Thursday 24 April 2014

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Aid was promised, but where is the money?

Posted by on 15/04/14

At the end of February of this year the EU leaders in reply to changing of State power in Ukraine promised to give financial help, aimed at financial system stabilization and different investment projects realization directed on development of the country economy.
Then Elmar Brok, chairman of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs announced a sum in 20 billion Euros, which will be received by Ukraine for the reform implementation as soon as a new government will be formed.
At the beginning of March Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission informed that the sum of total aid would make 11 bn Euros. However, this is not all. A sum of 11 bn Euros will be allocated not immediately, but over four years and only on condition of signing of Association Agreement and implementation of all IMF requirements by Ukraine.
And only then aid will be given to Ukraine…only of about 610 million euro?! Why such number? Europe unexpectedly forgot its primary promises. After some time the EU leaders thought and decided to raise the size of macro financial aid, which will be given to Ukraine on 1 bn Euros, but the primary 610 million will be given in three tranches.
There is a rather strange “aid, aimed at financial system stabilization and effective reforms implementation”. It looks like a handout for the temporal closing of the budget gap. At the same time, according to Barroso, rest of the money will be collected by means of the European financial institutions including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and European Investment Bank. Hence, it raises new questions: Will this money cover those projects, which were ratified by EBRD and EIB before?
If it’s so, then it turns out that Europe promises money, which was already planned. It looks like not European way, frankly speaking, they are waiting for our firm steps, but we just promise.
Now it’s already the end of March and Ukraine didn’t get any financial aid tranche. Is it simple surrendering of Ukrainian interests or banal confirmation that Europe doesn’t charge with its promises?
There is certainly probability that Europe doesn’t have money for such “giant” aid, after the decision of allocation of 8,5bn Euros to Greece within the “second anti-recessionary program” framework. Or did our leaders decide that people in trouble are left to themselves!? It is necessary to think over that consequences of Ukrainian economic crisis may without fail influence on us. The weak state is always under the threat of its neighbor’s aggression. So let’s start to do something, while we can help.

Up to the sky

Posted by on 15/04/14

Monday, 14 April, Google announced to buy Titan Aerospace – a New Mexio-based Startup that builds unmanned vehicles flying for months or even years on very high altitude in the mid-regions of the Earth’s atmosphere. The atmospheric satellites are aimed to deliver internet access to third-world and developing countries and to realize real-time solutions for such services like Google Maps. Such developments give an outlook where real big business for the future lies ahead. The price of the deal wasn’t issued, but Facebook’s approach to the company some time ago was at $60 million. Another sector, where EU’s missing a trend?

The Eurasian Union turning into a Mirage

Posted by on 15/04/14

On 2 October 2012 Vladimir Putin published an article, entitled “A new Integration Project for Eurasia” in which he set out his visions for the future of Russia and the former Soviet Republics.

His vision was simple and optimistic. He hoped to establish a powerful association of independent states capable of becoming one of the poles of the modern world that would serve as an efficient bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific area.

Its member states would be linked by a customs union and cooperation reaching from services to capital flows, free labour movement, technical standards, patents, economic and currency policies, a development bank, a court of justice, a joint Commission and other supranational components.

Basically, the vision mirrored the EU. No surprise therefore that it also aimed at joining hands with the EU to establish a huge free trade area reaching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. But the EU did not pick up the “offer” being not allured by Putin’s vision which contrasted too much with the real policies pursued by him.

Though the idea goes back to the 1990 s the EAU has not progressed the way the Kremlin had hoped for.

The number of member states has not increased beyond the three founding countries, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Under pressure from Moscow tiny Armenia, heavily dependent on Russian security, had to accept joining in 2013. The central Asian countries – Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan- are still not keen on membership. Nor are Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova, let alone Ukraine, seen as a crucial element.

Cooperation has not advanced much beyond free trade. No comparison with the internal EU market, which is huge compared to that of the three EAU countries.

For Putin it must have been painful to see how the former Soviet Republics refused to accept his courtship in favour of the much more attractive European Union, where small countries have nothing to fear from big ones bullying them or ignoring their interests. Feeling himself as a “modern zsar” Putin failed to address the structural fault lines of the EAU, the overwhelming Russian dominance, the absence of the rule of law, independent judiciary and democratic governance.

No doubt, his pride must have been hurt by the lacking success of his “geostrategic baby” which was to replace the Soviet Union, in his eyes the biggest geostrategic catastrophe of the 20th century.

This may also explain his reactions to the Ukrainian shift toward Europe. If he succeeded to “recover” the Donetsk basin, Ukraine’s industrial core, he might succeed in winning even more support from the nationalist majority at home. But at what costs for him and Russia? And how often can he play that trick?

Rather than pursuing the mirage of a Russian-dominated Eurasian Union his successors would be well advised to follow a more realistic approach of a Eurasian free trade area with the EU, fully based on the rule of law, independent judiciary, personal freedoms and democracy. But for this to happen Russia would have to undergo profound political and constitutional changes that are not in view.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 15/4/2014


Social and economic costs of malnutrition

Posted by on 14/04/14

Malnutrition is defined as undernutrition, micro-nutrient deficiency and overweight. Unfortunately, it causes high economic and social costs to society in almost every country.  According to FAO’s latest estimates, 12.5 percent (868 million people) of the global population is undernourished. Still, 26 percent of the world’s children have child growth retardation (stunting); 2 billion people suffer from one or several micro-nutrient deficiencies. On the other hand, 1.4 billion people are overweight, including the 500 million who classify as obese. All these nutritional disorders, with more than one form, can be found in every country. A small table has been arranged with a few samples to clarify the importance of nutritional disorders in the world (see Table). Some countries are suffering terribly from child stunting (an indicator of undernutrition), whereas others struggle with iodine deficiency or anemia (often caused by iron deficiency, increases the risk of women dying in childbirth). Iron is an essential metal micronutrient for human health; its deficiency in the human diet contributes to high rates of mortality in developing countries. More than 125 million children under five years of age suffer from vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in the world. More than half of the children who lose their sight because of VAD die within a year. The above table shows how high the VAD is in developing countries. Iodine is another essential, a non-metal micronutrient for human health (its deficiency impairs thyroid functions). When severe deficiency occurs, fetal development can be affected with consequent irreversible brain damage and mental retardation. Interestingly, iodine deficiency seems to be an overlooked issue in the developed world.

Malnutrition may affect economic development by limiting productivity and human capital accumulation. The decline in productivity beyond the social cost of malnutrition and treatment expenditures is equal to 5% of the annual world gross national product (GNP) 3.5 trillion US$ (equal to 500 US$ per capita). The full breakdown of the amount in question has been estimated in 2010 as 1.4 trillion US$ globally, which includes the risk factors of overweight and obesity.

Studies show that reduction of such malnutrition disorders is economically possible. Research results from Ethiopia, India and Nigeria show that every US$1 invested in reducing child stunting generates between $12 and $34 in economic returns[1].

To reduce the cost involved and to provide better nutrition food systems, the solution begins with agriculture. It is, beyond being a source of livelihood, a source for food production. Therefore agriculture is the most significant sector to minimize eating disorders. Bio-fortification is possible in every stage ranging from production, processing, storage, and transport to marketing. So beside the pharmaceutical and food industries, agriculture could also serve to enrich food in some cases, with the insertion of micro-nutrient genes into regarded plant genomes and it would be affordable, especially in developing countries. Actually, the lack of trace elements had been covered by currently commercialized new genotypes in a few food sources, like fatty acid omega-3 enriched rapeseed, antioxidant enriched likopen tomato and folic acid increased lettuce.

The importance of the subject brought the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization and the CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research) together as the top organizations on this issue, to step up to a more serious level of cooperation in 2004. Starting an international program, namely the “HarvestPlus Challenge”, they have begun with classical plant breeding and transferred genes into the most consumed local plants which did not contain enough vitamins or micronutrients. New genotypes were able to store vitamin or micro-elements in plant leaves, roots and seeds. Let’s take a look at some of the newly commercialized cultivars in some countries:

  • In 2011, vitamin A-enriched cassava varieties in the Congo;
  • In 2012, iron-enriched bean varieties in the Congo;
  • In 2012, vitamin A-enriched maize varieties in Zambia;
  • In 2012, iron-enriched maize varieties in India;
  • In 2007, agricultural vitamin A-enriched sweet potato varieties in Uganda and Mozambique;
  • In 2013, zinc-enriched rice in India and Bangladesh;
  • In 2013, zinc-enriched wheat cultivars in India and Pakistan.

Not every plant has a donor genotype to be enriched with the above mentioned items. So to enrich the rice plants with vitamin A, biotechnology stepped in. The globally recognized GOLDEN RICE project was started in1999. The different forms of Golden Rice contain between 1.6 and 35 µg β-carotene per gram of rice. A recent study with children has shown that the bio-availability of pro-vitamin A from Golden Rice is as effective as pure β-carotene in oil, and far better than spinach in providing vitamin A to children. A daily intake of 60 g of rice (half a cup) would provide about 60 per cent of the Chinese Recommended Nutrient Intake of vitamin A for 6–8-year-old children and be sufficient to prevent vitamin A malnutrition[2]. But it has been blocked by some GOLDEN RICE opponent group, so it has not yet reached to farmers’ field. Economic evaluation of such delay has been estimated with a mathematical model by two scientists (Wesseler J. And D. Zilberman 2014)[3] in a peer reviewed article (The economic power of the Golden Rice opposition) and come to a remarkable conclusion: “Despite Golden Rice being available since early 2000, this rice has not been introduced in any other country. Governments must recognize additional costs that over-compensate the benefits of the technology to explain the delay in approval… The model has been applied to the case of India. Results show the annual perceived costs have to be at least US$199 million per year approximately for the last decade to explain the delay in approval of the technology. This is an indicator of the economic power of the opposition towards Golden Rice resulting in about 1.4 million life years lost over the past decade in India”.

Agriculture can create more than we, the global population receives today. Not only is this true with routine food, but also in terms of bio-fortified products that the global population will need in the future. We have to improve agricultural research strategies to create more sustainable production systems. Orienting existing manpower to agricultural research and giving political priority to agricultural research should be considered an important issue for policymakers.

Nazimi Açıkgöz

[2] Tang G, Hu Y, Yin S, Wang Y, Dallal GE, Grusak MA & Russell RM (2012). ß-carotene in GE ‘Golden’ rice is as good as ß-carotene in oil at providing vitamin A to children. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 96: 658-664.


Reality check time of Mideast peace process

Posted by on 14/04/14

The Mideast peace process is now on the edge of collapse and the parties desperately are looking for a package of measures which would be the basis for extending talks beyond the original deadline at the end of April 2014. Ironically one could note that now talks are ongoing only to find whom to blame about failure of peace process.

peace logoThe Obama administration’s efforts to impose a peace settlement seems to be a disastrous failure despite whether the negotiations formally break down or a face-saving formula is adopted which is nonbinding and incorporates sufficient reservations to make it meaningless. It seems that U.S. is preparing for a possible reduction of its involvement in the Israel-Palestinian peace process and Obama administration is taking position that Israel and Palestinians need to work through current deadlock themselves. Abed Rabbo (SG of PLO) might hit the nail on the head saying “We can’t return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks – this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,”.

Is it time issue a death certificate for the peace process or keep the facade?

The apparent breakdown in the American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a good time to re-evaluate basic assumptions of the diplomatic process. As reports about possible deal and even changes for deal differ it remains to see if there will be extension of negotiations or not. Even if formal meetings take place the peace deal in my opinion would be extremely unlikely. “The way it’s looking now, the talks as they were several weeks ago are no longer relevant. Last week’s package deal (offered to the Palestinians) is now off the table and Israel is preparing to return to routine dealings with the Palestinians as they were before the negotiations started nine months ago,” one official said. “As far as we’re concerned, the coordination on the ground with the different security forces continues, but the peace process is no longer relevant,” he added. (Source: YnetNews )

mideast peace talks

However Channel 2 reported that based on a source in Washington Israel and the Palestinians were close to finalizing a deal that would see peace talks extended by nine months. Also the head of the Arab League – Nabil Elaraby – said he was confident that Israel and the Palestinians would resolve the crisis soon and extend peace talks beyond April. (Source: The Times of Israel )

The Palestinians reportedly issued a long list of new preconditions for resuming talks — demands that Israeli officials privately dismissed immediately. These preconditions, according to the Ma’an news agency, included a demand for official Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; the release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorist chiefs Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat; a building freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians under a family reunification program; the termination of Israel’s security blockade of Gaza; permission to bar the IDF from West Bank Area A (areas under full PA control) for entrance to arrest or kill terror operatives; and increased Palestinian control in Area C (areas under full Israeli control). (Source: The Times of Israel ) However, according to Haaretz, Erekat denied that his team presented such a list, arguing instead the demands had been issued by Fatah officials, rather than the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), and did not represent the official Palestinian negotiating position.

A potential deal which would extend final status negotiations between the two sides for a further year would include a Palestinian commitment not to make use of international conventions they have already joined and suspend additional applications for membership. In exchange, Israel would go ahead with the suspended release of the fourth group of 26 prisoners serving long sentences for terror offences agreed in July 2013, including Arab-Israelis. Israel would further release hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners described as “high calibre,” and also agree to a quiet freeze on settlement construction. It is expected that the deal will include the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel 30 years ago.

Unilateral options

After Israel initially postponed the fourth prisoner release, Abbas retaliated by resuming efforts to win further recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections. Among Palestinians, lead negotiator Saeb Erekat recommended his government unify with militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. – to govern the Gaza Strip. Probably the PA would now continue their unilateral steps by applying to numerous other international organizations, including pushing for boycotts of Israel and seeking legal rulings against Israel via international courts in The Hague. Earlier the Palestinian leadership was planning to apply for member in 48 additional international treaties if peace talks with Israel failed. The immediate implications might be: international legitimization of the Palestinian appeal to the UN for recognition, with European backing, and a parallel intensification of the settlement boycott phenomenon – with it leaking across the Green Line – causing harm to the Israeli economy.

American legislators – in senate and Congress and both Republican and Democratic leaders – have expressed disappointment with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s latest move – applying for membership in United Nations organizations as the “state of Palestine.” Both said that the U.S. should seriously consider cutting aid – about $400 million annually from the US – to the PA if Abbas continues with the process. The PA’s applications are violating the agreed framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel area CFrom Israeli point of view if even three-state solution does not come true so then unilateral solution would be in my opinion the best option. To connect main blocs up to Israel will require a land swap of about 6% and 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel. That is doable as this has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. (More in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace )

Recently Mr Yoaz Hendel (chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies ) offered his solution in his column in the Guardian as follows:

For the international community to remain relevant it must understand the restrictions and the available options. The most realistic practical option in the current circumstances is the drawing of borders along demographic lines. Most Palestinians (98%) in the West Bank live in Areas A and B, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are spread over 40% of Judea and Samaria. Most Israelis live in 12% of the West Bank in large settlement blocks.
The remaining 48% of the territory has 100,000 Israelis and an equal number of Palestinians. The Palestinians’ territories should be upgraded to the status of demilitarised state with interim borders and continuity based on A and B. The large settlement blocks can be annexed to Israel, and as result of that the disputed territory would be immediately halved.
It is not a permanent solution, but it would be progress. If the money from the various pro-peace organisations were to be invested in the Palestinian education system, encouraging support for democracy, it would be possible to restart negotiations in a generation. If the international community can let go of its attachment to the phrase “an end to the conflict” who knows – maybe we will have a glimmer of a practical peace on the ground, which would improve the chances for a comprehensive peace in the future.

Indeed Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has urged PM Netanyahu to turn his back on the failed negotiations and annex portions of the West Bank. In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett requested “to have a session as soon as possible on an alternative plan (Plan B) to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty on areas in Judea and Samaria that are under Israeli control.” The economy minister listed some of the blocs he wants to annex, including Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the settlements of Ofra and Beit El and more. These areas are home to 440,000 Israeli settlers, Bennett argued, and only tens of thousands of Palestinians, and would therefore not cause a demographic crisis and undermine the Jewish majority. Bennett compared the process of absorbing these areas into Israel to the incorporation of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, and the Golan Heights during then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s reign. (Source: Times of Israel )

palestine mapAnnexation the main (settlement) blocs from sc Area C to Israel in my opinion means inheriting the arabs: Israel would be obligated – while excluding mass population transfer as option – to give the Arabs full citizenship which would change the demographic balance. Palestinians could then have full autonomy in areas A and Band most parts of area C. While the situation is not ideal, until the Palestinians agree to full peace with Israel, they could build capacity of their society as well be welcomed as neighbors in the Israeli economic system – participating in Israel’s commercial and creative life.

Negotiating about negotiating or minor points

The whole April so far has been mostly empty talks about wheater to negotiate after April or not. In addition issues outside this formality have in my opinion been only secondary ones. From my point of view the core issues are borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security. The dispute over recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is only secondary one and simply hides that chasm.

Recognizing Israel as ‘Jewish State’ has been from Israeli side a core element in peace deal as from my point of view it is only unnecessary and empty phrase. The Palestinians have already recognized the State of Israel de facto, through Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and then by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, the Arab peace initiative also officially recognized the State of Israel, as have Jordan and Egypt, which signed peace treaties with it. Moreover, Israel has no need of specific recognition by any country or entity. “‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in resolution 181, where there are more than 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state’ and this in my opinion should be enough. Even if that kind of formulation would be in agreement so what is the worth of this kind of lip-service without any commitment from PA side.

West bank settlements mapSpeaking about settlements one should note that besides allowing to build new homes in disputed territories Israel also tries to remove some illegal (according Israeli law) constructions and outposts. Last example was on 8th Apr. 2014 when Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers met with violent resistance from extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank as they moved in to destroy four illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Hundreds of settlers participated, throwing stones, burning tires, blocking roads, and damaging IDF vehicles. An IDF post in the area to protect the settlement was also attacked. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods. According to reports six soldiers and four settlers were hurt in the clashes. Yitzhar is a small mainly Orthodox settlement with a population of just 1000, situated just south of the Palestinians city Nablus in the northern West Bank. It is known as one of the most extreme settlements, and its residents have a history of clashes with IDF forces and local Palestinians. (Source: Bicom )

The Mideast peace process with or without Kerry

(Kerry) has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – (he) cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict … The only thing that can save us is if (he) wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone … The security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.” (Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon)

In wider perspective I have some doubts if the negotiations with PA will have real impact to the Mideast peace process. One should remember that with the exception of Fatah, all PLO factions were against the resumption of the peace talks under Kerry’s terms. These factions include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples’ Party, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With this background the options of President Abbas and PA are quite limited.

One possible scenario could be a partial – temporary – deal; a gradual deal that would require neither dividing east Jerusalem nor an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, despite fears that any partial agreement will end up constituting a permanent arrangement the partial deal not necessry solve any core problems.

Failure with the Mideast peace process might be the last nail to Kerry’s Nobel Peace Prize coffin. “He doesn’t understand the situation on the ground,” Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said, adding that Kerry’s motives were illegitimate, “messianic” and “obsessive.” Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl echoed Yaalon’s sentiments, saying that the secretary was “delusional” and “detached from reality.” At the same time, the Palestinians view Kerry as someone incapable of pressuring Israel and getting results, deeming him irrelevant.

From my point of view FM Kerry’s commitment to the success of the diplomatic process and the time he has invested in solving the Mideast problem, regardless of the other unresolved conflicts (Ukraine, Syria, Iran…) in the world, should to be appreciated. Regrettably, the U.S. intervention has only exacerbated the situation and even undermined the chances of low-profile interim progress and economic cooperation. One way to continue the Mideast peace process could be to dig the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them. (More e.g in Al-Monitor )

peace sign israelThe peace settlements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan were achieved because both parties sought to come to an accommodation. The U.S. did not then seek to impose solutions. It only became involved as a facilitator and honest broker after both parties had taken the initial steps and invited them.

Three State Solution(s)

One interesting approach for replacing two-state solution is a new kind of three-state solution proposed by Georgetown University lecturer Ori Z Soltes few years ago. In his article A Modest Proposal: The Three-State Solution he uses the experience of India and Pakistan. Having primarily Muslim Pakistan divided into two parts by primarily Hindu India proved disastrous for decades, until finally the two Muslim states were disconnected from each other, leaving one as Pakistan and the other as Bangladesh. Why not do the same with non-Israeli Palestine?

According Mr Soltes, this proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. The notion of creating a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two, seems ill-conceived as an on-the-ground practicality. It effectively cuts Israel in half: how do Israelis then flow from north to south of the corridor? There have been other proposals, for extensive connecting tunnels or bridges, but these, too, are a logistical challenge. Moreover, two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality: Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Creating two separate states would allow each to develop according to its own plans.

The three-state solution would make it possible for Israel to focus toward normalized relations with the West Bank, PA-led Palestinians; and on defense measures with regard to the Gazans. The possibility of Hamas being voted out by the Gazan Palestinians themselves would increase. But the potential isolation might also increase the incentive for Hamas to accept peaceful co-existence with Israel.

The idea of Mr Soltes is different than that three-state approach, which I have propagated a half decade. There Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

The three-state solution essentially replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War. Beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian Arab state existed. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank and granted the Arab residents Jordanian citizenship.


Potential scenarios

A monthly peace index, last published in March by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, found 69 percent of Israelis “somewhat don’t believe” or “don’t believe at all” that the negotiations will lead to peace. A poll conducted last month in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed believed chances for establishing a Palestinian state in the next five years are “slim or non-existent.” (Source: The Jerusalem Post )

An face-saving win-win deal now could be following: The Palestinian Authority terminates their U.N. bid, Israel withdraw their plans for economic retaliation, the Palestinian prisoners who were going to be released are released, the U.S. releases convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and possibly the Israelis make some muted statement about restraint on construction in disputed territories in the future. Each side would be able to state that had it not been for their tough actions, a deal would have been impossible.

intifada logoThe crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has shaken up the Israeli political scene. The stability of the governing coalition has once again come into question, with Yisrael Beytenu’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that he would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists, and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) calling for the formation of a new government comprised of the Left and haredi parties without holding new elections.

Publicly all sides want the peace talks to continue, but also know that they will not lead to anything. Negotiations and attaining a peace agreement that will, in the short-term, prevent regional violence and isolation of Israel, and in the long-term avoid a binational state with a Palestinian majority, are essential interests of the State of Israel. It is therefore believed that, just like in previous rounds of gestures to the Palestinians, Netanyahu will manage to reach a series of silent understandings with them and attempt to win their approval for a quiet freeze in settlement construction, rather than engage in a demonstrative release of terrorists. Such a scenario would grant Netanyahu another half a year of quiet and enable him to maintain the diplomatic status quo. In the end, however, even this six-month grace period will end, and Netanyahu will no longer be able to avoid anymore making political decisions and then the outcome might be that Netanyahu will be forced to make the necessary changes to his coalition.

In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground.

anti-obama plakat


An excellent background information in concerning the guidelines on European funding of Israeli entities in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”:

ECI Open Letter to Ashton April 2014

israel peace sign


A little bit more

Posted by on 14/04/14

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations. In Germany, it is called „Weltklimarat“, what means in direct translation „World Climate Council“. This has more impetus than a normal committee of scientists would have. Maybe this describes best why its most current warning on climate change is the usual one but well recognized here. When scientists like Ottmar Edenhofer are stating that „we have to move away from our actual way of doing business“ he wants us to shift completely from fossil fuels towards renewables. That’s not a really big news. Increase in CO2 emissions over the last 10 years is certainly wrong direction. There would be only few people not agreeing to this. Even conclusions, that Germany has contributed to this „wrong way” by its coal-fired power plants are right. But it should be also mentioned that Germany is leading in renewables and the higher percentage of coal to the energy mix is due to phasing out nuclear. It’s a large industry with many employees, this renewables in Germany. This is also a reason why councils like IPCC are more to Germans than only another scientific council. We recognize what they say, even when its an old truth.

Will humanity take effective action against climate change?

Posted by on 14/04/14

In the fall of 2015 the international community is set to adopt a comprehensive action plan to combat climate change. Paris having been chosen as the meeting place the French government is showing more interest in climate issues and trying to mobilise the EU on a rapid agreement of its 2030 climate objectives.

The UN preparatory machinery keeps running full steam to obtain a successful outcome.

This goes above all for the scientific aspects.

In the last seven years, Humanity has accumulated a huge amount of scientific data on the climate change that has taken place during the 20th century and is likely to occur during the 21st century. Never have human beings known so much about the climate. It is therefore no longer possible for anyone to deny climate change taking place and being mostly man-made.

There is also a consensus on its main causes: C02 and methane emissions from burning fossil energies for heating, cooling, transport, industrial processes and massive deforestation are the principal villains.

If Humanity were able to contain these major causal factors within the next five decades it would still have a chance of mitigating climate change.

Theoretically this is possible.

Humanity can do without burning as much fossil energy as it does. This goes in particular for the wealthy West and China.

Wind, solar, biomass and waves can substitute fossil energy, provided storage facilities and long-distance grid interconnections are in place.

As long as they are still more expensive than coal and gas temporary subsidy regimes should offer incentives.

But why should the 2015 “big bang” in Paris be any different from the 20 preceding “Conferences of the Parties” and lay out a convincing path for Humanity to throw off the burden of climate change that will weigh so heavily on the shoulders of the coming generations?

The 195 countries that will attend the COP 21 remain deeply divided on the nature of the commitments and the burden sharing they will have to accept for a successful outcome. So far they are likely to agree only on the necessity to contain global warming within the critical margin of two centigrade; but that would be nothing new and rather meaningless without firm and verifiable commitments as to the actions to be taken.

But the international community is less than ever concerned about climate change. According to the last assessments the impact of climate change on the global economy is likely to be much lower than projected only six years ago by the Stern Report. And how many politicians care already about the impacts on biodiversity, natural catastrophes or even a steep increase in the numbers of “climate refugees”!

It is therefore not surprising to see the emphasis shifting from mitigation to adaptation. Humanity seems to prefer the costs for adaptation rather than invest in mitigation efforts, even if that will be risky because of the irreversible effects of climate change.

It is fully in line with this trend that:

  • big polluter countries like Japan, Australia, Canada or Russia are anything but keen combating climate change;
  • all major fossil energy producing countries refuse phasing out their massive oil and gas subsidies;
  • EU climate policy suffers from the global indifference. The EU rightly underlines that its efforts matter less and less as its share of global emissions is approaching 10 per cent. Contrary to the wishes of the UN Secretary General, it is not likely to play the role of a powerful locomotive in Paris, however regrettable this may be.

China and USA, the two emission giants, accounting for about half of global emissions, might be a glimpse of light in the gloomy picture.

But China will take another 20 years or so before its emissions might start falling; and the US objective of reducing its emissions by 17 per cent until 2017 compared to 2005 will not be a glorious achievement, considering its extremely high per capita emissions of 14 tons and the EU scheduled reductions and by at least 40 per cent until 2030 over 1990.

In conclusion, it looks presently unlikely that the COP 21 in Paris will turn out to be a thrilling success.

It would be a great progress if:

  • the 20 major emitter countries responsible for about 75 per cent of global emissions committed themselves to formulate 20-year strategies within a UN framework and to submit annual performance reports;
  • all rich countries, including the oil/gas exporters, offered the World Bank the financial means – say $ 100 billion per year – to help finance a big programmes for wind, hydro and solar energy;
  • the tropical forest countries were to curb illegal wood cutting and receive appropriate compensation for these efforts.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 11/4/2014

Roma Summit without Roma involvement?

Posted by on 14/04/14
By Zoltán Massay-Kosubek The good news: the third European Roma Summit has gathered high level political attention from both EU Leaders and Member States. The bad news: there were no real chance either for Roma contribution or for meaningful civil society involvement.

Democratising the EU from below? Citizenship, civil society and public sphere

Posted by on 13/04/14
For the European Union of the 21st century, the search for sustainable prosperity and stability includes the challenge of reconciling democratic ideals and practices with the construction of a European constitutional order. From the 2001 Laeken Summit to the 2009 Lisbon Treaty and beyond EU leaders have repeatedly set out to bring citizens closer to EU governance by making it more democratic and effective yet several national ratification referendums have shown that publics are divided about whether and why to endorse or veto complex EU reform packages imposed from the top down. Despite these limitations people do effectively engage in the making of a European polity. By initiating national court proceedings active citizens are promoting fundamental European rights in Member States' practices. As party members they contribute to shaping mass media communication about, and national publics' understanding of, European political alternatives. As civil society activists citizens help build social networks for contesting certain EU reforms or advocating others. Last but not least, as voters in national and European elections they choose between competing party visions, and national parliamentary stances regarding the role of democratic citizenship. This original contribution to the debate about democratic citizenship vis-à-vis the challenges of economic globalization and European political integration presents critical explorations of different fields of direct, representative, participatory and deliberative democratic citizenship practices that affect the transformation of Europe.

The hypocrite leaders of the European Parliament

Posted by on 13/04/14

The leaders of the 3 main political groups in the European Parliament (EPP, S&D, ALDE) made a commitment that the next elected President of the European Commission has to be the result of a transparent process, not the product of back-room deals.  For outsiders of the Brussels bubble this statement looks like a declaration of political good will, showing a great respect for the “expectations of the European citizens” as they call it themselves. If this declaration wasn’t an unprecedented proof of deception of the public, it would be worth laughing out loud.

In the first place, if only half of the Europeans with voting rights to elect Parliament use this right in May, it would be surprising. As we know from surveys, the majority of citizens using their right to vote are not interested at all in the next President of the Commission, let alone knowing names of candidates. They use the opportunity to express their opinion about national politics. The 3 leaders know that of course; feigning that the “expectations of the European citizens” are their concern is pure hypocrisy.

Secondly, each of the 3 groups has its candidate for the Commission Presidency; one of these three leaders is even a candidate himself, ALDE’s Guy Verhofstadt.  Pretending to have a common interest for after the election is another demonstration of hypocrisy. Look at the EPP, supported by ALDE, who tried recently to ‘kill’ the S&D candidate for the Commission Presidency and current President of the EP, Martin Schulz, by accusing him of “obstruction of the work of the budgetary control committee, trying to cover his tracks by misusing the parliament’s rules…”. It makes you think of a Shakespeare drama.

Last but not least: what’s really missing in the joint declaration of these 3 leaders is a pledge that the next President of their own Parliament will be elected “in a transparent process and not be the product of back-room deals’. Traditionally, with some exceptions, the EPP and S&D agree that each of them hold the EP Presidency for half of the five year term; ALDE support this often and it is easy to imagine that the Liberals are compensated for it. And this all happens in back-rooms…

May be we have reasons to be glad that the European citizens don’t know much about what’s going on in European politics.

Parliament ratifies ‘stop the clock’ deal

Posted by on 13/04/14

On 3 April, the European Parliament in plenary session adopted by a 458-120 vote a negotiated agreement with the EU Greek Presidency and the Commission on the aviation ETS. The measure now goes to the Council of Ministers for its final endorsement. The agreement came after the Environment Committee had rejected the arrangement.

The key element of the agreement is the extension of the “Stop the Clock” derogation until 2016 (i.e. a suspension of the law for intercontinental flights). The agreement follows the original Commission’s proposal to apply the ETS with an airspace approach from 2014 until a global Market Based Measure is implemented in 2020.

Peter Liese, the lead MEP supporting the negotiated agreement — and rapporteur in the Environment Committee – called the deal “the best option under the circumstances,” although he defended the ETS. “We have a very clear message for the world. Either we get a global agreement in 2016 or we will have the full scope of the EU’s ETS back in 2017.”

The agreement would stop the clock only until 2016, that is when the ICAO Assembly is next scheduled to meet, so that if progress is not made the full ETS can be implemented. The deal also calls for member states to report how they spend revenues collected from auctions under the ETS.

Boeing continues to strongly support a global agreement at ICAO level to address aviation emissions.The European Parliament’s pragmatic decision enhances the ICAO process and creates positive momentum towards a global solution.

A world full of opportunities… How can we bring them home?

Posted by on 12/04/14

More and more I hear the reply: “the Romanian position is the position of the European Union”, or “We cannot have a national position because we risk a conflict with the European Union“.

This idea of not having a major national project, because the Brussels guidelines are sufficient, is a myth in my opinion, built around a false self-sufficiency.

Having a national project for the country, while respecting the European construction, but completing it and bringing added value, is or should be a priority for Romania.

In order to understand the need and the importance of complementary actions to the European strategy for growth and development, I will present our neighbours’ and other EU countries, such as Hungary, Bulgaria, and Serbia, efforts in strengthening the political and economic relations with Arab states.

This vision can be used as a guiding principle for all non -EU areas that can bring new markets for Europe and Romania, that can increase trade, strengthen the network of economic and political partnerships and establish a dialogue with regional power poles in a world increasingly globalized and interdependent.

Just an example…

Thus, Bulgaria has built a close relationship with Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Hungary did the same.

The areas targeted by Arab investors are health, agriculture and mining, Central and Eastern Europe being intensely promoted by the Hungarian prime minister, who plans to enter the Middle East market with national products, to develop joint projects and to contribute with technology in the Arab world.

Recently, in early March, the Bulgarian President, Rosen Plevniev, said that Qatar planned to invest 20 billion dollars in the Bulgarian infrastructure by 2017, and that Bulgarian construction companies were prepared to participate in infrastructure projects planned for 2022, when Qatar will host the World Cup. The figures provided are sufficient to observe that a beneficial partnership for both economies is developing between Bulgaria and Qatar, one that isn’t contrary to the EU membership.

The Arab world had and will play an important role in the global economy and like other emerging markets, it should be taken into account in any strategy for growth. Moreover, we should consider that export is one of the relevant growth factors in this moment for Romania and Europe.

At the end of March, a delegation of Arab countries ambassadors in Bucharest visited Constanta in order to discuss the development of investment relationships. As representatives of the Arab states mentioned, there is openness for investing in our country. They claimed that Arab investors had available hundreds of millions of dollars ready to be brought in Romania, but they definitely needed a constructive dialogue on investments with government officials.

We can observe that Romania has such levers and must develop them. The entire Romanian society must see and understand that EU membership does not mean that we, Romanians, do not have to make any effort to have our own positions and partnerships. I mean strong, consistent, fair and constructive partnerships.

Partnerships that will ultimately revitalize EU’s relations with the rest of the world. That will hold EU at the international negotiating table in subject from international politics, foreign policy, security or economic areas (with great deficits in the last years).

The expansion of the relationship with China is a good start. But it will not be enough. There are so many prolific areas for developing Romania’s economic and commercial relations, that they can only be addressed through systemically organization.

For this systemic approach we need more than ever a Ministry of Foreign Trade and a foreign trade research institute – well funded, well articulated – that should present the opportunities the Romanian businessmen have and how they can capitalize them.

The Ministry of Foreign Trade, through a pragmatic and effective approach, will assist these businessmen in their efforts to reach the opportunities. Thus, we could provide a stable and consistent growth in exports, with all the advantages and development implications for the Romanian market.



Enjeux et perspectives de l’industrie numérique dans l’économie française

Posted by on 11/04/14

L’importance de la place du numérique dans l’économie n’est plus à prouver depuis bien des années. Mais parce qu’elle représente le vecteur nécessaire d’une mondialisation aujourd’hui bien plus qu’entamée, cette technologie tournée exclusivement vers le futur doit être maîtrisée par quiconque souhaite jouer un rôle majeur à l’échelle mondiale. Reste à savoir si la France peut effectivement prétendre à un tel rôle à l’aune de ses avancées dans l’industrie numérique.

Visioconférences, jeux vidéo en ligne, réseaux sociaux et ingénierie de l’aviation civile. Quatre domaines ou activités qui n’ont, a priori, pas grand-chose en commun. L’énumération pourrait d’ailleurs être étirée davantage, mais la logique de la suite n’en serait que plus brouillonne. Pourtant, il est une chose primordiale qui réunisse toutes ces thématiques. Une chose sans laquelle les activités citées ne pourraient être aussi performantes, ni même exister. Le dénominateur commun nécessaire à leur bon fonctionnement, c’est l’intelligence numérique. Egalement appelé économie numérique, ce pan important de l’industrie mondiale est constitué de l’ensemble des secteurs basés sur les technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC). Autrement dit, le numérique regroupe la totalité des services et des équipements de télécommunications, les logiciels, les services et le matériel informatiques, ou encore les services audiovisuels.

L’économie numérique, un secteur à enjeux en pleine expansion

Selon le rapport du Medef intitulé « Faire de la France un leader de l’économie numérique » et publié en 2008, l’importance des TIC est double. D’une part parce qu’elles représentent un secteur de plus en plus important, d’autre part parce qu’elles ont des effets transversaux sur les autres secteurs d’industrie et de service, entraînant par-là même des accroissements de productivité et, nécessairement, une reformulation des stratégies d’entreprise. Esquissée dans les années 90, cette branche de l’économie éminemment tournée vers le futur s’est essentiellement développée dans les années 2000, entraînant un bouleversement profond des pratiques non seulement économiques, mais également sociales et culturelles. Ainsi, la compétitivité et la croissance, la modernisation des services publics ou, tout simplement, la généralisation de l’accès à l’information et à la culture sont autant d’accomplissements envisageables – et envisagés – pour le développement économique et social de la France et son rayonnement futur.

Si le numérique contribuerait effectivement au quart de la croissance du PIB en France, celle-ci reste le cinquième marché après les Etats-Unis, le Japon, le Royaume-Uni et l’Allemagne, d’après le rapport du Medef précité. Ainsi la part française du marché mondial de l’économie numérique – plus de 100 milliards d’euros ! – équivaudrait à environ 3 à 4%, l’ensemble des acteurs des TIC représentant plus de 800 000 actifs dans l’hexagone. Pourvoyeur d’emplois, donc, le secteur numérique est d’ailleurs plutôt bien perçu par les Français : 65% d’entre eux estiment que le pays est bien placé dans la compétition numérique mondiale et 57% considèrent que cette branche majeure de l’économie sera de plus en plus créatrice d’emplois. De manière anecdotique, 71% des nationaux seraient même prêts à conseiller à leurs enfants d’y travailler… Plus fondamentalement, la France et les pouvoirs publics semblent avoir pris conscience des grandes potentialités offertes par le numérique, comme en témoignent la création d’un secrétariat d’Etat chargé du développement de l’économie numérique en 2008 et, plus symboliquement, l’érection de ce domaine en thématique ministérielle, accolée à l’économie et au redressement productif au sein du gouvernement de Manuel Valls.

De la fibre optique à la sensibilisation des élèves au numérique

Son prédécesseur à Matignon, Jean-Marc Ayrault, avait d’ailleurs présenté en février 2013 une feuille de route pour le numérique, dont il est possible, un an plus tard, de dresser un premier bilan. Parmi les mesures phare proposées et mises en œuvre par le gouvernement, le « très haut débit » (THD) détient une place de premier ordre puisqu’un investissement de 20 milliards d’euros – public et privé – est programmé, afin de couvrir en THD les zones les moins denses du territoire. D’ici cinq ans, l’exécutif chiffre le nombre de foyers effectivement couverts à hauteur de 4 millions – en plus des 10 millions qui bénéficient déjà de cette technologie. L’objectif final, audacieux quoi qu’assumé, du président de la République, étant de couvrir 100% de la population française en THD d’ici 2022. Pour ce faire, il est indispensable que la France – qui fait partie des pionniers en la matière – poursuive ses recherches et son développement de la fibre optique, technologie maîtresse dans l’expansion du THD et, indirectement, de l’économie numérique. Le pays peut d’ailleurs compter sur ses ressources et ses capacités industrielles très poussées dans ce domaine, au premier rang desquelles Numericable, premier câblo-opérateur français.

Si le dessein très estimable de François Hollande est de pourvoir aux besoins de tous les Français en matière de connexion internet, cet investissement est toutefois bien ciblé et a des objectifs très précis sur le moyen-long terme. Ainsi le président de la République espère-t-il « faire du numérique une chance pour la jeunesse », en prévoyant le raccordement au THD « pour toutes les écoles d’ici à la rentrée 2014. » Fer de lance de sa campagne présidentielle en 2012, la jeunesse, parce qu’elle représente le monde professionnel de demain, doit bénéficier en priorité, selon M. Hollande, des nouvelles technologies offertes par la révolution numérique. Ce sont quelque 150 000 enseignants qui recevront par conséquent une formation « à l’usage pédagogique des technologies de l’information et de la communication », afin de sensibiliser dès leur plus jeune âge les élèves au monde du numérique. Et pourquoi pas créer quelques vocations.

Car si la France se donne les moyens, depuis quelques années, de développer et faire fructifier son capital numérique, encore faut-il que ce secteur soit suffisamment séduisant pour y attirer l’intelligence propre à le faire fonctionner. De la même manière que l’éducation civique est primordiale pour les futurs citoyens que sont les élèves, l’enseignement des enjeux de l’économie numérique aujourd’hui en France paraît de facto tout aussi indispensable. Ce pan de l’industrie doit devenir la promesse d’une employabilité massive d’ici quelques années, afin de redorer in fine l’économie française malade de tant d’années de désindustrialisation. Et entre les services informatiques, les jeux en ligne, les réseaux sociaux ou l’ingénierie en général, les futurs actifs n’ont que l’embarras du choix.

Rem Korteweg: ‘Europe is a resource-poor continent’

Posted by on 10/04/14
By Joop Hazenberg In the last interview for my book project, I gave the floor to Rem Korteweg, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform (CER) in London. Korteweg almost defends the British perspective on Europe: A compromise on the direction, course and structure of the EU is necessary.

The youth’s voice in Europe

Posted by on 10/04/14

The European Pupils Association (EUPAS) was established in Brussels on Monday, April 1, 2014. The founders of the organization include representatives from six national student organizations from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Croatia, Greece and Cyprus. Norway’s organization is an observer.

Even though the EU does not have the competence to initiate education policies, it still plays a supporting role in contributing and developing education-related regulations by cooperating with member states. EUPAS’ aim is to represent and promote the interests of pupils and students at the European level. It also seeks to fulfill its mission on promoting, among other ideas, political education that’s focused more on European affairs in schools.

Below is a short interview with EUPAS secretary-general Thomas Gaar of Austria’s Schülerunion (considerably translated, edited and rephrased).


What made you start EUPAS along with the other pupil organizations? Who inspired you?

TG: “First there was an idea in Austria about a functioning students’ organization that goes beyond borders, and on the scale of things, we encountered a students’ organization in Germany similar to Austria. Then the notion loomed, with the emergence of topics regarding Europe and the EU elections, of looking beyond the borders of Germany and Austria. There we’ve seen that there are other engaged students’ organizations in other countries. Then the thought then came in that we want to network together at the European level, in a mutual effort to learn how our different educational systems work and perhaps to conduct new advancements in improving them.”

In your Facebook page, your organization’s missions and visions are penned. How do you plan on promoting those?

TG: “First, at the moment, we are composed of six countries who together founded the organization. On the one side, our plan is to encourage other European countries to be a part of EUPAS because the more members there are, the stronger your voice is at the European level. On the other side, there is the plan of starting an event in autumn in Vienna surrounding the topic of education, sort of like a congress among the member states putting the issue of education in focus.”

Do you plan to lobby before EU institutions as to influence a European “education policy” in a way?

TG: “Yes, of course lobbying is naturally a topic of interest and we aim to talk with these people who are responsible for education at the European level.”

According to your Facebook page, Norway, despite it not being part of the EU, is a member of the organization. What made them join?

TG: “First it must be said that Norway is not a founding member, but they were there during the establishment as an observer. And I must say that that’s a nice step because Norway is not in the EU as you said, but they still, as a matter of principle, have an interest in this common European idea. And we like that.”

But when you met with the representatives of the Norwegian group, were they enthusiastic about the EU? Were they for their country joining the EU?

TG: “Basically yes; the young representatives of that group did have enthusiasm, though I wouldn’t say it was vast. But I can signify that they want to be part of the EU, due to the advantages the EU can offer to the youth such as the Erasmus+ Program. Also, the youth has a different approach than adults; because if we consider the 1994 Norwegian EU membership referendum, it came off that Norway wouldn’t join the EU, and I think that if you would only ask the youth, then a positive, but not over-enthusiastic, predilection would result.”

What’s your message to the youth and why should they care about what happens in the EU?

TG: “First to the question of ‘why is Europe important.’ Europe, especially the EU, has everyday influence on our lives. For example, when you go on holiday to another country, you get the text of paying ‘x’ for a call, for internet access, etc. Just recently the EU Parliament voted to abolish roaming fees in the EU; of course not immediately as it takes time. Considering this, you notice that the EU indeed does have an influence on our daily lives; and likewise in the course of the upcoming EU elections, we can also influence the Union, where we vote for a political direction that a party carries, which is of course a good thing. That is why it is important for the youth to become aware of becoming responsible on what happens in the next five years with the EU leading.”

Would you like to say anything else that I haven’t asked for the readers to know?

TG: “Well, we willingly invite others to be a part of EUPAS, to like our Facebook page, to be in contact with us, to give us feedbacks and be part of our events. Generally, a united Europe is not only a thought, but a feeling. Maybe we haven’t reached the point where, for example, an American gets asked by an Asian where he’s from, and he doesn’t answer ‘I’m from Colorado’ but he answers ‘I am from America.’ I’d find it nice when the same applies to Europeans. Sooner or later, it will happen. I just think people aren’t aware what advantages they have through the EU and through a united Europe. We (EUPAS) are now pursuing to raise awareness regarding this issue and I can expect and hope that a lot of people go to the polls in May for the EU elections and exercise their right to vote.”


(Thomas Gaar, aside from being the secretary-general of EUPAS, is also the federal chairman of the Österreichische Schülerunion. He is from Graz where he attended a gymnasium and a commercial high school. He successfully graduated with honors and currently studies business economics at the Vienna University of Economics and Business.)

Courtesy of EUPAS