The Waltzers in Eurasia

Erdogan giving one of his speeches with his distinctively assertive style. Photo: World Economic Forum on flickr.Economic cooperation between Turkey and Russia has increased steadily in the last couple of years and this could be read as the dawn of a new alliance. Last December, the two governments met in Turkey and signed eleven agreements including an agreement concerning the future of nuclear power plants that are going to be built in Turkey, and investments by companies from both countries in their counterparts’. As Turkey is a major tourist destination for many Russians and a solid market for Russian fossil energy, the level of interconnection between the two nations is higher than ever, even surpassing the times of alliance in the interwar period.

by Ali Acikgoz

Read More »

Ciao Berlu! How does Berlusconi do it?

Berlusconi: immortal political survivor? Or boorish, manipulative clown? Photo: DonkeyHotey on flickr.The abuse of office, the soliciting of underage girls for sex, political blunders, alleged mafia connections, yet charismatic, energetic, brilliant and rich? During the course of his flamboyant political career, the phenomenon Silvio Berlusconi has been applauded and booed for his actions and character. It would seem that the inhabitants of Italy are intertwined with Berlusconi in a complicated, paradoxical love-hate relationship.

Berlusconi first entered politics in 1994, when the Italian parliament was severely fractured. Although Italian politics is often noted for its unstable nature, the opposite is true. After the Second World War, the Christian Democrats, representing the democratic centre, were in power for most of the time as the Italian Communist Party (PCI) was expelled due to external pressure from the United States. However, scandals concerning allegations of corruption at the end of the 80's ended the Christian Democratic party’s political dominance. After these events, a lack of unity was prevalent within Italian politics, opening the way for Berlusconi. By presenting his political party, 'Forza Italy' (Go Italy), as a fresh alternative to the existing political landscape, he earned the majority of the vote and became Prime Minister for the first time in 1994.

by Benny Wilbrink

Read More »

Paying for Life: The Human Right to Water

Access to improved water sources has increased steadily over the years and has now reached 89 percent of the world’s population. Photo: Wikimedia commonsWater is a fundamental necessity of all living things. It marks the source around which humans first settled. For generations upon generations, the human relationship to water has been based on free access. But today we are witnessing a change in that bond as dams are being built, local water springs privatized and water resources dried-out owing to environmental damage. How societies and politicians take a stand in the water issue is becoming increasingly important as the privatization of water becomes more widespread and more topical. We are now faced with many questions: Should it be possible to claim a river as a possession? Can water sources like lakes be privatized to distribute and sell the water to the same people who have been living freely on the rivers for generations? Should anyone have the right to own our planet’s water? And if so, then who?

by Erik Roshagen

Read More »

The South China Sea’s “Cold War”

The busy geography of the South China sea. Image: University of TexasAfter many years of peaceful agreements and conflict resolution attitudes from the ASEAN free trade area countries, 2012 was filled with heated discussions and humiliating summit meetings. The core of all these disagreements was the South China Sea conflict. The islands situated in this territory called the “cow’s tongue” are rich in natural resources, trade routes, and have been military strategic points for several years. The fact that China claims sovereignty over this territory has raised many concerns among the neighboring countries, with the Philippines and Vietnam being the strongest opponents. In addition to these disputes, the U.S. has started a “pivot” military strategy towards Asia, increasing tension in the area. Will this divide the ASEAN countries and start a new conflict?

by Christina Håkansson

Read More »

Forecasting in Politics – why statistics is more useful than gut feeling

The crystal ball of Nate Silver? Photo: Wikia.comHardly anyone can have missed the now famous statistician and New York Times blogger Nate Silver. By accurately predicting the outcome in 49 states in the 2008 American presidential election and in all 50 states in 2012, he is now considered a forecasting virtuoso with almost wizard-like status. He has outperformed all major traditional pundits despite only having done political predictions since late 2007. So how does he do it? What is his crystal ball made of, and what does he see when gazing into it?

by Hampus Ljungberg

Read More »

Clinical Trials in India: When Profit Trumps Morals

Dr. Anand Rai, who blew the whistle on a clinical-trial scandal in Indore. Photo by Dr. Anand Rai via Wikimedia commons. In January 2013 the Indian Supreme Court issued the following statement: ''It pains us that illiterate people and the children of India are being used as guinea pigs by the multinational drug companies … uncontrolled clinical trials are creating havoc in the country.'' Over the past seven years, an  increasing amount of stories about negligently conducted clinical trials in India appeared in the international media. Is the country's highest judicial authority needed to protect its people from the pharmaceutical industry?

by Anna Scholz

Read More »

UNREDD: Outsourcing environmental protection?

Forest in southern Mexico slashed and burned to create usable land for agriculture. Photo: wikimedia commons.In 2007 the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that nearly 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation in developing countries. In response to these findings and climate change concerns, the UN created the Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD) to support the efforts of developing countries in protecting resource-rich forests and reducing carbon emissions from deforestation. However effectively managing deforestation can be a struggle not only when dealing with the foresting industry, but also when trying to simultaneously support individuals who rely on forests as a main source of income and survival.

by Sofia Murad

Read More »

Obama’s Game of Drones

Image: wikimedia commons. Edit: Scott

Until the beginning of 2013, the Obama Administration’s use of drones in its targeted killing program of suspected terrorists received attention primarily from scholars and policymakers. That changed, however, after a December 2012 court ruling that the Obama Administration could not be forced to release information justifying a drone strike in 2011 which killed a US citizen in Yemen. Following an announcement by the UN that it will—for the first time—investigate the legality and extent of drone attacks, it is likely that 2013 will be a defining year for military drones.

by Sean Kearns

Read More »

The vote is still out on Cameron’s referendum

A referendum on EU membership could result in a thumbs-down from Brits. Image: Flickr, European ParliamentThe United Kingdom is famously Eurosceptic. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once banged the table at a European summit asking to have “…our own money back” which resulted in a special membership rebate to pacify Britain. The British are the only ones in the EU who think membership is worse rather than good for their country. Current Prime Minister David Cameron’s own Conservative party has such a substantially large faction of highly EU-critical members that they chose to form their own faction in European Parliament because they found other European conservatives weren’t eurosceptic enough.

by Niklas Hjelm Smith

Read More »

The Euro in 2013: a new (Dutch) Mr. Euro to sail the ship

It has not been plain sailing for the Euro in recent times. Origami. Photo: Jeanine de Roy At the time of signing the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, Europe's single currency was praised by many and disliked by just a few. However, this grand political project has come under strain since the European sovereign debt crisis started ravaging the continent in 2009. The second half of 2012 witnessed some significant decision-making that has always been difficult for an economic unity lacking strong central political authority. Although optimists see some good signs for 2013, stormy weather is still ahead. The Eurogroup, the informal gathering of all the finance ministers of the Eurozone, appointed a new captain to sail the ship into safer waters last Monday. Let’s hope this new Mr. Euro, Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, will not be heading the Flying Dutchman, the ghost ship doomed to sail in tempestuous waters forever.

by Jeanine de Roy

Read More »