Waiting for Godot in Energy

10. 11. 2018

Dear Readers,

The quest for new and available sources of energy has come to the forefront of public debate periodically since the time of the “steam revolution”. The peak of attention was reached globally during the oil crisis in the 1970s. Energy was at the center of structural transformation in this region in the 1990s. The inefficient and environmentally hazardous industries of centrally planned economies, dependent on energy supplies from the Soviet Union, were turned into modern, efficient industries with a diversified supply of energy. Climate concerns have recently led to quick advances in technological solutions focused on renewable sources of energy, its storage and smart distribution. Surprisingly, however, the technological progress, leading to more efficient and environmentally safer energy production, smarter distribution and lower consumption, has been slow in transforming itself into an economically viable and security resilient business model. A fundamental change in up-stream, distribution and down-stream structures requires massive investment with still uncertain long-term returns.

Is another technological revolution in the energy sector at our door? Is the speed of transition to renewable resources suffcient to make a significant change in the human imprint on our planet’s climate? Read Edwin Bendyk’s interesting comparison for some answer of investment returns: reaping the benefits of investment in information technologies is almost as instant compared to investment in the energy sector infrastructure, let alone energy production. In this issue, we also provide interviews with leading energy experts in Central Europe: Agata Łoskot-Strachota and Václav Bartuska.

We continue tracking key challenges to political developments in the European Union. Contributions by Claire Demesmay and Martin Michelot will shed more light on the dynamism of Franco-German relations and an article by Lorenzo Marsili introduces certain provocative questions prior to the spring 2019 election to the European Parliament.

What are the economic implications for Central Europe as a result of the political uncertainties within the EU, and its relationship with the UK and USA?

The economic growth in Central Europe is higher than in Western Europe, but not sufficient to catch up with the latter. Despite addition resources from EU cohesion funds spent in the last decade, Central Europe seems to be “middle-income trapped” with no prospect of moving up to the higher global supply chain ladder. David Tramba contemplates whether Central Europe economies will remain assembly shops or whether they will be able to transform to more added value production and services. We have been paying increased attention to economic competitiveness in Europe at the annual conferences of the Aspen Institute Central Europe as of 2015. One of the key factors for future success or failure is education. We will return to it in future issues. Stay tuned to Aspen Review!

Jiří Schneider

Jiří Schneider entered public life after democratic changes in 1989 when he was elected to the Czechoslovak Parliament (Federal Assembly) in 1990 and 1992. In 1993 he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and held various positions at the Czech diplomatic service. Most prominently he served as Ambassador to Israel (1995-1998) and First Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic (2010-2014).


Jiří Schneider graduated at The Czech Technical University (ČVUT) and obtained a Diploma in Religious Studies from University of Cambridge. From 2000 to 2009 he lectured on security studies, international relations, public policy, and the role of think tanks in Central Europe at Charles University in Prague, Masaryk University in Brno, and New York University in Prague. During the International Policy Fellowship at the Central European University in Budapest he published on Think Tanks in Visegrad Countries (2003) and Lobbying and Interest Representation (2007). He was closely associated with the Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), a leading Czech security think tank, as a Program Director (2005-2010) and most recently as a Senior Fellow and Director of Special Projects (2014-2015).


Jiří’s engagement with Aspen dates back to the early 90ʼs when he was a fellow of Aspen Institute Germany. More recently he supported the establishment of Aspen Institute Prague and served as a member of its Supervisory Board from 2011 to 2014.

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