A Summit That Left Nobody Feeling Happy

The results of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro were relatively modest. The summit was overshadowed by other issues and events on the international political agenda. A predominance of controversial topics, inconvenient timing and Brazil’s somewhat unusual approach to negotiations resulted in a final conference declaration that was lacking any real ambition. However, the many initiatives and voluntary commitments that were announced during the course of the conference did generate a certain amount of hope.

Seven Megatrends in Energy Policy

Throughout history, energy has been the driving physical component of change; few other industries can claim to have had a more wide-ranging impact on society. Thus, critical questions revolving around the supply and demand of energy as well as its sustainability will continue to represent one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. Seven megatrends in particular will determine the global energy landscape and energy policy agenda in the coming decades. The only true hope lies in technological innovation and a well-functioning market economy.

A Fragile Peace

What Does the Future Hold for Côte d’Ivoire One Year After President Ouattara Took Power?

More than a year after the end of the civil war that cost the lives of around 3,000 people, the situation in Côte d’Ivoire remains tense. Its economic development suggests that the country is heading in the right direction. However, unless it can fully restore security and begin a process of reconciliation throughout the country, this goal is still a long way off. In the first year of Alassane Ouattara’s presidency, great strides have been made in rebuilding economy and infrastructure. But people are still worried about the security situation and the rising cost of living.

A Referendum or a Choice of Direction

U.S. President Obama Will Have to Work Hard to Get Re-elected

After a long drawn out nomination campaign, we now know that the Republican candidate who will challenge President Barack Obama in the coming presidential election is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. Romney still remains a somewhat unpopular candidate - for many Republicans, he is just not conservative enough. Nevertheless, they all share a common interest in seeing President Obama voted out of office. But whoever wins in November will have to face the fact that the U.S. is going to face huge challenges for a long time to come.

Between Common Interests and National Egotism

The Role and Potential of the Visegrád Countries in the EU

Over 20 years ago, Poland, the former Czechoslovakia and Hungary formed the Visegrád Group (today known as the V4). Their goal was to integrate themselves into Western structures. Since that time, the original motives for cooperation have changed and the goals have shifted. For the future, a limited and realistic agenda should be pursued in the EU context. Examples of this are the Eastern Partnership, energy security and the Western Balkans. But these will only achieve success if mature, realistic proposals are put forward and unilateral action is avoided.


Week after week, Europe finds itself faced with making decisions that will set the course for the future of the eurozone and beyond. While Spain, Italy and France are convinced of the need for the rapid introduction of financially strong mechanisms to combat the crisis in the eurozone, other countries such as Germany are more focused on budget consolidation, structural reforms and improved coordination. It may be protests and demonstrations that dominate the news headlines, but one thing is clear: Europe’s citizens are ready to play their part when it comes to taking difficult decisions.

Ireland’s Referendum on the Fiscal Compact

A Lifeline after the Rise and Fall of the Celtic Tiger?

In the referendum held on 31 May 2012, 60 per cent of the Irish people voted in favour of accepting the European Fiscal Compact, thus agreeing that Ireland should in future be legally bound by its rules. For Ireland and the other countries in the European Union, the “Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union”, agreed by 25 of the 27 heads of state and government on 9 December 2011, is vital if we are to preserve the EU and the euro. In terms of financial and economic policy, the government is on the right track.

Kid Gloves at the Keyboard

Defamation Charges Threaten Freedom of Speech in Asia

Concerns are growing in Asia about offensive and extremist material on the internet. New laws have been passed to remedy this, but they have collided with the ways that search engines, social networks and internet cafes run their operations. These service providers have therefore been resisting calls for self-censorship, which is often technically difficult, too. And the media are worried that press freedom and freedom of speech will be put at risk. The threat of retribution could lead to even more content disappearing from the Web than is actually stipulated by law.

“State”, “Society”, “Development” and “Governance” in Asia

It was a hundred years ago that a serious discussion began in the USA about future power shifts in world politics. Today, however, this view is widespread: “The Pacific Era will be led by China – and no one else.” So is it possible to define socio-political Asia with Western historical and sociological terms or should this approach be questioned? The basic issue that needs to be discussed here is that large parts of Asia are in a clear process of modernisation, which also increasingly includes politics. Is this modernising Asia ultimately on the path to democratic systems?

Africa – A Continent on the Rise

The fact that successes, setbacks, upheavals, booms and busts can all happen at the same time is part and parcel of the complexity that is Africa’s reality. There is not one Africa, but hundreds, perhaps thousands of Africas. Africa is a huge, heterogeneous continent. Despite the many obvious differences, there is one very clear trend: 21st century Africa is now in much better shape than before. The continent has seen many successes of late and many more are in the pipeline.

About this series

This periodical responds to questions concerning international issues, foreign policy and development cooperation. It is aimed at access of information about the international work for public and experts.

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