On March 7, 2012, The European Institute hosted a breakfast discussion on Germany's nuclear phase-out agenda and its commitment to renewable energy sources. R. Andreas Kraemer, Director of the Ecological Institute in Berlin, focused on the reasons behind Germany's gradual nuclear dependency reduction, as well as the process and challenges involved in the country's transition to renewable energy. A panel discussion followed with Edward McGinnis, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Nuclear Energy Policy and Cooperation at the U.S. Department of Energy and Günter Hörmandinger, Counselor for the Environment at the Delegation of the European Union, who outlined the U.S. and the EU's respective views on nuclear phase-out and alternative energy policies.

In the stepped-up Western sanctions on Iran – now at “unprecedented levels” – a significant and enabling development has been the agreement of Germany to participate in the pan-European embargo on Iranian oil after years of reluctance in Berlin to act so strongly against Tehran.

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A decision to halt EU oil imports from Iran, taken Monday by a meeting of the EU’s foreign ministers, marks the strongest step taken so far by Europe to counter Iran’s suspected nuclear ambitions.

It coincided with an expansion of U.S. sanctions (which have long barred Iranian oil) to include Iran’s third-largest bank. A steeper financial escalation is under active consideration by the Obama administration in the form of action to cut U.S. dealings with Iran’s central bank and press allied capitals to join in isolating Iran financially. Such a move would make it harder for Tehran to use oil revenues for international purchases aimed at strengthening the country’s nuclear program.

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Amid fresh global worries about radiation after the nuclear meltdown in Japan, the U.S. and leading EU countries have decided to move ahead with a “New Safe Confinement” for the damaged reactors at Chernobyl in Ukraine involved in the deadly 1986 accident there that leaked radiation across Europe.

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In a wide-ranging speech at The European Institute on the increasingly pivotal role of Europe’s Northern Dimension, the President of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers, said his country has survived the economic crisis and is poised for healthy growth and entry into the Eurozone in 2014.

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