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AU and Pan-Africanism: Beyond Rhetoric

50th Anniversary African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

50th Anniversary African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: U.S. Department of State.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The African Union (AU) has lined up several commemorative celebrations this week with the intention of reaffirming the spirit of pan-Africanism and African solidarity. However, several questions remain: Will the celebrations transcend both the cynicism and idealism that have accompanied previous debates on pan-Africanism? At a basic level, is pan-Africanism achievable? If it is, what concrete steps should be taken to move the continent towards that desired unity?

The idea of uniting Africa historically typified the quest for self-assertion and resistance to oppression and discrimination. In the recent past, however, in the context of the increasing global challenges affecting Africa, pan-Africanism evolved into a call for continental socio-economic and political unity. The transformation of the OAU into the AU was prompted by this desire to accelerate the process of integration. » More

What Is So Special About Poland?

Image: Rock Cohen/flickr

The Center for International Studies at ETH Zurich hosted a number of lectures on Thursday March 8, 2012 focusing on Poland and European integration. This was an excellent opportunity to learn about and discuss several important topics presented by Polish scholars, covering the following four themes: how Polish euroskepticism has changed over the past decades (Krzysztof Zuba); how differentiated integration might play out in the case of Poland (Paweł Frankowski); how the European Parliament socializes its Polish members (Anna Paczesniak); and, what distinguishes European parties from national parties (Wojchiech Gagatek). More broadly, however, what is there in particular that distinguishes the case of Poland from that of other new member states?

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Views From Greece: Europe’s Paradigm Shift

Photo: opendemocracy/flickr

In a recent article, former Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio pointed out that Europe, in deciding to move toward a common currency back in the late 1980s, made its “greatest miscalculation [in that it accepted] the assumption of stability while on the verge of a systemic transformation impregnated with volatility.”

Palacio’s words may sound obvious today with the help of hindsight, especially since the European Union is reeling from the impact of the sovereign debt crisis and the persistent confusion over what to do to correct the mess. And correctly Palacio suggests that what Europe needs is a new political paradigm that will allow it to rise to the requirements of a fast changing world order.

This is the greatest challenge that the nominally “united” Europe has come across since its inception. In the recent past, European leaders appeared to assume that enlargement by itself would somehow automatically trigger processes for the “deepening” of European political integration. But, just like in the case of adopting the euro, Europeans again made the incorrect assumptions of a universe operating according to wishful thinking and not according to the laws of Nature. » More

Empowering Europe’s Electricity Market

Unlike humans some jellyfish are self-sufficient electricity providers. Courtesy of x3nomik/flickr

Europe is talking energy and there is no easy way out of existing dilemmas: While nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants entail considerable risks, most sources of alternative energy are not yet considered mature enough to fuel Europe’s economies on their own. Like elsewhere across the globe, Europeans are facing tough challenges in their attempt to secure a clean, reliable and affordable power supply.

As in every crisis, the risk looms that countries just look after their own narrowly-defined national interests and either ignore or forget the advantages of a regionally coordinated approach. In their struggle for secure energy, European nations should not lose sight of the potential of the common electricity market. In the long run, it could play a crucial role in enabling a more efficient energy future both from an economic and an ecological point of view. Yet, many obstacles still need to be overcome at the moment.

In an integrated market, electricity could be exchanged efficiently across the continent, connecting demand to the most inexpensive supply no matter where in Europe. Consumers could benefit from choosing from a wide range of suppliers, which in turn would boost competition and innovation. Currently, however, the European electricity markets remain regionally fragmented. Countries and companies are not investing enough in transmission capacities across national borders because they struggle to agree on the financial burden-sharing of these expensive projects. As long as national grids are not fully interconnected, trade cannot evolve.

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Europe’s Pariah People

One man in ten million, photo: Zsolt Bugarszki/flickr

With over 10 million members, the Roma (also called Romani) constitute today’s largest EU minority group. Scattered across a dozen countries, with their largest concentrated populations in Central and Eastern Europe, they have become Europe’s current pariah people.

In July of this year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his government’s plans to deport thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma migrants back to their home countries. Already in 2009, roughly 10,000 Roma were expelled from France, and around the same number has been driven out thus far this year. In Italy, where authorities already started to deal with the ‘Roma question’ back in 2008, large-scale evictions of Roma from settlements across the country are already taking place. In Milan alone, officials have expelled over 7,000 Roma over the past two years.

France and Italy are, however, not alone in evicting the Roma. Across Western Europe, politicians and public officials are tripping over themselves with declarations proclaiming that Roma as an ethnic group are dangerous and predisposed to crime and other antisocial behavior, and must therefore be removed from society as quickly as possible. In light of this, numerous Western European countries (namely Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, and the UK) have either already moved to expel the Roma, or intend to do so in the nearby future.

In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, where most Roma live, the situation has never been anything but hideous. Across the region, Roma communities are denied equal access to adequate housing, education, health, water and sanitation, and thus remain deprived of all prospects. In addition, anti-Roma violence remains a serious and, in many places even an increasing problem, exacerbated by the fact that most perpetrators of violence against Roma continue to act with impunity.

However, discrimination against the Roma is not a new phenomenon. » More

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