Monday, October 31, 2005

SPD Meltdown in Berlin

M�ntefering to Step Down as SPD Leader | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 31.10.2005

What a mess! The German Social Democratic Party SPD today managed to throw itself into what might well be the worst crisis in the post-war history of the party.

It was the much too successful revolt of the left wing of the SPD against party Chairman and potential Deputy Chancellor Franz Muentefering that caused the entire thing.

Faced with a devastating defeat when the party central board voted with 23 votes against 14 against his candidate for Secretary-General of the SPD in favour of the standard-bearer of the leftist faction, Muentefering declared that he could not remain as Chairman of the party.


What will come out of this is a anyones guess at the moment. Berlin hasn't recovered from the initial chock as of yet. And the SPD seems to be in outright turmoil. A commentator noted that not even the Greens in their most chaotic days were ever in such a profound disarray...

In principle, the coalition talks between CDU/CSU and the SPD continue. But that's in principle. It's exceedingly difficult to form a coalition with one of the pillars of that coalition in profound disarray. In pratical terms it's unlikely to work.

Within a couple of weeks the SPD seems to be losing most of the leadership capabilities it once had, only to descend into a state of confusion and disarray.

This isn't good for anyone. I'm not the one to cry too much for Social Democrats in trouble, but there ought to be a limit to everything.

Ëurope needs a stable and forward-looking Germany.

But today the leftwing of the SPD has throw everything in doubt.

There will be drama in the days ahead.

Global Europe

Global Europe: full-employment Europe

As a contribution to the discussion on where Europe is heading, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has published a 15-page text on "Global Europe" that is certainly worth reading.

It focuses on the new competitive challenge coming primarily from China and India, but also to some extent from America. And it notes that "Europe as a whole is losing ground to competitors in five key areas: growth, labour market performance, skills, innovation and enterprise."

That's correct, although it's also correct that this "Europe as a whole" also contains parts that are doing very well indeed, and which shows what can be achieved. Britain isn't always among those regions, and that might explain the omission.

The thesis then is that "from the era of a European trade bloc, we are moving to the era of a global Europe."

Sounds good, but also neglects the rather crucial fact that the widening and deepening of the European single market is an absolutely key ingredient in any policy that wants to strengthen the global position of Europe.

It's not two distinct and different phases in the evolution of Europe - but rather two that are now reinforcing each other.

But all in all, it's a document worth reading and discussing.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sounds like Norway...

These are intense days on the Swedish domestic political scene. It's less than a year to the general election in September of next year, and the governing Social Democrats are having their congress in order to try to get their act together and improve their standing with the electorate.

So far, we have heard them promise 10 billion Swedish crowns in new public efforts to improve the care of the elderly. Nice, no doubt.

And just prior to the congress, we had the main centre-right opposition party, likely to lead the next government, promise 5 billion Swedish crowns in a major expansion of public pre-school childcare. Nice, no doubt.

It all reminds me of politics in Norway prior to their election. There was virtually nothing that wasn't promised.

But there is one crucial difference. They have oil - and we haven't.

We have taxes. And for what I hear there is a grave risk of us getting more of those...

My Week Ahead

Now and then I get mild complaints that my blog doesn't really say what I'm doing. Most blogs have more of a personal touch - this one tends to be more focused on the substance of politics.

Since more than a decade back I have been writing a more or less weekly newsletter distributed to a fairly wide audience over the Internet. The limitation has been that they have been in Swedish, but they have included a fair amount of what I have been doing in different respects.

With the blog being more important, the frequency of the newsletter has declined dramatically. In a way, my blog entries are on their way to replace the newsletter, although it will never be the same. The readership is also very different.

Today is a wonderful autumn day in Stockholm, and I have been fortunate to be here the entire last week.

Tomorrow here in Stockholm I will record the first two "dinners" to be shown by TV8 later this autumn.

We did six "Dinner with Bildt" one-hour TV programs last year for TV8, and they have since then run several times. TV8 is as close to public service TV as you get in this country, although it is private. And the program is really a dinner conversation with interesting people on an interesting subject.

The programs were evidently so popular that TV( felt that they had to insist that I should continue with some more, and I have agreed although it has been somewhat difficult to fit into my schedule. And the first two of the planned six new dinners are recorded tomorrow.

As for the subjects and the guests - let's return to that later.

On Tuesday I'm off to Washington for an informal meeting on trans-Atlantic issues that occurs twice every year, once in Europe and once in Washington. It's a very good group, consisting of people both in and out of office, which over the years have engaged in very open debates on the most critical issues of the day.

And there will certainly not be a shortage of subjects this meeting either.

We meet just outside of Washington, but late Wednesday afternoon I go in town in order to join former Congressman Lee Hamilton in delivering the two keynote speeches at this years main meeting of the Transatlantic Policy Network. TPN is a gathering that brings together members of the US Congress with members of the European Parliament, although it is well attended also by members of the adminitration. As such, it is a most useful forum for dialogue.

TPN goes on until Friday afternoon, but by that time I must already be back in Stockholm on other issues.

Another trans-Atlantic week, as you can see.

Washington Media Firestorm 2

Mr. Libby's Indictment

It is not without interest that today's editorial in The Washington Post makes an assessment of the ongoing drama that resulted in the indictment of "Scooter" Libby very similar to the one I made here yesterday.

They note that the Special Prosecutor has found no evidence or sign of any criminal leaking of information. That was, after all, what he was asked to investigate.

Democracy? Dictatorship? Well, China...

People's Daily Online -- China issues white paper on political democracy

The authorities in Beijing have just published a white paper on how they see what they call democracy in China. Obviously, they felt the need for some sort of explanation.

In it we can read that "China's democracy is a democracy guaranteed by the people's democratic dictatorship". And it is made very clear that everything is done under the firm direction of the Chinese Communist Party and with "democratic centralism" as one of the guiding principles.

But the document is not only an attempt to describe everything in rosy terms. We also learn that "the democratic system is not yet perfect; the people's right to manage state and social affairs, economic and cultural undertakings as masters of the country in a socialist market economy are not yet fully realized; laws that have already been enacted are sometimes not fully observed or enforced, and violations of the law sometimes go unpunished".

So the document can be read either as a rather bizarre attempt to try to dress up the regime in some democratic dressing - an effort most unlikely to succeed - or as a way of saying that there is some limited room for change in the system.

Change there will have to be, sooner or later, in the one way or the other.

Whether this rather remarkable documents is intended to stop or promote change is a subject of debate.

The issue will certainly not go away.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

New Start with Cameron?

For political parties, the election of new leaders can sometimes be a rather messy affair.

The Conservative Party in the UK hasn't been spectacularly succesful in chosing its leaders during the last decade. The individuals that have been there with obvious leadershipb potential - a Kenneth Clarke, a Michael Portillo - have all been sidelined, and one has ended up with individuals that have all been heading for failure.

There are numerous reasons for this, but one has been the split in the party over the issue of Europe, and the obsession of its more nationalist wing with getting anti-Europeans to the top and putting this issue forward as one of the most important.

British public opinion might not be the most enthusiastic on European issues, which is hardly surprising if one sees the vitriolic anti-Europen line taken by some of the key media of the country. But they do not want to see their country isolated in Europe, and they don't want antik-European sentiments to dominate the politics of their country.

Accordingly, the strident anti-European line has taken the Conservative Party from the one failure to the other.

Now it's in the middle of a new leadership selection process. It's an elaborate affair. First, a series of votes among the Members of Parliament produced a list of candidates that was eventually narrowed down to two. And now the 300 000 members of the party will vote by ballot in order to choose between these two. The winner will be announced on December 6.

The clear frontrunner at the moment is David Cameron. Young, untested and open on most issues, he seems to embody the hopes for a fresh start. He's seen as the Conservative version of what Tony Blair once brought to a Labour Party going nowhere.

On Europe, David Cameron is more open than most. It's simply not been that much on his agenda. But there is no reason whatsoever to believe that he will portray the party as negatively on these issues as some of his successors have done.

On Thursday of the coming week the two contenders David Cameron and Dave Davis are scheduled to meet directly in a TV duel. That's a first in British politics where duels of this sort don't even happen in general elections.

At the moment it looks as if David Cameron has established a solid lead in the campaign. We'll see if that duels will change the situation.

But all together there seems to be an element of new life in and new hope for the Conservative Party.

If nothing else, then the United Kingdom at the very least needs a better opposition.

The Media Firestorm in Washington

Mission To Niger

The US political scene seems completely consumed by the indictment handed down by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald against Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff "Scooter" Libby.

The wolfpacks in the more liberal-oriented media had hoped that Fitzgerald would bring down the President's Deputy Chief of Staff - and architecht of the Bush electoral victories - Karl Rove.

For all the enormous noise generated by the issue, the substance of the story that has generated the present firestorm on the US media scene seems rather thin.

The assumed accusation is that Rove and/or Libby deliberated leaked a covert CIA operatives name to the media in order to discredit a story that was critical of some of the information pointing at Saddam Hussein aquiring nuclear weapons.

To me, this sounded unlikely from the very beginning for the simply reason that the information that was allegedly leaked in no way discredited the story. The information was fairly irrelevant to the issue under discussion.

Linked from here you can read the July 14, 2003 story that started the firestorm. The information on the Ambassador's wife doesn't really either add to or subtract anything of political significance from the story.

In the Washington rumour hothouse, it is of course journalistically interesting with that extra CIA angle to the story, but hardly more than that.

Leaking more or less secret and inside information is of course part of normal life of most more or less normal people in Washington. The media is filled with such things on daily basis. But the leaking of the names of a secret CIA operative is a special crime, and accordingly this particular story quickly acquired a dimension of its own.

Since then, a Special Prosecutor has spent more than two years trying to find out how this information ended up in Robert Novak's column that day and if anyone should be indicted for leaking secret information.

At the end of the day the Special Prosecutor hasn't been able to find that Karl Rove did anything wrong, and has ended up indicting "Scooter" Libby for issues that has to do with his behaviour during the investigation rather than the leaking of the information.

That's of course serious, and will now result in the indictment being tested in a trial, but separate from the core issue.

And is that it?

More than two years and an immense amount of agitation, speculation and accusations that - as concerns the original substance of the story - has so far ended up in nothing.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Camp YaG 14/10

A Desolate Place at the End of the Line

This is the prison camp in the desolate uranium mining town of Krasnokamensk near the Chinese border in a far-away part of Siberia where former Russian Yukos-creator Mikhail Khodorkovsky is scheduled to spend the next six years of his life.

He has already served two of the years of his prison sentence.

No one - either outside or inside Russia - really doubts that he is a de facto political prisoner of the Putin regime. He might have meddled in politics, but in a democracy that's certainly no crime even if you happen to be a succesful businessman.

In the meantime the Russian authorities are preparing the final dismanling of the previously highly succesful Yukos oil company, as well as the take-over of other oil assets, bringing app a third of the country's oil production back in state hands.

An obvious consequence of all these maneuverings is that we are now seeing oil exports from Russia declining. While exports increased by 14 % last year, this year the figure will be far less than expexted, and likely below 2 %.

Privatization is sent to the GULAG - and state inefficience is taking over key parts of the key oil sector.

It's not a good story.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

New York and Prishtina

Kosovo, Still Messy After All These Years - New York Times

I have to confess that my views on the Kosovo issue are fairly close to those expressed by the editorial in The New York Times today.

It's certainly worth reading, although I think it might be more representative of thinking in key European circles than among most of those leading public opinion on that side of the Atlantic.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Vaxholm War Skirmishes "Just because Latvia is a new member state and one of its smallest states does not mean its concerns are less important"

A further skirmish in the ongoing Vaxholm war between the Swedish trade unions and a more open Europe occured in the European Parliament yesterday.

Internal market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy was called to account by the Socialists for the remarks he made during an earlier visit to Sweden.

His remarks had caused the Swedish government to go ballistic - after all, the hardly pressed Social Democratic party is very much dependent on the financial resources of the big trade unions associated with them.

But McCreevy stood his ground.

Pointedly, he remarked that "just because Latvia is a new member state and one of its smallest states does not mean its concerns are less important", referring to Swedish government attempts to just bully the Latvians into submission.

It's important to understand what the war is really about.

The Latvian construction firm building the school had a collective agreement with all its workers. And the wages stipulated in this was above the minimum that is there on the corresponding Swedish market. Talk about "social dumping" has no relevance whatsoever.

The only thing that had been dumped was the Swedish trade union. And that's not necessarily the end of either Sweden or Europe.

The Vaxholm war continues. It's of great importance for the future of Europe.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

History Strikes Back in Poland

Election 2005

The map showing the result of this Sunday's election for President of Poland is rather remarkable.

It shows how support for the winning Lech Kaczynski was concentrated in those parts of Poland that once upon a time was part of either the Russian or the Habsburg empire. These are still the least developed parts of the country.

In contrast, support for the more liberal but less succesful Donald Tusk was concentrated in areas that once was more part of Germany and which to this day are the more developed ones. After 1945 however there was an almost complete change of population in these areas.

The result was not too inspiring.

It was the victory of the deep past over the more present future. It was the old and the rural asserting itself against the young and the urban. It was deep Catholicism against a more modern and liberal state. It was - as they said - Polska B versus Polska A.

And the campaign itself had its distinct low points. There was an attempt to smear Donald Tusk as not being sufficiently Polish and, the one way or the other, somewhat too German. Lech Kaczynski campaign openly against the concept of a liberal Poland.

We'll see which consequences this will have. The powers of the President are fairly limited, but with the two twin brothers controlling both the biggest force in parliament and the presidency it is of course another situation.

The President does set the tone on foreign affairs. He has already accepted a mid-January invitation to Washington, made it clear that Brussels is third priority after both Washington and the Vatican and said that he will not go to Moscow until Putin has been to Warzaw. And with Germany relations are not ideal after the impresssions created by his campaign behaviour.

But it is of course the economy that is the most important issue.

Now Poland will have to get serious about forming a new government based on the somewhat earlier election to the Sejm. The Law and Justice party PiS of the Kaczynski brothers wants to get into a coalition with the liberal and reform-determined Platform PO.

One would hope that PO will now see the risks for the reputation of Poland in this election result and drive a bargain with PiS that guarantees a continued reform course. After the period of stagnation under the different decaying Socialist administrations it's certainly high time for that.

Poland must not stumble from one decaying idea to another.

Kosovo Convulsions to Come


Yesterday's Presidential Statement from the United Nations Security Council is the formal start of the process of trying to determine the future status of Kosovo. It followed an open debate at the Security Council after the presentation of the Eide report.

The statement is - as much too often is the case - somewhat naive.

It "reaffirms its commitment to the objective of a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo" after having endorsed the Eide report that states that in particular the situation in the former respect is "grim" and holds out little prospect for improvement.

I guess it's the triumph of hope over experience.

The international community has now changed course from its previous doctrine of "standards before status" to the new "status before standards."

I certainly share the Eide assessment that the status issues must be on the table. Indeed, I have advocated this for years. But I certainly don't share the belief that this will be easy or that everything will be better.

I see a substantial risk that standards will deterioate rather than improve as we accelerate the status issue. And if we neglect the risk of us setting up a failed state in a fragile region, and don't take firm action to try to prevent this, we are almost certain of doing precisely that.

There will be convulsions ahead.

Let's hope that President Ahtisaari has the stamina and patience to maneuver the process through the time it will take.

Hampton Court Harmony?

COM2005_525_en.pdf (application/pdf Object)

The question of the week on the European scene is the degree of harmony or disharmony we will see when the heads of state and government of the European Union meet on Thursday in Hampton Court in England for a supposedly relaxed chat about the state of the economy and Europe.

For Tony Blair it's the Number One chance of relaunching Europe along the lines he indicated in his speech to the European Parliament in June.

For Commission President Barroso it is his chance of showing that he is still a relevant actor on the scene.

For still-Chancellor Schröder it's just stupid turning up when everyone is waiting for Angela Merkel and the policies coming out of the present talks between CDU/CSU and SPD.

Although the later fact substantially reduces the effectiveness of the gathering it will still be a closely watched event.

Can President Chirac abstain from the tirades against the global trade talks and liberal economic policies that he has frequently indulged in recently?

The distance between France and the rest has increased in the last few weeks as it has looked as if Paris is refusing solidarity with the agreed European line in the global trade talks, particularly on the agricultural issues.

The European Commission has produced a background document for the gathering which isn't bad but neither particularly hard-hitting or agenda-setting. It's a decent staff paper, but not much in terms of new policy directions.

Nevertheless it is worth reading for all those taking an interest in the debate.

It has got headlines for the proposalto create "a new Globalisation Adjustment Fund which can complement the structural funds, and notably the European Social Fund, by providing a swift response, focused on people, to urgent problems which result from globalisation."

This looks dubious at best and dangereous at worst.

If an enterprise fails to stay competitive, should it then have the possibility of applying for European Union subsidies to cover losses that are bound to rise and rise?

Or should it suddenly be the European Commission responsibility to step in with retraining and other schemes when he firm has to close or reduce employment as a result of competition from outside the Union?

In both cases it looks highly dubious. This could not be the tasks of the European Union.

The only think certain of this proposal should be adapted would be that governments would direct criticism at the Commission for everything in this area it did not do. The Commission just sets itself up to be the scapegoat of choice for the populist politicians of Europe. It seems less than wise.

One would hope that there would be significant disharmony at Hampton Court at the least over this aspect of the European Commission paper.

It's not more funds that Europe needs - it's more firms.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Luther Heading for Mecca?

Islamic Calvinists. Change And Conservatism In Central Anatolia - Reports - Turkey - ESI

The different reports from the European Stability Initiative are always worth reading, but very few of them more than this one.

It's about the developments in the province of Kayseri in Central Anatolia in Turkey. And it's not only relevant to any discussion about Turkey and the European Union, but has implications for a discussion on wider trends within the wider sphere of Islam as well.

To borrow from the summary of the report:

"Central Anatolia, with its rural economy and patriarchal, Islamic culture, is seen as the heartland of this 'other' Turkey. Yet in recent years, it has witnessed an economic miracle that has turned a number of former trading towns into prosperous manufacturing centres."

"This new prosperity has led to a transformation of traditional values and a new cultural outlook that embraces hard work, entrepreneurship and development. While Anatolia remains a socially conservative and religious society, it is also undergoing what some have called a 'Quiet Islamic Reformation'."

"Many of Kayseri's business leaders even attribute their economic success to their 'protestant work ethic'.

Is Luther preparing a march on Mecca - starting in Central Anatolia?

Internet Confusion in Brussels

ubiquitous_world_20051017.pdf (application/pdf objekt)

It is hardly surprising that Commissioner Viviane Reding has felt a rather urgent need to answer the criticism that has been directed - by me, as well as numerous others - against the position taken by the European Commission in the ongoing international discussions on Internet governance.

And this she did in the linked speech in Brussels on October 17th. I'm sorry that it is only now that I have had the time to comment on it.

In the speech she defends the Commission position by giving what is very close to a completely false description of the existing state of affairs. The average reader is left with the impression that it is the US government that takes all the decisions on - among other things - country domain names, and the average reader is accordingly likely to find this a somewhat odd arrangement.

But this is not the case. All these decisions are taken by the independent ICANN corporation which brings together the different stake-holderds in the system, and Reding is saying that "we fully support" ICANN. And they are always taken with an input from its powerful Government Advisory Committee, in which the European Commission has always been fairly active.

The US role is limited to an ultimate oversight over the changes introduced in the system through one of the so called root servers, although the most important one. This is a role that is derived from the historical role the US has played in the origin and evolution of the system.

But this is a power that, to my knowledge, has never been used to interfere with, alter or in any way change any of the decisions on these issues taken by ICANN. It's an ultimate safeguard in the system - nothing more than that, but as such of rather profound importance.

The problem with the European Commission approach is that it misrepresents the actual state of affairs in order to seek changes that are very unclear and in fact might lead to a very messy and potentially dangereous situation.

It's hardly surprising that Reding is very vague on what she wants to replace this ultimate US safeguards function with. She talks vaguely about "a forum" that "would not replace existing mechanisms and institutions, but complement them".

What does exactly does this mean? First she attacks the existing mechanisms by misrepresenting then, and then she calls for something that would not replace anything of it?

Is it just a confused text, or confusing thinking or throuroughly confused policy? I suspect the latter.

And the problem is that by moving down this road - attacking a system that might not be perfect but actually works rather well, playing on feelings that we should rather seek to contain and introducing vague ideas about the future that might risk opening for profoundly dangereous developments - the European Commission risks actively playing into the hands of those that really want a handle on the control of the Internet.

Commission Reding says that she fully supports ICANN.

Fine, but then she should listen more to them that to the cotterie of control regimes that are seeking change.

And there are also others worth listening to on issues like these. The European Network Operators Association ETNO might not belong to the household names in the public debate throughout Europe, but on an issue like these they are certainly worth listening to.

In a letter to the European Commission, they have said that they are "surprised" by the stand that the Commission has taken, and that they are "concerned that the proposed amendment, as currently drafted, would risk to affect negatively global connectivity, security or reliability of the Internet."

That's fairly strong language on an important issue.

The European Commission must be on the right side of an issue like this. Now it is - at best - in the middle of a self-created muddle in between.

Small for Europe - Big for Bosnia

EUROPA - Rapid - Press Releases

In a small step for Europe the European Commission is now urging the opening up of negotiations with Bosnia on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

In themselves, these so called SAA's are not particularly impressive. They are less in both substance and commitment to what the Central European countries were once offered.

But theior symbolic importance is still huge, since they are seen as the first necessary step that might one day lead to full membership in the European Union.

They are the concrete expression of the soft power of Europe that is gradually taking the region from the nationalist conflicts of the past to the European integration of the future.

So, every small step is of importance.

And this small step for Europe is undoubtedly a big step for Bosnia.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Rain and Sun in Spain

Well, we learnt a long time ago that the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.

That's certainly been the case on the central Castillian plan where also Madrid is located this weeekend. But the rain was greeted almost with jubilation, since it brought relief from a long period of draught up on these plains.

Two issues are dominating the politics of Spain at this very time.

The first is the renewed constitutional tension after the ruling majority of Catalonia has presented a proposal for a radically extended autonomy to Madrid. There is talk of moving from a de facto federal state to something that comes close to a de facto confederal state, and then upsetting the big constitutitional deal that resulted in the constitution of 1978.

This issue will not go away lightly. And there are of course similar or more far-reaching proposals debated elsewhere, notable in the Basque provinces. There is no doubt that the state structure of Spain is under a certain stress from these centrifugal tendencies.

And these issues have their emotional connotations as well. To preserve the unity of Spain has always been the most important issue for important political groups. There is a risk of upsetting some of the core post-Franco compromises and deals that paved the way for modern Spain.

The other issue is obviously that of illegal immigration from Africa, recently highlighted by the dramatic pictures from the small enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African coast. Desperate refugees have come from South of the Sahara, and are ready for anything the scale the barriers and get into the paradise that Spain and the European Union is supposed to be.

Spain has absorbed immigration amounting to 1% of its population annually during a number of years. It's big numbers, but these have also been of great importance to the positive development of the economy of Spain during these years. It has certainly been the best performing of the larger economies of the Euro area.

It's been an expansion driven by domestic demand, in which the building sector has been a most important component. In no small way is the connected with the migration of people from the more northern parts of Europe to the sun along the coast of Spain that has required the one new large development after the other. Spain is becoming a Florida in Europe.

But this expansion of the construction sector to meet this growing demand would hardly have been possible without the influx of immigrant labour primarily from North Africa. And its future expansion will in the same way be dependent on this immigration.

So it's to a large extent the combination of the sun inside the European Union and the hope for a better future light among those desperate for a better life in adjcent Africa that has allowed Spain to do as well as it has done.

An interesting aspect of the emerging new European economy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bosnia Between 1995 and 2014

Any conference on Bosnia has its permanent features of standard rhetoric. Today's meeting in Geneva wasn't any different in that respect.

However, it fell to the Foreign Minister of Switzerland to stand for most of it. That was interesting in that it deprived others of that particular burden as well as showing a Switzerland somewhat more engaged on the international stage than so far has been the case.

As usual, much of the attention was focused on whether what we achieved in Dayton a decade ago was good or not. Everyone agreed that it did end the war, but then there were the usual discussions on whether the constitutional framework as agreed then is the appropriate one for the future.

Indeed, it has emerged as conventional wisdom that the Dayton framework need to be changed in a number of respects. But the problem is that opinion differs very widely on what needs to be done, and there is no truly serious dialogue on these subjects.

Making speeches is not the same thing as establishing a dialogue, and we see far too much of the former and far too little of the later.

In my speech I both went back to what the situation really was a decade ago and how peace was finally achieved in Bosnia. It's a story somewhat different from the popular mythology on the subject, but that makes it even more important to tell it.

And then I wanted to say some thruths that are much too easily forgotten at more diplomatic gatherings like these, primarily on the failure of the politicians of Bosnia to concentrate on the economic reforms so urgently necessary. Indeed, if they are not pursued, there is a serious risk of an economic and social meltdown in the country some time in the future.

There is really nothing in the constitutional framework of today that prevents the responsible politicians in Bosnia from taking the decisions on economic reforms that are so urgently necessary.

Those interested can find my speech through the link to my webpage.

After the initial opening session, the conference broke up into different working sessions on different issues. As you could expect, the smallest number of people went to the session on economic issues, although that in reality should have been the most important one.

Bosnia is now on the verge of an important transition from the international protectorate established in 1997 - after I left - towards entering into a process of European integration. Commissioner Rehn announced that in all probability Bosnia will enter into negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union towards the end of this year.

And very soon my old Office of the High Representative will have to diminish its powers and its role. A decade after Dayton it is high time to give Bosnia its sovereignity.

There is much to be worried about in Bosnia today - but also the possibility of opening up a new phase in its development towards a more normal European country.

Geneva and Bosnia

swissinfo swiss information business culture news informations of switzerland :NEWS - d�tail

These weeks a decade ago were dramatic and important when it come to ending the brutal war in Bosnia and paving the way for peace in that country.

Much of the work was centered on Geneva, and thus it is appropriate that perhaps the most important of the different events that will look back on those days and discuss the development of Bosnia in the years that have passed should take place here by Lac Leman.

Today, more than 300 people meet for a two-day conference that will be opened with speeches by the Foreign Minister of Switzerland Micheline Calmy-Rey, European Commissioner Olle Rehn, the Prime Minister of Bosnia Adnan Terzic as well as myself.

It is all very much the work of Wolfgang Petritsch. He served as the 3rd High Representative in Bosnia but is now Ambassador of Austria here in Geneva.

We are looking forward to an interesting day.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hard Road Ahead in Iraq

For U.S., a Hard Road Is Still Ahead in Iraq

Just arrived in New York. I'm here for a meeting of the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Affairs.

On this side of the Atlantic the foreign policy interest is almost exclusively focused on Iraq.

When there is talk about "the war", it is Iraq it is all about. One sees a war there, and it is the war that the United States is concerned with.

The referendum passed without major incidents, which must be seen as a real success. And it looks as if the constitution has been approved.

But the success must be qualified. It seems as if the constitution was roundly rejected in two provinces with solid Sunni Arab majorities. Rejection in a third would have killed it altogether.

Now it will be of great importance to see which conclusions the Sunni leaders draw of this.

Will they see it as a reason to become more involved in the political process and seek a greater role through the coming parliamentary election? Or will they feel defeated, and turn more to different forms of resistance instead?

It remains to be seen. The nerveousness on this side of the Atlantic is easy to detect.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Huntington and October 3rd

Selected Articles From Turkish Policy Quarterly - Turkey - ESI

There is no doubt that October 3rd ranks among the important dates in more modern European history.

It was on October 3rd 1990 that the old German Democratic Republic - a communist dictatorship - dissolved itself and joined the Federal Republic of Germany, thus bringing the division of the country to its end.

And it was on October 3rd 2005 that the European Union finally started its membership negotiations with Turkey, thus starting to bridge another of the great divides of the history of our part of the world.

One of the most discussed books of recent decades is undoubtedly that of Samuel Huntington on the possible coming "clash of civilisations." Although I certainly don't belong to those that automatically dismisses what he has to say - very far from it - I belong to those that see it as a duty to prevent that clash by insteas building bridges and institutions of integration between different civilisations.

During a guest appearance last May at an Istanbul conference Sam Huntington was very clear in his prediction concerning the relationship between Turkey and the European Union:

"Since the European nations continue to believe that Turkish people are not culturally European, they won't let Turkey enter the EU. Turkey's possibility for admission into the EU is nil."

But on October 3rd - although after some drama - the European Union gave a very different signal. After more than 40 years of waiting, Turkey's decade-old dream of becoming a bona fide EU member state finally started to become a reality.

The importance of this step can hardly be exaggerated. As Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül remarked: "A real step to bring together people with different cultures, religions and historical backgrounds has been made, bringing relief to the whole world."

So what happened to Huntington's claims?

Well, we haven't seen the end of the story yet. There are significant forces primarily in Germany and France that want to bloc Turkey's membership bid. And France has declared that the final decision will be taken by a referendum, and have been joined in this by Austria.

So we have every reason to continue the discussion on the alternatives ahead.

We could move towards a more close European Union that evolves more into some sort of Christian club, thus also increasing the dangers that we will be facing a "clash of civilisations".

Or we could listen to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogans talk about an "alliance of civilisations" by the bridging of the divides.

Turkey's secular democracy is an exemplary model to fellow Islamic countries in the Middle East and around the world. Without Turkey's inclusion into the European Union, there is always the risk that Turkey will look inward and eastward, resulting in greater nationalist sentiment and conflicts between and within different societies.

These were among the issues discussed here in Istanbul during the last few days. This year's so called Bosphorous Conference has tried to look into the challenges that the coming years of negotiations, and the eventual decision on ratification of the resulting treaty of accession, will bring.

I believe it will be among the most difficult, and possible the most divisive, issues the European Union has ever faced. Well, with the possible exception of the turmoils as the original six states had to decide whether to let Britain join or not. That process took more than ten years.

It was a conference in the tradition of the very best, bringing together key thinkers and politicians from the Bosphorous to Brussels under the auspicies of the British Council.

I hope to have the time to write up my concuding remarks at the conference before continuing to New York and other issues there tomorrow.

In the meantime, the different reports of the European Stability Initiative, as well as the pieces published in the Turkish Policy Quarterly, makes for excellent reading.

We are only in the beginning on the great debate on the implications of Huntintgton's thesis and the consequences of October 3rd.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Vaxholm Battle Escalating

News - Press service - Info - Opening of the Session

In a somewhat bizarre vote, the European Parliament in a vote has today asked Commission President Barroso as well as Commissioner McCreevy to appear before them and explain the "compatibility of the Swedish social model with the European model."'

That the Socialist voted in favour of this is hardly surprising. They are in favour also of intra-European protectionism in order to protect old trade union priviligies.

But why on Earth the centre-right EPP-ED group voted in favour of this I really don't know.

Have they turned semi-protectionist as well? Is there any explanation available?

Nobel Prize to RAND Scholars

RAND | Books & Publications | Classics | Thomas Schelling

The economic price in the honour of Alfred Nobel has been given to two most distinguished scholars, of which Thomas Schelling is the most famous, closely associated with the RAND Corporation.

I have to note this, since I'm on the Board of Trustees - as a matter of fact the so far only non-American - of RAND, and thus take a certain amount of pride in this excellent institution.

Thomas Schelling has been part of the RAND community - committeed to excellence in the application of science to different policy issues, not only in the realm of strategic issues - throughout most of his professional career.

Indeed, he was there when we recently inauguarated our new headquarters building in Santa Monica, along with numerous other well-known names from the history of strategic thought and the RAND Corporation.

Another recognition of the excellence that RAND attracts.

The Vaxholm Battle

EU news: An Independent View from European Voice

Vaxholm is a small town in the Stockholm archipelago. It is centered around the fortifications built there since half a millenium in order to prevent any hostile navy from ever entering Stockholm.

But in reality the fortifications there never had to fight much of a battle. Intruders kept away during the centuries.

Now, however, a much more serious battle of Vaxholm is being waged. It's the battle between conservative trade union power in Sweden and the opening up of Europe to competition across the old borders.

Some of the facts around the dispute can be found in the editorial from the latest issue of European Voice that I have taken the liberty of copying below. The debate has been given new impetus by the visit to Sweden of the responsible European Commissioner. He made it plain on which side he stands in the dispute.

The Social Democrats are - understandably; they are the party of the past - up in arms over what he said, and it seems as if they have also scared some others into the same position.

"Charlie McCreevy, the Irish internal market commissioner, has struck at the heart of Sweden's widely praised social model.

He has intruded on debates about the best way for Europe to reconcile social protection with competitiveness.

McCreevy said that the European Commission would side with a Latvian company, Laval, and against the Swedish trade union Byggnads, in a politically charged case involving accusations of protectionism on one side and social dumping on the other.

McCreevy's blunt announcement infuriated the political establishment in a country where trade unions and collective agreements are the basis of a notoriously competitive social model. The Swedish government strongly supported Byggnads in its conflict with Laval last winter.

The Latvian building company did not strike a collective wage agreement with Byggnads when it started a school building in Vaxholm, near Stockholm. The Latvian builders were working under a Latvian collective agreement, but Byggnads demanded that they should be subject to the Swedish collective agreement. The conflict escalated when several Swedish trade unions blockaded the building site, sending Laval into bankruptcy.

Laval sued Byggnads in a Swedish labour court and complained to the Commission, arguing that while the union blockade may have been legal under Swedish law, it violated EU rules on the free circulation of labour and services.

In April, the Swedish court referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, for a preliminary ruling on the application of EU law.

EU law says that companies from one member state that are performing services in another have the right to post their workers in the state where the work is being done, but must pay them at least the minimum wage of the country where the work is being done and must respect the working hours of that country.

Swedish unions say that posted workers must respect their collective agreements, too, which cover everything from working time to an industry-wide minimum wage.

The Swedish court considers EU legislation to be unclear about whether the blockade was compatible with the freedom to provide services and a ban on discrimination against foreigners, as well as the EU directive 96/71 on the posting of workers abroad.

This is explosive stuff. Fears of EU enlargement and of social dumping, the freedom to provide services in another member state and relations between EU law and traditions in member states blend into a politically charged cocktail.

MEPs worked themselves into a predictable lather with socialists demanding that McCreevy be summoned to explain himself. The president of the Party of European Socialists, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, said that in half an hour in Stockholm, McCreevy had destroyed Swedes' understanding of Europe. Now there is talk of whether a referendum should be called on whether Sweden should withdraw from the EU, if its social fabric is under threat.

But this is not just about an indelicate commissioner stirring things up. The picture is much more complex - politically and legally. Sweden is a country where more than 80% of the population has union membership and is understandably protective of its social tradition. Swedish unions have become extremely powerful and increasingly protective.

The Latvian workers who were to build the school were to be paid salaries based on collective agreements between the Latvian company and their Latvian trade union. So was the Swedish trade union just not ready to accept an agreement which it was not party to? Here is a power-struggle which Swedish unions could not lose for fear that it might set a precedent.

The role of the ECJ is to rise above this politics, to ensure the application of the EU law. EU treaties provide for the freedom of movement of labour and freedom to provide services. EU law has primacy over national law.

If the Latvian building company complied with the provisions of the posting of workers directive, it seems logical that the court (and the Commission) should apply EU law.

Eighteen months after the EU's expansion, a cloud still hovers over the question of who has the right to work where and under what conditions across the EU.

The EU clearly needs, the sooner the better, a services directive that fills in the current legal void, spelling out in what conditions cross-border services can be offered. Otherwise, it will be the courts across the Union and particularly the ECJ in Luxembourg, that make EU policy."

So the battle of Vaxholm will continue. It's the Northern European version of the French debate about the Polish plumbers.

Europe will win. And also Vaxholm will be better as a result.

Norway Turns Inwards

- Tre vinnere og ingen tapere -

So the three parties that will govern Norway have now produced the political results of their rather lengthy deliberations.

It's hardly modern. More money in the public sector, but less modernisation of the same. A roll-back of the previous governments commitment to quality and freedom of choice in the education system.

On the controversial issue of oil and gas activities in the more arctic seas off Northern Norway, it seems as if they have just deferred the issue. It's difficult to avoid the impression that the gap on that issue could not be bridged yet.

As expected, Norway will withdraw its rather limited military contribution in Iraq, and this is in spite of the fact that today it is a UN-mandated operation there. And in Afghanistan, Norway will no longer be part of the anti-terrorist Operation Enduring Freedom.

It's easy to see the influence of the more leftist and anti-American strands in the coalition in these decisions.

On the issue of relations to the European Union, future PM Jens Stoltenberg could do little more than stating that this was a suicide issue for the government - if the issue was placed on the agenda, the government would not surivive.

Hardly impressive - although it has to be said that the outgoing centre-right government had the same policy.

Well, Norway turns somewhat more inward and somewhat less modern.

It's all financed by the oil and gas prices...

Go East!

Before heading off to Helsinki, and from there tomorrow morning to Istanbul, I spoke in the opening panel of the 2005 Eastern European Business Summit in Stockholm.

Bringing together several hundred CEO's and other chief executives, these meetings have become a rather important gathering discussing these issues.

My task was to try to set the overall scene for the discussions.

For those interested, my remarks as prepared for delivery - what is actually said is always somewhat different - are posted on my web page.

Now off to the airport to head East - to booming Helsinki.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Schröder Saga

So it's official: Gerhard Schröder will not be part of the next German government.

The road from his extraordinary TV performance on election eve to him standing down is certain to rank among the classics of politics - beyond the borders of Germany.

There is no doubt that he was an excellent campaigner - whether he in retrospect will be seen as a good chancellor is a somewhat more open question.

He defeated Helmut Kohl and the CDU in the 1998 election with the explicit promise that not much would be different, but that unemployment would definitely come down. He and Oskar Lafontaine launched their slogan of the "Neue Mitte" - the new centre ground.

Well, it did not take long for the relationship between Schröder and Lafontaine to break down. The later resigned from his position as Minister of Finance. Schröder was left to sail on his own by the winds he could find.

Facing the 2002 election he was heading for defeat. Unemployment certainly had not come down. But suddenly he was saved by the combination of his campaigning skills and the war drums over Iraq in Washington. By the thinnest of margins, his "peace" message saved his position at the helm of the redgreen coalition.

But by know it was obvious that the economic reform issues simply couldn't be ignored any longer. Business as usual was the same as the business of decline.

That's when Agenda 2010 of some economic reforms was born. Objectively speaking there is no doubt that it was too little and too late, but for an SPD electorate that had been fed a rather different message it was much too much and much too fast.

So the party rebelled, divided and disappeated under his feet, culminating in the electoral defeat in Nordrhein-Westfalen late spring.

Schröder could do little but saying that he could no longer govern. The electorate was deserting his party, and sections of his party was deserting him. It was all heading South...

The election campaign in September brough back a swinging Schröder forgetting most things about reforms, drifting decisively leftwards and placing himself in virulent opposition to most ideas about more profound and sensible reforms in Germany.

It was tactically as masterful as it was strategically disastrous.

On election eve, he saw that he had avoided the worst for the SPD, and that he had prevented the best for the CDU.

He was jubilant in the extreme, become intoxicated with himself, overplayed his hand and ended up with humiliating defeat.

I think the old Greeks had a word for it...

Maneuvering in Mesopotamia

Aljazeera.Net - Sunni party backs Iraq charter in deal

With three days to do before the referendum, there are last-minute deals on the question of the Iraq constitution in order to make it somewhat less unattractive for the Sunni section of the population.

The details of this latest deal is somewhat unclear from media reporting, but it evidently amounts to some sort of mechanism to review the possibility of changing key elements of the constitution, although these changes would also have to be approved by a referendum.

Whether this will have any significant effect on the Sunni position remains to be seen. Evidently, there has been strong US pressure to do something to get a more inclusive process.

There is distinct nerveousness in Washington and London over where the process is really heading.

And there are very sound reasons for that nerveousness.

Blogging in European Parliament���P�iv�kirja

I guess it was just one of these usual days in the European Parliament yesterday.

I passed by for lunch since I was in Brussels for a series of other meetings both with the Kreab Group and with the different European institutions on different issues.

There were hearings on Bosnia a year after Dayton that I unfortunately did not have the possibility of attending. There were evidently some kind of hearing with the candidates for the OLAF internal oversight position. There was a discussion between Elmar Brok of the External Relations Committee and the new Russian ambassador Vladimir Chizhov. On a TV screen I saw that taxation commissioner Kovacs was giving a speech to an audience somewhere in the vast building.

But I was involed in nothing of this, but instead had lunch with some Nordic MEP's discussing primarily the future of the so called service directive.

I strongly suspect that the same issue was among the topic of conversation at the next table where the chairman of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament Poul Nyrup Rasmussen was entertaining journalist. The chairman of the EPP centre-right group, however, was taking some young German students for lunch a couple of tables down.

Alexander Stubb is an able Member of the European Parliament from Finland. He also seems to be one of the very few MEP that have decided to start a blogg to inform of what he's doing.

Certainly an initiative worth applauding, in particular if your repetoire of languages include Finnish.

I have however encouraged him to go over to English as well.

There is a big audience out there that would like to know more about life in that rather lively and not at all unimportant European institution.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Keep the Internet free

Keep the Internet free - Editorials & Commentary - International Herald Tribune

There is increasing attention given to the question of Internet governance that I have discussed earlier here.

An editorial in The Economist this week has important messages on the issue.

In the International Herald Tribune today, I add my voice also in the print media to those that call for the European Union to look far more carefully at its position on these issues than it seems to have done so far.

We'll see what effect this will have. It might not be the main preoccupation of Brussels - where I happen to be at the moment - but it could well emerge as a major issue of things go wrong.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Merkel Government Emerging

Gro�e Koalition: Merkel spricht von fairer Ressortaufteilung - Politik - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten

Everything bow points to a Merkel Grand Coalition taking power in Berlin. Formal negotiations are to start on Monday after there has been a broad agreement on the principles.

There is no denying that everyone will have to pay a price, and highly likely that there will be significant dissent, perhaps slightly more in the SPD than in CDU and CSU.

It looks as if SPD will have eight ministries, while CDU/CSU will have six.

And among those eight are the foreign affairs and finance portofolios as well as justice. CDU/CSU will have economic affairs as well as interior and defence.

That SPD will have foreign affairs is not necessarily bad. It would put some brakes on some of the worst excesses of primarily CSU on the issue of Turkish membership of the European Union.

But of great importance will be how the economic reform program shapes up.

And that will have to await the more detailed coalition talks next week.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Eide Report & Ahtisaari Talks

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Kosovo set for 'breakaway' talks

Soon we will see the released version of Kai Eide's report on the status of the implementation of decent standards in Kosovo.

It is likely to be rather depressing reading. On one of the core aims of the international efforts in the region ever since Kosovo started to appear on the international agenda - the building of a multi-ethnic society - the reports allegedly says that "the situation is grim".

It's difficult to see how a harsher judgment on that critical issue can be formulated.

And on the economic side, there is no avoiding the conclusions that prospects are distinctly bleak.

Nevertheless, there is no reason whatsoever to postpone even further talks on the province's future status. That can has been kicked down the road for far too long already.

There is the belief in Kosovo that independence will sort out all of their problems. Regrettably, I believe this to be rather naive, and the thruth might well be the opposite.

After the Eide report there is likely to be the Ahtisaari talks to see how one can bring the status issue forward. And in all probability these will conclude during the Finnish presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2005.

It might look easy. But the easier it is made to be, the more likely is it that there will be graver problems further on.

A Chance - Perhaps?

Returning to the important issue of the future of Iraq, it is worth reading Peter Galbraiths description of the work leading up to the draft constitution as well as his views on its prospects.

Peter was once US Ambassador to Croatia - we worked rather closely together in 1995 on some of the issues of that region - but has since worked extensively primarily with the Kurds in northern Iraq, acting as a key advisor to the leaders there.

So, he writes with considerable insight although with that perspective.

His conclusions are mildly - very mildly, one might say - optimistic:

"The constitution might bring stability to Iraq, a country now on the edge of full-scale civil war. Underneath an Islamic veneer, Iraq's new constitution ratifies the division of Iraq into three disparate entities: Kurdistan in the north, an Iranian-influenced Islamic state in the south, and, in the center, a Sunni region that has no clear political identity, but that with luck and concerted diplomacy could be governed by a new generation of Sunni Arab leaders. The constitution provides a basis for resolving Iraq's most contentious issues: oil, territory, and the competition to be the dominant power in Baghdad. If these issues are not addressed, they could set off a widespread civil war."

He sees a chance that the constitution might bridge the divides of the country, but if this does not happen, he sees it as a vehicle that would facilitate some sort of divorce.

Whether such a divorce would be peaceful or not is another question which he does not addess. I would guess that Peter - with his Balkan background - would share my assessment that a divorce would be very bloody indeed.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A Very Good Choice

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has a reputation for sometimes somewhat odd choices when it comes to the Nobel Peace Price.

But this year their choice is spot on: the International Atomic Energy Authority and its Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei.

IAEA has been in the spotlight recently in the discussions concerning Iran. But it has played a key role for decades in working the details of nuclear non-proliferation, and has made it possible to further also the peaceful and safe use of nuclear power.

This year, Oslo has made the right choice.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Challenge of Terror and Iraq

President Discusses War on Terror at National Endowment for Democracy

There might be numereous reasons why President Bush has chosen this time for a major speech on the issue of terrorism.

But that's a separate issue. It is still interesting to see what he has to say.

It is now very clearly Iraq that is the centre of the struggle.

I think President Bush is entirely correct when he says, that "the terrorist goal is to overthrow a rising democracy, claim a strategic country as a haven for terror, destabilize the Middle East, and strike America and other free nations with ever-increasing violence."

One can discuss how it come to this. But again, that's a somewhat separate debate. We are were we are.

And then we have to take note of the ambitions of our adversaries and act accordingly.

The Washington approach on these issues might not always be the ultimate in wisdom, although it's normally wise to let history judge these matters.

But on this it's very difficult to see that they are not right.

New Europe versus Old Monopolies

The visit by the European Commissioner for Internal Market Charlie McCreevy to Sweden yesterday must have been a jolly affair. Judging by the media reports, it looks as if McCreevy tackled head-on some of the more sacred of all the sacred cows in the old Swedish approach to things.

He challenged the state monopoly on gambling, and by implication also on the retail sale of wine and liquor. Both are often seen as sacred components in some sort of social model.

But of even greater importance was his robust defence of a far more open European labour market than at the least the Swedish trade unions are prepared to accept.

It's a sign of the time that the buses in Stockholm these days are carrying big ads for the system of collective agreement favoured by the unions. The fact that one feels it necessary to invest massive amounts in a massive PR campaign is of course a sure sign of a rather weak position.

Over time, there is no doubt that a more open Europe will erode the old monopolies. That the entrenched interests of the past will do whatever they can to stop or slow down this process is equally obvious.

But the McCreevy visit to Stockholm clearly indicated the direction in which things are moving.

Not necessarily very fast - but necessarily very certain.

Iraq Slips Away

Iraq Slips Away

Next Saturday is the critical day when the voters in Iraq will vote in a referendum on the proposed new constitution. It is - by all reasonable standards - a major event.

On the positive side is of course the fact that the referendum takes place at all. That's a sign of progress and hope.

But that's really the end of the good story. The constitution clearly divides more than it unites, and that truly presents a great danger for the future.

A rather ugly attempt to manipulate the referendum process was just defeated by the UN experts on the ground. The majority tried to twist the rules so as to very considerably reduce the possibility of the minority to oppose the constitution.

It was hardly a sign of democratic maturity. And it demonstrated the importance of the role - however limited - that the United Nations play in the country.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Europe's World


An ambitious attempt to stimulate the European as well as global debate on European issues has just seen the light of the day.

It's the first issue of the journal Europe´s World that has just appeared.

I haven't got it in my hand as of yet, but I am a member of the Editorial Board as well as a contributor to the first issue. You can find some of my reflections on the situation in the Balkans there as well as one the website.

We certainly need a journal of this type. There are other prominent European-based journals in international affairs - notably Survival of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London - but none with the European focus of this one.

In that sense, it complements Foreign Affairs in New York - the model that everyone seeks to follow - as well as Russia in Global Affairs in Moscow.

It should be a European voice in the global dialogue between think-thanks and thinkers.

It's certainly needed. Welcome!

Remembering October 5 in Belgrade

B92 - Galerija - Peti oktobar - Internet, Radio i TV stanica; najnovije vesti iz Srbije i Crne Gore

This is a day I should really have been in Belgrade together with other friends to celebrate that it is five years ago since the regime of Slobodan Milosevic was toppled and the democratic revolution in Serbia truly began.

It was truly dramatic days.

Milosevic had midjusdged the mood of the country and the determination of the opposition - previously often hopelessly split - and called a presidential election that he counted on winning. Th NATO bombing the previous year had been a traumatic experience for the country, and Milosevic had skillfully used it to strengthen his position.

But then the opposition suddenly united around the hitherto little known Vojislav Kostunica the scene suddenly changed. He had been as much against the NATO bombing as anyone, so that card could not be used against him. And he argued against corruption and in favour of democracy in a way that was seen as honest and promising.

So Milosevic suddenly lost the election he had called in his certainty of winning. But he then tried to falsify the election result in order to remain in power.

It did not work. Even in his days Serbia wasn't a total dictatorship. There was an element of transparency and media freedom. The bluff was called, and the people of Belgrade took to the street.

It was touch and go for a while. But at the end key sectors of the security apparatus refused the orders to act against the demonstrations, Milosevic de facto lost control of the capital, and when even high-level Russian representatives flew in to say that the game was up he did not have much of an alternative.

He resigned, and a new era in the history of Serbia opened up. And a new model for democratic transformation saw light. Since then, the model of Belgrade has been played out in the streets also of Tibilisi and Kiev.

I vividly remember that Thursday. It was a sunny day in Vienna, and I was standing at the Ballhausplatz when my mobile rang. It was a friend in Belgrade who dramatically said that the Parliament building there was on fire. I rushed up to the office of Chancellor Schuessel - we had agreed to meet - and on his TV we followed the live transmissions from the drama in Belgrade.

Only a few days later - the 12th - I was there myself. At the time, I was the Special Envoy for the UN Secretary General of the Balkans, which meant that I was heavily involved in most things going on in the region.

I rushed to Belgrade to see Zoran Djindjic - we knew each after well after the struggles of the preceding years - in order to coordinate things. We met in the Democratic Party headquarters with people running up and down the stairs to the second floor where we were sitting all the time. It was a question of consolidating the gains, and of taking the quick steps necessary to get Yugoslavia back into the international community.

And in the rather drab building of the Federal Presidency on the other side of the river Sava I saw President Kostunica. We had met years before when I came to Belgrade as the war in Bosnia was still going on. He remained the rather strict but honest person I remember him as, although hardly comfortable with the instruments of power that the voters had suddenly placed in his hand.

Somewhat joklingly I remember remarkning that in one way Serbia had gone from one extreme to the other. From a man who knew everything about power but had no principles to a man of firm principles but hardly a clue about how to use power. The difference was big in every sort of way.

It's been five years since those days.

Zoran Djindjic was brutally murdered. He was caught between the escalating demands of the outside world and the escalating resistance of the inside forces of reaction. Perhaps we could have done it differently and still have him with us. It's one of those questions that keeps coming back to me.

Voijslav Kostunica is still President of what today is called Serbia and Montenegro. He remains the man of principles, but not the man that is ready and able to use the powers that are there to really pursue the modernisation of the country as I believe he could have done. But he remains the man that made the peaceful defeat of Slobodan Milosevic possible.

Much can be said concerning these years. I'm waiting for an English translation of the column by Bill Montgomery - he was the US Ambassador close involved all of these events - to appear on a website so that I can link to it. He sums it up.

It's a story with both positive and negative sides.

Slobodan Milosevic is spending his time in the ICTY detention unit in Schveningen in Holland, and is busy trying to defend himself in a trial that seems nearly endless. He's still on Kosovo, and there are the wars in Bosnia and Croatia yet to come.

At some point in time, I'll be there to tell the parts of my story that the trial chamber and the two sides want to hear.

In Belgrade, an international conference brings together many of those that were active in trying to help the change of October 5th.

I should have been there - but one can't be everywhere. I suspect my friends are all sitting around in th smokefilled rooms of the Writer's Club sharing memories of those truly memorable days over a number of bottles of heavy Montenegrian Vranac vine.

And the country is looking forward towards the opening of negotiations for a Stability and Association Agreement with the European Union on Tuesday of next week.

It's been five much too slow years. But it's still been five years far better in every respect than the ten years of wars, sanction, isolation and repression that preceded historic October 5 in Belgrade.

Monday, October 03, 2005

European Union, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba...


The preparatory meeting in Geneva last week for the upcoming World Summit on Information Society turned into a rather embarrasing affair. Potentially, there is a political storm gathering.

Many of the battles leading up to the WSIS are battles for ultimate control over the Internet. Clouded in sweet talk about multilateral solutions and need to replace the United States as the ultimate guardian of the system, a coalition of control states has sought to establish ultimate political control over the net.

With less than total diplomatic finesse, the US has made it clear that it will not accept any changes at all. In the post-Iraq mood in many parts of the world, that's an attitude that unfortunately creates more room for sinister forces to maneuver. An element of flexibility and openness on the US side would not have been out of place.

The Geneva sensation was however a U-turn by the European Union that was as unexpected as it was disturbing.

Suddenly, it introduced a proposal that went a long way towards the position that a number of states headed by Iran had been advocating, opening for a political control mechanism.

There was consternation and embarrasement, I'm told by people who know. And the new European Commission position was evidently applauded by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba, China, Venezuela, Brazil and other control-oriented states. The Americans were predictably enraged.

These are extremely serious issues, and we could well be heading for a rather major political conflict over the issue.

Does the European Commission know what is being done in its name? I doubt it. It seems as if the European position has been hijacked by officials that have been driven by interests that should not be ours.

If these issues are not seen as serious in Brussels, they certainly are in Washington, and Brussels might well expect the issue to figure very high on the trans-Atlantic agenda very fast if it does not clarify its position.

In the meantime, it is important that the issue attracts attention and debate.

We really can't have a Europe that is applauded by China and Iran and Saudi Arabia on the future governance of the Internet. Even those critical of the United States must see where such a position risks taking us.

Apart from the obvious political issues involved - it's not difficult to see what drives the regimes in Beijing, Riyadh or Havanna - there are powerful technical and economic issues at stake. There is a very serious risk that a mechanism of this sort will slow down the pace of innovation and change that has been so tremendously important during the past decade.

The European Union must seriously reconsider its position. And the issue is far too important to be left to face-less officials far from political responsibility.

Austrian Mess

Die - Alles schneller www.issen

Well, a compromise has been reached among the Foreign Ministers of the European Union in Luxembourg on the starting of accession negotiations with Turkey.

Neither a full text nor a rection from Ankara is yet available, but judging by media reports it looks as Vienna lost the battle after having isolated itself in an increasingly untenable position.

They have now accepted that membership is the aim of the negotiations - something which they declared themselves against a couple of days ago.

Now, it looks as if they are flagging up the capacity of the Union to accept Turkey as the key demand. That's another way of saying that Turkey might be too big and too different.

But the bottom line is likely to be that Austria lost. There might well be storm waves on the domestic scene in the country. I'm sorry for an otherwise good government in Vienna.

And one of the ironies is that Austria, after having been hesitant over parts of the completed Eastern enlargement of the Union, has been one of the countries benefitting most clearly from it.

Balkans Moving?

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Croatia gets tribunal thumbs-up

Perhaps there will be some movement onk key issues involving the Europeans integration of the Balkans the next few days. It's high time.

UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte is not the most consistent personality under the sun, but in the last few days she has been to both Belgrade and Zagreb praising their levels of cooperation with ICTY.

That increases the possibility that Croatia will be given a green light to start its accession negotiations with the European Union. They have been held up since mid-March over doubts whether Croatia was doing enough on the critical war crimes issues or not.

A green light from del Ponte now comes shortly after she announced that she knew that indicated Ante Gotovina was in a monastry somewhere in Croatia. But, again, consistency has not been her hallmark.

In parallel, it looks virtually certain that Serbia will get a green light for its talk on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU. That's important both to them and to the region.

Some good times in times that really need it.

The Battle for Vienna

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There are serious problems in the ongoing discussions in Luxembourg on the opening of accession negotiations between Turkey and the European Union.

It's Austria that's blocking the entire thing. Although they have agreed previously on the opening of accession talks, they are now stalling and entering new demands which all aim at making the talks fail the one way or the other.

Once upon a time, it was the rest of Europe that come to the rescue of Vienna when it was faced with the onslaught of the Ottoman armies.

Vienna seems to be refighting that battle.

But in a critical difference, the rest of Europe isn't coming to its rescue. Instead, Austria is isolated among the European Union members.

Then, it was right to save Vienna. Now, it definitely is not.

Towards a Grand Coalition

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | German CDU pushes leadership bid

Slowly, slowly, slowly it looks as if it is the CDU that is gaining the initiative in the war of nerves over how the coming government of Germany will be formed.

While it was undoubtedly the SPD and, most notably, Gerhard Schröder that won the election campaign, there is no avoiding the conclusion that they lost the election and that CDU/CSU with Angela Merkel come out on top.

On election night, Schröder was intoxicated with his short-term campaign success, failed to see the bigger story, and performed on TV in a way that might well go down in German political history.

I watched his performance live in Berlin and was astonished. To me, it was a moment that brought memories back of the fanmous "scream" of Howard Dean after one of the Democratic primaries in the US. The TV pictures of that event effectively ended the Dean candidacy. And it might well be that the Schröder TV performance on election night will be seen as paving the way for his departure.

In contrast, Angela Merkel seems to have kept her head cool and maneuvered to secure the necessary internal support in order to make the clear external demands. Initially, it was a hell of an uphill battle, but it might well be that she has passed the worst and that the going will get easier from now on.

In all likelyhood, Germany is heading for a grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD.

But Schröder still seems to be determined to prevent that it will be lead by Merkel. He wants her scalp before he departs the scene. He can't accept the combination of the collapse of the red-green alterntive in German politics and the chancellorship snatched from him by her.

It looks increasingly personal - and that's never good politics.

After the Dresden election yesterday, which increased the CDU/CSU margin in the Bundestag, things are likely to speed up, although it's unlikely that there will be a resolution until the new Bundestag meets on October 18th and the entire thing might well drag on into November.

Europe needs a reinvigorated leadership, and Berlin has to be an important part of that.