Saturday, January 27, 2007

Afghanistan, Lebanon and Kosovo

Home in Stockholm again after a rather hectic but essentially succesful week. It was Brussels, Riga, Stockholm, Paris and then Brussels again.

The discussions at the GAERC - the Foreign Ministers of the EI - on Monday were primarily about assessments of the results of the election in Serbia and the implications they would have.

For me they were a clear victory for the reform- and Europe-oriented political parties. The extreme nationalists in the Radical and Socialist parties actually declined, although the Radicals remained as the single largest party.

Discussions about these issues continued in Brussels yesterday as we had a joint informal luncheon between the Foreign Ministers of Nato and the European Union - although the overlap is of course rather considerable. In essence it was the US and Canadian ministers joining all their European colleaugues in a very uselful talk.

But as we discussed Kosovo at that luncheon, our attention had been focused on the issues of Lebanon and Afganistan in previous meetings in Paris on Thursday and earlier during the day at Nato headquarters in Brussels.

President Chiraq was really successful in mobilizing international support for Lebanon at the Paris III conference. It was a significant international event.

And financial help is really needed if the country should have any possibility of coming back. It's still suffering from the consequences of its 18 years long civil war, and to this was then added the devastating conflict last summer. I was able to announce a further Swedish contribution of Euro 4,5 million.

It was an impressive gathering in Paris with good opportunities for informal discussions also on other subjects.

As one can see, the challenge of fragile and failing states, as well as national and ethnic conflicts in sensitive areas, requires an enormous amount of both attention and resources. We can not afford to fail in either Afghanistan, Lebanon or Kosovo since the consequences of failure will have ramifications over very wide regions.

For me it was my first visit in my new capacity to Nato headquarters, although it is of course a place where I have been many times before in different other capacities. But as a nation we now have a close partnership with Nato in the stability operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and there is the need for a much closer dialogue also on the political level.

Nato and the EU need to work closer together in the future. At the luncheon we all agreed that we have to tear down that invisible wall that divides Brussels into Nato and the EU. In Kosovo as well as other places there will have to be very close coordination.

And I will certainly be back at Nato within the not too distant future to continue efforts and discussions in this direction.