Climate Concerns Do Not Wane

Dear Readers,

One would expect that the current pandemic crisis and economic downturn would at least temporarily overshadow climate concerns and derail a drive toward new green deals in European and global politics. According to an April 2020 poll by IPSOS, however, a majority of respondents do not see climate change as a lesser threat than a pandemic. More surprisingly, 80 percent of Chinese, Indian or Mexican respondents prefer a ‘green’ economic recovery compared to less than 60 percent of Britons or Germans. Hence climate as the theme of this issue remains definitely topical.

We looked into the peripheral position of Central Europe in the last issue. It is common wisdom that small crises lead to centralization whereas staying at the periphery of a major crisis and disruption could be an advantage. This remains to be seen. As national responses to covid-19 differ in various European countries, the quest of the European Union to agree on effective measures—that would strike a right balance between health, climate and the economy—seems to be more urgent than ever.

Climate policy is mostly shaped by energy policy. In his article, Edwin Bendyk claims that “this joint and passionate love for atomic energy in Central Europe does not mean that there is any joint energy policy of the Visegrad Four countries”. In fact, there is no ‘passionate love’ for atomic energy, but a combination of pragmatism, caution about hastily introduced green schemes plus a path-dependency on nuclear power production. Witold Gadomski provides an analysis of why Poland’s energy policy—concerned mostly about its dependency on coal—considerably differs from the rest of the Visegrad countries. The palette of topical articles is completed by the views of Robert Schuster on the climate policies of the Central European states in the context of German and Austrian policies.

It has already become a tradition to bring forward a thematic voice of a young leader, this time an opinion piece entitled “Is Environmental Awareness a ‘Rich People’s’ Thing?” by Do Thu Trang, a Czech-Vietnamese blogger who received the Aspen Central Europe Leadership Award in 2019.

Aleksandr Kaczorowski’s interview with Misha Glenny, a renowned journalist and author of the celebrated McMafia, is a must-read not just because of the nexus between organized crime and the environment. As a segway to our next issue and a pretaste of Ivan Krastev’s upcoming book, we publish an excerpt about seven paradoxes of the covid-19 era.

Stay healthy and in good spirits!

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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