Monday, December 28, 2009


With a similar sense of unworldly realism as when crossing the equator, I follow the white miniature airplane across the LCD-screen as it come in for landing over the Nile Delta. Though the trip has been planned for months, it is still another thing to actually be here, to drink the Soviet style coffee out of the EgyptAir cup or to listen to the pre-recorded prayer prior to take-off.

And then Cairo, a city of outsized proportions covered by a dense inversion layer of air pollution. Even for someone like me working on questions of long-term sustainability, it is easy to lose track of how fast these cities in the developing world are growing. Right now the population counter stands at 14.5 million, putting it on par with Kolkata or Shenzhen. It is also easy to forget that, as much as we in the rich world bear responsibility for past and present emissions, it will most likely be the policies, strategies and aspirations of countries like Egypt that ultimately will determine much of our future prospects for sustainability.

Before heading off into this to me virtually unknown world, I have some good news to report from closer to home. On 23 December, Serbia submitted its EU application in Stockholm and simultaneously the union finally lifted its visa requirement for Serbian citizens. As I have repeatedly argued in the past, this act of simple human decency was not only exceptionally overdue but also most urgent if we are to avoid dashing the last hopes of European normalization among the young in Serbia.



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