Symβiosis aims to provide resources, commentaries and analysis, on political, social and cultural ideas and developments affecting change and policy, original and creative, based on arguments, able to propose and debate solutions to critical issues, maintaining a broad intellectual scope and global reach that readers need to understand the choices shaping lives, and reflecting on Greece, the Balkans, Europe and the world.

 

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Violence in the North Caucasus

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Date added: 08/12/2010
Date modified: 08/12/2010
Filesize: 730.03 kB
Downloads: 616
Sarah E. Mendelson, Matthew Malarkey, Lucy Moore
May 13, 2010

Spring 2010 (Jan 1 – Apr 30, 2010) was more deadly than the same period in 2008 and 2009 with more than 200 fatalities due to incidents of violence. Most alarming, suicide bombings remained a regular occurrence, with six carried out in just twelve days – including the two in the Moscow Metro. In this report, "Violence in the North Caucasus: Spring 2010, On the rise, again?" we present our findings, all of which illustrate the scope and scale of instability in the region.

This "Violence in the North Caucasus" report was made possible by a grant from the Open Society Institute.

Earth Observation for Climate Change

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Date added: 08/12/2010
Date modified: 08/12/2010
Filesize: 512.9 kB
Downloads: 648
James Andrew Lewis, Sarah O. Ladislaw, Denise E. Zheng
Jun 9, 2010
Publisher CSIS

Until this year, America's civil space policies—and the budgets that derive from it—were shaped to a considerable degree by the political imperatives of the past and by the romantic fiction of spaceflight. We believe there is a new imperative—climate change—that should take precedence in our national plans for space and that the goal for space spending in the next decade should be to create a robust and adequate earth observation architecture.

There is unequivocal evidence, despite careless mistakes and noisy protests, that the earth's climate is warming. While the effects and implications of this are subject to speculation, there should be no doubt that the world faces a major challenge. There are important shortfalls in data and analysis needed to manage this challenge. Inadequate data mean that we cannot determine the scope or nature of change in some key areas, such as the extent of Antarctic sea ice. Long-term changes in daily temperature are not well understood, in part because of limited observations of atmospheric changes. An understanding of how some anthropogenic (man-made) influences affect climate change is still incomplete.1 These shortfalls must be remedied, if only to overcome skepticism and doubt.Climate change now occupies a central place on the global political agenda, and the United States should adjust its space policies to reflect this. Assessing and managing climate change will require taking what has largely been a scientific enterprise and "operationalizing" it. Operationalization means creating processes to provide the data and analysis that governments will need if they are to implement policies and regulations to soften the effects of climate change. Operationalization requires the right kind of data and adequate tools for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating that data in ways that inform decisionmaking at many levels of society.

Satellites play a central role in assessing climate change because they can provide a consistent global view, better data, and an understanding of change in important but remote areas. Yet there are relatively few climate satellites—a total of 19, many of which are well past their expected service life. Accidents or failures would expose the fragility of the earth observation system.2 We lack all the required sensors and instruments for the kinds of measurement that would make predictions more accurate and solutions more acceptable. Scientists have made do by using weather satellites, which take low-resolution pictures of clouds, forests, and ice caps, but the data these satellites provide are not adequate to the task.Climate change poses a dilemma for space policy. The space programs needed to manage climate change are woefully underfunded. The normal practice is to call uncritically for more money for civil space and its three components—planetary exploration, earth observation, and manned spaceflight. In fact, civil space has been lavishly funded. Since 1989, NASA has received $385 billion, with $189 billion in the last decade.

Lack of Transparency in Russian Energy Trade

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Date added: 08/12/2010
Date modified: 08/12/2010
Filesize: 1.26 MB
Downloads: 925

Keith C. Smith
Jul 7, 2010

Publisher CSIS

A major challenge to the new democracies of Central Europe is the corruption and lack of transparency in the importing of oil and natural gas from Russia and other energy producing states once part of the Soviet Union. This situation also undermines good governance and ethical business practices in the large and wealthier countries of Europe.

EU membership provides only limited energy security to the new democracies. The European Union has no enforceable policy regarding transparency and competition in the energy trade, nor does it have a common energy strategy concerning accountability by Russian state companies such as Gazprom and Transneft. In Western Europe, there is a disturbing lack of understanding of, and support for, greater energy security in the Central European states. And there is no significant support in Western Europe for a common EU energy market.

Wealth accumulation from the energy trade is often used by powerful groups in the East to buy support in Western countries for Russian economic and security policies. This situation is exacerbated by the lack of legal reporting requirements in the West concerning the outside funding of political and business groups. It is already difficult for Western energy firms to make business decisions in the former Soviet area, due to the deeply rooted lack of transparency in Russian, Ukrainian, and Central Asian commercial dealings and to an absence of impartial court systems to enforce internationally recognized contracts between business firms. The most serious threats result from the danger of intervention at any point in the commercial process on the part of elite cartels who dominate the energy trade, particularly in Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia. These cartels are composed of governmental leaders, intelligence officials, and favored business oligarchs. The composition of these elite groupings can and often does change suddenly, with a shift in the local political balance, only adding to business uncertainty.

As this report points out, there are several concrete measures that Western governments and the European Union could adopt that would result in greater business transparency, less corruption, and increased energy security, particularly in the more fragile democracies of East and South Central Europe.

Ending the Gaza Blockade - But How?

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Date added: 08/01/2010
Date modified: 08/01/2010
Filesize: 58.09 kB
Downloads: 513

Author : German Institute for International and Security Affairs / Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP)
by Muriel Asseburg - SWP Comments 2010/C 18

At the end of May 2010, the Gaza blockade - having been in force for some four years - finally received the appropriate international attention, albeit in a tragic way. The blockade has led to a disastrous situation for the local population, which has become entirely dependent on international aid and Hamas. At the same time, Israel has not succeeded in effectively weakening Hamas or even bringing about regime change by way of the blockade. Rather, Hamas has proved successful in entrenching its control. Moreover, Israel was neither able to free soldier Gilad Shalit - kidnapped in June 2006 - nor to stop arms transfers into the territory. The blockade has thus proven to be counterproductive. A mere relaxation of the blockade, as announced by Israel, or a (temporary) opening of the border crossings by Egypt will not remedy the situation. In order to make economic development possible and to liberate the Gaza Strip's population from the collective imprisonment it has been subjected to, its border crossings will need to be permanently opened and reliably managed in order to guarantee the steady movement of persons and goods. This will hardly be possible, however, without engaging the de-facto government in Gaza.

The Quest for Intercultural Dialogue in the Euro-Med Region: Opportunities and Challenges

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Date added: 07/16/2010
Date modified: 07/16/2010
Filesize: 85.98 kB
Downloads: 923

Sally Khalifa Isaac - Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI - Italy)

The present commentary attempts to shed light on the existing opportunities and challenges that could enable and hinder the two sides of the Mediterranean to deal with cultural issues effectively.