Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Week Ahead

I will not be in Bucharest, Budapest and Bratislava during the week - but instead I will be in Belgrade, Brussels and Berlin. Anyhow it's Europe.

I haven't been to Belgrade for some time but it will be interesting to feel the political temperature there now.

Serbia is key to the stability of the wider Balkan region. What happens there will automatically project either stability or instability in the wider region. Due to its size, it's also key to the economic development of the area.

But the problems the democrats and reformers of Serbia are facing at the moment are enormous. Some sort of solution has to be found to the Kosovo issue. In Montenegro there will be a referendum on whether to declare independence or not. And there is - rightly so - increased international pressure to bring Radko Mladic to ICTY in The Hague.

Add these up, and it's hardly surprising that the radical nationalists are gaining ground in the opinion polls. A victory for them in the elections likely next year would be nothing short of catastrophic for Serbia and the wider region.

All of this could be counterbalanced by a strong pull from a European Union opening its doors to new members. But that's hardly the case at the moment. Hesitancy seems to be the most positive tendency - outright opposition is there from several capitals. Europe is simply not living up to its responsibilities.

For me it will be a day of political talks in Belgrade before proceeding to Brussels for more of the same. There I will address many of those in the 25 member countries of the European Union dealing with policies towards the Balkans. It's part of the preparations for the upcoming summit in March between the European Union and the Western Balkans.

And I'll see Javier Solana on other issues as well.

From there it's onwards to Brussels. The primary occasion for that is a dinner that the President of Germany Horst Köhler gives for former Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Wednesday evening in Schloss Bellevue. It is more than likely to be well attended.

But there will be the occasion also for different other discussions in Berlin. In many ways it has turned into the most important capital of the European Union. The magnetism of Merkel is starting to have its effects.