Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

“There is reason for hope”

Well, it’s to fly off the handle. Jean-Claude Juncker makes a boozy pilgrimage visiting Donald Trump, negotiates toughly and fiercely in favour of Europe’s economy, with the result that we are allowed to purchase fractured, then liquefied natural gas from the states and that we should renounce Nord Stream 2, thereby endangering good neighbourly relations with Russia and trade with China and putting considerable strain on our wallets and the environment. The boozy mood seems, the longer the more, to have also embraced the media of our latitudes. Like Professor Dr Eberhard Hamer, I am very concerned about the political situation in Europe, especially in Germany (cf. Current Concerns No 19 of 21 August), but since last week I see light on the horizon.
Many people around the world are concerned about how things should continue on our planet in times of transition. Much is said about the end of the “unipolar world” and the necessity of a “multipolar world”. I wonder, however, whether the “multipolar world” still corresponds to the current state of political awareness. Multipolarity as we know it stems from the idea of the Congress of Vienna, when Europe dominated the thinking of the world and was influenced by the idea of balancing powers or of power centres (under British supervision, of course). Even if a multipolar order is based on the interests of more than one state, it has so far failed to take into account the interests of smaller states such as Switzerland. I don’t think that’s fair.
But from the east of the Eurasian continent, to which we belong geographically, especially from China with its project “Belt and Road Initiative”, supported by Russia, valuable approaches have been coming towards multilateralism for some years. I recently realised that multipolarity and multilateralism are based on different but very significant approaches, which are sensible for the citizens. The essential difference between multipolarity and multilateralism is, it seems to me, that “multilateralism” is based on a balance of interests rather than on a balance of power.
Last week it could be read in the daily press that after some twenty years (!) of negotiations the countries bordering the Caspian Sea have concluded an agreement on how the five states concerned – Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran – intend to use this sea and above all what lies under the sea in terms of oil and gas. Yes, it can take such a long time, and in this case much longer, if negotiations are serious, honest and sustainable. What is special about this treaty is that Kazakhstan, which firmly planned to establish a military base on its shores in order to be protected by the US, has dispensed with this request. The five states have agreed that they are able to protect themselves. The fact that something like this works well is visible in our neighbourhood concerning Lake Constance. This is not about oil or gas, but about water. After all, some 5.5 million people on the German side alone are supplied with drinking water. The water quality is excellent thanks to wastewater treatment. The amenity values are great on all banks. The three riparian states have arranged everything perfectly, and so far there is no need for an American military base at Lake Constance to protect anyone.
The fact that Kazakhstan refrains from the protection of the United States is remarkable because, for example, Qatar, where the world’s largest gas field was discovered in the 1970s, has gone under the protection of Shell and the United States, with the result that this country has given up its independence, has to host the largest American naval base in the Middle East and must liquefy its gas, because the routes for pipeline transport have been blocked for political and geographical reasons until today. Since it soon became clear that a third of the gas field was under Iranian soil, Qatar had two options at the time: either to share the gas proportionately with Iran, as is usual among good neighbours, or to exert pressure “protected” by a major power, in this case the USA.
If the countries bordering the Caspian Sea succeed in agreeing on the exploitation, if an agreement is reached between Qatar and Iran, then it is possible that the Qatar/Iranian gas could be fed directly into the European market through the Caspian Sea pipeline through Russia and Nord Stream 2. For the benefit of all. Moreover, President Trump could remove the largest American base in the Persian Gulf and use the money thus freed up for his “America First” project.
On the other hand, the fact gives cause for hope, that Chancellor Merkel met President Putin last week and, as if she had read Professor Hamer’s statements in Current Concerns, she did not seem so reluctant when it came to Nord Stream 2. I also hope that Chancellor Merkel knows what role George Friedman has assigned Germany, namely to once again take the lead in the next major battle, and what devastating consequences this would have once again for Central Europe. I also think that the Chancellor’s advisers are keeping an eye on the huge Russian market, which reaches as far as the Pacific. There is reason to hope, because it is now generally known that Russian and Chinese diplomacy are working continuously on what I have outlined. The world would become a little more peaceful. The entire Nord Stream project is an intelligent solution.
Well, it all crossed my mind when I read Professor Hamer’s article in Current Concerns, “Trump-Juncker deal: The big bluff”, and I am already looking forward to the next remarks on the problems of time. His articles stimulate thought and action. Thank you so much.

Wolfgang van Biezen, Schwarzenbach


Sovereign states as the basis of globalisation

Remarks to the article: “The sovereign state is indispensable – especially in a globalised economy” (Current Concerns from 12 August 2018).
I agree with the considerations of Beat Kappeler, Dani Rodrik and Marianne Wüthrich.
I would like to be even more clear with my thesis: “A humane globalised civil society and economy can only survive based on the foundations of sovereign states”.
In the true sense of its definition, globalisation does by no means mean the abolition of sovereign states; rather, the sovereign states are the fertile breeding ground for globalisation. Globalisation must work in the interest and for the welfare of civil societies and their people, which calls for partnership, not self-abandonment of sovereign states. Thus the model of the Swiss Confederation is and remains the model according to which the EU should also orient itself in its own interest, if it does not want to break up and sink, even faster than one seems to imagine today.

Hans-Jacob Heitz, MLaw UZH, Männedorf

(Translation Current Concerns)


“Fair-Food-Initiative” and “Food Sovereignty”

In the issue Number 19 of Current Concerns from 21 August 2018, the questions of agriculture were analysed in a meaningful combination in a debate of principles by Professor Wohlmeyer and, with reference to the forthcoming votes in Switzerland, by Dr Marianne Wüthrich.
Small-scale agriculture, which is “ruthlessly sacrificed to the great world market rulers”, is under pressure worldwide, but also in Switzerland. Fortunately, Swiss citizens have the opportunity to react against precisely these forces, against free trade in agriculture and against a dying condition of Swiss agriculture in the forthcoming vote on the “Fair-Food-Initiative” and on “Food Sovereignty”.
It is troubling that the Federal Council’s agricultural policy considers access to the international market and compliance with the rules of international free trade as the only valuable success. The focus is not on supplying the population with local, seasonally and regionally produced, high-quality food and ensuring the supply of the population in times of distress.
It has often been told in my family that the grandparents in Germany, they were small farmers, put a basket of potatoes at the front door in times of distress in the 1920s. When people from the distant city came to the remote village to “hamster” and beg for food, then everyone knocking at the door was given 2 or 3 potatoes out of the limited supply. People were very grateful even for this little donation. On the basis of such experience, my mother spoke all her life of “the poor people living in towns” who had no possibility of self-sufficiency. In these times of distress, one could count on small farmers, and we cannot be sure that such times will not come again, as Professor Wohlmeyer warns.
We now know that small farmers produce 70% (!) of the world’s population’s food on a quarter of the world’s land.1 In contrast, the balance sheet of industrial agriculture is negative if one considers not only the financial success but also the environmental damage caused by monocultures, the loss of biodiversity and the overuse of resources that is taking place.
It is to be hoped that the debate on the subject matter of the two initiatives will remain objective and that real arguments, as also presented in the articles, will be included in the electoral vote.

Dr.-Ing. Ernst Pauli, Zurich

1    GRAIN and La Via Campesina (2014). Hungry for land: small farmers feed the world with less than a quarter of all farmland. www.grain.org/article/entries/4929

(Translation Current Concerns)https://www.grain.org/article/entries/4929


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