Monday, May 15, 2006

To Oslo - and then Brussels and New York

The sun is shining over Stockholm, but I'm soon heading for the airport for a quick trip to Norway.

Dinner in Oslo down by the water at this time of the year is seldom a wrong move. Chilly - but beutiful.

And I guess many there are busy preparing for their annual May 17th national day, parading down the Karl Johan main street and waving flags. It's impressive.

But tomorrow it's back to Stockholm again.

Towards the end of the week I have some conflicting engagements with both a two-day meeting of the commission set up to review the constitution of Sweden - we are to submit our recommendations in 2008, so the hurry is limited - and the big Brussels Economic Forum orgaized by the Commission.

On Friday afternoon I have to be at the Forum, however, since that's when I'm chairing its session on enlargement and its effects on the European economy. Speaking in that session will also be Javier Solana, Giuliano Amato and Olli Rehn.

But later that day I'm off to New York for a weekend of dialogue with Russian business leaders. It's part of the regular series of such meetings that RAND has been running during a number of years.

On the economic and financial front this looks like being a week of some turmoil, and on th political front of at the least some importance.

In Brussels, the foreign ministers of the European Union are meeting today and tomorrow with a fairly heavy agenda. They will discuss the report from the Quad meeting in New York last week on the Middle East and the mechanism that the Union is now setting up to facilitate economic aid to the occupied territories, bypassing the Hamas government.

But there will also be Balkans on the agenda.

On Sunday there is the referendum on independence in little Montnegro, and the European Union is likely to say that they will strictly respect the result in accordance with the agreed criteria, and that they expect both Podgorica and Belgrade to do the same.

That sounds more straightforward than it is. It might well be that the independence vote falls short of the 55 % support required according to the agreement, and that will open up the entire question again.

But some sort of qualified majority for important constitutional changes - and this is certainly such - is far from uncommon.

We'll have to wait and see.