< SWITCH ME >

With the New Year, Good Reads is back on track and our editors are going to keep on sharing the best online articles that got them thinking about Europe recently. This time around, freshly appointed Chris Ruff will be introducing himself to E&M readers by sharing some reflections on the way we consume news these days and also about the German Pegida movement.

 

Chris, Heart/Legs editor

 

Chriss Ruff

2014: a year to forget

 

Whilst reflecting on 2014 around the dinner table with friends this Christmas, it seemed that none of us could remember a year with quite so many awful things that had happened. ISIS, the Ukraine crisis, Gaza, two (now three) passenger jets dropping from the sky leaving no survivors, terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Australia and elsewhere, schoolgirls captured in Nigeria – the list could go on.

 

2014 will certainly go down as a grim year for humanity. However, part of this phenomenon of negativity is due to the way modern news is consumed and distributed, lending an immediacy and urgency to current events. News is now omnipresent – available to us in more ways and at more times than ever before. Events are almost impossible to miss. As such, our perceptions about say, air travel, have been negatively influenced by what appears to be frequent crashes, although the data clearly shows that travelling by plane is actually safer than ever.

 

Yet despite the rolling 24-hour news channels and the pervasive impact of social media, journalism in 2014 has often felt stale or formulaic; perspectives on global crises have seemed like tired re-runs of old arguments, stuck in a by-gone era. It is for this reason that when a piece with genuine insight appears, such as this opinion piece by Jeffrey Sachs, it really makes you sit up and notice. Sachs, a former economic advisor to both the Polish and Russian governments following the end of the Cold War, eloquently describes the West's differing approaches to both countries and how this has had a profound effect on their subsequent development. In short, if the West had chosen to pursue a similarly conciliatory debt strategy with Russia as they did with Poland, the outcome would be very different. Instead, the US and Western Europe's desire to consolidate their victory with punitive measures has led Sachs to compare it with the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles. The article adds even more, as it is written in first person on the basis of direct experiences.

Published in Good Reads
Monday, 09 January 2012 06:09

EU pursuing Iran sanctions

European leaders have agreed to go forward with a new round of unilateral sanctions, in which the EU would ban oil imports from Iran. Instead of actually imposing these sanctions however, the EU should threaten to impose them, using them as a "stick" to bring about negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.

In the French daily Le Figaro, French foreign minister Allain Juppé announced the result of the latest EU deliberations over sanctions against Iran: "On 30 January," he said, "the Europeans will hopefully decide on an oil embargo." The debate about banning oil imports from Iran is not new, in fact it emerged as soon as it was clear that the initial sanctions imposed vis-à-vis Iran were rather toothless. The new sanctions were discussed after the latest IAEA report contained stronger-than-usual language about the programme, accusing Iran of having had a nuclear weapons programme until at least 2003, and carrying out experiments more recently. A European oil embargo is likely to hit Iran's economy hard, as European states are second only to China in importing crude oil from Iran. Greece, Italy and Spain, are arguably the three hardest-hit states in the sovereign debt crisis and are also the biggest importers of Iranian oil. Implementing the ban would hit these states the hardest.

Greece, Italy, and Spain are the hardest-hit states in the sovereign debt crisis; they also import Iranian oil. The ban would hit these states the hardest.

Publicly Iran states that this decision will not have a severe impact on its economy. Yet it comes at a time of heightened tensions, after a US spy drone crashed or was brought down by Iranian forces who later launched repeated and highly visible manoeuvres in the Persian Gulf. Therefore, when the 1st Iranian Vice President Reza Rahimi threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the narrowest point in the Persian Gulf, many observers immediately feared a further escalation, with an oil price uptick of more than 2%. However, it is unclear whether Iran would actually be capable of or even willing to close the Strait for a significant amount of time. Whereas technically, it would not be very hard for Iran to do so, holding it would be considerably harder, especially with the United States threatening retaliation. Apart from a potential military escalation with the United States, the move would be suicidal for Iran's economy. Not only 35% of the global seaborne shipments of oil pass through the strait, but the Iranian government gets 60% of its revenue from oil exports, which have to pass the strait as well.

Published in Beyond Europe
NEXT ISSUE
IN -829 DAYS