EUelections 2019: Elections in Belgium – towards another world record?

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Belgium is known over the world for fries, chocolate and the intricacy of its political system. It looks as if the country might be able to secure a new spot in the history books after the elections of May 2019. Belgians voted for the European, general and regional elections on the same day, and some of the electoral results were largely unexpected.

Belgium is a federal state. There is a central government by and large in charge of security and defence, international affairs and social security. There are also three communities and three regions. The three communities (French-speaking, Flanders and German-speaking) are particularly responsible for education. The three regions (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels) are supervising the economy, employment and energy. Czytaj więcej

Looking back at the Polish Presidency of COP24 in Katowice

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For two weeks in December 2018, Poland was the beating heart of multilateral diplomacy. COP24, the annual diplomatic meeting on climate change, took place in Katowice, the capital of Silesia. Stakes were high, especially for the Polish Presidency.

The multilateral framework to fight climate change

Scientifics have established a long-time ago that human activities influence climate. Governments set up an international framework to help the fight against climate change in 1992, called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 197 signatories meet annually at a Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress and enhance actions. It is within this framework that the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and now the “Katowice texts” were negotiated.

The COP would generally take place in Bonn, Germany where its secretariat sits, unless a country volunteers to host it. The host country should come from one of the five regions officially recognised by the United Nations, on a rotating basis: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe and Western Europe and Others. Poland has repeatedly been the only country to volunteer to host the COP from Central and Eastern Europe Region. This is why COP14 (Poznań), COP19 (Warsaw) and COP24 (Katowice) took place in Poland.

Not all the COPs have the same agenda or importance. Only some of them made it into history. It is during COP3 in Japan that the Kyoto Protocol was signed and hence the first common framework for limiting global warming emissions agreed. Observers still refer to COP15 in Copenhagen as a massive drawback as the world failed to agree on a new climate change treaty. Finally, COP21 was a landmark meeting as this is where the Paris Agreement was negotiated. At the end of last year, it was clear that COP24 would be an crucial meeting: negotiators were tasked with finalising the “rulebook” (the rules needed to implement the Paris Agreement) before turning to 2019, the “ambition” year. Czytaj więcej

175 PARTIES SIGNED THE PARIS AGREEMENT. WHAT’S NEXT?

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On Friday April 22nd, 2016, representatives from 175 parties (the European Commission signed on behalf of the EU) gathered in New-York to sign the Paris Agreement at UN headquarters – making this a very symbolic ‘Earth day’. The Treaty is one of the outcomes of the COP21 meeting held in Paris in December 2015 – probably the most visible one. Parties agreed on the text of a new and legally-binding Treaty regulating the fight against climate change with the objective to keep the increase of the world’s temperature well below 2°C. The signing ceremony was the first test of the political credibility of the deal. Good news: it passed!

Why signing Treaties?

Once a country/a regional organisation signs a Treaty, it commits not to take any action that would hinder the purpose of the agreement even though the Treaty is not yet legally binding in its internal legal framework. After the signature, parties have to submit their ‘ratification instrument’ to the depositary of the Treaty. The submission of this instruments is the act through which a country agrees to be bound by the content of the Treaty. States do not always ratify a Treaty – the procedure depends on the national constitutional order, that can be  a ratification, but  also an acceptance, an approval or an accession. Czytaj więcej

COP21: WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

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Nearly 150 world leaders, a concentration second only to the UN General Assembly, gathered in Paris today to open the COP21. Delegates have 12 days to deliver a new and enduring international climate regime that will put the world on track to a ‘2 degrees’ target. Stakes are high, expectations and media attention as well. But does it all matter?

Climate change – origins and consequences

The first industrial revolution has defined pretty much everything of our current lifestyle. The invention of assembly lines and steam power propelled the world into the capitalistic age. The economic production model moved away from agriculture to industry, from countryside to urban centres. Estimates indicate that between 1800 and 1850, the golden age of the industrial revolution, the part of the UK population living in cities rose from 10 percent to 50 percent, from 900.000 to nine millions. Czytaj więcej

EUROPEAN CLIMATE AND ENERGY POLICIES UP TO 2020: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

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Fot. Garry Knight, CC BY 2.0

Climate change is a reality and actions should be taken to mitigate our influence and adapt to its effects. Climate change has become a prominent item on the international agenda since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro where Governments decided establish the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that aims at limiting the average global temperature increase due to climate change. Czytaj więcej

BLACKOUT IN BELGIUM

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Belgium faces a severe risk of electrical blackout during this winter. Half of the electricity produced in Belgium comes from the seven nuclear reactors built during the 1950s. Since spring, these have encountered problem after problem. Two reactors had to be shut down because of micro-cracks discovered in vessels while a third one has been closed in July due to sabotage. They are intended to remain closed during all winter. Belgium suffers from particularly stringent bad luck but the small country is only the tip of the iceberg of a complicated situation in Europe. Czytaj więcej

BELGIUM HAS A FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. BUT AT WHAT COST?

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‘I pledge fidelity to the King, obedience to the Constitution and to the laws of the Belgian people’. Saying these words, 14 members of Michel I’s government took office on Saturday 11th of October 2014. For many, this government is particularly interesting. The following article will explain why exactly it is so and will present briefly its already rich history.

When last time Belgian politicians sat together at the negotiation table to discuss the program of the governmental action in 2010 it took 541 days to strike a deal. Events of the weeks following the elections, which took place on May 25th, were carefully observed by the Belgian and European media. As described in the previous article, this time the political landscape was quite different though – economic not institutional reforms were the main topic on the agenda. As far as economy is concerned, right-wing parties from the North and the South have quite a lot in common. The government was formed in ‘only’ 139 days. The country didn’t cease to function normally thanks to a caretaker government, which, although deprived of its parliamentary legitimacy and thus not allowed to make any major political decisions, was able to manage daily operations. However, given that beggars can’t be choosers, the constitutional scope of ‘caretaking’ was extended to a very broad meaning. So broad that Belgium sent F-16 fighters to fight Islamic State at a time when it still didn’t have a fully-fledged government. In cases like that, the Parliament adopts a resolution authorising the care-taking government to act. Czytaj więcej

ELECTIONS IN BELGIUM: ONE MONTH LATER, BEGINNING OF THE END OR END OF THE BEGINNING?

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According to the tradition of Belgian politics, the most successful political party leads the talk to build a government coalition. In the first move, it should consult every party that presented itself to the voters and got a reasonably good score, as well as social partners. After this first warm-up exercise, the leaders announce starting negotiations with some other political parties, already named. The bargaining would be about the writing of a “Declaration of Regional/Belgian Politics”. This text is the vertebral spin of the next five years: the policies that will be implemented are laid down and discussed among future partners and the reference to the Declaration is most of the time considered as an authoritative argument. The term “partner” is used as it is extremely rare in Belgian politics that the talks fail and that negotiations resume with other political parties. It only happened for the federal government. What is then the status of the different negotiations? Czytaj więcej

EUROPEAN AND BELGIAN ELECTIONS D-DAY+1: A LOOK AT THE RESULTS

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Brr. Brr. My phone is ringing. « Hallo? Want to have a walk? ». I just woke up… The voice on the phone is quite enthusiastic. It’s, that’s not common… « OK, I’ll take my camera and will join you ». 21°C. Mhhh Goods news. May, 25th. Oh it’s elections day! Hopefully, the European Parliament set up giant reminders for people like me. Czytaj więcej

BELGIAN POLITICS: ONE MONTH BEFORE THE « SUPER SUNDAY »

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The last time Belgium organized general elections, the political parties needed 541 days to conclude a governmental agreement. This year, there will not only be one but three elections on the same day: the composition of European, federal and regional parliaments are on the move. Is the shameful record of 2011 threatened?

Despite its fragmentation, all the components of the Belgian political system are based on proportionality. The governments, both at the federal and regional level, are based upon an alliance among several political parties, winners of the elections. This system is not shared by every country, indeed, in France for example, the government can be composed only by one political party. Czytaj więcej