Unofficial strikes in energy industry

United Kingdom
Federal Trust for Education and Research
 
At the time of writing, a number of unofficial strikes have been called in the energy industry protesting against the hiring of non-British European workers to carry out contracts in the United Kingdom at a time of rapidly growing British unemployment. These strikes have been fuelled by a populist and much quoted remark of Gordon Brown in 2007 that he would seek to provide “British jobs for British workers.” As yet, these actions are unofficial and far from general throughout the United Kingdom. Their potential, if they become widespread, to destabilize the government and to undermine the traditional commitment of the British governing elite to the single European market should not, however, be underestimated.

AKP closure case, Russian-Georgian conflict, and proposal on “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform”

Turkey
Center for European Studies / Middle East Technical University
 
Turkey’s political agenda in the second half 2008 was dominated by a combination of internal and external issues. The AKP[1] closure case, Russian-Georgian conflict and the proposal on “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” were some of the topics that dominated the agenda together with other issues such as the US elections, global crisis, and the upcoming local elections.
 
The AKP closure case
 
The final decision by the constitutional court on the AKP closure case was given on 30 July 2008. The court ruled against closure but imposed financial penalties and announced that this was a serious warning to the AKP. Politicians from mainly the AKP stated that the decision was a landmark victory for democracy. The opposition, on the other hand, argued that this was actually identification of the fact that the AKP is a focal point of anti-secular activity but the court was not able to deal with the crisis. However, expectations that this may lead to a change in the political parties law and the election law did not materialise.[2]
 
Russian-Georgian conflict
 

Swedish EU Presidency and Swedish defence issues

Sweden
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
 
The presidency issues
 
Many of the issues to be put in focus during the Swedish Presidency have been mentioned above. Climate, energy and environment are often mentioned as the most important issues. Another one is employment, growth and competitiveness; a third one is a safer and more transparent Europe; a fourth one is the Baltic Sea region and relations with neighbouring countries; and a fifth one is the EU as a global actor together with continued enlargement. A further theme is that of efficiency: making the EU work better. This has been brought up by Cecilia Malmström, Minister for EU Affairs, mentioning crisis management, which today is a responsibility shared by several Commissioners rather than having one person responsible for it.
 
Baltic Sea initiative
 

Elections, “Patria”, and border dispute with Croatia

Slovenia
Centre of International Relations
 
In Slovenia the second half of 2008 was predominantly characterized by the parliamentary elections which took place on 21 September. Other issues involved an alleged corruption case in the purchase of a large quantity of military vehicles from a Finnish company “Patria”, involving ministers and officials from the government, the continuing border dispute with Croatia, and the introduction of controversial vignettes on Slovenian highways. All issues are discussed separately in the following paragraphs.
 
Victory of the centre-left in the elections to the National Assembly
 

Slovakia and domestic discourse on energy security and Single European Market

Slovakia
Slovak Foreign Policy Association
 
The beginning of 2009 was affected by a shutdown of gas supplies from the Russian Federation. The Russian-Ukrainian row pointed out Slovakia’s weakness in dependency on Russian natural gas and in its domestic management of gas reserves. The government insisted from the beginning of the crisis that it would sustain supplies to households and therefore industries, especially car and steel production, which were asked to limit their activities. However, with the continuing crisis Slovakia would not have been able to draw sufficient gas reserves even to satisfy all household consumption. Thanks to close cooperation with the Czech Republic and France and Germany gas was supplied to Slovakia from foreign reserves and through a pipeline in the Czech Republic.
 

A new parliament amid fears of a financially difficult 2009

Romania
European Institute of Romania
 
The main issue in today’s Romania is that related to the current financial and economic crisis that haunts the world economy. The effects of the crisis are beginning to be felt also in Romania, and the government; the main political parties and the social partners are trying to figure out how to resist the crisis while maintaining as many jobs as possible. To put it in a simple way, the main dilemma is how to fulfil all obligations while keeping the budgetary deficit under control, in a time where the budgetary revenues are going down.
 

Energy, Euro, climate, and EU funds

Poland
Foundation for European Studies - European Institute
 
Energy
 
Among the topics that enjoyed lively interest of both politicians and public opinion in Poland, was the question of energy including both energy sources imported from Russia, as well as the problem of climatic change occurring due to energy production technologies linked with emissions of greenhouse gases.
 
The first problem is treated by public opinion not as a purely business issue, but rather as the one that is being linked with Russia’s policy, tending to treat energy sources as instruments of foreign policy. Therefore, Poland is deeply interested in both the EU member states solidarity on the energy question and diversification of supply sources in order to diminish dependence on Russia. Poland is also against building the Baltic and Black Sea underwater gas pipes and supports at the same time the Nabucco and Jamal two pipes, running via Belarus and Poland. Therefore, “Gazprom” maneuvers aiming at the establishment of a gas cartel following OPEC or the attempts at controlling gas deposits outside Russian borders are very carefully observed in Poland.[1] On the other hand, all signals and decisions on the EU side reflecting the implementation of energy solidarity are being welcomed with great satisfaction.[2]
 

Concerns over recent gas crisis

Netherlands
Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’
 
There is one issue not yet mentioned in the specific sections above that has been discussed quite prominently in recent months in relation to the European Union. This is the EU role regarding the gas conflict between Ukraine and Russia. With regard to this dispute, the observers sent by the EU and the effects for EU member states, like Bulgaria and Hungary, were most often referred to.[1] Although the Netherlands was not directly affected, it promised its European partners to increase its gas production by 10 percent (if proven possible technically).[2] It also offered technical expertise on how to measure gas transits. For the future, the Netherlands considers it important to improve the security of supply position of the European Union. It considers the first responsibility with regard to security of supply lies with the member states, which have to be smart with regard to keeping energy stocks, diversifying sources, and so on.




[1] Trouw: EU kan niet om gasconflict heen (EU cannot ignore gas conflict), 7 January 2009; NRC Handelsblad: EU worstelt met zijn rol in gascrisis, 8 January 2009.