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Environment

100% Green Electricity: the Battle over Investment

Countries look forward to attract investment. Photo: Tim Snell/Flickr

Scotland and Albania want to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Their commitment, both prime ministers argue, is not only a huge step towards a more sustainable society but will also comprise the creation of thousands of “green collar” jobs. This is good news for the environment and also for their respective populations. But with little more than 8 years to go, isn’t this target too ambitious for the nations’ actual capacities?

The governments’ announcements come at a crucial moment. Investors have started to shift their business to China, and last month a report by the group CBI warned that the United Kingdom was not attractive for investment in renewables. But the recent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plants and the long-standing urge for clean energies have shifted public opinion in Europe to make way for a new reality. A second green revolution is building as European countries renew their commitment to clean energies as the way forward.

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Government

Belgium: Time to Move Forward

Working on common features. Photo: Everjean/flickr

No more caretaker government, demands the King of Belgium. After almost one year of failed attempts to reach an agreement between the French and Dutch-speaking parties, King Albert II has officially asked Elio di Rupo, a French-speaking socialist, to lead a government.

For too long both communities have been struggling over the country’s institutional set up. Several negotiators attempted to break the deadlock, but without success. Now everyone, including the King, is tired of the impasse and Elio di Rupo will receive a second chance to break the cycle.

Last year he failed to create a government coalition, but his role will be slightly different this time. Until now the King had only appointed politicians to find a consensus for a new government, the so-called “preformateurs”. Now he actually asked Elio di Rupo to  form his own government and become Prime Minister. A new strategy that triggers a paradoxical feeling: either the situation will soon be solved, or things will get really desperate.

Even if Elio di Rupo succeeds, the real problem will yet have to be solved. The separatist Flemish Nationalist party, which won the largest share of votes in last year’s general elections, will not simply give up on achieving more autonomy. They argue that they are tired of subsidizing the poorest part of the country, French-speaking Wallonia. A state reform appears inevitable.

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Elections

Scottish Independence: a Question of Timing

Soon a new country? Photo: Sheep purple/flickr

Recent elections in Scotland were historically significant. For the first time in history, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has won the majority in the Scottish parliament. In the previous term, the SNP only managed to constitute a minority government. But more than the remarkable majority achieved this year, it is one of the party’s main goals that is now in the spotlight: obtaining Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.

One might think that the way for independence is clear now, after the vote of confidence given by the Scots to the SNP. But this assumption is misleading. The election of the SNP should not be mistaken for a popular demand for independence. Recent studies show a clear objection to independence and attitudes haven’t changed much since. Two years ago an opinion poll commissioned by BBC Scotland confirmed that even though the population would like the government to hold a referendum, only 38% would actually vote for independence.

But what made the majority vote for the National Party, if it wasn’t the independence issue? Some analysts point out to the importance of the strategic abilities of Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, to collect votes. The damaged image of the Conservative and Liberal parties certainly also gave him a hand. Both parties have endorsed controversial deficit reduction plans at the UK Parliament, and the Scots have demonstrated their strong disapproval through these elections.

Categories
Migration

European Asylum Policy to Become Reality

A solution for everyone's sake. Photo: Antonello Mangano/flickr

The EU is finally moving towards a common asylum policy. On 4 May, the European Commission made a proposal to improve the migration policy, with the conclusion of the asylum system as one of its goals.

This push for action has been triggered by the uprisings in Northern Africa, as the European states seemed unable to address the strong immigration fluxes. Even though the situation isn’t exactly new, this episode highlights the need for a single European response to major exterior events. The lack of a foreign policy unity remains one of the EU’s most problematic areas.

EU countries already began to set up a common asylum system back in 1999, but the ongoing process ended up being “too slow“. The main intentions haven’t changed much though: to harmonize the legislative measures and to provide a uniform status for those granted with asylum in a EU country. Plus, as the European Commission now stresses, resettlement within the EU Member-states must become a more common practice. And the numbers continue to show the extent by which Europe still lags behind. Last year, around 5,000 refugees were resettled within the EU, as compared to 75,000 in the US. Even Canada alone resettled more refugees than all the EU countries together…