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How the “Energy Crisis” could hinder European economic recovery

Europe is undergoing an energy crisis as a result of supply-side issues and a dependence on unreliable imports. The key commodity in question is natural gas, heavily utilised by many European countries as they work to reduce their reliance on coal and thus reduce their carbon emissions. However, prices for gas in the UK have increased four-fold over the past year and continue to break record trading prices. Many stakeholders in the UK and continental Europe stand to face significant losses in during the post-pandemic recovery as a result of this energy crisis. Households could face unprecedented gas bills as winter approaches, firms could see an enormous rise in operating costs while governments risk large budgetary strains as they seek to assist at-risk individuals and households while maintaining the operational integrity of their economies. All this, while the post-pandemic recovery continues to flounder around the world.  

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Strengthening Climate Policy in China’s Private Sector

At the UN conference in September 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that China will “have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060”. Details of how this target will be achieved will probably not be released until the 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) is announced. Nonetheless, if China fully implements a strategy to reach this goal, it will have massive implications for reaching the global 1.5 degrees Celsius target. This is because China accounts for the highest percentage of CO2 emissions worldwide, with Chinese power plants burning 25% of the world’s coal reserves and with renewable energy output only accounting for 9% of the country’s total energy [1]. Paradoxically, despite its massive energy consumption, it is also the largest producer of solar and wind energy and the leading investor in clean energy technologies worldwide [2]. Not only does China have 47% of all electric cars in the global market [3], it also refines four-fifths of the world’s supply of cobalt, an essential component in lithium ion batteries, the most common storage of clean electricity [4]. In addition to investment and manufacturing of sustainable energy technology and following several regional pilot emissions trading schemes (ETS), the Chinese government implemented a National Emissions Trading Scheme (NETS) in 2017 and enforced it in 2020, initially covering 2,267 power plants [5]. 

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Weaponisation of Refugees: A New Low for Europe

In retaliation for ongoing sanctions imposed by the European Union on Belarus after its disputed presidential election in 2020, President Lukashenko vowed earlier this year to allow migrants to cross Belarus’ borders into EU member states. In a widely publicized move, Belarus is granting easily accessible tourist visas to migrants, many of whom are Syrian refugees residing in Iraq. Supposed travel agents operating in Iraq organize these special tourist visas and flights to Belarus, promoted by the Belarusian government, for desperate refugees. This loophole enables refugees to bypass treacherous boat trips across the Mediterranean and instead travel to Belarus, drive to its border, and walk into one of its three EU neighbour states: Poland, Lithuania or Latvia. Belarusian soldiers are even enabling refugees to cross their border. Consequently, the EU has accused Belarus of purposefully trafficking in migrants hoping to enter the EU in order to destabilize the region as part of a coordinated attack.

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Germany’s New Government: hope or old concerns for Eastern Europe?

The 2021 Federal Election brings substantial political changes for Germany. After 15 years, Angela Merkel will no longer be the chancellor, as her party, the center-right Christian Democrat Union (CDU), has suffered their worst ever result, with just 24.1% of the vote. The Voters favoured the center-left Social Democratic Party for Germany (SPD), which received their best result since 2005, the even further left Green party, and the classical liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). These three winners of the election are forecast to constitute the most likely ruling coalition, aptly dubbed the “traffic light” coalition after their party colours. While negotiations are ongoing and an alternative party arrangement remains possible, if unlikely, Eastern European (EE) states are already able to anticipate their strategies for interaction with Berlin.

Most of the key concerns for EE states fall broadly into the categories of security and, for EU members, EU funding and integration. Regarding security, German foreign policy relations with Russia have been a cause for concern for states in the region pressured by Moscow, especially Ukraine. On EU funding and integration, German decisions are key in setting the stage for the EU, affecting the economic assistance and investments benefiting EE states. It is important to understand how these areas are likely to change with an SPD, FDP and Green government, which will bring in a different ideological outlook compared with the 15-year period of CDU dominance.

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Education in times of Covid-19: Challenges and Opportunities

On February 10th, 2021, the Education Policy Centre hosted an event to discuss the impacts of Covid-19 on the English schooling system and its approaches to creativity. Considering the multidimensional nature of creativity, the event afforded a broad understanding of the word as well as a specific reference to the arts. The event’s title “Education in times of Covid-19: Challenges and Opportunities” served as a springboard for two experts, Professor Catherine Boyle and Laura Mcinerney, to share their insights and experiences in their respective field.

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ASEAN and the South China Sea: Southeast Asian Regionalism in Peril?

On 21st March 2021, Sino-Philippines tensions escalated as 200 Chinese militia boats were spotted along a disputed reef in the South China Sea (SCS). For decades, similar escalations between Southeast Asian claimants, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, and China have been prevalent.

The SCS is a vital trade passage, accounting for $3.37 trillion of trade including oil and natural gas. As protecting these essential trade passages becomes more critical as China’s aggressiveness heightens, Freedom of Navigation (FON) missions,alongside technical and military assistance to various Southeast Asian countries, are increasingly undertaken by the US and its allies to counter China to uphold the “rules-based order” and safeguard critical sea lines of communication (SLOCs). Beyond the SCS being an integral economic passage, it forms an avenue for the US to balance China in Asia, heightening the SCS’ strategic importance to extra-regional actors like the US. 

As China grows more ambitious, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10-member bloc to promote stability, progress and cooperation in Southeast Asia, is failing to demonstrate tangible resolve in warding off China’s presence in their backyard. 

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Antony Blinken: The New Face of U.S. Diplomacy

Since January 2017, the world has suffered a State Department that treated foreign policy more like a yo-yo than a strategy. Whilst he was a candidate, Donald Trump repeatedly mulled pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate AccordsIran nuclear deal, and even NATO. As President, he went two for three on those agreements, putting peace in the Middle East and America’s commitment to fighting climate change into jeopardy as a result.

At Foggy Bottom – a colloquialism originating from the State Department’s headquarters in Washington’s north-west quadrant – things were little better. From Rex Tillerson reportedly calling Trump a “f****** moron” to Mike Pompeo allegedly ordering staffers to walk his dog, these have not been easy years for America’s allies, or even State Department officials for that matter.

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Volt Europa: A New Path to The European Dream?

Back in November, the Policy Centre for European Affairs ran a Hackathon on “European cohesion in the age of populism: How should the EU strengthen European identity to counterbalance Eurosceptic forces?”. Euroscepticism and populism aren’t the only forces causing division in Europe and threatening the European project, but the motivation behind this event was to try and understand in what ways the European Union (EU) could strengthen its internal ties in order to secure its future. This is a hard question, because the EU is not in the best position to fight these forces. The EU is clearly more than a conventional international organization, but it has not yet become part of policy discussions at a state level. Even if it wished to increase its influence and assert its leadership position, there would always be strong opposition to giving EU institutions the kind of powers it would need to do so. Perhaps the solution for the future of the European project may not exist via top-down approaches championed by EU institutions. Instead, a bottom-up political movement may be needed.

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Crisis in the Near Abroad: Russia’s military build-up, and its place in the post-Soviet story

The West must accept that Russia will continue to speak for its own people in a world it considers unfair.

Russia’s relationship with Europe appears to be falling apart at a worrying pace. Events seem to be moving so quickly that it seems inevitable that the contents of this article will be incomplete by the time anybody reads it. In recent weeks, Joe Biden has ordered new sanctions on Russia, hunger-striking opposition leader Alexei Navalny is reportedly close to death, Russia has increased its military presence on its border with Ukraine, and revelations have shown that the perpetrators of the 2018 Salisbury Poisoning were also linked to a bomb blast in the Czech Republic in 2014. 

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Neither local nor global communities can afford the carelessness of Britain’s High Speed 2 Project

The 31-day tunnel protests beside Euston station have come to a close, after activists excavated and occupied underground networks to hinder the construction of an interim taxi rank – which will be built to adapt the Euston area for High Speed 2 (HS2) railway construction. Reports of the tunnel occupation are the newest of dotted media coverage that reminds us of the relentless opposition this controversial project has faced. The site the activists defended for a month is the only forested haven along the Euston Road – a place where ‘breathing is a risk’, having been frequently awarded the title of ‘one of the most polluted roads in Britain’ for exceeding legal pollution levels staggeringly for years. HS2 threatens this small park and patch of time-worn London planes trees, who will have witnessed the unfolding of this area of the city’s cultural and social history. They have been decorated symbolically with colourful scarfs for years, tied around their sturdy trunks to show visual opposition to the felling they have been threatened with – like preemptive bandages to coming, indelible wounds.  

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