Monday, January 01, 2007

The Future of Somalia

After celebrating the New Year and the entry of also Romania and Bulgaria into the European Union, it is the crisis in Somalia that is at the top of the foreign policy agenda.

On Wednesday I'm heading to Brussels for a meeting of the European members of the International Contact Group on Somalia.

It's a meeting that is the result of talks during the last week between European Commissioner Michel, Foreign Minister Steinmeier of Germany and myself, and we will all of course be there.

The aim is to coordinate the European approach to the crisis in Somalia. In the days to follow there will then be more broadly based meetings primarily in Nairobi on the concrete steps to be taken. That will be an opportunity to coordinate more closely also to the United States.

With the immediate phase of military operations inside Somalia now ended, there is a need to move forward with a political dialogue aimed at the setting up of a government that is seen as representative by all of the country. Although the representatives of the present Transitional Federal Government have now been in Moghadishu or its environs, it seems obvious that there will have to be a more broadly based solution.

The risks of the country falling further down into chaos are very real. A return to the rule of the competing warlords must be avoided. This both in order to reduce the suffering of the ordinary people and to prevent the country being a safe haven for terrorists of different sorts.

I fail to see that the Ethiopian troops that have now entered in large numbers can remain for long. They risk being seen as a force of occupation, and then provoke more of violence and conflict. It is not a coincidence that the UN Security Council has said that neighbours should have no military role in bringing stability to the country.

Whether there would be the need for some sort of international stability force remains to be seen. Uganda is said to have offered troops, but that is unlikely to be enough. But clear is that there has to be a broadly based political agreement before there is any stability force.

And then there will of course be the need for both immediate humanitarian and more long-term state-building aid efforts. Here it is to be expected that the countries and institutions of the European Union will be the main actors.

All of this will be on the agenda in Brussels on Wednesday.

I'm coming there from Stockholm, and Gunnilla Carlsson - Minister for Development Assistance - is joining me from Washington where she has been attending the state funeral for former President Ford.

And I also expect the Foreign Minister of Norway Jonas Störe to ge there. Not the European Union - but still Europe.