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[Brussels e-briefings] Fukushima to Tripoli, live from the frontlines

Published on 25 March 2011
Updated on 05 April 2024

Brussels e-briefings host: Richard Werly
Date: 24 March 2011

The PowerPoint presentation from the webinar (in PDF format) can be viewed here.

Digest – Fukushima to Tripoli, live from the frontlines

As he returned from a one-week assignment in Japan to cover the post-tsunami nuclear disaster, Richard Werly hosted a webinar on Thursday, 24th March, the eve of the spring 2011 European Council meeting. The following digest, prepared by Richard, summarises the discussion.

On the subject of the nuclear disaster in Japan:

  • The scope of the disaster in Japan is unprecedented and will definitely affect the perception of the nuclear industry in the Asian continent, where the huge megapolis can be taken hostage by such a radioactivity crisis.
  • Nevertheless, Japan has the financial leverage and the capacity to overcome such a tragedy.

  • Rather, the question is whether the Japanese people, known for their pessimism, and depressed after so many years of economic downfall, will have the strength to rebound. There is a psychological dimension to this huge catastrophe and it shall not be underestimated.
  • Another fact is the number of pensioners and retired Japanese among the survivors. The Tohoku region, by now devastated, is home to an ageing population, and can be seen to mirror a gloomy Japanese future, as 40% of the archipelago population will be over 65 years old in 2050.

The discussion then went on to cover Libya and the renewed threat of disunity among European countries. This subject was on the agenda of the European Council meeting, with a risk of a rift between France/UK, who have lobbied hard for a military intervention, and Germany, clearly reluctant.

  • The risk of division among the EU member countries is real. It shall not be underestimated and may lead to some difficulties, especially if the military operations over Libya have to continue for months. Nevertheless, we cannot compare these divisions with the fractures that plunged the EU into a crisis over Iraq.
  • While striking at Gadhafi’s regime and implementing a no-fly zone, the key issue is for Europeans to agree on a clear command structure and on a well-defined strategy to convince their public opinions of the legitimacy to intervene. The involvement of NATO seems to be quite unavoidable as the Alliance has the capacity to handle such a large aerial operation.
  • The suspense lies in the sands of Tripoli and the Libyan desert. If Gadhafi is able to resist and have his tribes/clans united around him, the partition of Libya will become a reality and could drag on for months. In short, the worst case scenario for the EU and the US is to see this crisis lingering and failing at toppling the dictator, especially in the context of an effervescent Arab world.

Questions? Post a comment below, or e-mail Richard Werly at richard.werly@letemps.ch

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