Bursting the Bubble

What does the election of Alexander Van der Bellen mean for Austrian (and EU) energy and climate policy?

25 May 2016 | by

On Monday 23 May, the Green Party candidate, and former Interior Minister, Alexander Van der Bellen, beat Freedom Party hopeful Norbert Hofer in the Austrian Presidential election by a margin of 31 000 votes, gaining 50.3% of the popular ballot versus 49.7%, from a total of 4.64 million cast, ending one of the closest election races in years. He becomes the second European Head of State with a Green Party background following Latvia’s Raimonds Vējonis who was elected in 2015. Besides the worrying amount of right wing sentiment in Austria following Mr Hofer’s surprise run, and the even more worrying total number of votes recieved, Austria can now boast one of the most progressive Heads of States in Europe, with a firm focus on the green economy and sustainable investment. But with such a slim majority, can President Van der Bellen unite a divided country, and push through the green agenda which Austria and Europe so vitally needs? Continue reading

Written procedure: the devil is in the detail

13 May 2016 | by

In the not too distant past, we communicated a lot about the Orphacol case, involving the authorisation of an orphan medicine via an implementing decision. The affair made great waves. We told the story in a booklet called ‘The Orphacol Saga.’

One of the many bombshells in this case occurred when a Member State interrupted the written procedure, initially started by the Commission to enable a quasi-automatic approval of the medicine. The cancella on of the written procedure brought even more turbulence for Orphacol!

The written procedure allows the Commission to adopt a draft measure without debate (although a debate might have taken place at an earlier phase). This automatism of decision-making can be stopped by a Member State, giving the committee the chance to meet, vote and potentially oppose. Stopping the written procedure is therefore not a neutral act: it constitutes an important lobbying act on in terms of taking back control of the situation.

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Asia matters for Europe & Europe matters for Asia – Is it really so?

11 May 2016 | by

A few weeks ago, Mongolia kicked off the first of several events and high-level meetings under one common name: the Asia-Europe meeting. Dozens of side events including civil society forum, youth forum, business forum and various meeting of 51 heads of state, including the European Union as well as the ASEAN Secretariat will take place. Such will occur in the country with a rich history situated at the crossroad of West and East as well as South and North. The visit of thousands of political and civil society delegates, journalists, students and tourists represents a huge challenge not only for Mongolia, a democratic state landlocked between two world’s superpowers Russia and China, but also for all governments or interest groups attending the Forum. Mongolia, the country strongly hit by China’s economic slowdown, has invested an enormous amount of financial and human resources in preparation of the Summit in order to present itself in the best light, thus attracting new investors, reinforcing economic diversification and bolstering sustainable economic growth.

However, the Summit is missing some important aspects such as feasible content, goal-oriented initiatives, multilateral projects and the will of its own members to move forward or act more flexibly. Europe, overwhelmed by an increasing number of internal headaches and painful discussions, accommodates the dynamics of Asian development with huge difficulties.        Continue reading

War on drugs is failing to achieve results

4 May 2016 | by

The infamous Nixon-era term ‘war on drugs’ personifies a set of policies that started to take root in the 1970’s which were aimed at discouraging the production, consumption and distribution of drugs in the U.S. While initial approaches actually led to a reduction of severity of punishments related to the possession of certain substances, in time ‘war on drugs’ became a synonym with ever harsher punishment for drug related offences, such as mandatory sentencing. However, the tough stance on the issue is a mixed blessing. The costs for combating drug trade in U.S. are rising year on year, yet according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse in U.S. the overall use of illicit drugs is growing and marijuana is leading the pack. The number of arrests for drug possession are steadily climbing too. Based on the Bureau of Justice statistics, around half of people serving time in federal prisons and sixteen per cent of state prisoners entered the correctional system of the U.S. for drug convictions. Even people who supported the initial hard-line approach of the program have acknowledged that the financial and human toll is too big and the tactics are ineffective. Continue reading

Gender Equality: still a priority for the EU?

29 April 2016 | by

Gender equality has been within the core values of the European Union from the beginning of the European project, since article 119 of the Treaties of Rome (1957) introduced the principle of equal pay for men and women. Nowadays, it is still part of the Treaties: articles 2 and 3 of the TEU explicitly mention the commitment of the Union towards “equality between women and men”, while articles 8 and 10 of the TFEU state that the EU shall aim to combat discrimination and inequalities “based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”. Equality between women and men is also included as part of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Furthermore, 15 directives were adopted between 1975 and 2010 with the objective of ensuring the equal treatment of men and women at work, prohibiting discrimination in social security schemes, setting out minimum requirements on parental leaves, providing protection to pregnant workers or recent mothers and setting out rules on access to employment, working conditions, remuneration as well as legal rights for the self-employed.

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