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How could we motivate people to cycle?

Augustin Agabriel

Urbanism and Sustainability Analyst

How could we motivate people to cycle?

It would definitely not be a surprise to tell you that cycling is growing in popularity as a mean of transportation, especially in urban areas. They are seen as a clean, sportive and cheap way to move from one place from the other.

Indeed, bicycles do not pollute while being used, they are less expensive than cars or even public transports on the long term and studies have shown that the daily use of a bicycle is strongly correlated with a reduction of cardiac and arterial issues.

With the pandemic, while we were all locked in closed areas, our will to move outside has grown, illustrated by the sharp rise in the demand of bicycles, with estimates of a growth of over 30% of bicycle sales compared to 2019 (Fortune Business Insight, 2021).

Cycling seems a promising mean of transportation for the future, but it is already reality in some cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam where around 40% of daily trips are made by bike. But cycling is still, by far, less used in most urban spaces around the world than other means of transportation. Why so? One of the main reasons presented is safety. Biking appears very dangerous compared to other means of transportations, which repels many from starting to bike in their daily life. It is true that on paper, contrarily as in a car or in urban transportations, a bike does not ensure a protective cell around you. It is also easier to lose balance on a bike as you are cycling on two wheels.

However, if we look at the numbers, it can also seem that cycling is not as dangerous as it seems. The New Zealand ministry of transportation has reported that 1 cyclist in 1000 are involved in an injury crash every year while 3 car drivers in 1000 are. But as cycling can only be used for short distances, while cars can be used for long trips, these numbers must be taken with caution. The challenge still remains however: convincing that cycling is a safe mean of transportation.

One of the most obvious answers to that question would be to make helmets mandatory. But this opinion has been criticized on many points, mostly because it deters people to use the bike instead of other means of transportations. Indeed, by having a mandatory helmet, you must carry it always even when not on your bike, which makes it practically more difficult to choose biking as a mean of transportation. For example, Australia has made the wear of helmets mandatory on bikes in 1992. Overall, number of deaths on the bike have dropped by 46% between the pre-legislation trend and post-legislation period. But as a result, it discouraged younger generations to use bikes, with an estimate that bike usage of teenagers declined by more than 40% compared to the pre-legislation period.

If we want to promote the security of cycling while developing it, making the wear of a helmet mandatory does not appear to be the solution. And when we look at the well-known cities where cycling is one of the most important means of transportation, the wear of a helmet is not mandatory.

Therefore, this solution doesn’t appear sustainable for the development of biking. But then, what have made cycling-friendly cities for the development of biking? The answer is simple: separate lanes for the circulation of bicycles. Investment in cycling infrastructures to ensure the security of its users, especially through the development of bike lanes.


For example, city of Amsterdam decided to opt for this option in the 1970s and is now one of the cities where there is the highest share of bicycle use in the world compared to other means of transportation (Le Parisien).


But issues remain on the ways cycling lanes are built. In this post-pandemic times, we see bicycle lanes being built in many areas of the world by cities to promote safe cycling. But some of these designs are not the best for the safety of the users, especially at crossovers.

In London or Paris, two-ways biking lanes are often on the same side of the road, where cyclists meet those coming in the other way. By putting cyclists on the same side, it might feel safer because you are in a space with people using the same mean of transportation as you, but it actually adds danger. If bike lanes were on the two sides on the road, going in the same direction as the cars, this would avoid cyclists from a potential collision with a cyclist coming from the other way, while being still physically separated from cars. Another issue of two-ways cycling lanes is at crossovers. In Copenhagen for example, cyclists are moving at crossovers in the same time as pedestrians. If you want for example to turn left, you would usually turn as a car and go straight for a left turn when the light comes green. But in Copenhagen, cyclists first cross straight (with the pedestrians), then wait for the light to be green before crossing on the left. This is only possible with cycling lanes at each side of the road, going in the same way as cars. And the results are here: in countries that have invested the most in cycling infrastructures, the portion of the population using bike has improved, while enhancing security of the users.


If we take the following graph of Copenhagen published by the OECD in 2013 after the International Transport Forum, it is clear to see that while the average cycled distance per day improved, the number of casualties slightly rose as well, but average fatalities and injuries dropped. Most of casualties occurred on cycling tracks (areas shared with other means of transportation), while very few on lanes, showing the efficiency of the investment and smart urban planning in bicycle lanes.

However, the solution presented is an example of what cities in developed countries have made. In poorer countries, this might be more complicated, as investments in cycling lanes are quite expensive. The Netherlands spend on average 500 million euros for bike infrastructures every year, which in proportion of the population, would be equivalent of the US to spend 10 billion euros. Cities such as Bogota, Colombia show some promising improvements, with a rise of bike use of almost 40% between 2011 and 2015, and plan to build 280kms extra bike lanes in the coming 4 years (Bloomberg City Lab, 2020).

However, issues have been reported in the maintenance of these paths, which affect security of the users (World Bank, 2020). On top of that, Bogota is still wealthier than many cities in the world, that could not even afford cycling infrastructures. This solution therefore appears difficult to be efficiently applied in cities that cannot afford such an investment in the security of the users.

But cycling organizations can pressure officials by showing the positive aspects on health and environment of such investments and try to motivate them to unlock sufficient funds for investments. Such organizations do exist like the European Cycling Federation, whose aim is to defend cyclists’ place in the urban space (Les Echos).

So, overall, one of the main elements that deter people from starting to use a bicycle is their safety on the bike. Some have chosen to make helmet wear mandatory, but it has discouraged people to use bikes because of practicability. On the other hand, cities that today count the most cyclists in proportion to their population chose to separate cyclists and other means by creating bicycle lanes, but with a strict urban planification to enhance security, such as seen in Copenhagen. So, investments by cities in cycling infrastructures, especially bike lanes, are the pathway to enhance bike use, while improving security, which would motivate people to start biking.

Nonetheless, this solution appears to be not efficient for cities that cannot afford such improvements, but cyclists can still try to motivate officials to act through organizations by showing the positive effects of such an investment.

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Why does China engage in UN peacekeeping?

Alexandre Dupont-Sinhsattanak

Defence and International Security Analyst

Why does China engage in UN Peacekeeping?

China has increased its participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations (UN PKOs) for the last three decades. As of May 2021, China was engaging 2,471 peacekeepers, making China the 9th biggest personal contributor[i], and the first one among the five members of the Security Council (UNSC). It contributes to 15.21% of the total UN peacekeeping budget, ranking second behind the United States[ii]. Therefore, what explains this growing engagement in UN peacekeeping? 

To begin with, it’s crucial to comprehend the changes in China’s identity that impacted its policy toward UN PKOs. China is both a great power and a developing power. But far from embarrassing one identity or another, Beijing has developed the concept of “responsible power”: a great power that is committed to other countries’ development and security, while respecting their sovereignty. China has been traditionally an advocate of the non-intervention principle. It has criticized and opposed Western interventions, on the basis that they sought regime change, like in Syria[iii], and has questioned the outcomes of Western-led interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya[iv]. However, its harsh stance from the 1970s has changed, due to its international opening. China no longer contests the importance of certain human rights, but still remains attached to the notion of sovereignty. In many official statements, Chine officials have underlined the importance of the approval by the UN Security Council and the consent from the host state for every intervention[v]. While obtaining the host state consent is a prerequisite, especially as the Chinese domestic audience is attached to this principle[vi], Beijing showed flexibility and helped to obtain the consent of the government in Sudan, South Sudan, the DRC and Syria in the recent years[vii].

Defining itself as a “responsible power” enjoys several benefits. It allows China to create its own conception of peacekeeping, different from Western approaches based on the liberal peace theory. Hence, it puts China in a legitimate position within the international system, which is committed to international security, while not being part of the Western system of values. In fact, it implies a critique of the Western interventionism that has been a feature of the US-led world order[viii]. Being a “responsible power” that supports UN peacekeeping can also blunt criticisms on its growth in defence spending[vix].


China engages in a singular manner in UN PKOs.


Chinese peacekeepers were typically composed of ‘enabler units’, which are forces of high-value capabilities, like police officers, medics or engineers[xi]. However, combat forces were sent in 2012 in South Sudan to protect engineering and medical staff. This was followed in 2013 by the dispatching of combat forces to the MINUSMA in Mali. Since June 2017, China has also deployed a PLA helicopter detachment to Darfur[xii]. These engagements provide a proof of its partial endorsement of the Responsibility to Protect principle[xiii], according to which the international community has a role in protecting people when a state fails to do so. While sending combat troops constituted a shift in Chinese policy, foreign observers have noted that Chinese peacekeepers occupy a passive role, limited to the defence of a UN military camp in Mali for instance. In particular, Chinese peacekeepers are perceived as strongly risk-averse, as they experience domestic pressure when they sustain casualties. Hence, they follow rigorously protocols put in place to prevent any further anger and criticism at home, which also undermine any improvisation in urgent matters[xiv].

As a proof for its will to be further engaged in UN PKOs, China has increasingly called for a more active leadership role. In September 2007, for the first time, a Chinese officer was appointed as force commander in Western Sahara in the MINURSO[xv]. The current Sector East Commander of the MINUSMA, where all the Chinese peacekeepers are located, is also a Chinese officer[xvi]. The domestic audience is also highly receptive to UN PKOs where China has a leadership role[xvii]. Moreover, Xi Jinping pledged in 2015 8,000 Chinese personnel to a peacekeeping standby force, which was one of the largest pledges made by a world leader. In comparison, total contributions pledged by more than 50 states were of 40,000 personnel. The force included a wide range of capabilities, from infantry battalions to transport aircraft. This is also a large jump from the current Chinese commitments, and is a clear signal that China wants to engage more in peacekeeping. This also proves that the People’s Liberal Army (PLA) has increased capabilities to contribute in PKOs, and that the political power seeks to increase the Chinese participation in current or future missions[xviii].

So, what explains this engagement? Many scholars believe that China’s increasing participation in PKOs is driven by realist and pragmatic needs, such as the need to secure natural resources, like oil. Another argument is the promotion of the One China Policy and the need to isolate Taiwan[xix]. Chinese economic interests abroad have also expanded considerably since the 1990s. This is precisely true in Africa. But the major shift occurred with the Libyan crisis in 2011, when China recognized the need to better to protect its citizens. 36,000 of them were evacuated, but the crisis underlined the limits of China’s power projection capabilities[xx]. A naval base in Djibouti – the first of its kind – was established in 2017, with the dual objective to protect Chinese nationals, especially in Africa and in the Middle East, and to support multilateral operations abroad. In particular, it shows the Chinese will to deploy the PLA in Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW), like peacekeeping and anti-piracy[xxi]. Participating in PKOs proves to be a legitimate tool which solves the problem of China’s limited long-range projection capabilities, while being in line with its non-interference rhetoric[xxii]. The Chinese civilian leaders were notably able to impose significant changes on the PLA in order to endorse interventionist missions and to integrate MOOTW in its doctrines[xxiii], which underlines the will from Beijing to be further engaged in UN PKOs. As China hasn’t been engaged in a war since 1979, its military lacks the operational experience necessary to become a first-class army. Hence, participating in PKOs provides several operational benefits: learning from other armies, developing languages and cultural skills, exposing officers to high-risks environments, improving planning skills and providing external validation of unit readiness[xxiv]. 

Overall, in my opinion, Chinese participation in UN PKOs have been successful in regards to the objectives that China aimed for. Yet, one can draw criticisms on Chinese peacekeepers on their perceived risk-averseness, their state-centric approach in peacekeeping and stabilization and the lack of “good governance practices” promotion.


[i] “Troop and police contributors”, United Nations, accessed July 14, 2021, https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/troop-and-police-contributors

[ii] “How are we funded”, United Nations, accessed August 15, 2021, https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/how-we-are-funded

[iii] Courtney J. Fung, “Separating intervention from regime change: China’s diplomatic innovations at the UN Security Council regarding the Syria crisis” The China Quarterly 235 (2018): 693-712.

[iv] Courtney J. Fung “Rhetorical adaptation, normative resistance and international order-making: China’s advancement of the responsibility to protect.” Cooperation and Conflict 55, no. 2 (2020): 193-215.

[v] Catherine Gegout, and Shogo Suzuki, “China, Responsibility to Protect, and the Case of Syria: From Sovereignty Protection to Pragmatism.” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations 26, no. 3 (2020): 379-402.

[vi] Songying Fang and Fanglu Sun. “Gauging Chinese Public Support for China’s Role in Peacekeeping.” The Chinese Journal of International Politics 12, no. 2 (2019): 179-201.

[vii] Yin He, “China rising and its changing policy on UN peacekeeping.” in United Nations peace operations in a changing global order, ed. Cedric de Coning and Mateja Peter (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 256-276.

[vix] Courtney J. Richardson, “A responsible power? China and the UN peacekeeping regime.” International Peacekeeping 18, no. 3 (2011): 286-297.

[x] Courtney J. Fung “What explains China’s deployment to UN peacekeeping operations?.” International Relations of the Asia-Pacific16, no. 3 (2016): 409-441.

[xi] Courtney J. Richardson, “A responsible power? China and the UN peacekeeping regime.” International Peacekeeping 18, no. 3 (2011): 286-297.

[xii] Joel Wuthnow, “PLA Operational Lessons from UN Peacekeeping”, in The PLA Beyond Borders, ed.  Joel Wuthnow, Arthur S. Ding, Phillip C. Saunder, Andrew Scobell and Andrew N.D. Yang (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 2021), 235-262.

[xiii] Jean-Pierre Cabestan, “China’s involvement in Africa’s security: The case of China’s participation in the UN mission to stabilize Mali.” The China Quarterly 235 (2018): 713-734.

[xiv] Lina Benabdallah and Daniel Large, “Development, Security, and China’s Evolving Role in Mali” Working Paper No. 2020/40, China Africa Research Initiative, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC. (2020): 1-32.

[xv] Courtney J. Richardson, “A responsible power? China and the UN peacekeeping regime.” International Peacekeeping 18, no. 3 (2011): 286-297.

[xvi] Lina Benabdallah and Daniel Large, “Development, Security, and China’s Evolving Role in Mali” Working Paper No. 2020/40, China Africa Research Initiative, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC. (2020): 1-32.

[xvii] Songying Fang and Fanglu Sun. “Gauging Chinese Public Support for China’s Role in Peacekeeping.” The Chinese Journal of International Politics 12, no. 2 (2019): 179-201.

[xviii] Joel Wuthnow, “PLA Operational Lessons from UN Peacekeeping”, in The PLA Beyond Borders, ed.  Joel Wuthnow, Arthur S. Ding, Phillip C. Saunder, Andrew Scobell and Andrew N.D. Yang (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 2021), 235-262.

[xix] Yin He, “China rising and its changing policy on UN peacekeeping.” in United Nations peace operations in a changing global order, ed. Cedric de Coning and Mateja Peter (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 256-276.

[xx] Jean-Pierre Cabestan, “China’s involvement in Africa’s security: The case of China’s participation in the UN mission to stabilize Mali.” The China Quarterly 235 (2018): 713-734.

[xxi] Degang Sun and Yahia H. Zoubir, “Securing China’s ‘Latent Power’: The Dragon’s Anchorage in Djibouti.” Journal of Contemporary China 30, no. 130 (2021): 677-692.

[xxii] Courtney J. Fung, “Providing for global security: implications of China’s combat troop deployment to UN peacekeeping.” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations 25, no. 4 (2019): 509-534.

[xxiii] Andrea Ghiselli, “Civil–military relations and organisational preferences regarding the use of the military in Chinese foreign policy: insights from the debate on MOOTW.” Journal of Strategic Studies 43, no. 3 (2020): 421-442.

[xxiv] Joel Wuthnow, “PLA Operational Lessons from UN Peacekeeping”, in The PLA Beyond Borders, ed.  Joel Wuthnow, Arthur S. Ding, Phillip C. Saunder, Andrew Scobell and Andrew N.D. Yang (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University Press, 2021), 235-262.

About us

Génération Maastricht – The European Youth Engagement Laboratory

Contact

+33 1 89 16 73 51 • +32 2 315 93 99

hello@generationmaastricht.org

13bis Avenue de la Motte-Picquet, 75007, Paris, France


© Copyright 2021 – Génération Maastricht

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Algeria at a crossroads: is the EGD a curse or a blessing in disguise?

Cristina Abellan Bustos

Researcher in the EU Affairs Department

Algeria at a crossroads: is the EGD a curse or a blessing in disguise?


1. The European Green Deal:

Goals, Trends and Challenge


The European Green Deal (EGD), announced in late 2019, sets high ambitions for the transformation of the EU’s economy and way of life so as to become the first climate-neutral continent. Among the many changes that will take place before 2050 as a consequence of the implementation of the EGD, a relevant one will be the implications for fossil fuels exporters into the EU. The EU intends to replace “imported natural gas and petroleum products with locally produced renewable electricity, gases and liquids”.[1] This serves a double purpose. Firstly, to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and secondly, to reduce dependency on energy imports, with the geopolitical implications that this entails.[2] Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the global markets in an unprecedented way, consequently halting most of the climate-related policies that countries were aiming to implement in the upcoming years. After an initial period of crisis where both the EU and its Member States turned their back on each other and fought over medical supplies, the EU committed itself to using the Covid-19 pandemic as a catalyzer to increase the EU’s integration and implement the EGD. Thus, the EU has continued with its plans by allocating 35% of the Next Generation EU Covid-19 recovery budget towards green initiatives.[3]

Concerning natural gas, the EU will continue to rely on it until 2030, seeing as it is a lesser contaminating alternative than coal.[4] By 2050, natural gas is expected to make up only one tenth of the EU’s energy mix.[2] In 2019, gas accounted for 23.8% of the EU’s total energy consumed, but remains the most feasible alternative to coal, which made up 13.6% of the energy mix that same year.[6] In 2019, the EU imported about 92% of the natural gas it consumed.[7] If the EU is to reduce natural gas consumption so drastically, this will have important economic and geopolitical implications for the supplier countries. Estimates indicate that natural gas imports will shrink somewhere along 13% and 19% between 2015 and 2030, while after 2030, they will drop between 58% and 67% compared to 2015 levels.[8] This major shift will change the way in which the EU relates to its neighbors and partners, most notably the current main providers of energy and those that have the potential to become new providers in the near future.[9]

Gráfico, Gráfico de barras, Gráfico de cajas y bigotes

Descripción generada automáticamenteFigure 1 Evolution of EU energy imports (55% lower emissions in 2030 compared to 1990 and climate neutrality in 2050)

Source: Bruegel/ECFR based on European Commission (2020) MIX scenario.

Moreover, as the EU has already announced itself, it has the intention of fulfilling the role of initiator and leader of the global climate transition.[10] Countries are already following suit with carbon-reduction commitments, many of them ahead of the COP26 that will take place in Glasgow in late 2021. Therefore, not only is the EU initiating a shift towards clean energies and the eventual phasing out of fossil fuels and natural gas, but it is also using its normative power to push other nations to do the same.[11] Examples of this include the 2018 Free Trade Agreement with Japan, which was the first one to make an explicit reference to the Paris Agreements.[12] The EU has pursued its effort to encourage other countries to fulfill their environmental commitments, even those who may be less receptive, like the FTA attempt with the MERCOSUR block,[13] which included a provision to protect the Amazon, thus proving that the EU is willing to use all of its normative power toolkit to endorse its climate objectives. This overall shift in consumption could lead oil and gas-producing economies to lose $7 trillion USD by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency.[14]

Seeing the importance of the matter, it is surprising that after over a year since the introduction of the EGD, the EU still has no strategy to deal with the external dimensions of the Deal. Even more so considering the increased geo-politicization of energy dependence, especially in relation to energy security and dependence on Russia, which will push strategic partners from the EU’s neighborhood like Algeria to their socioeconomic limits. 


2. The Energy Transition and Algeria


Concerning fossil fuel exporters, currently most of them are part of the EU’s neighborhood, an area that holds special strategic and geopolitical importance, and which will be heavily affected by the consequences of the transition. In its Southern Neighborhood, the EU has preferred to reluctantly accept semi-autocratic moderate regimes rather than Islamic governments, particularly after the instability caused by the Arab Spring and the events that followed.[15] This is because this region is especially relevant when it comes to the regulation of migratory flows and terrorism. In the specific case of Algeria, the ‘pouvoir’, the undemocratic power structures that have historically ruled the country, have been tolerated up until the social rise of the Hirak. Within this context, Algeria is one of the few countries in the region that remained stable during the Arab Spring, though the generous set of social programs targeting food, energy and housing prices resulted in a heavy strain on Algerian economy. Moreover, being the second largest military power in Africa, the country is especially important to the EU.[16] Hence, any signs of instability in Algeria can have direct consequences in key EU policy areas. The implementation of the EGD has the potential to destabilize Algeria due to the country’s high level of dependence on hydrocarbon exports to the EU, which remains its main export destination.[17]

Ultimately, however, market changes are going to be structural due to the energy transition and the long-lasting effects of the Shale Revolution, which consists in the development of new extractive methods of fossil fuels that allow access to previously thought inaccessible resources, thus increasing the offer.[18] Lately, markets have been characterized by an increase in supply.[19] Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) has been the source with the biggest trade growth, amounting to 13% in 2019.[20] In this regard, the European market has led the growth in LNG imports, reaching 117 bcm in 2019, 78% more than the previous year.[21] On the other hand, European gas imports through pipelines decreased by 6.5% in 2019, with Spain, as the main destination for Algerian gas, leading the drop with a 15% decline.[22] The first tendency is a decline of trade through pipelines and an increase of LNG, which is detrimental to Algeria, since it reduces the country’s comparative advantage in infrastructure. Moreover, barriers to market entry are shifting away from pipelines and towards ports and vessels equipped for the processing and manufacturing of LNG. 

 Figure 2 LNG Imports by source: Europe (in billion cubic meters

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2020


Source: Bruegel/ECFR based on European Commission (2020) MIX scenario.

Source: The Global Gas Market 2020 Edition, Cedigaz

Although Algeria trades small portions of LNG, its infrastructures are constituted mainly by pipelines connecting it to Spain and Italy. Algerian pipeline exports fell by 30% in 2019 compared to the previous year.[23] Pressure was exercised both by the fact that cheaper LNG came primarily from the US and by the increased importance of Russian gas resulting from both the TurkStream and from a potential Nord Stream 2.[24] The steady increase in the production and consumption of renewable energies also influenced the market shifts. Renewable energy made up 19.7% of the EU’s energy consumption in 2019, in line with the 20% objective by 2020.[25] This market behavior illustrates the beginning of a decline that will continue into the future as part of the energy transition and the Shale Revolution. 

Source: Bruegel/ECFR based on European Commission (2020) MIX scenario.

 Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 2020

Two additional damaging factors for Algerian natural gas exports are the decline in production and the increase in domestic consumption.[26] To fight against these issues, the Algerian government has implemented the 2019 New Hydrocarbon Law.[27] The main purpose of this law is to improve the attractiveness of Algerian hydrocarbon sector and to incentivize foreign investment in said sector. However, the government wants to maintain control over it, preserving the prior 51/49 ownership requirement.[28] This means that Sonatrach, the state-owned extractive company, must hold at least 51% ownership of projects initiated by foreign companies in Algeria. The approval of this law demonstrates Algeria’s willingness to continue developing its hydrocarbon sector through foreign investment, while still maintaining control over this critical sector, in an effort to increase exports. 

However, a crucial issue concerning the imbalance between production, sale and consumption of natural gas is Algeria’s low level of energy efficiency. Energy consumption efficiency is an endemic issue in countries with an abundance of fossil fuels and state-owned extractive companies.[29] This is a direct consequence of the low prices that these goods tend to have, as well as the lack of environmental awareness of the population.[30] Energy products are typically highly subsidized, making prices very accessible for most of the population. This, in turn, has additional negative repercussions for CO2 emissions, for which Algeria ranks third in Africa, much against the country’s modest commitments to the Paris Agreements.[31] Since countries tend to prioritize energy autonomy, they will always make sure to meet internal energy demand before exporting any leftover hydrocarbons. In the case of Algeria, this has resulted in a sharp reduction of exports and consequently a reduction of revenues, since the sale price of hydrocarbons is very different at home than it is abroad. This has caused Sonatrach to become virtually economically sustained by the state as a consequence of the lax subsidy policy in Algeria and the exports drop.[32]

 

Nevertheless, Algeria is also on the way to develop its own renewable energy capacity. The Algerian government acknowledges the benefits of renewable energy and sees the overall need to diversify its economy by advancing its national renewable sector.[33] The most pressing matter, apart from the global energy transition, is that oil reserves are estimated to run out in 20 years, and natural gas in 50 years.[34] Therefore, even if Algeria wants to hold on to hydrocarbons for as long as possible, this cannot last forever. 

 

The Algerian government is aware of the enormous renewable energy potential the country has. The Sahara desert makes up 86% of Algerian territory; certain areas provide between 2,500 and 3,600 hours of sun per year.[35] This corresponds to approximately double the radiation that can be generated in the EU in a single year.[36]  In this sense, Algeria has set itself the target of developing its solar and wind capacity to 15,000 MW by 2035.[37] In 2019, the government presented a tender scheme to gather investments in which only Algerian companies or partnerships that respected the 51/49 requirement were allowed to participate.[38] The tender was not as successful as expected due to the formal requirements. Following this failure, the Algerian government launched a new corporation within the framework of Sonatrach dedicated to the development of renewable energy.[39]

 

To this day, the Algerian renewable sector is heavily underdeveloped considering the great potential the country has, both in terms of annual hours of sunlight and geographic proximity to the EU. The EU itself has foreseen in the EGD that it will not be able to produce all the necessary clean energy to supply the European region within its own territory.[40]Imports of green energy will be required to meet the demand. Algeria possesses the climatic characteristics, geographical and infrastructural features to become a main supplier of green energy to the EU via already existing pipelines.

 

Investment in the renewable energy sector would not only help Algeria’s energy transition, but also the diversification of its economy, which has been declared as a top priority for the upcoming years.[41] The Algerian government’s main goal is to provide for its people, especially by becoming self-sufficient when it comes to securing critical products like food and agricultural yields.[42] Afterwards, the government intends to limit its exports to a small number of specialized products.[43]  In terms of figures, Algeria has set itself the short-term goal of making $5 billion USD in exports unrelated to hydrocarbons during 2021.[44] This effort to diversify is not new, as Algeria has experienced multiple attempts in the last decades. However, all were unsuccessful because they went against the established power structures.[45] The strategy that Algeria is currently pursuing involves capitalizing on natural gas for the next 8 to 10 years until it is phased out by the EGD.[46] Moreover, the Algerian government is counting on an increase in the demand of gas.[47] While this increase may take place as the EU transitions from coal to gas, the gas market is diversifying and competition is rising. Therefore, Algeria will have to compete against energy superpowers, such as the US and Russia, in order to provide the EU with clean, cheap and secure natural gas. 

 

Algeria has been postponing an unavoidable reform of its economy and institutions.[48] The EGD poses both a threat to Algeria’s ‘pouvoir’ currently in place, and an opportunity for the country to embrace the shift to green energy, given its untapped potential in this sector. Nonetheless, this may require the ‘pouvoir’ to drive the change and lose part of its influence along the way. Certainly, the rentier character of Algeria’s politico-economic structure is the key determinant for resistance, but if the Algerian government does not hop on this train, there may not be many more opportunities like this. Momentum has been built internationally, with the EU announcing its ambitions and many countries following suit, but also domestically, with the Hirak taking the streets again after having stopped due to the pandemic. As difficult as it may be, Algeria finds itself in a privileged position to initiate a double transition: the transition towards renewable energies and the transition towards a non-rentier system. Whether it will be able to overcome these challenges, remains to be seen. 


  • [1] European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Powering a climate-neutral economy: An EU Strategy for Energy System Integration, COM (2020) 299 final, Brussels, 8 July, 20204.
  • [2] Ibid. 
  • [3] Oksana Antonenko, “EU green transition likely to reshape relationships with key energy suppliers”, Control Risks, 10 December 2020. 
  • [4] “An EU Strategy for Energy System Integration”, op. cit., 12-13. 
  • [5] Ibid. 
  • [6] Eurostat, Shedding light on energy in the EU. A guided tour of energy statistics (Brussels: Eurostat, 2020).
  • [7] Eurostat, “Natural Gas Supply Statistics”, Statistics Explained, 29 October 2020, 3.
  • [8] Leonard et. al., op. cit., 5. 
  • [9] Ibid, 2.
  • [10] European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Powering a climate-neutral economy: The European Green Deal, COM 2019 (640) final, Brussels 11 December 2019, 2.
  • [11] Ian Manners, “Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms?”, Journal of Common Market Studies 40, no. 2 (2002).
  • [12] Karl Mathiesen, “EU-Japan trade deal first to carry Paris climate clause”, Euractive, 20 July 2018. 
  • [13] Daniel Boffey, “EU seeks Amazon protections pledge from Bolsonaro in push to ratify trade deal”, The Guardian, 20 October, 2020. 
  • [14] “Outlook for Producer Economies: What Do Changing Energy Dynamics Mean for Major Oil and Gas Exporters?”, International Energy Agency, October 2018. 
  • [15] Luigi Scazzieri, “Rethinking the EU’s approach towards its southern neighbors”, Center for European Reform, 10 July 2020.
  • [16] Etienne Copel, “Morocco/Algeria: The armed forces behind the Western Sahara conflict”, The Africa Report, 4 March 2021.
  • [17] European Commission, Trade Algeria (Brussels: DG Trade, 2020).
  • [18] Robert D. Blackwill, and Meghan O’Sullivan, “America’s Energy Edge: The Geopolitical Consequences of the Shale Revolution”. Foreign Affairs93, no. 2 (2014), 102.
  • [19] Ibid, 4. 
  • [20] Ibid, 8. 
  • [21] Ibid, 11. 
  • [22] Ibid, 13. 
  • [23] “Global Gas Report 2020”, International Gas Union, 14.
  • [24] Ibid, 13. 
  • [25] Eurostat, “Natural Gas Supply Statistics”, op. cit. 
  • [26] Lazhar Sahbani, “The main developments introduced by the Algerian New Hydrocarbon Law”, PWC Algérie, January 2020. 
  • [27] Le Parlement Algérien, « Loi n° 19-13 du 14 Rabie Ethani 1441 correspondant au 11 décembre 2019 régissant les activités d’hydrocarbures », Journal Officiel de la République Algérienne, nº 79, 22 Décembre 2019.
  • [28] Ibid, arts. 92-97. 
  • [29] Adela Syslová, “Whose Sustainability? Political Economy of renewable energy transitions in Morocco and Algeria”, MSc thesis (London: SOAS University London, 2020), 14. 
  • [30] Gonzalo Escribano and Lara Lázaro-Touza, “Oil Markets, Energy transition, climate governance and COVID-19: the short, the medium and the long term”, Elcano Royal Institute 6 (2020), 12.
  • [31] Mohammed Bouznit, María del P. Pablo-Romero and Antonio Sánchez-Braza, “Measures to Promote Renewable Energy for Electricity Generation in Algeria”, Sustainability 12, no. 4 (2020), 1. 
  • [32 Jekaterina Grigorjeva, “Starting a new chapter in EU-Algeria energy relations, a proposal for targeted cooperation”, Jacques Delors Institut Berlin 173, 30 September 2016, 10.
  • [33] Leonard, et. al., op. cit., 12.
  • [34] “Breaking Algeria’s Economic Paralysis”, International Crisis Group, 19 November 2018.
  • [35] “The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, INDC-Algeria”, UNFCCC NDC Interim Registry, 3 September 2015.
  • [36] Grigorjeva, op. cit., 6.
  • [37] Commission Européenne, Document de Travail Conjoint des Services, Rapport sur l’état des relations UE-Algérie dans le cadre de la PEV renouvelée, SWD (2020) 285 final, Bruxelles, 18 Novembre 2020, 12. 
  • [38] Michael Hochberg, “Algeria charts a path for renewable energy sector development”, Middle Eastern Institute, 20 October 2020.
  • [39] « Processus de création d’une nouvelle société dédiée aux énergies renouvelables », Algérie Presse Service, 19 Février, 2021.
  • [40] The European Green Deal, op. cit., 12.
  • [41] Interview with an Algerian official, via videocall, 8 April 2021. 
  • [42] Ibid.
  • [43] Ibid. 
  • [44] Ibid. 
  • [45] Mohammed Benbouziane, Abderrahim Chibi and Sidi Mohamed Chekouri, “Algeria and the Natural Resource Curse: Oil abundance and economic growth”, The Middle East Development Journal , no. 2 (2017), 253.
  • [46] Interview with an Algerian official, op. cit. 
  • [47] Ibid. 
  • [48] Gonzalo Escribano, “Argelia no es Venezuela”, Elcano Royal Institute 22 (2018).

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Vaccine Delivery in the Defence Sector

Thaïs Chinaud


Defence and International Security Researcher

Vaccine Delivery in the Defence Sector

Defence sector has undergone a major change in its public image and perception. For many, the military is associated with dictatorial regimes, war time or political uncertainty. However, in the past year, the armies of many countries were the ones to bring some clarity and certainty into the turbulent health crisis. 

In France, the operation Resilience is the military operation that aims to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Launched on 25th March 2020, it mobilized the French Army in its vaccine roll out efforts and also provided critical support to civil authorities in their operations where required. The French Army in this case sought to manage and protect military hospitals, evacuating Covid-infected patients by helicopter, providing masks, distributing food and supplies in care homes and ensuring logistical support and protecting sensitive areas. 

Similarly, in the UK, over 5,200 military personnel are committed to Covid-19 operations in the UK and abroad. Their tasks typically include vaccine rollout, NHS support and community testing across the UK. Military Medics have been notable on the frontline as many key health workers were suffering the burnout due to the pandemic. More than 600 military medics had been deployed to NHS hospitals in the UK. Support for vaccine delivery in the utilisation of strategic defence capabilities has proved to many how defence resources can be exploited for the benefit of a nation under a pandemic attack. Peacetime efforts by the military in this regard is seen to be a reassuring posture for nations struggling with healthcare infrastructure. Exceptional military planning and precision has been vital for the success of this vaccine delivery on the front line to help the NHS. The UK Ministry of Defence since March 2020, has responded to over 300 Military Aid to Civilian Authorities (MACA) requests. These measures have aided in the delivery of vaccines to overseas territories such as Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island.

Other European nations such as Italy and Germany, have also used their military to accelerate the mobilisation and deployment of human resources. Many other countries have also adapted to the use of military logistics during the pandemic; transportation of masks, vaccines, materials and patients. In all these scenarios, reactivity and efficiency are the key, and are better achieved by the well structured hierarchy. However, in some states such as Germany or Spain, the lack of health workers, the opening of field hospitals, largely operated by the military, showed the malfunctioning and unpreparedness of the healthcare system towards the crisis. In many European countries, such as Switzerland and Scandinavia, the presence of the military on a daily basis could be seen exceptionally during the pandemic times.


However, there are other states, which could potentially benefit from the situation, and turn the health crisis into a more complicated political scheme. 


Defence support towards the vaccine delivery is an important role that cannot be ignored as we see from the vital support provided to its civilian counterparts. This must not in any way be construed to be an overreliance on Military support but rather a sustainment effort to support and protect its citizenry. The last 12 months has certainly redefined the role of the armed forces in society. The defence sector proved to play one of the key roles in the resolution of COVID19 crisis. Indeed, the support they provided to civilians showed that the Army represents modulable resources, able to adapt to any kind of situation, no matter what the operation field is, due to its culture of crisis management.


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Tourism after Covid: Overview of the Challenges that Face the Industry

Nguyen Dinh Nguyen


Business, Economics and Trade Analyst

Tourism after Covid: Overview of the Challenges that Face the Industry

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a calamitous effect on the tourism industries. In London, what once was a tourist hub saw a 98.3% reduction in monthly incoming air travellers, from over 6.8m to just over 100 thousand. The effects of the pandemic are especially disastrous in countries whose economies were built around the travel industry. Seychelles, Mauritius, Maldives among others were hit hardest as tourism account for over 50% of their GDP. It is easy to understand how these nations are eager to reopen their travel economies, and with the arrival of vaccines, Seychelles, among others, are the first to ease their rules. However, risk that comes with reopening poses a significant threat to any economies who wish to open. New strains of Covid-19, surges in case numbers and administrative problems with ensuring vaccinations and quarantine amongst other may hinder any attempts to welcome tourists. Governments are stuck in a dilemma here, on one hand, COVID-19 related deaths in places like Brazil are still on the increase, signalling the ongoing threats of the virus on public health. On the other, countries, especially smaller nations whose economies depend on tourism, cannot afford to keep their borders closed indefinitely. As countries open, there will likely be many obstacles in the process. 

The UAE is a success story of COVID. The nation has managed to keep its hospitality sector open for most of last year. The nation allows foreign travellers to enter if they tested negative to the coronavirus 72hrs prior. While other countries’ tourism industries struggled, hospitality sector in the country have largely returned to normal. Abu Dhabi enjoyed an 82.3% hotel occupancy rate in December 2020 while Dubai followed at 70.2%. The figure resembled those of 2019, before the pandemic. Dubai continues to open its door to foreign tourists with the help of an unlikely vaccine contender, the Chinese manufactured Sino Pharm. The gamble on the highly controversial vaccine worked, however, as the UAE is second in vaccination rates, all without any major vaccine-related health concerns. The UAE shows the world that tourism can be sustainable during a pandemic and the key to it is vaccination. Countries like Maldives and Seychelles has followed the UAE in opening its border. From January 2021, visitors who were vaccinated can enter Seychelles without the need for quarantine. The country is prepared to further their measures by allowing unvaccinated visitors to enter, provided they test negative for Covid.  


Even with PCR testing, welcoming unvaccinated tourist could still be problematic.


In a report published in British Medical Journal, PCR tests have a false negative rate of between 2%-29%, this means that there will be people who have COVID-19, but tested negative, entering the country. However, Seychelles is expected to have 70% of its population vaccinated by March 2021, making a surge in coronavirus case on the islands unlikely. Other countries, on the other hand, will have to proceed with caution as to opening their borders to unvaccinated tourist. The UK, for example, have just managed to vaccinated over a third of its 66m population – likely to lead to new waves of infections if tourism opens. Moreover, risks of new COVID variants that evade the vaccines will have to be closely monitored in order to sustain the hospitality sector without risking more lives.

If countries have no choice but to restart their travel industry, what could be done to ensure they keep the virus at bay? One of the most prominent solution are the controversial vaccine passports. The document, whether it be digital and physical, will serve as a proof that a person has had the full dose of vaccine. The initiative drew criticism from EU countries for its inherent discriminatory practices; vaccinated people will be given more rights than those to have yet to get the shots. It is even more problematic when factoring in people who will not be able to get the vaccines due to genuine health concerns. Lateral flow Covid tests, like those used in the UK, are being used at airports as a last line of defence against the virus. The tests suffer from the same criticism to those of PCR tests in showing false negative and letting infected travellers through. However, there will come a point where every government will have to open the travel economy back up, once state-funded support schemes dry up. Countries will have to deal with an “acceptable” death toll each year, and booster shots of the vaccine will have to be roll out once the virus inevitably mutates. There are lights at the end of the tunnel though, if measures to keep Covid deaths at a minimum are properly introduced, such as adopting a mask culture where the sick wears face covering as seen in Asians countries, business could still go on as usual.


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The handling of vaccine rollouts will determine economic leaders and runner-ups

Petra Pakozdi


European Affairs Analyst

The Handling of Vaccine Rollouts Will Determine Economic Leaders and Runner Ups

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic scientists knew that vaccination is the key to get life back under normal circumstances. To get back tourism, hotels, restaurants, travelling and shopping to business. Besides attempting to open economies again, the process of vaccination became a political and ideological competition. The handling of vaccine rollouts will determine who is going to be an economic leader and who will be just a runner-up.

 

This divergence is just opening up during this year, with China’s economic expansion by 2.3% in 2020, Joe Biden’s attempt to offer vaccines for every adult American citizen by May and the EU countries slowing down. To be able to examine each place’s performance in vaccine rollout speed, it is essential to investigate many factors: the amount of available vaccines, their scientific quality, their effectiveness in different ages and the scepticism of people. Besides, as in each sector of the economy leading bodies have to prioritize different vaccines based on their prices and efficiency. In this competition thinking, deciding and acting fast is crucial.

 

In the case of the European Union, the European Medicines Agency investigates every potential vaccine. Its plan is to vaccinate at least 80% of people aged over 80 by March 2021 and 70% of the entire adult population of member states by the summer of 2021. Until this point it has approved four types of vaccines: BioNTech and Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johson. Moreover, the EU’s institutions also examines five other potential vaccines such as CureVac or the Sputnik V. Besides, the great news of distinctive two-shot vaccines being able to stop infections, in 2021 Johnson&Johnson have been approved as the first single-shot vaccine effective against COVID-19. So far from these types the EU secured 1,860 million vaccines which are going to be offered to EU-countries on a per capita basis, so that countries can achieve herd immunity faster together. Counting with the 448 million inhabitants of the EU, herd immunity can be achieved by vaccinating 70% of citizens equal to approximately 314 million people. At the moment, in total EU countries reported vaccine rollouts equal to 4.2% of the entire EU population. The EU also defined the priority groups that have to be vaccinated firstly: healthcare and social-care workers, people aged over 80 and people with serious illnesses.


It is under consideration, whether before opening economies essential workers outside of healthcare and those who cannot social distance should be vaccinated too.


Not just people’s health but their existence is in question. Most countries fail to help their citizens as they are becoming unemployed. This means that people who worked in sectors affected hardly by the pandemic do not get any income, by which they cannot pay their rents, bills or even food for their families. For this reason, there are many protest in several countries to lift regulations and end lockdowns, even though this can produce many more infected people and threat the overwhelming of the healthcare system.

 

The economic recovery raised the treatment of the pandemic into a political contest. Countries are competing for economic growth and the expansion of their economies. As recently many leading EU countries halted the AstraZeneca vaccine rollouts such as Germany, Italy, France and Spain, the European Union can fall behind with openings. This process can make the job easier for the US and China in the final of this championship.


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“It was like there was one rule for certain people and one rule for everyone else.”-Political turmoil in Northern Ireland

Petra Pakozdi


European Affairs Analyst

“It was like there was one rule for certain people and one rule for everyone else.”- Political turmoil in Northern Ireland

The consequences of Brexit pose threats to the unity of the European Union and to the United Kingdom itself. After holding a referendum about leaving the UK in Scotland, Northern Ireland is starting to feel the political and economic influences of Brexit as well. Historically, Northern Ireland’s population is divided between the mostly Protestant Unionists and the mostly Catholic Nationalists. The reason for this polarization is that many people would like to stay part of the United Kingdom (Unionists), while many of them would like to have political unity with the Republic of Ireland (Nationalists).

As the United Kingdom left the European Union on the 31st of December decisions on border questions with the customs union came into practice. During the Brexit negotiation, the UK’s government decided to recommend having a “sea border” between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, to be able to check products coming out and going into the European Union’s customs union. This pact means that Northern Ireland remains in the single market of the EU for goods. The reason for this proposition is going back to 1998, the signing of the Good Friday Arrangement.

This settlement provided to end the largest political conflict of Northern Ireland, stop the violence of the Troubles. This ethno-nationalist struggle lasted for 30 years from the 1960s to the 1990s. As Northern Ireland’s community is severely polarized historically, the conflict evolved around the constitutional question of NI. The Good Friday Agreement includes agreements about the system of government and established institutions between the UK, the NI and the Republic of Ireland. Central questions also cover civil and cultural rights, demilitarization and policing activities. It also includes a convention by which there cannot be a physical boundary between the NI and the Republic of Northern Ireland.

By the “sea border”, the aftermath of Brexit avoids a hard land border. However, many people living in NI feel that by these new checks they are not equal to UK citizens living in Scotland, Wales and England, especially supporters of the Unionists. As this decision came into practice on the first of January, citizens started to feel the effects of the new policies implemented.


“There has been this brewing fear on the Unionist side that they are not as British as people in Birmingham,”- commented Feargal Cochrane.


However, this was just an underlying reason for the violence that started on the 29th of March, centred around Unionists areas of Belfast. Recently, Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute 24 members of the nationalist party for breaking the COVID-19 regulations by attending the funeral of Bobby Storey- a member of the Irish Republican Army. Not surprisingly, the IRA played a dominant role in the violence of the Troubles before 1998. People started to feel as they deserve different treatment, not equal rules apply to them. During the violence, 90 officers have been hurt predominantly by loyalist youth and criminal gangs. Interestingly, the confusion started in the area of Londonderry with the lowest level of educational attainment in Europe.

After the fights, there is a fear that the Troubles’ period may start again and the region will get into an uncertain political and economic future. The repercussion of the UK leaving the customs union will be seen just in the future by the country’s economic performance. During that time people will be able to decide whether they have decided to Leave or Remain correctly. In Northern Ireland, the historical polarisation of the public will always affect their political decisions and probable conflicts.

Surprisingly, there is a potential to hold a referendum about the constitutional situation of NI as the Good Friday Agreement also included a possibility of uniting Ireland again. After the Brexit tensions, public opinion is shifting smoothly maybe towards a long way to unify NI and the Republic of Ireland. This question might be determined after the resignation of Northern Ireland’s first minister, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Arlene Foster. The announcement has been made after tensions over handling the Brexit, which also shows how the political balance of NI is affected by leaving the EU. 

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Is Neuralink the Future of Neurotechnology?

Marco Galai

Agriculture, Biodiversity and Industry Analyst

Is Neuralink the Future of Neurotechnology?

At the beginning of April, a viral video of a monkey using only its brain to control a videogame was the latest milestone for the company Neuralink – a startup with which Elon Musk hopes to enable communication between humans and computers by telepathy.

This isn’t the only demo of the technology as, last year in August, the device was used on pigs to successfully detect their brain signal in real-time. However, this latest version of the experiment is far more impressive. Neuralink’s tech uses small brain implants that interface with the brain using tiny ‘threads’ of metal that have electrodes inside them used to detect the neural signals. In its final design, the device would have an accompanying app for your smartphone to essentially enable the user to control their device just by thinking of what they would want to do. For instance, if you wanted to access your messaging app and write a message to your friend you would simply think of opening the respective app and then the words and letters you would be thinking of would be sent from the implant to the app and written in.

It may seem like Elon Musk has revolutionised the neuro-tech space and that is partly due to his massive popularity on the internet but his company is not the first one in the market nor is the technology without any scrutinies. A study from 2002 already tested a device that could read neuronal activity which would be translated into movements to potentially help paralysed humans. Furthermore, there are currently 9 more companies that focus on brain-computer interface technology and one of them, NextMind, is much closer to having a product on the market with similar functionality to Neuralink. The main difference between the two products that these companies develop is the non-invasive aspect of the NextMind which would make it more appealing and accessible for people concerned with having an electronic device implanted in their body.

With that in mind, ethically, these technologies raise considerable concerns about privacy and animal cruelty. As more and more people would have chips or external devices, what will happen with all the data collected by these companies? A potential data breach or hacking of these brain interfaces could have ramifications we have not experienced yet. Animal testing is also a problem that needs to be accounted for. As People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in a statement for the Observer: “Monkeys in neuroscience experiments are kept constantly thirsty or hungry to coerce them to cooperate and stare at a screen for hours,” and that experiments like these “have been done many times before”. In my opinion, these devices that interact with the brain have so many benefits to provide for humans. From helping paralysed or people missing limbs to making it easier for us to control the ever-expanding digital aspect of our lives, the future looks promising. We should, however, tread carefully. Without proper policy and careful consideration of the ethical concerns or other unexpected side effects, we could end up in an unwelcoming world where people’s thoughts are being used to manipulate or control them.


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Would this have happened if I had worn a suit and a tie? An History of Women Leadership in the EU


Petra Pakozdi

European Affairs Analyst

Would this have happened if I had worn a suit and a tie? An History of Women Leadership in the EU

‘It happened because I am a woman’- the words of Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission after meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the 6th of April. She is known to be the first female president of the commission, which is a major breakthrough towards equal leadership and gender equality. However, President Erdogan clearly expressed his views on this matter by denying preparing a chair for President Leyen at her visit in Ankara to fight for women’s rights issues. Surprisingly, women’s position generally in life and in the workplace is still question in the 21st century in- and outside of Europe. Fortunately, there are many institutions, public figures and leaders supporting this equal-right movement by promoting female representation in both the public and the private sector. For instance, in the European Union there are many amazing women leading companies, countries and institutions of the EU towards greater equality. For this reason, it is essential to recognize these powerful people.

Within the EU member states approximately 22% of the country-leaders are female. This means that out of the 27 countries, there are 6 where women rule the country at the moment. Many of these got into this leading position just recently, except Germany’s director Angela Merkel who is the chancellor since 2005. She is usually described as the de facto leader of the European Union and has been nominated several times as the most powerful female leader, the ‘leader of the free world’. However, as she decided to end her career as Germany’s leader, the two major people competing for her role can be: Merkel’s own party the CDU’s new leader Armin Laschet and the Green’s candidate Annalena Baerbock. This year’s Bundestag election may determine which country will occupy the de facto leader role of the EU left by Merkel.

In the last two years new competitive female leaders got into the political arena of the EU. Starting at North, Sanna Marin won the position of the Prime Minister of Finland in 2019, by which she became the world’s youngest female state leader at the age of 34. Currently she is leading a five-party cabinet whose majority of ministers are also women. Her success is a major development for the whole world to boost diversity and inclusivity as she comes from a rainbow family and is the first person to attend university in her family. With the five-party cabinet’s prosperous work and cooperation they represent how essential it is to support each other’s success. In this area there have been extensive breakthroughs towards female representation in executive positions as Kersti Kaljulaid became the first female head of state in Estonia.


It is delightful to see a female leader who is opened towards social issues such as LGBTQ rights and believes in strong civil society.


In 2019 Denmark elected its second female and youngest Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen. During her campaign, she seemed to hold anti-immigration views, while changing her position to accept more foreign labour to the country. Frederiksen refused to sell Greenland to Mr Trump in 2019, by which she gained international attention. She was always a critical thinker that the EU could feel in 2020 when she expressed concerns towards the EU’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the slow pace of vaccine rollouts.

Unfortunately, just one member state in Eastern Europe is lead by a female president: Slovakia with Zuzana Čaputová since 2019. She belongs to the first generation of female leaders as Slovakia’s first female president and youngest leader. President Čaputová may be an innovator for Eastern European politics as she believes in independent institutions headed by impartial professionals. Besides this, she would like to increase equality for every citizen, including LGBTQ+ people and focuses on environmental issues. Last but not least in 2020 Katerina Sakellaropoulou was elected as the first female president of Greece. Although the Greek top judge was selected for a highly ceremonial role, these are the first steps that can bring Eastern Europe towards a more equal region.

How does the EU stand in this situation? What about EU female leaders? From this perspective 2019 was the year of progress towards equal female representation in executive roles. In this year both Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission and Christine Lagarde, the President of the European Central Bank have been elected. Von der Leyen served in Angela Merkel’s cabinet from 2005 to 2019 holding various main positions. Next to Merkel, she served as Federal Minister including Family Affairs and Youth, Labour and Social Affairs. Besides, her most recent position was Minister of Defence while she worked hardly on international crises, also facing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Kurdish- Turkish conflict. While being the President of the EC she supports equal adoption rights for same-sex couples, European integration and equal female board-member representation. It is needless to say that with the current COVID-19 pandemic, she plays a key role in the EU countries’ pandemic handling, green economic recovery and vaccine rollouts.

The President of the ECB Christine Lagarde also has substantial professional career and experience. As being an outstanding expert in her field, she served as Managing Director and Chair of the IMF and held various ministerial positions in France. As the Eurozone is standing on weak legs, her decisions are key towards the green economic recovery after the pandemic.

‘It happened because I am a woman’. Surprisingly, this phrase is usually thought to be negative. The reasons for this, is historical patriarchal environment and the treatment of women as underprivileged objects. However, the 21st century gives us some hope that the meaning of this phrase will attach positive feelings and successful outcomes. The women leaders the world currently has are working towards larger female representation, greater equality. To progress and success together people has to know who are these female leaders around us, what they have achieved and how people can help them.


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How will our cities look in the future: the 15-minute town?

Augustin Agabriel


Energy, Urban and Sustainable Affairs Analyst

How Will Our Cities Look in the Future: The 15 Minute Town

Historically, cities have always been built to facilitate flows and moves, often depending on the mobility means that were predominating at the time of their development.

Back at the Roman Empire, cities were built around two perpendicular straight streets connecting the entry points and main buildings, which allowed carts to easily move between

the important points of the town. At the end of the 19th century, cities grew at the time when cars became the main mean of mobility in the city. This can be observed in their structure, often with a grid pattern, large streets and ring roads to allow traffic to flow easily.

The issue raised by many urbanists and academics in urban affairs is that the structure

of cities which were developed by the past are becoming unadapted to the new demand and

today’s new challenges. Such a situation would not only cause issues in mobility within the

city but even more: “many cities’ mobility systems are standing on a burning platform and if

action is not taken in the very near future, they will play a major role in slowing the growth

and development of their host nations.” (Arthur D. Little Lab). A change in urban structures

appears therefore vital not only for cities but also for nations.

A new approach to urban planning and structure has recently attracted a lot of attention: the 15-minute city. This urban management concept was developed by Carlos Moreno, a professor at the Sorbonne University. According to him, humans are adapting themselves to cities, and their “absurd organization and long distances” (TED), whereas we should instead adapt them to human needs. The goal is to “converge life into a human-sized space” by “redesigning cities so that within the distance of a 15-minute walk of bike ride, people should be able to live the essence of the human experience” such as culture, food, education or green spaces.

This solution founds very strong support in the light of today’s modern challenges. Concerning fight against climate change, a city structured around this concept would drastically decrease its carbon emissions as the use of polluting means of transportation will be reduced by diminishing distances, while cleans means will be enhanced. Moreover, the 15-minute city would also reduce social inequalities by making sure that every neighbourhood of the city possesses key facilities, allowing inhabitants to access them within a 15-minute radius. On top of that, it would also reduce health problems by motivating people to walk and bike in their surroundings: studies have shown that biking and walking often reduces drastically heart and arterial problems.


Finally, this concept seems adaptable at every town level: big cities simply divide their map in 15-minute neighbourhood, whereas small ones apply the 15-minute city at their scale.


Example of cities that have applied the 15-minute principle, or similar plans built around the same ideas, do already exist. The most known example is Paris, who launched the “Paris en Commun” plan, promoting local, healthy and environmentally friendly lives for inhabitants. Portland presented in 2012 the “Portland Plan”, enhancing the benefits of local neighbourhood life on health issues such as obesity as well as for job creation and fight against climate change. The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, introduced the 15-minute city in his plan for the city, to follow the objective of allowing people to be brought closer to “services and quality of life”. Melbourne also presented in 2017 the “Plan Melbourne”, seeking to provide affordable housing, reduce transportation time loss, promote green spaces and develop local job diversity in “20-minute neighbourhoods”.

Positive consequences of these plans have already been observed, with Portland having reduced by 14% its carbon emissions compared to 2000 and increasing jobs by 30,000 between 2008 and 2015 according to the Portland Plan Progress Report. On the other hand, Paris has saw a rise of 65% of bicycle lane use between May 2019 and May 2020 and a diminution of 24% of CO2 emissions between 2004 and 2018 (City of Paris Official Website). On its side, Melbourne has launched several plans to restructure the city, including the development of green spaces such as the Fishermans Bends, leading to a replanification of more than 450ha of the city. On top of that, with the Covid-19 pandemic, where lockdowns have forced people to stay at home and limit their moves to the strict necessary in their close neighbourhoods, the principle of the 15-minute city has regained attention. It has indeed shown that life in its own neighbourhood is possible and has brought light to cities on the improvements that should be made to make cities better places to live.

But every solution has some problems. As it has been presented in the previous paragraphs, it is mainly wealthy and developed cities of the western world that have presented plans following the “15-minute city” guidelines. As presented by academics, the issue is that by making the city adapt more and more itself to human needs, this will require “large systemic changes in resource allocation patterns and governance schemes in city- and metro-wide scale.” (Pozoukidou, Chatziyiannaki, 2020: 22). Not all cities can afford such changes and already have to deal with other more important issues.

The 15-minute city plan is a promising urban management concept for the future and has already shown great results in cities that have started to apply it. However, it still remains a solution for cities that have the ability and the resources to make such changes. Less wealthier cities could not afford such changes in their urban structures because of other important issues they must deal with.


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