Much has been made of this year's G8 summit. For weeks, Scotland -- the host of the 2005 meeting -- braced itself for what many hoped would be a historic turning point in ensuring the future health of our planet and in helping the fight against poverty in Africa. So what did it produce?
When dealing with energy questions, Europeans face two uncomfortable facts. First, the price of oil has tripled since 1999; and second, Europe lacks a clear energy policy. Aside from special treaty provisions for coal and nuclear power, the European Union (EU) has hardly addressed the issues of energy sources and supply security. Yet, it already imports half its energy, and, by 2030, the figure is expected to reach 70 percent.
Coal imports overtook production in 1995. Current production in the 15 EU countries is less than half of what it was 10 years ago, and one-seventh the output of the early 1960s. Germany and Spain are running down their mines, France will stop producing in 2005, and Portugal and Belgium no longer turn out any coal at all. Only Britain’s privatized mines have a chance of competing. Poland produces more coal than the rest of the region combined, but is restructuring to prepare for EU entry. If there is any future for European coal, it’s only as a strategic reserve in times of crisis.
Despite tragic lessons of the past, the Romania is about to destroy the cultural, economic, and environmental balance of an area considered an ecological and archaeological paradise. At risk is Rosia Montana, an area in the Apuseni mountains of West-Central Romania.
In 2000, the Tisza river and its tributaries became flowing rivers of death as cyanide from an Australian-run open-pit gold mine leaked into the environment. Now the entire region has come under the speculative gaze of the government and foreign investors, who hope to make a fortune mining gold in the region. Despite the warnings of many economists and independent mining experts who feel the project is not viable, it’s another disaster waiting to happen.
Thirty years ago, when the late Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias exposed the forced sterilization of Latina women, the international women’s health community sprang into action to end medical abuses that impinged upon women’s reproductive rights. Now that community is being called to act again.
A report, released jointly in January by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights and the Center for Civil and Human Rights in the Slovak city of Kosice, alleges that Roma, or Gypsy, women in Slovakia are being subjected to forced sterilization. The report, Body and Soul: Forced Sterilization and Other Assaults on Roma Reproductive Freedom, claims that “coerced and forced sterilization practices continue in Slovakia,” along with other forms of discrimination against Roma women in Slovak maternal health services.
When the results of the Irish referendum on the Nice treaty became official in September, a sigh of relief reverberated throughout the European Union (EU) and beyond, namely into the former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Although it’s hard to say for sure what would have happened had it gone the other way, one thing is certain: it wouldn’t have been pretty. Vaclav Havel went so far as to warn that failure to ratify the Nice treaty would lead to a new Iron Curtain. Other CEE leaders simply preferred to grovel and beg to be let in.
Falling in line behind other industrialized Western nations at the end of 2001, Hungary pushed through an anti-terrorism package containing a host of new measures and regulations intended to aid in the so-called global effort to combat terrorism. Although the government wanted to speed the measures through parliament, the opposition did slow them down somewhat. But the motivation wasn’t genuine concern about privacy and such; rather, it was just an opportune time to score some feeble political points.