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Worldblog.eu covers the latest world news - providing regional perspectives to current global affairs.
Ban alarmed at Israel's announced seizure of West Bank land
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced his alarm at the announcement by Israeli authorities to declare nearly 1,000 acres of land in Bethlehem as so-called “state land.”
Grave crimes committed on 'unimaginable scale' in Iraq, UN Human Rights Council told
United Nations officials today urged an immediate end to the acts of violence and abuses committed against civilians in Iraq, particularly against children and people from various ethnic and religious communities, as the Human Rights Council met to discuss the ongoing crisis.
The CDU’s ‘AfD problem’: too big to ignore, too controversial to team up with
Yesterdayâs regional elections in Saxony saw Germany’s anti-euro Alternative fÃ¼r Deutschland (AfD) score an impressive 9.7% netting the party its first ever seats in one of Germanyâs regional parliaments. The lead candidate of the Green party, Antje Hermenau, described the AfD result as an âearthquakeâ while AfD leader Bernd Lucke celebrated that they âfinally arrived on the German party landscape.â
It is now up to German Chancellor Angela Merkelâs CDU party to find a new coalition partner after Saxony’s FDP followed the national party in losing all its seats. The CDU’s lead candidate and current Prime Minister of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich, categorically excluded a potential coalition with the AfD describing it as a protest party that due to its inner turmoil was completely unfit to govern.
Commenting on the prospects for a CDU-AfD coalition, Bild columnist Bela Anda writes that if it were to enter into a coalition with the AfD,
âThe CDU would saw off the branch on which it itself is sitting.”
A CDU-SPD grand coalition is therefore the most likely option although a CDU-Green coalition could also be on the cards.
So is the AfD‘Gekommen um zu bleiben’(here to stay)?
This is not only the title of a famous German pop song but now the question everyone is asking themselves. Regional elections in ThÃ¼ringen and Brandenburg are coming up in two weeks and the AfD has a good chance of enter both regional parliaments. However, the party’s objective remains winning Bundestag seats in 2017 having narrowly missed the 5% threshold in 2013. There will be another eleven regional elections before 2017 and the challenge for the party will be to keep the momentum going. The AfD leadership will no doubt remember the fate of the Pirate party in 2011 - polled at a spectacular 13% before plummeting into virtual non-existence.
In Saxony a large share of AfD vote came from âSonstigeâ (other parties) and âNichtwÃ¤hlerâ (non-voters) which is typical for protest parties. But at the same time there is a considerable spread across most mainstream parties with the largest share coming from the CDU (34,000 votes).
This would be a particular headache for Angela Merkelâs party. The worst case scenario for Merkel is that the AfD becomes to the CDU what Die Linke is to the SPD - and indeed, some would say, UKIP to the Tories in Britain: too big to ignore, too controversial to team up with. This headache will become particularly severe if the liberal FDP’s decline is irreversible, dooming the CDU to always have to look to the SDP (or the Greens), in turn making left-right coalitions more or less a permanent feature of German politics.
Headlines are all for AfD and UKIP, but the biggest shocker for traditional parties may come from Spain…
The surge of anti-EU, anti-euro and protest parties across Europe continues. Germany’s anti-euro Alternative fÃ¼r Deutschland (AfD) is making headlines after winning 9.7% of votes in yesterday’s regional elections in Saxony and securing its first ever seats in one of the country’s regional parliaments.
In the UK, a Survation poll for the Mail on Sundayfound that, following the defection of Douglas Carswell from the Conservatives to UKIP last week, UKIP is set to win the ensuing Clacton by-election with 64% of the vote - which would grant Nigel Farage’s party its first elected MP.
However, the biggest shocker for traditional parties seems to be coming from Spain. According to a new Sigma Dos poll for El Mundo, the anti-establishment (but not anti-EU) party Podemos would finish third in a general election with 21.2% of votes - only 1.1% less than the opposition Socialist Party. This is an extraordinary result for a party that was founded in March. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s centre-right Partido Popular is in the lead on 30.1% - a 14.5% loss from the 44.6% the party scored at the November 2011 general election.
If you didn’t read it at the time, here is a portrait of Podemos and its leader, Pablo Iglesias, that we published in the aftermath of the European Parliament elections in May - when Podemos came from nowhere to win five seats in Strasbourg. We noted:
Call it left-wing, anti-establishment, anti-austerity (but clearly not anti-EU), the rise of Podemos is significant because - similar to what the Five-Star Movement has done in Italy - it can give Spaniards a channel through which they can voice their dissatisfaction with the political establishment (and the current eurozone economic policies), something which has been lacking at the peak of the eurozone crisis.
Indeed, looking at the latest polls, Podemos seems to be following exactly the same trajectory as Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement in terms of rocketing (potential) electoral support. And exactly as in Italy, the rise of a strong anti-establishment party may well force the centre-right Partido Popular and the Socialists to consider an unusual ‘grand coalition’ if none of the two big traditional parties wins a majority in the next general election - due in November 2015.
While the speed of the rise of Podemos is certainly surprising, there has undoubtedly been a huge gap in the market for a protest party in Spain over the past few years - as we noted on this blog at the end of May. Despite sky-high unemployment, a struggling economy, a few political scandals and regional discontent, no party or movement had so far managed to shake the solid support for the two mainstream parties. With a Catalan referendum potentially coming up in November and thoughts turning towards next year’s general election, these are certainly interesting times in Spanish politics.
7 reasons to claim water for life, not for coal
Safe, affordable and accessible water is one of our planet’s scarcest natural resources. Many people don’t have access to fresh water for sanitation, agriculture, or even to drink.
Yet, global water consumption by the power sector is growing; it’s expected to more than double by 2035, with coal projects accounting for 50% of increased water use. Vast quantities of water are used in coal mining, coal washing and for cooling coal-fired power plants.
We cannot allow coal interests to grab already scarce water resources and at the same time dramatically increase their carbon pollution. That will only accelerate climate change and make water shortages even more acute.
What can YOU do?
Someone needs to tell the power sector that it’s time to stop pumping out our water; this precious resource that people depend on for survival. That someone must be YOU.
Right now the most important event of the year on global water issues, World Water Week, is happening in Stockholm, Sweden. More than 200 organisations from around the world are discussing how best to divide up precious water resources.
Tweet and share these coal-water facts during World Water Week to send the message loud and clear - WATER IS FOR LIFE, NOT FOR COAL!
1. 2 billion people, or almost one-third of the world’s population, live in countries with absolute water scarcity.
Severe drought in southern China.
2. Coal is one of the most water-intensive methods of generating electricity. Every 3.5 minutes a typical coal-fired power plant withdraws enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Electricity is generated by burning coal to convert water into high-pressure steam to drive turbines; water is then used to cool the steam so it can go back to the boiler again. Water is also needed to wash and process coal before it is burned, to wash coal ash out, to reduce dust from the coal stockpile and to put out fires.
Old cooling water area in south east Turkey. Local people claim that the ash produced dries up rivers and agricultural lands in the area.
3. There are plans to construct at least 1200 new coal-fired power plants and mega coal mines around the world. Much of the proposed expansion is in water-stressed regions, which already suffer from limited supplies of fresh water for sanitation, health and livelihoods.
Hand-planted pine trees around the Shenhua coal-to-liquid facility have died due to lack of water. For 10 years, this Chinese state-run organisation, the world’s biggest coal producer, has been exploiting water resources at a shocking rate. Shenhua’s operations sparked social unrest and caused severe ecological damage, including desertification, impacting farmers and herders who are facing reduced water supplies in what was once a fertile farming area. Earlier this year Shenhua agreed to develop an action plan to stop extracting groundwater.
4. South Africa’s energy utility Eskom uses 10,000 litres of water per second, yet local residents are forced to buy bottled water, because no clean drinking water is available to them.
Water pond at an informal settlement in South Africa, with Duvha coal-fired power station in the background. Community members wait around a communal tap to collect water for household use. Many people are forced to buy bottled drinking water because of concerns about the quality of tap water.
5. 16 mega coal power bases proposed in China will consume 10 billion cubic metres of water every year, equal to one-sixth of the annual flow of the iconic Yellow River.
Coal-to-chemical conversion plant at the source of the Yellow River, China.
6. In the six worst-hit districts of India’s Vidarbha region there were over 6,000 documented cases of farmers committing suicide between 2001 and 2010 as their livelihoods failed due to lack of water for irrigation. And a total of 40,000 suicides in the whole of Maharashtra. Yet there are now plans to build a further cluster of 71 coal plants in Vidarbha.
Kalavati Bandukar’s husband, a poor farmer, committed suicide in 2005 after being unable to pay his debts. Kalavati is a strong supporter and ambassador of decentralised renewable energy systems. Â© Peter Caton/Greenpeace
7. Wind-generated electricity uses no water. Go renewables!
Greenpeace and tcktcktck volunteers raise a wind turbine on the beach at dawn in Durban, South Africa.
We have a choice
Energy-water conflicts are avoidable. In sharp contrast to coal, solar and wind power consume little or no water. And as well as being the most water-efficient ways of generating electricity they emit no greenhouse gases. Now is the time to stand up to the coal and power industries to stop their grab for dwindling water resources and to convince them to shift to clean, renewable energy.
Helena Meresman is Digital Mobilisation Advisor for the Climate and Energy campaign.
The Independent getting excited but do 100 Tory MPs really want to leave the EU no matter what?
The UK media has an insatiable appetite for âTories splitâ stories on Europe â mainly we suspect because it makes for an attention-grabbing headline - and Douglas Carswellâs defection is Christmas come early for many. True, the defection is a big deal which could have even bigger implications so fair enough.
However, off the back of his move, there are now far less credible stories cropping up. As OE Director Mats Persson argued on his Telegraph blog back in January:
âThere’s a vicious circle at play here. The UK media never seems to get tired of Tory split stories. It only takes a handful of vocal backbench MPs to create a âTory rebellionâ headline. English being the lingua franca, European politicians and commentators read the UK press, drawing the conclusion that, this is really all about a party talking to itself about itself. The many good reform ideas coming out of the UK are dismissed as a matter of âdomestic politicsâ â an image happily (sometimes dishonestly) conveyed by a whole host of special interests, including those who have invested personal prestige in the EU project and seek to maintain the status quo. Cameron, meanwhile, is seen as an unreliable partner, not in control at home. This perception is then fed back to the UK press, as a sign that Cameron is âisolatedâ, in turn hardening backbench opinion.â
A prime example is todayâs Independent front-page, celebrating that âUp to 100 MPs will call EU exit regardless of concessions won by PMâ. So one third of the Tory Parliamentary Party has already made up its mind on the EU? Thatâs a big claim. Cameron might as well throw in the towel now. Itâs an over-cooked story, of course, as is usually the case, quoting exactly the same Tory MPs who have been quoted in stories like this since Magna Carta. The big headline number comes from âother euroscepticsâ (hmmmm) who âpredictedâ that âbetween 50 and 100 Conservative MPs would make the same pledgeâ [out of the EU no matter what]. In other words, the number is plucked straight out of thin air.
There will no doubt be pressure on Tory MPs to clarify their position, but to go for âout no matter whatâ is a whole matter entirely. Still, this story will make it into embassy press clippings around Europe, and will probably also be re-produced in some foreign papers (100 is an impressive and conveniently round number). And voila, it has taken a life of its own. The Independent prides itself on taking âseriously our responsibility to maintain high editorial standards.â Well, weâre not impressed.
UN chief demands immediate release of seized Fijian peacekeepers
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday again called for the release of 44 Fijian peacekeepers seized in the Golan.
Trapped Filipino peacekeepers relocated to safe area in the Golan – UN
The United Nations said on Sunday that all 72 Filipino peacekeepers formerly surrounded by armed elements in two different locations in the Golan are now safe.
Ban voices concern about reported military takeover in Lesotho
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced concern on Sunday about the reported military takeover in the southern African nation of Lesotho, and called on all parties to resolve their differences peacefully.
Tusk and Mogherini: Europe’s new ‘dream team’? Our initial thoughts
|Europe’s new ‘dream team’?|
As we noted in our previous post, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades had sort of spoiled the surprise. Anyway, now it’s official: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has been appointed new European Council President, and Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini will succeed Baroness Ashton as the EU’s foreign policy chief (aka High Representative for Foreign Affairs).
A couple of initial thoughts:
Tusk has economically liberal and pro-free trade instincts. Most importantly from the UK’s point of view, he comes from outside the euro area - and will therefore be sensitive to the concerns of non-euro countries when it comes to safeguarding the integrity of the single market, a point he made during his press conference:
#Tusk We’ve need to prevent Europe from dividing into euro/non-euro camps, I wouldn’t have taken job if it involved new institutional split
â Pawel Swidlicki (@pswidlicki) August 30, 2014
Tusk also explicitly committed himself to ensuring the UK stays in the EU and endorsing (some) EU reforms:
#Tusk: We’ll need solutions to the concerns of Great Britain, no one sensible can envisage the “black scenario” of an EU without Britain
â Pawel Swidlicki (@pswidlicki) August 30, 2014
That said, Tusk is also likely to oppose fundamental changes to EU rules on free movement - he did say that so-called ‘welfare abuse’ can be addressed, but as we’ve noted, for many the debate has moved on from the issue of ‘fairness’ to that of ‘volume’, something Cameron will be under huge pressure to place at the centre of his potential renegotiation. In the more immediate future, Cameron’s early support for Tusk as new European Council President could increase the UK’s chances of securing a big portfolio in the new European Commission.
Significantly, it has been confirmed that Tusk will also chair the summits of eurozone leaders - despite coming from a non-euro country. This looks like a big concession made, in particular, by French President FranÃ§ois Hollande - who was reportedly sceptical of such an arrangement. Perhaps Hollande hopes that giving ground on this point can help him secure the key post of European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs for his former Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici.
The resistance to Mogherini, put up by Eastern EU member states over the past few weeks, has clearly been appeased by Tusk’s appointment as new European Council President. It was noteworthy that Herman Van Rompuy stressed that Tusk and Mogherini would “work closely together to secure Europe’s interests and values”.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has invested a great deal of political capital on Mogherini, seems to have achieved what he was looking for: a diplomatic victory in Brussels to sell to the electorate once back in Italy - where the big reforms are not going forward as fast as announcements, and the economic situation shows no signs of improvement. With the country in recession and deflation, it remains to be seen how much Italian voters will be impressed.
#Mogherini lands High Rep job, #Renzi scores EU victory to sell back at home. Not sure how much Italians will be impressed. #EUCO#EUtopjobs
â Vincenzo Scarpetta (@LondonerVince) August 30, 2014
As we noted in our recent flash analysis, the role of High Representative is less crucial from the UK’s point of view - as foreign policy remains primarily a national competence, with every EU member state having a veto. However, in light of the various geopolitical challenges facing the EU (and its neighbourhood), it is possible that Mogherini will play a greater - or at least more visible - role than her predecessor.