertory and were excellent – real singing talent – lurks here. We were told that the girls are children and youth organized by the Welfare and Community Centre. Terrific applause.

8. The Varnishkes of Lviv, The Ukraine with Oleksandra Somysh as Band leader of what was indeed a Klezmer-music group.  Another example of terrific applause. The team was born 6 years ago and as they state it – they adore the magic of Yiddishkeit. They include volunteers and foreign students and are lovely. They reminded me of a similar non-Jewish group I saw in Cracow years ago and Elie Wiesel was in the audience then.
The Lviv group – the singing was all in Yiddish – and we understand that young German audiences love to listen to them.

9. Hor Bracha Baruh a Choir named after the Baruch Brothers of Belgrade. This choir is not by definition Jewish – but it was named after three brothers that were killed fighting in the resistance in WWII, and the choir comes to honor their Jewish culture. The choir was founded in 1879 as the Serbian Jewish Singing Society – perhaps the oldest Jewish choir in the world – then re-established under the present name when Yugoslavia split and the Serbs clearly were looking for Israeli recognition mentioning that it was Serbs that were most friendly in those terrible war-years.Their repertory is eclectic – included Serbian, Ladino and Hebrew and sounded well rehearsed. It is a nostalgic but hope-filled experience. The Choirmaster Stefan Zekic – a clear professional.

10. The Renanim combine with Avner Soudry as choirmaster and Therese Beuret-Sadoul as Administrator that gave us a Paul Ben Haim Hebrew composition, a Suite Judeo-Espagnole and a very appropriate Shir LaShalom, then Mipi El. They remained on stage and were joined by everyone else for the Grand Finale.

There were obviously no encores – but everyone, afyer milling around for a while, happily called it a night.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 6th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)


WE WERE AT THAT CONCERT IN NEW YORK CITY TOWN HALL, and in the nearby Bar, NOVEMBER 2012, WHEN AMBASSADOR PROSOR SAW RITA SING AND DANCE IN FARSI, HEBREW, and ENGLISH, and DECIDED THAT THIS OUGHT TO BE SEEN AT THE UN AS WELL. SURELY, HE WAS NOT NAIVE TO THINK THAT IT WILL BE EASY, BUT HE DID IT!!!
 SustainabiliTank.info)

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UN Watch Briefing
Latest from the United Nations
Vol. 416 |  March 6, 2013
Share this link
UN Watch congratulates Ambassador Ron Prosor and the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations for organizing an exceptional event for peace at United Nations Headquarters. Click here to watch the video of the concert.

Israeli singer Rita’s special surrealistic concert at the UN General Assembly

UN Ambassador Prosor has pulled off one of the most unusual diplomatic achievements ever: a full-fledged UN-sponsored Farsi-Hebrew musical event full of goodwill and sympathy.


taken from HAARETZ
By Chemi Shalev | March 6, 2013 | 9:50 AM

Inside the hall of the General Assembly at the United Nations building in New York, it seemed at times that either the messiah had arrived or the world had turned inside-out Bizarro, like in the Superman comics: Rita, one of Israel’s most popular performers, was singing in Farsi and Hebrew; Israelis were dancing in the aisles: diplomats from around the world were clapping and begging for more; Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor was the hero of the day; Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said “shalom” and General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic, it turned out, hails from a family of Righteous Gentiles.

It was, without a doubt, a night to remember, a memory to cherish, an Israeli-made spectacle the likes of which hadn’t been seen in the General Assembly since Ambassador Herzog tore apart that Zionism is Racism resolution in 1975. Only this time, it was the other way around: “Why is this night different than all other nights?” an elated and season conscious Prosor asked me, “Because on this night, contrary to all previous nights, the United Nations is united behind Israel and resides under the wings of Rita.”

The wings that Prosor was referring to come from Haim Bialik’s song “Hachnisini Tahat Knafech” – “Under Your Wing” – a popular Israeli song which was featured in Rita’s “Tunes for Peace” concert performed at UN headquarters Tuesday night. The famous platform underneath the giant olive-colored UN symbol was turned into a rock concert stage, including a smoke machine, strobe lights, and a rocking and raucous 9-piece ensemble that played Persian-Israeli music with light touches of Klezmer to boot.

The auditorium, which for most Israelis and Diaspora Jews has come to be associated with harsh anti-Israeli rhetoric, cold diplomatic isolation, and humiliating political defeats at the hands of the “automatic majority,” suddenly had a warm ambiance and an admiring audience comprised of Iranian expatriates, Israeli diplomats, UN employees, and representatives of 140 UN delegations who begged their Israeli colleagues for invitations to the show and to the experience.

Prosor came upon the idea for the UN concert when he saw Rita perform in New York in Farsi and in Hebrew seven months ago. He lobbied Ban Ki Moon and Jeremic until he secured their agreement, but then had to ward off countless attempts by UN Secretariat workers to scuttle the concert for fear that “it would set a precedent” or that it would upset other delegations. Having removed the last remaining obstacles, Prosor fixed the date for the concert with Rita after sponsorships had been secured from the LA-based Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation, the Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York, and the UJA Federation of NY.

Ban Ki Moon opened the evening with the word “shalom” and described Rita as “a cultural ambassador”. Then came Jeremic, who announced that he would soon be the first sitting President of the General Assembly to visit Israel, during which he will participate in a Yad Vashem ceremony in which members of his grandmother’s family in Belgrade would be recognized as “Righteous Among the Gentiles” for saving Jews during the Holocaust.

Then, Introducing Rita, Prosor said “I always hoped that I would one day be the opening act for Rita at a major venue in New York City. Although, I’ll admit, I never expected that it would be in the form of the Three Tenors: “Ban, Prosor, and Jeremic.”

“It is our sincere hope that this musical evening will echo from New York to the hearts and minds of people throughout Israel and Iran,” Prosor added, and then asked Rita to “rock the house”, which she did.

The popular Israeli singer gave a ten song rendition that included five songs in Farsi, four in Hebrew and one – “Time for Peace” – in English. She delighted the audience with stories of her childhood in Tehran, about her mother’s love for music, and about her own wish to spread the love far and wide between her birthplace and her homeland. Her strong voice reverberated in the hall which had never seen such a joyous bunch of Israelis, including enthusiastic Rita fans who tried to get the UN diplomats to dance with them near the stage and down the aisles, though that proved a bridge too long for the usually stiff and formal envoys.

There was a lot of hype and gimmick in the evening, for sure, and it is bound to be used and even abused for hasbara purposes – but most of the crowd, it seemed, left the building with genuine smiles on their faces. Everyone sensed that it was a unique evening, with the UN, of all forums, providing such a warm and hospitable venue for such an iconic Israeli singer with such a positive message, no Palestinians or politics included.

Even jaded journalists like the one writing this report were moved, knowing that they had witnessed an event that had never been seen before, at least from an Israeli point of view, and is unlikely to be seen over and over again for a very long time.

UN Watch is an independent human rights group founded in 1993 in Geneva, Switzerland,
receiving no financial support from any organization or government.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 6th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

THE ISRAELI MISSION MAKES HISTORY AT THE UN WITH A CONCERT BY ISRAELI POP ICON RITA, SINGING IN BOTH PERSIAN AND HEBREW FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY HALL.

by Irith Jawetz, reporting from the UN Headquarters in New York.

On March 5, 2013 the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN has hosted a special event and first of its kind in the UN General Assembly hall – a concert by the world-renowned Israeli-Iranian singer Rita Yahan-Farouz. The performance was titled “Tunes for Peace” .

Among the attendees were Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic, ambassadors, celebrities, and Jewish and Iranian community leaders.

The stage, which usually serves as a podium for the top diplomats conducting world affairs was transformed into a full fledged “Music Hall” with music instruments, amplifiers, lights and two big screen TVs.

H.E. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was the first to speak and he started his speech by greeting everybody with the Hebrew word “Shalom”. He said there is no room like this one and it serves to seek peace among nations, preserve Human rights, but sometimes also for concerts. He praised Rita for her desire to reach many cultures through her music, connect people and he hopes this concert will inspire people to strive for peace, justice and Human rights. He thanked the Government of Israel and especially Ambassador Rom Prosor for enabling this important event.

The next speaker was H.E. Mr. Vuk Jeremic, President of the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly. He also thanked Ambassador Prosor and mentioned his personal special friendship with the Ambassador. He announced that he will be going to Israel soon and will be visiting Yad Vashem, since a few members of his family, who saved Jews during the Holocaust will be honored as righteous among Nations. This announcement brought a huge applause from the audience. He  mentioned that music has a very important tool for connecting people and nations since biblical times. Music is a universal language and he shares Rita’s hopes that it will bring cooperation between nations.

H.E. Ambassador Ron Proser, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, thanked Secretary General and Mrs. Ban for hosting this important event and said that although Mr, Ban is sometimes soft spoken his voice is being heard around the Globe.
He continued by saying that the events in this hall are not always harmonious, but today Rita will make sure her music will bring everybody together, and he was proud to be her “opening act.”  In conclusion he said that there are usually many rules in this Hall, but not tonight. The audience may get up and sing along and shake the room. His speech brought the audience to their feet.

After the speeches the General Assembly Hall transformed completely and the concert began. Rita came on stage and the audience welcomed her with huge applause. She has a terrific personality and projected it throughout the whole evening.
Rita and her nine-piece band performed her popular hits in both Hebrew and Persian from Rita’s latest album, “My Joys.”

She sang one song in English which was called “Time for Peace.”

The album, which has received widespread international acclaim, interweaves the Iranian melodies of Rita’s childhood with the rich tapestry of contemporary Israeli music. She introduced herself by saying that she was born in Tehran and emigrated with her parents at the age of eight. She credited her mother for her remarkable singing career by telling us that her mother used to sing the whole day long, even while cooking or doing chores around the house.

Rita mentioned that she hopes that her UN concert, “Tunes for Peace,” will build bridges, foster inter-cultural dialogue, and connect people to people – the very foundations upon which the United Nations was established.

The concert lasted about an hour and brought the hall to its feet.  The audience definitely following Ambassador Proser’s closing words in his speech  “Let’s Rock the Hall”.

Let us all hope that politicians will follow Rita’s example!

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Some of our older postings on RITA in NEW YORK:

SustainabiliTank: UPDATED: RITA – the Iranian-Israeli cultural

www.sustainabilitank.info/…/rita-the-iranian-israeli-cultural-tre…

Feb 22, 2013 – Matthew writes: Israel Plans UN Concert by Iranian-Born Singer Rita, the Viva Vox choir, invited to perform a concert at the UN by General

SustainabiliTank: RITA from Israel, last Sunday night at the Town

www.sustainabilitank.info/…/rita-from-israel-last-sunday-night…

Nov 14, 2012 – RITA from Israel, last Sunday night at the Town Hall in New York City, Such as In 2006, Rita put on a show called One (in English) which ran

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From a new IISD Newsletter – “Sustainable Development in Action” (First year – Third issue).

Co-facilitators for Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals appointed.

The President of the General Assembly has appointed the Permanent Representatives of Hungary – Ambassador Csaba Korosi – and Kenya – Ambassador Macharia Kamau – as co-facilitators to prepare for the first meeting of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  In addition, as facilitators, the President of the General Assembly has also appointed H.E. Amb. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil in order to facilitate the transition from the Rio+20 or the June 2012 meeting that was run by Brazil, and Ambassador Dejan Sahovic as a Special liaison to Mr. Vuk Jeremic of Serbia – now President of the UN General Assembly. Last position before joining Mr. Jeremic in New York – Mr. Sahovic served as Ambassador of Serbia to Hungary (2008-2012)

Initially, they will facilitate consultations on the group’s leadership, agenda, and program of work and methods.

The first meeting of the OWG is currently expected to take place in mid-March 2013
(letter of appointment).

—————————-

In UN fashion – this process, started last Mid-June having not led to a UNGA decision at the 2012 General Assembly meeting is now being pushed to bring forward suggestions to the September 2013 UN General assembly meeting, but rather then establishing directly a committee of specialists – the above decision leads to a group of diplomats that will in turn have to bring in the specialists – thus guaranteeing the continuation of the non-functioning UN Commission on Sustainable Development, rather then replace it with a better functioning body. We tend to bet that eventually the dead CSD will be asked to show the way; above pace is a disappointment to those that thought finally there will be action at the UN on Sustainable Development.

Establishing SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals to replace the MDGs that run out in 2015, is laudable but it seems also pre-ordained that the time till 2015 is intentionally not put to good use.
———————–

One of the main outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, was the agreement by Member States to launch a process to develop a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Rio+20 did not elaborate specific goals but stated that the SDGs should be limited in number, aspirational and easy to communicate.

The goals should address in a balanced way all three dimensions of sustainable development and be coherent with and integrated into the UN development agenda beyond 2015.

A 30-member Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly is tasked with preparing a proposal on the SDGs.

The Open Working Group was established on 22nd of January 2013 by the decision of the General Assembly.

The Member States have decided to use an innovative, constituency-based system of representation that is new to limited membership bodies of the General Assembly. This means that most of the seats in the OWG are shared by several countries.

The Rio+20 outcome document The Future We Want states that, at the outset, the OWG will decide on its methods of work, including developing modalities to ensure the full involvement of relevant stakeholders and expertise from civil society, the scientific community and the United Nations system in its work, in order to provide a diversity of perspectives and experience.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 5th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

As Jeremic (Former Foreign Minister of Serbia) Talks Sovereignty, What of Egypt and Kosovo, Budget from Serbia?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 3 — The UN seems to make even articulate people bland, and to turn everything into buzzwords and cliches. So it seemed at Vuk Jeremic’s first press conference as President of the UN General Assembly.

His deputy spokesman chose only five question — by the end of which, the obvious word “Kosovo” had not once been said.

Only on the seventh and last pre-drinks questions was the word broached. Jeremic answered indirectly, saying that just as he fought “for five and a half years” as Serbian foreign minister for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia, now he would fight for those things for the whole world. Is that a message to the proponents of Azawad in Northern Mali? Inner City Press has covered Mali’s on-again, then off-again recognition of Kosovo.


More pertinently, is it true as buzzed at the UN that the “new” Egypt may move to recognize Kosovo? What if anything could a PGA (President of the UN General Asembly) try to do?

Inner City Press covered — and called — Jeremic’s election as General Assembly President, and when the media in Serbia contacted it for stories about Jeremic’s budget, Inner City Press also asked Jeremic’s predecessor how much Qatar had spent (this was never answered).

But now one wants to know if it is true that the request to and contribution of Serbia is down to $1.5 million, and what will be the actual budgets of the office.

Wednesday these questions were not taken, nor more generic ones about mediation and the G-20. Team Jeremic offered drinks and cheese cubes to the correspondents, but that time might have been better spent on answering these questions. Perhaps in the future they will be answered.

———————-

UN Statement Calls for Restraint From Turkey and Syria, SC Prez Tells ICP

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 — On the UN Security Council’s press statement on Akcakale in Turkey, what changed in the 22 hours between the silence procedure being broken by Russia and the statement’s read-out by Council President Gert Rosenthal on Thursday evening?

Mostly the inserting of nine final words: “The members of the Security Council called for restraint.”

Inner City Press asked Ambassador Rosenthal, once he had read out the statement, whether it would be fair to read this as a call for restraint by Turkey as well, or just Syria.

“Both,” Rosenthal said. He confirmed that a separate draft press statement on bombings in Aleppo is under the Council’s “silence procedure” until 10 am on Friday. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the press that one Council member had extended silence until then. But would it be further extended?

There were a few other minor changes from the initial Azerbaijani (or “Ottoman”) draft and the one agreed to: the first draft expressed condolences first to the Government of Turkey then to the families of the victims; this was reversed in the final statement. Also a reference to “international peace and security” was removed.

Some drew a link from the negotiations to an upcoming visit to Turkey by Russian president Putin on October 14. Others speculated about some other deal being reached.

In the run-up to the passing, a well placed diplomat told Inner City Press of passing the press statement, “If they can do it to keep Turkey quiet, good.” But will it?

—————–

As France Spins 2-Step on Mali, ECOWAS Frustration, What of Algeria and Chad?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 — When Thursday’s Mali consultations of the UN Security Council broken up near 5 pm, French Ambassador Gerard Araud emerged and confirmed that France would circulate a draft resolution shortly (in a day or two) but NOT yet to deploy ECOWAS forces.

Why the delay? Araud twice said, we’ve been waiting for some time for details from ECOWAS. He said the resolution might specify, deliver the delays in 30 days or as soon as possible.

Inner City Press asked Araud, what about Mali neighbors which are not members of ECOWAS, like Mauritania and Algeria?

Araud replied that any and all countries are invited to be involved. He mentioned the European Union, then circled back to Chad.

But again, what about Algeria? The country has long opposed interventions, especially involving former colonialism France. While pretending not to take the lead or play any special role on Mali, it was Araud who came to the stakeout; it is France which is drafting.

Then again, MUJAO in Northern Mali last month executed an Algerian diplomat. Araud said that there is unanimity in the Council on Mali, and afterward Cote d’Ivoire Ambassador Bamba, who was not allowed in the meeting, emphasized to the press that at the Sahel meeting at the UN during General Debate week, there was a strong political demand a resolution authorizing force.

But what about the neighbors, which are not members of ECOWAS?

—————-

At UN, Syria Praises Jeremic as Heavyweight, Critiqus Qatari Ex-PGA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 4 — Syria UN Ambassador Bashir Ja’afari had many duels with Qatar’s Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser while the latter was President of the General Assembly, culminating in UN Television being turned off when Ja’afari spoke.

On October 4, on UNTV, Inner City Press asked Ja’afari about new PGA Vuk Jeremic and about Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser. Video here, from Minute 14:09.

Ja’afari lashed out at Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, and praised Jeremic as a “heavyweight.” Later it was noted that Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser repeatedly offered UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon a private jet to travel for free.

Ban has since named Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser as High Representative on the Alliance of Civilizations.

By contrast, Ja’afari told Inner City Press:

“I think the former PGA harmed his personal reputation, the credibility of his country’s policy and the United Nations by misusing his mandate and the very important podium of the General Assembly. I think that he tried to use the national agenda of his country and to dictate this national agenda on the Member States as a whole…

“You may remember the procedural and political mistakes he made towards the point of view of my country as well as toward myself. In these wrongdoing, procedural and political, he crossed the line. He wasn’t diplomat. He didn’t act responsibly.

“In one of these meetings, the former PGA stopped the translation one time, and stopped recording the session, for the first time since 1945. He on many occasion manipulated the rules and procedure of the session and meetings of the General Assembly.

“The new PGA will be by all means different in his approach, his analysis, from former PGA. He is a real heavyweight, a trouble shooter, a professional diplomat… I guess that he will not fall in the same trap in which the former PGA had fallen.

My minister met with the new PGA and they discussed the best ways to help Syria, Government and people, to achieve national dialogue and to implement the Kofi Annan Six Point Plan as well as other instruments adopted by consensus with regard the Syrian crisis. We look forward to working with him very closely.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on July 10th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

As Jeremic Accused by opponents in Serbia of “Bribes” To Be PGA, Witness Qatar, WEOG, Ban …

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 9, 2012 Presidents of the UN General Assembly usually campaign for and stealthly gain the position with the unequivocal support of their government.

In the case of monarchies – Qatar and Bahrain – this of course was no problem. Nor for Joseph Deiss of Switzerland, or long-time Daniel Ortega ally Padre Miguel d’Escoto of Nicaragua.

But with Vuk Jeremic it is different. His Democratic Party is now out of power in Serbia, and opponents internal and external are leaking information about Jeremic’s campaign and prospective funding of his year atop of the General Assembly. (Click here for Inner City Press’ July 6 story.)


Now in Serbia it is alleged that part of the $2.4 million Sebian first allocation is for “bribery” to help Vuk gain the position. The irony here is that this is how UN elections are contested and won.


Witness the current Western European & Other Group race of Finland, Australia and Luxembourg for two Security Council seats. Finland gave out chocolates (and more, including trips to a mediation conference); Australia through a reception in the “Ambassadors’ River View” tent facing the East River; Luxembourg is working the field.


One might also compare it to what Qatar spent a year ago to beat Nepal for the Asia and Pacific Group nomination, or what Lithuania spent this year in unsuccessful opposition to Jeremic. Or even to what South Korea and Ban Ki-moon spent to win the Secretary General post.

But Vuk’s party is out of power, and the present mayor of Belgrade is gunning for him. How much will be spent on his office this coming year?

As noted, Inner City Press has reported on Switzerland paying for the housing of PGA Joseph Deiss (despite the oath nearly ubiquitous in the Organization to serve the UN and not one’s country), and has inquired into the fundraising of Srgjan Kerim (beyond the $1 million from his government.)

Now incoming PGA Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, whose election Inner City Press predicted with 97 votes (he got 99) is under some fire at home, for a reported $7 million request.

Jeremic’s rival in the Democratic Party (DS), Belgrade Mayor Dragan Dilas, has put the figure at $7.5 million and called it disgraceful. For now, it’s said that only $2.9 million have been approved, prior to the vote for PGA, but running only throw December.

In order to asses Jeremic’s reported estimate, Inner City Press asked the office of the current Qatari PGA:

“This is a press request to know the budget of the current President of the General Assembly for his year in office, both from UN and non-UN sources.

“To explain, there is now a controversy in the press in Serbia about the incoming president’s proposed budget from his country… in this context, and generally for UN transparency, I am asking you for the total PGA budget for his year, broken down as much as are willing to.”

The answer that came back so far did not have the number from Qatar, only from the UN:

“Dear Matthew, The Office of the PGA receives $250,000 for each presidency from the regular UN budget. This amount has been set in 1998 by Member States. The national government of the PGA may contribute to the funding of the operations and activities of the PGA/OPGA.

“There is also the Trust Fund established in support of the Office and used to cover the costs of PGA initiatives such as specific thematic debates. Member States can make voluntary contributions to this Fund – but during this session the Fund received no contributions.”

There is another wrinkle, raised to Inner City Press by another UN source: beyond the now-outdated $250,000, the UN pays for some of the PGA Office’s posts, and others are seconded by other countries. Still, it has become harder and harder for poor countries to be PGA: witness Nepal losing out to Qatar. Now there is Serbia. Inner City Press has reiterated its request for the actual Qatari number. Inner City Press promises to stay on the case.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 9th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This posting is a work in progress and its main intention is to point out for now the particular event with Umberto Echo, to be held at the Burgtheater, Vienna, on the night of Wednesday, October 19, 2011.

Also, I want to put on notice our readers that having seen tonight the latest play by Peter Handke, I feel a relationship between the play and the Umbert Eco novel which I am sure has in it material that will eventually have it produced as a play as well. I would not be surprised if the two plays will not eventually be seen as complimentary to each other. In the meantime – I will just say that for 2011, it is Handke’s play that might be the most significant production of this season in the Vienna theaters, and the Umberto Eco book presentation the most important all around literary event of the year

Umberto Eco is one of the world’s best selling authors due to his novel The Prague Cemetery – published in October 2010. The book is a worldwide bestseller (being the best selling book in Italy, Spain, Argentina, Mexico and others) that sold millions of copies as of 2010 – now, a year since the first publication in Italian, we will hear him in Vienna release the German translation.

The characters of this novel are not imaginary. Except the main character who is imaginary so the plot can evolve,  all others lived in reality and include – Sigmund FreudLéo TaxilDiana VaughanEugène Sue and Maurice Joly, as well as Umberto Eco’s own grandfather – that gave a mysterious message to abbot Barruelo that gave rise to all modern anti-Semitism”. These were the the forgery known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that inspired Hitler’s extermination of the Jews.

Eco deals with the Dreyfus affair and endless intrigue spun by the secret police of different countries, the Masons,  Jesuit plots, and other events whose accuracy can’t ever be authenticated, but that serve as fodder for feuilletons 150 years later.

CementeryOfPrague.jpg

Eco, as philosopher, is intrigued by the vision of things – real and fake and the potential strength of the untrue. We see how history is affected by the untrue. It took Eco six years to release this work – six years since his 2004 book “The Secret Flame of Queen Loana.”

In “The Cemetery of Prague” the fictitious central figure is Captain Simone Simonini who does an archaeologists work, as if he were using tiny brushes to release the memory from the debris that stuck to it.

The Burgtheater event includes a podium discussion with Alexandra Foederl-Schmid of Der Standard and Michael Kerbler of Oe1 – Austrian TV – that promises wide media coverage.
Also, reading from the book will be done by Peter Matic whose voice is fabulous and he, having been a Burgtheater actor is also famous for Ben Kingsley’s voice on German speaking TV.

The Peter Handke play is done like a dream with memories drifting from above like leaves falling from a tree and with reality and photo-memories intermingling so that Hanke’s stand in just moves in and out from the pictures of the past. What evolves from all of this is the story of a Slovenian family from Kernten State in the South of Austria and the neighboring Balkan States starting with pre-WWII and moving through the third Reich into the following Jugoslav State. The play is hard and in order to do it justice I got the text and will follow up in depth.

But, before I close this first piece, I must note the terrific and maddening Balkan dance of the whole family – those that were still around and the dead ones – affirming their personality – or if you wish their cultural identity – or even a form of Nationalism. From that moment it went down-hill sadness and resignation with the fate.

One more comment – and this in private to Flora who saw the Handke play. If you read this – please go to the Umberto Eco event as well to try to view this as a follow up.

Immer noch Sturm



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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 24th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

BULGARIA PRESSES AT GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR ALL BALKAN COUNTRIES TO JOIN EU

The Balkans will only become a permanently stable region when all the countries that comprised the former Yugoslavia are accepted as members of the European Union, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister told the General Assembly today.

Speaking during the Assembly’s annual general debate, Nickolay Mladenov – whose country became an EU member in 2007 – noted that the EU “was created to make war impossible in a continent that has seen at least a century of conflicts.

“Europe shall not be whole and complete until our neighbours in the Balkans are part of our Union,” adding that only membership will “make war impossible.”

The Balkans endured a series of vicious conflicts during the 1990s after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, and only one country to have emerged from that State – Slovenia – is now a member of the EU.

Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro are official candidate countries, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia have been recognized as potential candidates. The EU currently has 27 member countries.

Mr. Mladenov said Bulgaria would work to promote regional cooperation and neighbourly relations across the Balkans, and particularly encourage the EU-facilitated dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.

“Bulgaria welcomes the pragmatic approach taken by both Kosovo and Serbia during their first meetings. It is important that they build on this momentum and continue to engage in a constructive and pragmatic manner,” he added.

“All must show restraint and prevent the build-up of tension. This is vital for the security, prosperity and – ultimately – for the European perspective of the region.”

* * *

AT UN, HUNGARY AND CZECH REPUBLIC OFFER ADVICE TO ARAB STATES ON DEMOCRATIC TRANSITIONS

Transitioning to democracy brings with it challenges and must be an inclusive and locally-driven process, the leaders of Hungary and the Czech Republic told the General Assembly today as they drew lessons from their own experiences two decades ago to apply to the current situations in North Africa and the Middle East.

“I want to stress that systemic change cannot be agreed upon or pre-arranged at international conferences, and that it cannot be mediated of passively ‘acquired’ as a foreign investment,” Czech President Václav Klaus said in his address to the Assembly’s annual general debate.

“It is a domestic task and it is a sequence of policies – not a once-for-all policy change.”

Mr. Klaus also said the democratic transitions in countries such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt should lead to increased trade with Europe to create prosperity and stability in the region.

Hungarian President Pál Schmitt cautioned the emerging democracies that there will be challenges in establishing new structures of power, drafting new constitutions and ensuring credible elections.

“The Hungarian society has, on the one hand, already met successfully many of these challenges and, on the other hand, has also made some avoidable mistakes. We therefore feel equipped to share our experience and offer a substantive toolkit for good governance and democratic change.”

Separately, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today discussed a range of issues, including developments in the Middle East and the economic situation in the European Union, with the President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, when the two met on the margins of the General Assembly’s general debate.

Poland holds the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union and Mr. Ban and Mr. Komorowski also discussed UN-EU relations.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 10th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We were informed of a Press Briefing

at the Vienna International Cenre, Thursday, September 8, 2011, 1:30 p.m. on

Adaptation to Climate Change by Spatial Planning in the Alps.

This was to be about: The main results and outcomes achieved under the CLISP Project “Adaptation to Climate Change by Spatial Planning in the Alpine area” will be discussed at the CLISP international final conference organized by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Federal Environment Agency Austria, held at the Vienna International Centre at that date – on 8 September 2011, at which the Head of the UNEP Vienna Office, Harald Egerer, stressed the importance of the particular study as a platform for the development of an integrated, transnational approach toward adaptation to impacts of climate change in the highly sensitive area of the Alps.

It also said  at the margins of the Conference, high level representatives from the European Union, the Alpine Convention and Austrian agencies will take part at the Press Briefing with the purpose of illustrating present and future strategies to tackle negative effect of climate change in the Alpine space.
Speakers include:

Rosario Bento Pais
DG Climate Action, European Commission

Andre Jol
Head of vulnerability group, European Environment Agency

Marco Onida
Secretary General, Alpine Convention

George Reberning
Managing Director, Federal Environment Agency Austria

————-

Having shown interest, later we also received a Press Release:

Climate Change Adaptation by Spatial Planning in the Alpine Space.

VIENNA, 8 September (UN Information Service) – One hundred participants from the Alpine States have gathered today at the Vienna International Centre to discuss the main results and outcomes achieved under the Adaptation to Climate Change by Spatial Planning in the Alpine Space Project (CLISP). Organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Federal Environment Agency Austria, the CLISP Final Conference was opened with a video-message from UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner.
Climate change is expected to affect spatial development in the Alpine Space, including land use, socio-economic activities and life-sustaining ecosystems services more severely than in other European regions. Temperature increase, decreasing snow cover and more severe weather extremes could cause a variety of adverse climate change impacts. Growing risks from water scarcity, heat waves and natural
hazards might threaten settlements, physical infrastructure, utilities, material assets and human lives.
Vulnerability assessment:
Funded under the EU Alpine Space Programme, the CLISP Project in its three years focused on the challenges to spatial planning in the face of climate change. The 16 CLISP partner organizations have analyzed ten Alpine model regions according to their vulnerability to climate change. Results have shown that regions, which are already sensitive to the climate extremes, are expected to be the most vulnerable regions also in the future. Even though technical measures are mostly well implemented “soft” adaptation strategies like a proper “climate-proof” spatial planning, better coordination of actions within institutions, and better risk-communication are often missing.
Climate change fitness of spatial planning systems analyzed:
The investigation of the “climate change fitness” of spatial planning systems has shown that there are already strong formal planning instruments and important informal practices at hand that could be used to respond to climate change and to coordinate cross-sectoral adaptation activities. Nevertheless, climate adaptation needs to be addressed more directly and defined as an objective of spatial planning in legislation and other frameworks.
Transnational Planning Strategy:
One of the main outcomes of the CLISP project is the Transnational Planning Strategy (TPS) that is mainly aimed at policymakers, decision-makers and political actors in spatial planning in the Alpine space as a decision-making tool for the development of suitable adaptation strategies and actions in response to climate change.
Strategic project in the field of climate change adaptation and spatial planning:
The findings of the CLISP project as well as the pan-European perspectives of climate change adaptation have been discussed with representatives from the European Commission – Directorate General for Regional Policy, Directorate General for Climate Action, the Alpine Convention, the European Environment Agency as well as with participants from other international institutions attending the CLISP final conference.
CLISP Project is a pioneering project in the field of climate change adaptation and spatial planning. Its outcomes are not only of strategic relevance for the coordinated development of climate change adaptation policies in the Alpine region, but with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme the CLISP results and experience can also be shared with other mountain regions, such as the Carpathians, Balkans and the Himalaya region.
The CLISP project can be found at www.clisp.eu
For more information please contact:

Giulia Sechi
UNEP Vienna – Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060 – 4454
Email: giulia.sechi[at]unvienna.org

—————————————————————

At the Press Conference there were just two journalists – myself and the Vienna editor for an industry magazine 4C, Ms. Margarette Endl who came as a guest of the organizers of what turned out to have been the “graduating” event – the release of the final documents of this stage inthe CLISP Project.

Other people in the room were part of the conference and thus asked no questions. Ms. Endl asked questions on the basis of her attendance at the morning session.
I ended up asking on the base of my general interest in the subject, and learned that since the three poles concept the subject has evolved, and I have now much more to learn about the mountain regions. As evidence of this large area – I already posted several items today based on other sources of information.

Coincidently, years ago, I was present when Ambassador Dr. Irene Freudenschuss-Reichl  introduced for Austria and UNIDO the subject of Mountain Regions to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. At the UN Mountains were always a synonym to the Himalayas like deserts, arid and semiarid lands are a synonym to Africa – but she was already then speaking about Austria and the Alps. Now the subject has evolved and we speak of regions within this large area previously included in the Alpine region.

I mentioned the three poles where the Himalayas are the third pole – and asked if we should talk now of five poles – including the Alps and the Andes – while leaving out the lesser areas like the mountains of New Zealand – because the region is rather small or Africa where the melting of the snows of Kilimanjaro has sort of eliminated the problem. I knew this was a rather provocative question and got a very good answer from Mr. Pier Carlo Sandei where he explained that the mountain regions are not just about the disappearance of the glaciers – but rather about the moving up of vegetation lines – thus a general  changing in the nature in the mountains because of Climate Change and other reasons. This is a general UNEP interest and the subject has progressed through a series of Conventions.

I stayed for the afternoon sessions that were chaired by Ms. Sabine McCallum, the department head for the subjects of Environment Impact Assessment & Climate Change of the Austrian Department of the Environment. she was actually the head of the project and her Minister – Helmut Hojesky, Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment, and Water Management, was the main speaker at the High-Level Panel Discussion: “Taking action towards climate-proof spatial development – What is the way forward?”

Others on the panel were Thomas Probst, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment; Rosario Benito Pais and Jose Ruiz de Casas, both from the European Commission one from  Climate Action and the other from Regions; Andre Jol, Head of group Vulnerability and Adaptation, European Environment Agency; and Marco Onida, Secretary General of the Alpine Convention.

What happened here was that the area of the Alpine Convention has been divided into 10 regions that the study dealt with separately. It is obvious that the problems of the Swiss Alps that are dedicated mainly to tourism are very different from the problems in the newer members of the EU from the Balkans and the Carpathian regions where there are also States that do not belong to the EU altogether. The project did not just reshuffle data – but produced data and starts proposing plans of action – this being the ultimate goal of the project that after being absorbed by the States involved – will then be continued in order to come up with further plans of action.

We were told not to forget mitigation. While adaptation is a defense for the countries here – if there are no tangible results on mitigation here and elsewhere – there will be need for more adaptation in the future.

The European Commission told us that CLIMATE ACTION is now a new DG (that means a Department with Department Head and Stuff and a mandate to act). All these studies and Plans of Axtion will be under this department.

THE minister said that his people learn the Swiss and German experience – AND WE HAVE TO ADAPT TO CLIMATE CHANGE – BECAUSE IT WILL HAPPEN – WHATEVER WE DO.

UNEP declared that they are here because they want to learn from the A-B-C … the Alps, Balkans, Carpathian regions. The countries that were parts of Yugoslavia and Albania have lot of historic experience but having become independent of each other, whatever centralized poiicy there was it is now worse – there is no communication between them. Cooperation is needed and this project provides a unified platform and future regional adaptation. The Balkan region is actually a Balkan and Dinaric Arc Region that covers the Adriatic Coast.

So far as Vienna goes – as always – it finds itself in the middle – this time in the middle between the Alps and the Carpatians with the “B” region to the South.

There was the need for a Carpathian Convention in addition to the Alpine Convention. The Carpathian Convention includes The Ukraine and Serbia that are not part of the EU. 66% of the Carpathian region is still covered with forests – this provides extra-potential to preserve biodiversity, landscape and quality of air.

Pier Carlo Sandei spoke of SUSTAINABLE GROWTH in the context of the 21st Century – rather then the 20th Century. He gave me the feeling that Sustainable Growth as understood earlier is a no=no today when we must think of TRANSNATIONAL REGIONS that will aim by 2020 to be sustained by 20% Sustainable Energy.

He also used in the summary the conclusion: MITIGATION IS GLOBAL – ADAPTATION IS LOCAL & REGIONAL. One will have to look at climate costs – if you invest or you do not invest. This reminds us of the situation that compares the way industry looks at their strategy to answer CO2 emissions decrease requirements.

If you do something overseas – you get the credits and you can apply the full amount right now – but if you reduce your own emissions at home, you do not get the immediate full credit – you rather get the credit apportioned for the long range of the project – and that is what sends corporations to buy credits overseas. AHA! You Kyoto Protocol; affectionados – hear it from us = we warned you that the system never made sense!

——————————

Looking at the nice collection of material I took along – I would like to give here references for the benefit of our readers:

A – ALPINE CONVENTION, 2nd efition, January 2011, Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention, Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse 15, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria with a branch office in Bolzano-Bosen, Italy.  www.alpconv.org

B – BALKAN VITAL GRAPHICS – Environment Without Borders. Published by UNEP/GRID=Arendal in 2007. It was backed by Austria and canada and was used as part of the Belgrade October 10-12, 2001 Ministerial Conference on Building Bridges To The Future Environment For Europe. It deals with mining, water and nature.

C – A COLLECTION ON THE CARPATHIAN CONVENTION, material prepared for the Second Convention of the Parties, Bucharest, June 17-19, 2008. Published in
Bolzano, Italy. www.carpathianproject.eu  —– This material was followed by the Carpathian Project headed by Mr. Harald Egerer of UNEP Vienna. www.carpathianconvention.org … Harald.Egerer@unvienna  … The Partners to the project are institutions from Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, The Ukraine.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 8th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

VALERIO CALZOLAIO, a journalist, ecologist, and ex-member of Italian parliament, is the author of:

“ECO-REFUGEES: FORCED MIGRATION YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW.”

He writes, as reported by Roberto Savio of IPS, from Rome, October 8, 2010:

“For the entire month of August the front pages of the world’s major daily papers gave considerable coverage of developments in the Indus Valley: monsoon rains in the north of Pakistan in late July, the flooding of rivers and tributaries, submerged land, villages, and towns, then more flooding in the centre and south of the country, the contamination of wells and aqueducts and other sources of water, inadequate international funding, flight, desperation, and anger.

Almost two thousand dead were immediately confirmed, thousands and thousands of people lost, six million left homeless, 10 million evacuated, 20 million effected in some way. They could be defined climate- or eco-refugees.

It was a disaster on a planetary scale represented in shocking photographs of the distant suffering. But alongside this story ran a range of national matters of varying importance -in Italy, for example, the story about a drop in prices of homes in Montecarlo. Now the climate refugees of the Indus have vanished from the media. For two months we have heard nothing more about the disaster, though hundreds of thousands of people remain in camps and normal life has not returned for millions of Pakistanis.

In recent weeks, however, news has arrived about another wave of climate refugees elsewhere in the world, in Indonesia, the Amazon, and the Danube in Hungary. For almost twenty years the proliferation of climate refugees has been a source of diffuse emergencies, migrants driven to leave their homes by bad choices or the mistaken behaviour of humans. In the case of climate change, they are fleeing because of actions that we are taking here.

In 2008 and 2009 the number of international “political” refugees (those who are given “refugee” status) was about 15 million; the official number of international eco-refugees was higher. The number of eco-refugees even exceeds that of internal political refugees (who remain within their country’s border). With world conferences about to be held yet again on biodiversity (Nagoya) and the climate (Cancun), in November and December, it is time the UN is provided permanently with the means to help eco-refugees and prevent the creation of more of them.

In a book now being released in Italy, I have tried to reflect on these figures and means. Whether we like it or not, hundreds of thousands of eco-refugees are arriving in Europe each year, and their numbers will only rise. Moreover it is we that are responsible for their lack of homes. They cannot stay in camps forever, not will all manage to find a home in their own country, and the sooner we recognise this the better.

I recognise that since Adam and Eve there have always been environmental and climate refugees. It is not by chance that I dedicated the first part of the book to migratory species and the archaeology of the original waves of human migration. The migration of individuals and groups of our species have always had multiple causes and environmental and climatic effects and repercussions, especially when forced, when people were driven from their homes.

In the history and evolution of homo sapiens, the other major causes of migration are war and conflict. Refugees and eco-refugees are not an invention of modernity. Today those made refugees by “political” causes -violence or persecution by institutions or human communities- are granted “refugee” status and assistance by a United Nations commission. And yet climate refugees are victims of human action, too, so shouldn’t they be given this same status? We must find a way to provide the same assistance and take the same preventive measures in the case of migration caused by contemporary human-caused climate change. The second part of my book is dedicated to this subject.

I have tried to reconstruct the infancy and adolescence of the UN system, showing who’s in charge (and how) of human rights and the right to asylum, aid, and protection from climate change. I have sought to gather together the most advanced proposals from UN agencies, scientists, and researchers to address the migration caused by rising sea levels, by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and by the shrinking availability of water for drinking and sanitation.

Forecasts indicate that in the next two decades there will be tens of millions of new eco-refugees, especially in certain areas, headed primarily towards Europe, mostly across the Mediterranean. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports call attention to global developments that are certain to occur though they will vary in intensity according to location: rising sea level, water scarcity, and extreme weather events.

For example, according to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the real risk of deaths resulting from flooding has risen by 13 percent from 1990-2007 while the percentage of the world population directly effected has increased by 28 percent in that period. Moreover, on the basis of past experience and forecast models, over 75 percent of these risks will be concentrated in a handful of countries: those effected by monsoons (Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan) and China.

The risks are not the consequence of exposure and intensity alone: an island or sparsely-populated country or a small poor country risks both the life and development of entire populations for generations. Forced emigration is the near certain outcome. By 2050 the risk of becoming climate refugees as a result of these developments, even in a best case scenario, will cast its shadow over no fewer than 200 million people.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 17th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

The Danube’s menacing industrial legacy.

DOUG SAUNDERS

From Saturday’s Globe and Mail, London and Toronto.
Published Friday, Oct. 15, 2010, Last updated Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010

When the earthen retaining wall burst on a Hungarian chemical refinery’s settling pond last week, a lake of caustic red sludge burst forth, drowning or burning to death at least nine people and polluting large tracts of land and river.

But the Ajkai alumina refinery disaster also exposed an alarming, half-buried legacy of poison and potential disaster that stretches along the banks of the Danube River as it courses through the former Communist nations of Eastern Europe – a decades-old legacy of crumbling chemical plants and mines that threatens far worse accidents.

More related to this story

Regional organizations, ecological groups and the European Union list hundreds of rickety Communist-era chemical plants, refineries and mine smelters strung along the banks and watersheds of the Danube.

Most are like the Ajkai refinery, which was built by the Soviet-bloc Hungarian government in the 1940s and privatized in the early 1990s while relying on the same aging infrastructure.

During the decades of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviets had designated the Danube basin – notably Hungary, but also Romania, Bulgaria and their neighbours – the empire’s centre of chemical and mineral processing. After the end of communism in 1989, the plants either passed into private hands, often with little investment or upkeep, or were abandoned.

“We have no idea how many ticking time bombs are out there – we thought we had a list of the most dangerous sites, but then something like this takes us by surprise,” says Andreas Beckmann, director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Vienna-based Danube program.

The WWF, Greenpeace and local environment groups had all maintained lists of the dangerous mines and chemical ponds in the area – a list that includes more than 1,000 operating and 700 abandoned sites in Hungary alone, and eight that are considered dangerous “hot spots.”

But the Ajkai refinery, site of the worst disaster in a decade (though environmental groups say they have detected only minor pollution of the Danube itself), did not even appear on those lists.

“In this case I wasn’t aware it had existed until last week, which is the unsettling thing – it makes you wonder what else is out there,” Mr. Beckmann said. Its aluminium-oxide sludge pits, which contain millions of litres of a sufficiently potent alkaline to give lethal burns, are not considered a serious pollutant under European regulations.

When the countries of the eastern Danube joined the European Union – Hungary in 2004, then Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 – they became subject to some of the world’s most rigorous environmental regulations. To qualify for membership, both the prospective members and Brussels invested billions in upgrading health and safety infrastructure.

But officials now fear that many of these countries, which tend to register high on corruption indices, may have hidden unsafe, crumbling industries in much the same way that Greece hid billions in debt liabilities. There is a fear, one European Commission official involved in the Hungarian case said, that “these guys could be paying the inspectors to overlook a chemical Chernobyl.”

Hungarian environmentalists feel that the Ajkai alumina plant could not have passed any sort of rigorous inspections – aerial photos released Thursday showed the containment walls leaking and crumbling months before the collapse. “They made a huge mistake in legalizing this factory in the first place,” Marton Vau, spokesman for Greenpeace Hungary, told reporters.

And while weak and under-inspected mines and refineries such as Ajkai are a worry, even more serious are the hundreds, possibly thousands, of abandoned Communist-era chemical plants and storage ponds, many of them falling under the jurisdiction of no private or public-sector authority, some of them forgotten.

To drive across Bulgaria, for example, is to pass through scores of abandoned Stalinist factory towns, their concrete work yards and high-rise apartments turned into graffiti-pocked ghost towns. Many contain fields and lakes of serious toxins, slowly leaching into the watershed as their containers decompose.

And the Danube nation of Serbia is a particular worry, as it contains hundreds of ex-Yugoslav Communist factories – many abandoned – is not yet a member of the EU, and lacks the financial resources to clean up its industrial ruins.

“I do worry that there could be an even more serious catastrophe out there that we haven’t noticed, waiting to happen,” said Mr. Beckmann of the WWF. “And instead of red sludge, it could end up being cyanide next time.”

More related to this story

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 24th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Invitation: “Teaching Climate Change and the United Nations System” event – May 17 & 18 2010 in Belgrade.

from: Miroslav Polzer <polzer@zsi.at> – Fri, Apr 23, 2010.

2nd Regional CEE/SEE Colloquium – Capacity Building on Global Governance and the UN System:

Teaching Climate Change and the United Nations System”

Date:      Monday May 17th & Tuesday 18th, 2010

Venue:   Faculty of Law, Bulevar kralja Aleksandra 67, Belgrade

CONFERENCE HOMEPAGE and ONLINE REGISTRATION:

www.investsciencesee.info/ccandun

ORGANISERS

–      Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade, www.ius.bg.ac.rs/eng/

–      Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade, www.fpn.bg.ac.rs/eng/index_e.html

–      Environmental Ambassadors, Belgrade, www.ambassadors-env.org/

–      Academic Council on the United Nations System ACUNS, www.acuns.org

–      Austrian Science and Research Liaison Office (ASO) Ljubljana www.aso.zsi.at

–      Diplo Foundation, Belgrade Office www.diplomacy.edu

–      Petnica Science Center – Innovative Sci+Tech Education and Regional Teacher Training www.petnica.rs

–      The European Center for Peace and Development, Belgrade – Ljubljana, www.ecpdorg.net

–      United Nations Association of Serbia, www.unaserbia.rs/

–      Educons University, Sremska Kamenica, www.educons.edu.rs

–      South East Europe Media Organisation SEEMO, Vienna, www.seemo.org/

IN COOPERATION WITH

–      Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Republic of Serbia, www.ekoplan.gov.rs/en/index.php

–      United Nations Institute for Training and Research UNITAR, www.unitar.org

–      United Nations Environment Programme UNEP www.unep.org/

–      United Nations Development Programme UNDP www.undp.org/

–      United Nations Economic Commission for Europe www.unece.org

–      World Federation of UN Associations WFUNA www.wfuna.org

–      Education Reform Initiative of South Eastern Europe ERI-SEE www.erisee.hr

–      UNESCO (Serbian National Commission and UNESCO Venice Office) www.unesco.org

–      Regional Cooperation Council RCC www.rcc.int

RATIONALE:

Climate Change is one of the most pressing global issues of our time. For addressing the complex multi-stakeholder and multilevel challenges associated with climate change mitigation and adaptation an appropriate knowledge base is needed not only among public authorities and academia but also among civil society, business sector etc. in order to have problem aware constituencies in the countries of the world supporting with their attitudes and actions governments towards bold future oriented global climate change action.

UN system plays an important role in “Teaching Climate Change” in several ways:

–      It is obvious that a global challenge like climate change can be addressed effectively only with global coordination and cooperation among relevant stakeholders. As United Nations system (e.g. UNFCCC, UNEP, ..) is the central institutional framework for global governance responses to the climate change challenge, it is important to build capacities worldwide on the functioning of the UN system;

–      at the same time UN organizations like UNESCO, UNITAR, UNDP, UNICEF, UNECE etc. play an important role as provider and facilitator of climate change education and last but not least

–      UN system plays somehow the role of a lighthouse for climate change awareness building activities of global civil society (and e.g. national UN associations) and there is a need for a strategic approach to partnerships in this area, too.

The countries in Southeast Europe are facing similar climate change challenges. On the one hand scientific climate change models predict especially serious climate change impacts in SEE but on the other hand SEE countries have also some kind of “window of opportunity” open as they are currently reforming and modernizing their socio-economic systems and governance structures in the context of EU integration processes and there is a chance to adapt relatively early to climate change in a joint effort of mobilizing national, European and official development assistance resources and to foster EU integration of the SEE region through joint climate change action.

Therefore the issue of “Teaching Climate Change” will be addressed at this conference in a regional setting as “2nd CEE/SEE Regional Colloquium – Capacity Building on Global Governance and the UN System”. (The 1st event has been the CEE/SEE Regional Colloquium „Can the UN be taught? Innovative Teaching about the United Nations“ which took place November 22nd 2008 at Diplomatic Academy in Vienna (proceedings can be downloaded at www.aso.zsi.at/sl/publikation/3331.html )

The conference shall build on previous and ongoing related efforts like e.g. the “Belgrade initiative on enhancing regional cooperation in Southeast Europe in the field of climate change research and education” as agreed upon at 2007 UNECE Environment for Europe conference.

GOALS OF THE CONFERENCE:

–      Support effective climate change adaptation and mitigation in SEE (in the context of EU integration) by means of improved science communication and targeted educational processes

–      Support scientific capacity building and capacity building in Higher education sphere and in diplomatic training on global governance and Climate Change

–      Inspire educational system(s) reform/modernization towards future orientation, problem solving competencies and global citizenship in SEE countries

–      Facilitate networking and interaction of conference participants and harness the potentials of ICT for knowledge management and learning with concrete follow-up project initiatives

–      Highlight and discuss synergy potentials through policy coherence/interministerial coordination and cooperation on global governance and climate change capacity building

–      Feed into coordination and cooperation processes of UN system institutions on CC capacity building

–      Raising public awareness on Climate change and the UN (especially also on local/community level)

–      promote Involvement of civil society and business sector

–      involve young researchers/students

TARGET AUDIENCE:

broad range of senior and junior experts, researchers, government representatives, civil society activists from SEE region, global citizens involved in education, media representatives, etc.

PROGRAMME:

see attachment or www.investsciencesee.info/ccandun/images/stories/teaching_cc_belgrade_draft.pdf

on behalf of the organizers

Miro Polzer

Miroslav Polzer, director

Austrian Science and Research Liaison Office Ljubljana (ASO)

Dunajska 104; SI-1000 Ljubljana; Slovenija;

e-mail: polzer@zsi.at; homepage: www.aso.zsi.at

tel (office): 00 386 (0) 1 5684 168, tel (mob.)  00 43 (0) 664 4203648

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

This WEEK in the European Union
VALENTINA POP

Still dated 31.10.2008 an EUOBSERVER / EU WEEKLY AGENDA (3-9 November) – Europe’s attention will be focused on the US elections this Wednesday, when senator Barack Obama is set to become America’s first black president if recent polls prove to be accurate.

Two days after the election of the new US president, EU leaders will hold an extraordinary meeting on Friday. Summoned by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who chairs the bloc’s rotating presidency, the heads of state and government are to formulate a common position ahead of the G20 summit scheduled a week later in Washington to address the financial crisis and its effects on the world economy.

Europeans will be watching the US presidential elections closely on Wednesday, with a clear preference for senator Barack Obama.

The consequences of the financial crisis will also be reflected in the European Commission’s autumn economic forecast for 2008-2010 to be published on Monday (3 November). The forecast will cover economic growth, inflation, employment and the government deficits. A day later, Eurogroup chair Jean-Claude Juncker will give the European parliament’s economic affairs committee his assessment of the way the crisis is having an impact on the bloc’s economies.

Also on Tuesday, the European Parliament begins its “Arab week”, which will see a number of Iraqi MPs and the secretary-general of the League of Arab States meeting European legislators.
Enlargement reports:

On Wednesday, enlargement is high on the agenda, with commissioner Olli Rehn presenting in the European Parliament an updated overview of the EU’s enlargement policy and a summary of the progress made over the past twelve months by each of the countries that want to join the EU.

According to a draft version seen by EUobserver, Croatia could conclude accession negotiations with the EU by the end of next year, if it fulfills the remaining conditions, while Serbia could become an official EU candidate. Macedonia will still not be offered a date to open membership talks with the bloc, while Bosnia-Herzegovina is to be criticised for its “inflammatory rhetoric” that “adversely affected the functioning of institutions and slowed down reform”.

Turkey still has a long way to go before concluding accession talks, the draft report reads, but the EU hails Ankara’s role as promoter of regional stability after the Georgian crisis.

Lobby for Nabucco after the Georgian crisis:

The August war between Russia and Georgia also highlighted Turkey’s “strategic significance for the EU energy security, particularly by diversifying supply routes”, the draft report reads, mentioning the importance to go ahead with the planned Nabucco gas pipeline, which will connect Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria through Turkey to the gas-rich Caspian countries.

Promoting Nabucco will be also the aim of energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs next week, when he starts a five-day tour on Wednesday to the Caspian countries, Georgia and Turkey. He is scheduled to hold high-level talks on the issue for the first time since Georgian crisis, a development that made Caspian countries weary about their relationship with the West.

An EU-China energy conference will take place Thursday and Friday in Brussels, gathering industry and administration officials from the two sides, with discussions focusing on renewable energy, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage.

EU foreign ministers and those of the 12 southern Mediterranean countries involved in the Euromed partnership will also be meeting in Marseille on Monday to decide on, amongst other subjects, a headquarters for the organisation.

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

The following was published on Japan Times online and we think it is either very naive or somewhere partisan and misleading.

 The UN, when it come to disputes – means the UN Security Council – the only UN body that can decide on matters of war. The Veto-Power system turns there the P5 into plain untouchables. How does Ramesh Thakur expects a UN position on Georgia when Russia holds a veto vote? Then, does he really believe that the other 4 Veto Powers will take decisions that are contrary to their self interests or perceived alliances?

Is it possible that Russia took positions on Kosovo, so they van prepare the base for their positions on South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Then, what kind of Russians are the people of South Ossetia? Do they really want back under a Russian roof, or actually they would prefer to have their own State for the Ossetians – North and South United?

We can only pray that the Japanese readers will be better informed then Mr. Thakur and those that gave him the ACUNS 2008 Award for the best recent book on the United Nations system think.
***

Payback time for Russia by Ramesh Thakur, Saturday, August 23, 2008.

You have to admire the chutzpah of the neocons for their castigation of Russia for attacking another country and emulating, in the Caucasus, NATO’s behavior in the Balkans. Who does Vladimir Putin think he is — U.S. President George W. Bush?

It was U.S. and NATO actions that set the precedent for flouting the rule of international law and violating long-settled collective norms of the international community against unilateral military interventions. Those who challenge or evade the authority of the United Nations as the sole legitimate guardian of international peace and security in specific instances undermine the principle of a world order based on international law and universal norms under U.N. authority.

If U.N. authorization is not a necessary condition for waging war lawfully and legitimately, then we must accept the resulting international anarchy and the law of the jungle in world affairs.

We no longer cede the right to any one state to use massive force within its borders free of external scrutiny or criticism. Claims for reversing the progressive restrictions on the right to interstate armed violence will be met with even more skepticism. To argue that NATO alone has the right to determine whether military intervention, by itself or any other coalition, is justified against others outside the coalition, is a claim to unilateralism and exceptionalism that will never be conceded by the “international community.” The claim that NATO should be set up as the final arbiter of military intervention by itself and every other coalition is breathtakingly arrogant.

In justification, Russia has pointed to Georgian complicity in killing thousands of South Ossetians, the fact that many of these are Russian citizens, the responsibility of Russia to protect its nationals, and the responsibility of the international community to protect South Ossetians from genocidal attacks by Georgia. Moscow is wrong to invoke the norm in this case, but no more so than the Americans and British were wrong in Iraq five years ago. Both actions prove the risks of unilateral interpretations and actions and the wisdom of channeling action through the U.N. Otherwise, the only certain end result is vigilante justice, which is no justice at all.

The U.N. Charter encapsulates the international moral code and best-practice international behavior. The urge to “humanitarian intervention” by powerful states, coalitions of the willing or regional organizations outside their own area of operations must be bridled by the legitimizing authority of the U.N. as our only available international organization for this purpose.

The second problem is the opposite one — of behaving as if geopolitics and realism belong on history’s shelf and have no relevance or applicability anymore. As Henry Kissinger is reported to have said after the Argentine invasion of the Falklands that roused the slumbering British lion into action to retake the islands by force, “a great power does not retreat forever.”

The end of the Cold War saw a very rare phenomenon in human history. Russia acknowledged its defeat and the new world order that came out of it. But instead of demonstrating grace in victory and some sensitivity to Russia’s legitimate fears, interests and national dignity, the West has repeatedly rubbed Russian noses in the dirt of their historic Cold War defeat.

Kosovo was detached from Russia’s Serbian ally and its declaration of independence readily recognized earlier this year. Instead of being dismantled with victory in the Cold War, NATO, an alliance in search of a role and mission, has progressively expanded its borders and reach steadily closer to Russia, slowly but surely encroaching on some areas that are part and parcel of Russian historical soul and identity.

Great powers have core vital interests that they will defend. Repeated warnings from Russia of red lines that must not be crossed were serially dismissed as the angry growls of a Russian bear in deep and permanent hibernation.

Russia has been encircled by Western bases, missiles and allies, while alternately taunted, ignored and dismissed. Champion chess players that they are, the Russians bided their time before checkmating the West brutally but brilliantly in South Ossetia and firing a warning shot across the bows of other former parts of the now forgotten Soviet empire.

No two situations are exactly alike. Still, much as most Westerners dismiss any analogy between Russia’s actions to pry South Ossetia and Abkhazia away from Georgia and NATO actions to detach Kosovo from Serbia, most others do accept the basic parallel.

Those who wish to back rebel movements and internationalize a crisis by intervening militarily had better be prepared for payback time in other places and conflicts. And for the moral hazards to come home to roost.

The wreckage of Georgia’s towns and countryside proclaim the ruins of the Bush administration’s foreign policy that has so recklessly squandered the hard won fruits of the Cold War in terms of both moral authority and geopolitical gains.

Ramesh Thakur is distinguished fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Canada. His book “The United Nations, Peace and Security” recently won the ACUNS 2008 Award for the best recent book on the United Nations system.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 16th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Ukraine has high hopes for French EU presidency – writes Elitsa Vucheva from Kiev for the EUobserver – May 14, 2008.

Expectations are high in Kiev that an EU-Ukraine summit in September in France will result in stronger ties between the two sides and boost progress in negotiations on a new bilateral agreement.

“We expect certain serious steps to be taken along the lines of preparing the new enhanced agreement and the free trade agreement [between Ukraine and the EU],” Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko told a group of journalists in Kiev.

“We look forward to the EU flashing the green light for us that would help us on our way forward,” she added.

Ukraine’s relations with the EU are currently regulated by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in force since 1998, a set-up that Kiev considers politically insufficient.

Negotiations to replace the PCA started in March 2007 and Ukraine wants it to contain a clear reference to eventual EU membership, and avoid the vague political formulations that have characterised Brussels statements about the large eastern European country to date.

The new bilateral agreement is also to include a free trade agreement on which negotiations were launched in February.

Oleksandr Chalyi, a senior foreign-policy adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, suggested that after overcoming a “very deep political and social crisis” by signing the Lisbon treaty, the EU would now be “more capable of developing a consensus on Ukraine’s European perspectives.”

“We want the legal substance of our partnership transformed to association,” instead of a simple “closer cooperation,” Oleksandr Chalyi
said.

According to government estimates, a clear majority of Ukrainians – around 65 to 70 percent – back the idea of seeing their country becoming a future EU member. The EU, however, has not shown much enthusiasm for this and still prefers to talk about “a much closer and enhanced partnership.”

Ian Boag, head of the European Commission’s delegation to Ukraine, stressed that the deal that will be eventually reached should not be seen as “a stepping stone for membership of the EU.” But in a bid to reassure the Ukrainian side he added that “nothing excludes [such an option].”

In this context, a high-level EU-Ukraine meeting planned to take place on 9 September in France and under French EU presidency, is expected to bring a breakthrough in the stagnating bilateral relations.

Paris recently floated a proposal for an “Association Agreement” with the former Soviet country – which stops short of any EU accession commitments but provides for visibly stronger ties.

Kiev welcomed the fact that “such country as France recently put new ideas to bring Ukraine closer to the EU.”

“Now we are working on the basis of the French proposals and… hope this event [the EU-Ukraine summit] will produce some results,” said deputy foreign minister Kostiantyn Yelisieiev in charge of negotiating the new agreement.

He stressed the importance of the French idea, considering that “France was one of the countries ‘a little bit cold’ [towards Ukraine’s EU perspectives].”

According to Mr Yelisieiev, the September summit will be “the real test [for EU-Ukraine relations] and will show the real intentions of the French leadership” regarding Ukraine.
Problems still to be tackled:
Along with the lack of political consensus among EU states on the 46-million strong country’s EU future, Ukraine still has its own internal issues to tackle before such a possibility could be realistically discussed.

Political in-fighting blocking much needed changes has on several occasions prompted the EU to call for more political stability in Ukraine, while Kiev still has to tackle its inefficient administration, high levels of corruption, as well as judicial and economic reforms.

Ukrainian politicians concede there are problems.

“We have got to get rid of corruption and other negative consequences of our socialist past… We should achieve European standards as soon as possible,” foreign minister Volodymyr Ogryzko told journalists in the margins of Europe’s day celebrations in Kiev on Sunday (11 May).

But he added: “I do hope that we will have a very concrete signal from the EU that Ukraine will in the nearest future be in the EU.”

————–

At www.SustainabiliTank.info, we expressed already in the past our “puzzlement” of why Ukraine does not agree of its own free will to let the eastern third of the country – still Russian speaking – go and join Russia – if that is what the people living there prefer – and then the western 2/3 of the country could easily readjust and join the EU as the EU’s natural eastern frontier. That would leave outside only Russia and Belarus – quite a natural outcome.

——————

Further, in euobserver.com/9/26150/?rk=1 Peter Sain ley Berry, while questioning the EU intent with Turkey, makes the point that the Ukraine belongs to Europe.

[Comment] The elephant on the European doorstep.
16.05.2008 – By Peter Sain ley Berry.

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – Politically, it has been a propitious time for those named Boris. Not only do we now have a Boris as Mayor of London, but, in the Balkans, the parties that support Serbian President Boris Tadic, and seek a European future for Serbia, defeated those that affected an isolationist persuasion. Whether Mr Tadic will now be able to form a pro-European government remains to be seen.

The European Union’s position at least is settled. The Western Balkans – seven countries with a population of approximately 27 million – have been offered a European future, subject only to satisfying the normal criteria. This process will take time but few doubt the result. We are on course therefore for an EU of 34.

This will make the government of the EU more complex. If there are 15 possible bilateral relationships in a community of six, there are 351 in a community of 27. Adding a further seven states increases the complexity by a whopping 210. Apart from this complexity there will be other consequences, including for financing, for decision-making, for the distribution of MEPs and Commissioners. None of this seems to be being discussed. Nevertheless, there is general agreement that the Western Balkans should accede to the Union in due course. Public opinion is broadly favourable.

The same cannot be said for Turkey, to which Queen Elizabeth II of Britain paid a state visit this week. At the formal banquet she praised the advances made by the government and rehearsed Britain’s credentials as a champion of Turkish entry. Although Turkey is formally a candidate for accession, the end of that process seems as far away as ever. Britain, and her allies among the newer member states, may champion Turkish entry for sound geo-political and geo-economic reasons, but France and Germany most certainly do not. Moreover, European public opinion is divided.

The reasons are partly geographical. I remember a former President of the European Commission, the late Roy Jenkins, saying that the then Turkish President had acquired a piece of paper from some prestigious geographical institute certifying Turkey’s Europeaness. His response was that any country that needed a piece of paper….. probably wasn’t European.

In this he was no doubt correct, though in the absence of a recognised border with Asia, who can say? But there are other more important arguments – financing of the poor but populous Turkish state is one, the internal coherence of the Union is another. Which is why France and Germany have been trying to divert Turkey down the route of a ‘privileged partnership,’ instead of full accession, through which the EU’s commitment might be modified if necessary. Turkey, of course, is having none of that. Meanwhile the accession negotiations drag on.

Out of 35 chapters only six have been opened and eight are frozen by the Cypriot stand-off. France, which assumes the rotating Union Presidency on 1st July, has said it will continue the negotiations in good faith. This is a semi quid pro quo for Turkey agreeing to sup from the poisoned chalice of France’s ‘Mediterranean Union’ scheme (now formally adopted by the EU) designed to provide a political forum for the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours.

Turkey has been told specifically that belonging to the Mediterranean Union will not affect its EU candidacy. But as the French rather hope that the Turks may be persuaded to accept some leadership role in this body – so taking its mind off EU membership – it would be prudent for them to take this assurance with a grain of salt.

What is certain is that the Union would not be the same if Turkey joins with its 80 million population. It would not necessarily be a worse Union, or a better Union, but it would be a different Union. For quite apart from the effect that Turkey itself will have on the existing member states, its accession would change the dynamics of other nations looking for a European future.

Chief of these is the Ukraine whose Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, was again this week announcing her intention to bang on Mr Sarkozy’s door come July.

In fact, when it comes to European credentials the Ukraine has rather better claims than Turkey. It’s capital, Kiev, is closer to Brussels, for instance, than Athens. Moreover, as anyone reading Heinrich Boell’s – great anti-war novel ‘Der Zug war Punktlich,’ can appreciate, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine are but stations on a journey into Europe’s deep hinterland. The railway line is no doubt still there.

It is true to say that with its 55 million people the Ukraine is therefore the elephant on our European doorstep. Still, the policy is to resist giving any hint of promise of future membership. True, the country has much to reform before it could become a credible candidate. Nevertheless, it has as much right to lay claim to its place in the European firmament as anyone else. The banging on the door will become louder and more insistent. There will be other bangings, too; Georgia is already demanding to be heard. Belarus, Moldova, the other Caucasian nations may well follow suit.



No one can believe the Union can remain the same should these accessions take place. Again, they are not necessarily to be resisted. It may be in our interest that we should go ahead. But we should not sleepwalk toward a decision, finding out too late that we have no room left for manoeuvre.

For despite the frequency of the phrase, ‘Future of Europe,’ and constant enjoinders to discuss it, a conspiracy of silence surrounds anything more remote than the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. Only the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has raised the difficult questions about where the future borders of Europe should lie and what sort of Europe, in terms of its integration, competencies and governance, we are seeking. And short shrift he has got for his pains.

This is unfortunate, for the Future of Europe is the future of the next thirty or forty years.
I do not see how we can continue to espouse Turkey’s candidacy and not that of the Ukraine. But this has consequences. If we are to have a grand Europe, a Europe of 42 states and 700 millions of people, it is not too early to start debating the prospect now.

The author is editor of EuropaWorld.

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Colonial power?

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

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

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

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

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

——————–

EU remains split on Kosovo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————-

EU fudges Kosovo independence recognition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rift Emerges at the U.N. Over Kosovo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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