Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Swords to Ploughshares

by nanne Tue Dec 1st, 2009 at 05:26:26 AM EST

Some nights ago I was watching the yearly Bambi awards on the ARD. The terminally boring ceremony did have a few highlights. Notably, Kate Winslet, who was beautiful, gracious, and actually managed to sit through the entire thing looking like she was intensely interested. What an actress.

The most memorable parts, though, came when the media award tried to tie into the celebrations of the fall of the wall, 20 years ago. An award was given to Helmut Kohl, for his role in driving the reunification that came a year afterwards, and in driving European integration. Another award was given to three 'silent heroes': Christoph Wonneberger, then pastor and co-instigator of the 'monday demonstrations' in Leipzig, that flowed out of his 'peace prayers'. Siegbert Schefke, a member of the 'environmental library' at Berlin Zionskirchplatz and cameraman. Aram Radomski, theatre worker and photographer.

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Elinor Ostrom on Equality

by nanne Wed Oct 14th, 2009 at 08:09:50 PM EST

Unlike some of the previous winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics, it is quite hard to pigeonhole Elinor Ostrom's politics on a left to right spectrum. Her work has plenty of political implications, to be sure, and the Nobel committee's award is also - consciously - political. But the award is not partisan. Claiming Ostrom for the left would be mistaken; it is better to just look at her work and its implications.

When a Times of London columnist (h/t to Sven) starts touting Ostrom's research as a potential template for 'compassionate' or pro-poor policies by the Tory party, though, it is timely to call attention to a few statements she made on equality, which may not fit so well with delicate Tory sensibilities. Statements like "Being born rich is always bad."

Two years ago, Ostrom was in Germany and held an interview with the Frankfurter Algemeiner Zeitung, which already predicted her Nobel in economics at the time (read it back in the day, but now via Time). Some translated quotes from that interview:

Inequality is dangerous. When the rich are floating at too extreme altitudes, they are completely unable to understand the needs of the poor. When there are more and more rich, and thereby people who think that they are something better, that is not good for a democracy. Furthermore, excessively large fortunes are usually also economically unproductive - at least in the third generation of businesspeople. The classes that are born rich are usually neither very capable of dealing with life in general, nor very entrepreneurial. They use up their inherited fortune and the social capital that comes with it, rather than building up anything. Being born rich is always bad.

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Federal Elections in Germany

by nanne Sun Sep 27th, 2009 at 04:46:42 AM EST

In the last days before today's election, excitement has finally come to the German elections, by virtue of tightening polls. That, and Steini-Girl.

The German Chancellery. Source: en.wikipedia.org
First the polls. The poll released by Forsa on Friday, which will have been the last, shows the christian-democratic CDU/CSU union at 33%, its lowest levels of the entire cycle. The social-democratic SPD has stabilised at 25%. The FDP gets 14%, the Left Party 11 and the Greens 10.

If this is the outcome of the elections, a potential coalition between the CDU/CSU and the free market liberals of the FDP will still command a comfortable majority in the Bundestag, as the christian democrats should get more overhang seats than the SPD in this election - an artifice of the current arrangement of the mixed member proportional system. But the race might tighten further in the last days.

The German electoral system causes a number of paradoxes. For one, the recent polling trend has been that the CDU/CSU loses ground, but the FDP holds steady. This is not exclusively positive news for the FDP, as the potential for it to enter the government will also depend upon the spread between the CDU/CSU and the SPD - the smaller that spread, the lower the advantage in overhang seats will be for the christian democrats.

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The Trouble with CCS

by nanne Thu Aug 20th, 2009 at 05:33:14 AM EST

In reply to an article finding that the cost of carbon capture and storage might be prohibitive, Magnifico writes:

Or... we could stop using coal, since Coal Is Carbon CapturedTM. Why take it out the ground, capture the carbon, and then stick it back in the ground. Wouldn't it be simpler, cleaner, and less destructive to simply just not take coal out of the ground in the first place?
Simpler, cleaner, less destructive: surely. The issue is, can we manage to leave all the cheap coal in the ground?

Cost estimates for CCS vary a lot. In the Stern Review, which favours CCS, it is assumed that there is a central range of costs that varies between $19 and $49 per ton of carbon dioxide. A NYT article quotes a researcher who assumes a cost of $60 to $65. The article cited by Magnifico uses figures ranging between $120 and $180, or (presumably) half of that 'as the technology matures'.

Diary rescue by Migeru

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City Rankings Reprised - Getting Smarter?

by nanne Tue Jul 21st, 2009 at 04:28:21 AM EST

On WorldChanging, Alex Steffen criticises an effort by the NRDC (US big green NGO) to rank 'smart' cities on their environmental credentials. Part of the problem with this ranking is that it seems to mainly grade effort:

Though sustainability itself is a somewhat slippery concept, there are absolutely standards by which we can judge progress, as they mean the same things everywhere, and are pretty good measurements of overall impact. What, for instance, are a city's per capita greenhouse gas emissions? How many miles a day do its citizens drive? How large is their average home and how compact are their communities? How much water do they use? How much energy? How much solid waste do they generate? These sorts of numbers actually tell us something about how the people live, and about their overall levels of impact.

But Smarter Cities counts more easily-measured, but sort of pointless data. For instance, the green building ranking rated the number of Energy Star and LEED buildings in a city, rather than quality of the general building code: so a city like Seattle, where building codes are far behind those of the U.K and Northern Europe, still comes off looking good because it has a few more individual green buildings than other cities.

A cynical take on this would be that you do not want to grade states or outcomes when you are a big DC based environmental lobbying NGO in the business of selling managerial policy solutions. You want to grade them on your preferred solutions. But, as Alex writes, grading effort is also relatively easy. Most of the information is ready at hand. It does not require excessive compilation or on the ground research.

The NRDC effort is unique to the United States, for now. In Europe, there are a few similar efforts, but they have the same problems.

promoted by whataboutbob

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The New European Parliament - ALDE

by nanne Wed Jun 10th, 2009 at 11:46:25 AM EST


The ALDE Logo
The new European Parliament will hold its inaugural session this July 15th. There is some interest in finding out what the parties look like on the inside. As a first step, let's take a look at ALDE.

With 83 seats, ALDE is the third largest group in the Parliament. The group is made up out of two parties: the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) and the European Democratic Party (EDP). Most ALDE MEPs belong to the ELDR, but some in the new Parliament including MoDem, Marian Harkin and the Lithuanian Labour Party belong to the EDP, which will probably continue to exist.

As you may remember, European Parties are all but united on their socioeconomic policies and their stance with regard to EU integration. There is some group likeness, but grouping is often more due to the historical lineage of parties than their agreement on current political issues.

For aid in finding out how sane the current ALDE is, we have the EU Profiler (also see An Electoral Compass for the European Elections). It neatly divides all European parties into 4 political quadrants (for and against the EU, and socioeconomic left and right).

See below the fold... afew

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EU Consultation on Energy Networks - Draft Response

by nanne Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 02:12:43 AM EST

Better energy networks are an important part of a more sustainable future. They can enable a greater share of renewables, and more decentralised energy production. Last November, the European Union started a public consultation on energy networks. DoDo flagged this in a debate on eurotrib, and DoDo and I wrote some initial responses for the consultation.

You'll find a consolidated response after the jump, which was drafted by DoDo and edited by me. Please give us your feedback. We will have to submit our response by March 31st. That is, next Tuesday.

As a guide, the draft response first gives a general response and then answers the 11 questions in the consultation.

Bumped by afew

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The Bloggingportal (dot eu)

by nanne Sun Mar 1st, 2009 at 04:14:33 PM EST

The pan-European blogosphere is among the more self-conscious. We have been aware of one another's existence for some time. I tried to create an overview back in 2006. And there were more successful efforts to that end by Nosemonkey. Euractiv has a running feature on euroblogs and started its own initiative with blogactiv. Jon Worth has a good post that brings all of this together. But the spark for more purposeful cooperation may also have been the research by Myra von Ondarza.

Myra's study analysed the euroblogosphere from the perspective of social movement research. She used a dual-pathway model, which holds that there is an element of identification and an element of calculation to social movement action. Her conclusion was basically that we eurobloggers aren't a social movement, but just a set of wonks who like to write about the EU and who have little more in common than a desire to see a better discourse.

Since then, eurobloggers are undertaking what I see as three broad strategies to become more active and relevant. We're trying to bring bloggers together, we're trying to grow the blogosphere and we're trying to improve our presentation. An example of the second is our involvement in the th!nk about it competition. But the main effort is the bloggingportal.

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The Great Climate Giveaway

by nanne Tue Jan 27th, 2009 at 02:32:10 AM EST

In the middle of December, the European Union passed a legislative package on climate change policy that should be understood in the context of this year's global negotiations on the topic. Because the package represents a minor step back from what the EU had promised to do unilaterally, it was lambasted by environmental groups. More surprisingly, some media organisations jumped in on the action.

Many of the objections of environmentalists to European climate change policy can be understood in the context of the 'Overton window'. Their criticism is harsher than would seem reasonable, but this is a design to shift the political centre towards their position.  The centre, in that context, is a social construction mainly formulated through the mainstream media. For more, read this post by Jamais Cascio.

As a perpetual concern troll, I worry whether this approach is overrated. The least that needs to be digested is that the original formulation of the Overton window is about advocating more extreme policies than you wish to see implemented in order to widen the spectrum of imagined solutions. Not just about kicking up noise.

promoted by afew

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LQD: Power 8

by nanne Fri Jan 16th, 2009 at 07:33:33 PM EST

SPIEGEL ONLINE has posted a very intriguing article on Airbus that, on the surface, seems like superficial pro-corporate fluff. But it's either unintentionally revealing, or there's more to it. The relevant part:

Calm Skies: Airbus Flies in the Face of Recession Winds - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Airbus is counting on European export credit agencies -- quasi-governmental banks that help finance export deals -- to provide financing for about half of Airbus deliveries this year, twice the normal level.

At the same time, Airbus executives say that a two-year-old cost-cutting program, known as Power 8, has yielded benefits that make layoffs unlikely. The company has slashed annual operating costs by more than $1.7 billion and is on track for more than $2.5 billion in additional savings by 2012, Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Brégier said on Jan. 15. Already, the company's full-time workforce has been cut from 54,000 to 47,600, with some of those positions shifted to temporary workers or subcontractors.

Continued below the jump.

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A European Blogging Competition

by nanne Sun Dec 7th, 2008 at 05:33:56 AM EST

From June 4th to June 7th 2009 elections will be held in the second largest democracy of the world. That is, the European Union Parliament Elections. The elections will establish the mandates of 785 Members of European Parliament, and will also inaugur a new Commission to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

The composition of the Council, made up out of national governments, is largely fixed after the recent elections in Romania, as long as there are no further government crises that prompt elections well before next June. The field is set.

This election comes in interesting times, as the curse says. It could be a change election like the US elections last November, even if there is yet no systematic trust crisis across the EU. There's an outside chance of something really strange happening, a breakthrough, for which I am of course pining.

One major institutional obstacle to the possibility of anything ever breaking through in Europe, though, is the lack of public discourse on the European level. Now, you are supposedly a receptive audience for this sermon, because we're all talking on this level or beyond it. But most of the chattering goes on purely within a national context. And the European Tribune alone isn't enough to change that. Which is where the following plug comes in:

promoted by afew

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Exit Clement

by nanne Thu Nov 27th, 2008 at 03:25:01 AM EST

The circus among the German Social Democrats (SPD) around prominent reformist Wolfgang Clement has ended with his resignation from the party. It has ended in one of the worse ways possible.

Wolfgang Clement speaking at the INSM. Source: 96dpi / creativecommons.org

Wolfgang Clement was a former minister of the economy in Schröder's second government, and a former state Minister President. He fell in disrepute among many in the SPD after he publicly warned against electing Andrea Ypsilanti in the German state of Hesse. Party members soon started filing applications to request his expulsion from the party. An expulsion procedure was eventually launched, and although the local SPD arbitration court decided to leave him with a reprimand, the State arbitration court - in his own state, North Rhine-Westphalia - decided to expel Clement from the party.

The party base wanted Clement to go, but the centrist federal leadership decided to make highly publicised efforts to reach out. And so this Monday we got the unfortunate news that the national arbitration court let Clement stay on as a party member, and gave him a reprimand.

Now the centrists have belatedly found out what they have been dealing with. It turns out that Clement had only been fighting his expulsion in order to keep the honour to himself, and publicly lecture the SPD one last time.

Promoted with slight edit by DoDo

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LQD: Geoengineering Ranked

by nanne Fri Nov 21st, 2008 at 02:14:19 AM EST

Geoengineering describes a project of rapid, large-scale intervention at some points to alter the earth's surface temperature. It's been discussed in-depth in these two diaries on the European Tribune:

Cooling the Earth: CO2, SO2, and The Sunscreen Fix by technopolitical (Oct. 2006)
Geoengineering: basic principles, some thoughts, some questions by asiegel (Mar. 2008)

There may be large differences in how we think about geoengineering. In my opinion, it should be seen as both an extreme and transitional measure. But at least we seemed to agree that there is a need to research it and to set priorities. What I proposed was the following:

Planting trees and mechanical air capture of carbon are better than injecting SO2 into the stratosphere, which again is better than seeding the oceans with iron dust. In my opinion...

There are more interesting options beyond those, which you can find in asiegel's diary.

Now we have a bit more to go by, as some of the more common ideas about geoengineering have been studied and ranked in a Nature Geoscience paper by New Zealander Philip Boyd.

Promoted by afew

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Energy Efficiency and Public Information

by nanne Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 07:10:38 PM EST

Today I had the hairbrained idea to plan for buying a new fridge / freezer with my flat-sharing community. As we only have old stuff, and I mean old as in fifteen to twenty years old, I suspect that it uses far too much power. Plus, it is my patriotic duty to consume when the economy goes down, or something.

Of course to get something that uses a lot less power you will need information. So I started a search for Energieeffizienz Geräte. The first page I got was the federal environment ministry. I later repeated the search for Energieverbrauch Geräte (energy use for appliances), which is a more habitual expression. The ministry's page was the top sponsored link, although not in the first ten search results.

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Gabriele Pauli and the Free Voters

by nanne Tue Oct 14th, 2008 at 07:40:29 PM EST

It was a November day in 2006 when Horst Müller's telephone rang. The other side of the line had Michael Höhenberger, the bureau chief of Bavarian Minister-President Dr. Edmund Stoiber. Mr. Höhenberger had some questions about Gabriele Pauli. He wanted to know what reasons she had for her 'inexplicable' political behaviour. He further asked Müller about issues Pauli was rumoured to have with alcohol, and about her alternating contacts with men.

Müller was responsible for economics in the city government of Fürth, and Gabrielle Pauli was the administrator of the neighbouring rural district. As a friend, Müller told Pauli about this telephone call when the two met at a Christmas party.

Gabriele Pauli may not have held too high an office, but she was a prominent member of the Christian Social Union. Partially because of looks, partially because of intellect. Pauli was elected as a member of the executive board of the Christian Social Union in 1989, even before becoming District Administrator. The board has 45 members and governs the political direction of the party.

At a meeting of this board, shortly before Christmas, Pauli dropped a bombshell by accusing the Minister-President's office of spying on her. This was immediately derided as attention-seeking, paranoia, and hysteria by the party establishment. A media frenzy followed.

In the end, Höhenberger was asked to leave the Minister-President's office within a few days. And Dr. Edmund Stoiber would not be long to follow.

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Parking Fees

by nanne Sat Sep 27th, 2008 at 05:30:38 PM EST

Big election day this Sunday in Europe, with Belarus, Austria and the German state of Bavaria. Over 30 million people, altogether.

I too get a chance to cast a vote, in Berlin, though tactically, I'd probably be better adviced not to.

There's a referendum in Berlin Mitte on the extension of zones in which parking fees are levied. The machines are already operating, but a citizen's initiative has gathered enough votes to get a referendum.

As this is in a district of Berlin and not in the entire state, all EU citizens that have residency can vote.

Update [2008-9-28 10:49:29 by nanne]:Results here.

Update [2008-9-28 14:42:27 by nanne]: Preliminary results after all votes have been counted: 79,4% for eliminating parking fees; 20,6% against; participation at 11,7%. Referendum fails to overturn the extension due to not meeting the participation threshold.

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Austrian Elections 2008: The Background

by nanne Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 03:28:07 AM EST

Austria is up for a snap election on the 28th of September. The 'grand' governing coalition between the social-democratic SPÖ and the conservative ÖVP collapsed in July. And the reasons for that collapse were interesting in the context of Europe. One of the disagreements was over a statement by the Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer of the SPÖ, who promised a referendum if an amended version of the Lisbon Treaty would have to be passed again. But however tempting it is to think that the European Union has become an important item of political contention, the coalition's collapse had been coming for a long time.

'Gusenbauer's SPÖ costs trust'. That was the slogan of the ÖVP in the last Austrian elections (see this youtube diary). Negative campaigning against Gusenbauer didn't pay out immediately for the ÖVP. They lost the election by 34 to 35 percent, and because it was the only possible option, had to get in as the minor party of a grand coalition. The ÖVP had led the government for seven years prior to that election, including one highly controversial coalition with the far-right FPÖ, then led by Jörg Haider. The Chancellor in those seven years, Wolfgang Schüssel, did not take up a position in the government, but remains influential as the leader of the ÖVP in Parliament.

Whether or not as an effect of the ÖVP's negative campaigning against him, Gusenbauer proved to be an unpopular Chancellor. In part this seems to have been due to not being able to hold some of the promises he made during the 2006 electoral campaign. More than anything, this indicates poor public relations on Gusenbauer's part. He should have been able to pin the blame for that on the ÖVP, which was nearly as strong a party.

Promoted by DoDo

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Long Term Population Statistics = Bollocks

by nanne Mon Sep 1st, 2008 at 02:12:22 AM EST

So Eurostat has drafted a news release for its new population statistics, which has been picked up by the Beeb and several blogs, as they show the UK becoming the largest European country in terms of population in 2060.

The UK allegedly is to grow to a population of 77 million by then, and will be bigger than France (72 million in 'Metropolitan' France) and Germany (71 million).

Never mind Turkey...

European countries apparently want to have these numbers, as they have asked Eurostat in a Council resolution to produce them. Still, Eurostat's methodology leaves a lot to be desired.

(crossposted from the DJ Nozem blog)

Front-paged by afew

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A Nation of Small Sunfarmers

by nanne Sat Aug 9th, 2008 at 06:27:24 AM EST

A breakthrough by the MIT in generating hydrogen through electrolysis has spurred an astounding bout of wildly off-base reporting. It was heralded as a breakthrough in solar power, and even credited with knocking some dollars of the oil price by excitable, uncritical reporters.

Electrolysis does not discriminate as to the source of the electrical current. Anyone covering science or green innovation should immediately recognise this.

The new procedure generated this amount of coverage because the scientist responsible (Daniel Nocera) framed it effectively in the context of a powerful myth: the myth of the autonomous, self-sufficient, energy-producing home. This myth is ubiquitous in talk of a hydrogen economy.

It starts with the MIT Press Release:

In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.

Promoted by afew

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The Lisbon Treaty Failure: Getting back to Basic Frames

by nanne Wed Jun 25th, 2008 at 01:22:06 PM EST

There is a lot of interesting discussion in the European blogosphere about issues related to the Irish referendum. Like the list of demands of Sinn Féin. Like the speculation about funding of Libertas by the American defence establishment. The latter is typical 'undernews' that is, for now, being ignored by the mainstream media.

But let's not lose sight of the big picture.

The Lisbon Treaty did not fail the Irish referendum due to evil American defence corporations, rich Irish corporate hacks, or because it had some elements that irked a small post-marxist Irish party. It failed because it failed to take into account basic emotional responses that any European electorate would have had. If put to a referendum, it would fail in the vast majority of European Union Member States.

(based upon this post over on my blog)

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