Friday, January 05, 2007

Europe Starting Up

As expected, we had a good aqnd important European meeting on Somalia in Brussels on Wednesday.

After the celebrations marking the entry of Romania and Bulgaria into the Union, this was the first event of the German Presidency during the first part of 2006.

Now, the meeting in Brussels is now followed by a meeting in Nairobi of the wider International Contact Group on Somalia. This is the occasion for more detailed discussions on how a political reconciliation process in the country can be launched.

There are also discussions on some sort of peacekeeping force to be sent to the country. But such a force first requires a peace to be kept. Force can not replace peace - it can support it. First things first.

My day in Brussels also gave opportunities for other discussions in a city that hadn't really come back from the holidays.

And the same still applies to Stockholm, which has given me some breathing space for planning activities at the ministry.

Next week will be different. Europe is starting up again.

On Wednesday I'm off to Madrid for a major conference 15 years after the Madrid conference that started a peace process in the Middle East. Now there will be discussions on the step that must be taken now to achieve not just a process but preferably a peace.

There is little doubt that this will one of the issues at the top of the European foreign policy agenda in the next few months.

By that time we might also know more about where President Bush intends to take his Iraq policy. Will he take up the recommendation from the Iraq Study Group to launch a major diplomatic initiative to revive a Middle East peace process?

Javier Solana is in Washington these days, and he will certainly tell all he is meeting the priority that we Europeans attach to this. This was also the message that Chancellor Merkel brought to the White House when she saw President Bush yesterday.

The conference in Madrid is hosted by the Foreign Ministers of Spain, Norway, Denmark and Sweden - so I'll see my Nordic colleauges there as well. It also brings together a number of individuals and public figures from the region itself in order to take stock of what's been happening during the past 15 years.

After Madrid I'm coming home very briefly to Stockholm - hopefully to see Foreign Minister Peter MacKay of Canada; his schedule is still somewhat uncertain - before proceeding on Friday to Vilnius in Lithuania.

There I'm speaking Saturday at a special session of the Seimes - Parliament - to remember those that died in front of the Soviet tanks 15 years ago in 1991. But it will also be the occasion of a seminar bringing together some of the key thought leaders on the issues of Europe's East.

And from there I'm off to the Balkans - but that's another story for another blog entry.