Orange Revolution The Day After

24 mars 2005

In Kiev, things are starting to settle down after the intense drama of the Orange Revolution that ousted the corrupt Kuchma regime and installed the Viktor Yushenko presidency.

What happens in Ukraine will be of profound importance in the years ahead.

It will challenge all of Europe as the country seeks full membership of the structures of European and Atlantic integration, and it will challenge Russia as an open and democratic political system is secured towards its South and as Ukraine provides investment opportunities competing with those of problematic Russia.

That’s why I spent a few days in Kiev taking stock of the situation.

The political attention has rapidly shifted to the March 2006 elections to the Rada – the parliament. In combination with the constitutional changes that will bring more powers to the Rada and the Prime Minister, these will decide the political course of Ukraine in the years ahead.

The government under Prime Minister Yuliya Tymochenko has presented a budget which obviously has the elections in mind. The genereous pre-election promises of the previous regime of increases in pensions and wages are not only honoured, but also increased upon. The result is that there is a serious risk of a deterioation in the fiscal situation and an increase in inflation in the years ahead.

But much of the political debate is consumed by the issue of what to do with the Kuchma cronies that got control of large parts of the Ukrainian economy, not least in the country’s resource-rich and more Russian-oriented Eastern areas.

Yuliya Tumochenko leaves no doubt that she is determined to get these men down to size during the years to come, although she listens to warnings that uncertainty on property rights might well scare of the needed Western investors. At the end of the day, we are likely to see a limited number of the most horrendous cases acted upon by the Courts, but not very much more.

In the meantime, Russian investors afraid of the old patterns of behaviour in the Kremlin are rushing into Ukraine, where Ukrainian oligarchs afraid of the new powers in Kiev are only too keen to sell parts of their assets. The Orange Revolution is immediately resulting in a marked increase in the Russian economic presence in the country.

But there is nothing wrong in this. And over time Western investments are likely to start increasing. If economic reforms are pursued with the vigour that is now talked about, the country gradually moves towards the European Union and there is a reasonable political stability, Ukraine is likely to be one of the premier production locations in Europe in the decAdes ahead.

While Foreign Minister Tarasyk speaks about the country’s ambitions for NATO membership, Deputy Prime Minister Rybachuck is eloquent on their plans to move step by step towards membership of the European Union. While public support for the former is distinctly limited at the moment, the European Union is seen as a guarantee of both freedom and prosperity in the years ahead.

Nothing of this will come either easy or fast. The European Union will be in a rather nervous state until the issues surrounding the Constitutional Treaty have been sorted out. And the accession negotiations with Turkey, scheduled to start October 3rd, are not making things much easier.

But in the middle of this, it is important that the European Union in the one way or the other during this year acknowledges the European aspirations of Ukraine.

Nothing of this can be seen or discussed without taking in the wider context. It is likely that we will see Kiev emerging as a center of democracy in the region, from which inspiration will radiate not the least to Belarus and Moldova.

And it is unavoidable that the political and economic example set in the Ukraine will have a profound effect on developments in Russia in the years ahead.

All the more reason to stay tuned – and to give support.


Two Years in Iraq

18 mars 2005

U.S. Department of Defense Official Website
It’s two years since the United States and Britan went from words to action and attacked the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.

The war went comparatively easy and victory was swipt. But for the world’s premier power to defeat a third-class army of a third-class regime wasn’t really that sensational.

To win the peace after the war has proved to be a far more difficult challenge, as we are all painfully aware of. To say that policy planning and execution has been smooth would be a blatant lie.

In many ways, it has been a mess. Those of us that have some experience of post-war state-building operations were not surprised by the magnitude of the challenge, but by the naivity with which it was approached.

Nevertheless, there has been progress. The formal occupation has ended. A reasonable election has been held. A government is in the process of being formed. Optimism seems to have increased in Iraq during the last month.

I belong to those that were more understanding of the action two years ago than most.

One of the reasons for that was that I found the possible alternative policy – Saddam in power in his palaces, with the people of Iraq sinking deeper and deeper into despair under the combination of external sanctions and internal repression – substantially worse. It would have lead to some sort of explosion sooner or later anyhow.

Much has been said of the truly massive intellience failure concerning weapons of mass destruction. Rarely has so prestigious institutions been so humiliated as the key Western intelligence organisations on this issue. It will take time for them to recover.

But if no weapons of mass destruction were found, a regime of mass repression certainly was. And its removal was a good thing for Iraq, for the region and for the world.

Now the obligation is to stay the course, defeat the insurgents and terrorist and create the conditions for the Iraqis themselves to build a decent and representative regime.

In the meantime, the link above will make it possible for you to view how the US Department of Defense wants to present the situation in Iraq two years after the start of the war.


Hawk with a Hearth

17 mars 2005

The nomination of Paul Wolfowitz – presently US Deputy Secretary of Defense – to be the new head of the World Bank has not been met with universal acclaim.

That’s understandable. The public image of him across the world is the image of a man driving the invasion of Iraq and belligerent US rhetoric in other cases as well.

Invading other countries is not seen as a core business for the World Bank, and his qualifications are accordingly questioned.

But I’m convinced that Paul will be an excellent head of the World Bank. He is far more of an open-minded intellectual than most people are aware of, has dealt extensively with issues of development not the least in Southeast Asia, and would bring both new political gravitas and renewed intellectual strengths to the World Bank.

That he is deeply committed to the values of freedom and democracy, and the transformation of authoritarian and ossified regimes in that direction, can hardly be seen as anything but a plus.


China Conflict Coming?

17 mars 2005

A few days in Washington are a few days in a rather confusing debate on where China is heading and how we should react to its ambitions.

The debate has been triggered by the intention of the European Union to abolish the arms embargo imposed on China after the Tiananmen massacres in 1989.

The embargo is today primarily political in nature. Some military and dual-use equipment continuous to be sold in limited quantities by European countries and the intention is to replace it with a control regime that ensures that nothing substantially more will be done.

The modernization of the Chinese armed forces today is – in terms of imports – done with a combination of advanced Russian platforms – fighters, submarines, surface combatants – and advanced Israeli electronics, although some of the most sophisticated sales have been blocked by the US.

But there is, in spite of this, great disquiet in Washington over the European intentions. It is seen as a bad signal to Beijing at a time when the Communist regime there is adopting a more belligerent rhetoric against Taiwan. And on the horizon there is the fear that at some point in time the United States might find itself in a military confrontation with a rising China.

At worst, Europeans are portrayed in this debate as irresponsible merchant types. At best, they are seen as naïve and ignorant of strategic realities in a part of the world distant from their immediate interests. There are kernels of truth in both these descriptions.

But it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that much of the US debate on the subject is driven by an interpretation of China with little foundation in either history or present. There is simply very little reason to expect that China is intending to develop into an aggressive military power seeking the domination of areas well beyond its present borders. The modernization of its armed forces could well be described as long overdue – the mass peasant army of Mao has no relevance in the modern world.

The issue of Taiwan isn’t easy. Both the US and Europe must be firm in supporting the democracy of Taiwan and opposing any armed threats against it, while at the same time recognizing that Taiwan belongs to China. The coming together of Taiwan with the rest of China must be a voluntary, gradual and peaceful process.

For the time being, it’s difficult to see that China is developing military forces that could seriously threaten to invade Taiwan or even cut it off from links with the outside world.

The threat that is there is in the form of hundreds of ballistic missiles stationed opposite Taiwan and with the capability to wreak havoc on the island. But these have been developed and produced with indigenous Chinese capabilities.

It is certainly worth taking note of the new China debate emerging in Washington. It’s potential for causing new friction across the Atlantic should not be neglected, but more important is to use it to initiate a deeper strategic dialogue on the issues connected with the rise of China.

Europe needs to widen its strategic horizons.


Kirkuk Tension Rising

15 mars 2005

The efforts to set up the new Iraq government continue to run into serious difficuilties.

In itself this is neither surprising nor alarming. There are European countries that routinely use longer time after an election to form a governments than the Iraqis have done so far. And, to put it mildly, the routine isn’t really there.

But more worth noting is the way in which it is Kirkuk and the issues around that are blocking progress.

The Kurds are now demanding that the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk should be included in their provinces.

The likelihood that the Arabs would agree to that looks very limited. It’s also something that would gravely concern the northern neighbour of Turkey in view of the significant Turkoman minority in Kiurkuk.

On top of that, they are demanding that their share of Iraq’s oil revenue is increased from 17 to 25 %. That’s a large amount of money.

It might well take both more of time and additional drama until these issues are resolved.


Barroso Promotes Lisbon Process

15 mars 2005

EUROPA – Rapid – Press Releases

With the European Council meeting scheduled to focus on follow-up to the so called Lisbon process of economic reform soon coming up, also Commission President Barroso is getting more active trying to promote a more forward-looking European agenda.

Here you find the speech he delivered earlier today to the distinctly pro-reform Lisbon Council in Brussels.

Whether he will succeed is a more open question. Disputes about changes in the Stability and Growth Pact are contributing to the muddling of the waters. And the draft conclusions from the European Council circulated by Luxembourg, wich holds the rotating six-month Presidency of the European Union at the moment, are not too encouraging.

But it is important to keep the pressure up.


Macedonia Problems

15 mars 2005

Well, there were obviously more problems than anticipated in the local elections in Macedonia:

”Whilst the generally orderly conduct of the elections in most places is very welcome, the serious and persistent irregularities in a significant number of municipalities undermine the process as a whole,” said Julian Peel Yates, heading the observer mission for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

”The behaviour of the persistent offenders must change before the (27 March) second round.”



Macedonia Moving

12 mars 2005

It might not be the biggest global story at the moment, but the first round of the local elections in Macedonia this Sunday are not without interest.

I was there when the country descended into fighting that brought to the brink of large-scale civil war in 2oo1. It was essentially a spill-over from Kosovo – most of the key rebel fighters had crossed the mountains from there in order to launch the attack on Kosovo – but still reflected some of the divisions in Macedonian society.

After heavy political intervention by the EU and the US, a political deal was brokered in Ohrid, and the country set on a new path with greater rights for its Albanian minority, consisting of somewhat more than a fifth of the total population.

The Ohrid Agreement has been under threat a number of time since then, but it has held. Now, a major reform of local administration has been done, including some highly controversial redrawing of municipal boundaries, and the elections now are to elect new local leaders to these partly new local administrations.

On a brief visit to Skopje, the political athmosphere was unsually calm. In Skopje, the battle will be within the Macedonian majority there, while in Tetovo, which is the key Albanian city, there will be fought a major electoral battle between two Albanian parties. The war leader from 2oo1, subsequently part of the government that implements the Ohrid Agreement, might well fail to unseat the dominance of the party that dominated the Tetovo region prior to the rebellion.

We’ll see. Either way, there is no reason to expect major drama. And it’s really the absence of major drama that is the big unreported story coming out of Macedonia. War makes headlines – peace really doesn’t, not even in places that have been on the verge of major war.

I was there for a major conference on economic development that brought most of the leaders of the region together. With growth rates of 4-5% and with foreign investment starting to increase there is a reasonable story to tell about the region.

But much more needs to be done, and that was the subject of the meeting. And at the centre of the discussions were the prospect for closer relations to, eventually leading to membership of, the European Union. That is seen as the safest way to both peace and prosperity for the region.

The silent success of the Ohrid Agreement has showed the peace possibilities – and the economic integration will over time show the prosperity potential.


Kofi Annan in Madrid on Terrorism

10 mars 2005

The Secretary-General’s Statements

Today UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke in Madrid and presented his ”5D-plan” for work to combat terrorism.


Terrorism Conclusions One Year After 11-M

10 mars 2005

It is one year since the largest terrorist attack on European soil. 191 people were killed as ten bombs went off on four trains heading for Atocha station in central Madríd.

We now know that the attack was masterminded by circles that are likely to have been connected to and drawn inspiration from al-Qaeda networks.

The March 11 attack was designed to be even more devastating than it turned out to be. It was planned to be the beginning of a campaign of terror across Spain in the months to follow.

It was only when seven of the conspirators blew themselves up after being surrounded by police that the planned continuation of the terror campaign was stopped. Only the day before, a bomb had been found on the high-speed train between Madrid and Sevilla. Investigators are now talking about a series of other planned targets – among them a college in the suburb of La Moraleja and a synagogue in Avila.

No less than 74 persons have no been indicted for their part in the March 11 attacks, but the actual trials are not expected to start until early next year. Inquiries are still carried out in Morocco, Algeria, France and Belgium in order to get a full picture of the plot that resulted in 11-M.

When many world leaders – including 23 heads of state – gathered in Madrid during theses days, it was natural to try to take stocks of what has been learnt and achieved since 11-M.

Much has certainly been done to strengthen anti-terrorist coordination inside the European Union, although more needs to be done. The glaring deficiencies identified in the Spanish system prior to 11-M should hopefully have been eliminated throughout Europe, but there are countries that are seriously lagging behind.

There has also been a continuing strengthening of cooperation across the Atlantic on these issues. As was the case also before 11-M, it is particularly worth noting the discreet success of US-French cooperation on these issues.

But the most remarkable aspect of the discussions in Madrid was really how there has been a general rapprochement between US and European views of the so called root causes of at the least this global terrorist phenomenon.

There has been a noticeable coming together of views on both the need to try to move the conflict between Israel and Palestine to some sort of settlement, with importance this would have also in the wider Muslim world, and of the need to pursue what President Bush has called a “forward strategy of freedom” in the entire region.

In Madrid, you heard people who otherwise are almost genetically anti-American and fundamentalist anti-Bush stand up and de facto echo the rhetoric on this issue coming out of so called neoconservative circles in Washington.

Indeed, the very theme of the Madrid meeting was “Democracy for a safer world”, although the more nuances discussions pointed out that while important for numerous reasons, the advance of democracy would not necessarily eliminate terrorism. Spain itself is a case to the point.

There was a mood of cautious optimism in the discussions on these issues. Israelis and Palestinians talked to each other in the debates, the corridors and the closed rooms. And Egyptian opposition activists and regime representatives could share a laugh or two in the discussions.

Sometimes there was a flare-up, as you would expect.

A prominent Arab editor of a newspaper known for its previous links to the Saddam Hussein regime launched a vicious attack against US F16’s allegedly killing tens of thousands in Iraq during the last year.

But he rapidly feel silent when a young girl stood up in the middle of the audience and said that without these F16’s – or whatever – many tens of thousands would continue to be routinely killed by the henchmen of Saddam and any discussion on building democracy in Iraq – and perhaps the wider region – would have been impossible.

Not everyone in Madrid was prepared to agree explicitly with her. But the entire theme and approach of the meeting was an implicit recognition of the truth of what she said.

11-M reminds us of the terrorist threat that is still there and the challenges ahead of us.

It is vitally important to achieve a democratic stability in Iraq. It remains important to strengthen police and security cooperation in Europe. More must be done to address the integration challenge also of 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants from these regions.

And not the least must the European Union be prepared to be – as El Pais quotes me as saying in one of the debates – more hardnosed in the use of its soft powers to promote the opening up and reforms of the often ossified regimes of the Middle East and North Africa.

Perhaps the discussions in Madrid – I’ll post the conclusions when they are ready – can be described as the opening up of a new “second front” of political action in the fight against global terrorism. If so, it has certainly been well spent days in the sun of Madrid.


Statement by President Vike-Freiberga

08 mars 2005

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia: Declaration by H.E. Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of the Republic of Latvia regarding 9 May 2005, Riga, 12 January 2005

And here is what President Vike-Freiberga of Latvia had to say about her decision to attend the celebrations in Moscow.

History isn’t just the past in large parts of Europe – it’s also the present.


Statement by President Adamkus

08 mars 2005

Lietuvos Respublikos Prezidentas -STATEMENT BY H. E. Mr. VALDAS ADAMKUS, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

Here the official statement by President Adamkus of Lithuania explaining his decision not to go. A well-balanced statement – but nevertheless I think it’s a mistake.


Regrettable Baltic Split

08 mars 2005

It has now been confirmed that Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia will be the only one of the three Baltic Presidents to attend the May 9th celebrations in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Arnold Ruutel of Estonia and Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania have decided to stay at home.

One can well understand the difficulties they are having with the Moscow celebration. For them, what happened 60 years ago was that one occupation was replaced with another. In a way, that day was the day that sealed their dark fate during the nearly a quarter of a century of Soviet occupation that followed.

And things have certainly not been made easier by Russian insistence that they weren’t really occupied, but that there was some voluntary element in their incorporation into the Soviet Union. The controversy over the Stalin-Ribbentropp agreement of August 1939, which really paved the way for WWII by dividing up Eastern Europe between the dictators, is as fierce as ever.

Nevertheless, I think the Estonian and Lithuanian Presidents are making their country a disfavour by not going to Moscow. They will make themselves too easy a target for those in Russia already eager to smear down the record of the Baltic countries during that very difficul period of their history.

We’ll see what the reaction will be. But I think it would have been better if they all would have gone.

Hats off for President Vike-Freiberga, who now on her own will have to explain the position of the three Baltic countries when European and world leaders meet in Moscow.


Madrid Democracy Summit

06 mars 2005

International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security | Safe Democracy

Here is the link to the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security that takes place in Madrid March 8 – 11. It will bring together UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and around 20 heads of state and government as well as 200 experts in the fields of democracy and terrorism.

The program on the website is still rather rudimentary, but I expect that they will update before and when the summit starts.

I will unfortunately not have the possibility of taken part in all of the summit, but will be part of the key discussion on Wednesday on prospects for democratic reform in the Middle East. I would expect that Egypt will be in the focus of that discussion, but we’ll see.


Freedom for the Mideast?

06 mars 2005

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Unexpected Whiff of Freedom Proves Bracing for the Mideast

There is no doubt that there is a new political wind blowing through the Middle East.

Much has been influenced by the elections in Palestine and Iraq. With pan-Arabic television increasingly important throughout the entire region, these waves of these elections have reached every corner of the Arab world.

And there is no denying the role played by the urgings of primarily US President Bush. In the case of the opening that we might now be seeing in Egypt, the connection seems to be very clear.

To this is now added what we are seeing on the streets of Lebanon, and the pressure that the regime in Damascus suddenly finds itself under.

On Wednesday of the coming week I’ll be in Madrid taking part in a panel discussing all these trends at the large Madrid Summit primarily focusing on the tragic anniversary of the terrorist attack on March 11 last year.

More than 200 of the best experts on these issues in the world are heading to Madrid for discussions, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the panel on reforms in the Arab world is the one that will get the greatest attention.

Something is stirring – and it is important to all of us.


Britain, France, Netherlands…

06 mars 2005

We are beginning to see the shape of the initial battes for ratification of the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union.

It is widely expected that Tony Blair will call a general election for May 5th. There is already semi-campaigns going on from both the Conservatives and Labour, with everyone just waiting for the formal announcement.

All opinion polls are showing Labour in the lead, although the Conservatives have been doing better lately. At the end of the day, it might be that it’s the ability to really get the supporters to go and vote that will make the difference.

If – against all the odds – the Conservatives were to win and form the next government, the future of the entire Constitutional Treaty will suddenly be up in the air. Although I guess they will go on with the planned referendum, it’s not entirely clear how that will happen, since present plans foresee that Parliament will approve the Treaty before the referendum, and with the Conservatives have geared themselves up on nationalist and anti-European rhetoric, it’s not easy to see how that will be done.

Assuming that Tony Blair remains Prime Minister after May 5, the next decision date is May 29 when France will hold its referendum.

On present trends that should be OK, although there is always the possibilities that a volatile French electorate will suddenly decide to use the referendum to register its disconent with something totally unrelated. That was the way the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty was very nearly lost in 1992.

There will be reason to try to follow the French debate leading up to this decision.

And thereafter will come the Netherlands on June 1st. We’ll see how the debates shape up there as well.


The Force of the Tallinn-Bratislava Process

03 mars 2005

Europe’s newest members challenge the old by Carl Bildt

In a piece in The Financial Times I have tried to draw attention to the transformation of the European economy that is now driven also by the reform competition after the entry of the new members from Central Europe and the Baltic area.

They represent only 5 % of the economy of the EU, but I would guess that we are soon in a situation where 50 % of business decision in Europe are, the one way or the other, driven or influenced by them.

The competitive pressures are now increasing faster in the European economy than anywhere else in the world. This is a result of the fact that we are affected not only by the accelerating process of globalisation, but also by the profound effects of the enlargement of the integrated European market.

And we are starting to see the results – the manufacturning sector in Europe is changing fast, and it is visibly competitive on the global markets.


The World of Refugees

03 mars 2005

unhcr.org

The latest annual report from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees makes for interesting reading.

While in the past there were large refugee flows to the industrialized countries from Afghanistan and Iraq, these have declined dramatically in recent years.

The number of asylum seekers from Afghanistan has declined by 83 % since 2001 and the number from Iraq by 80 % since 2002. Something good seems to have happened in these countries…

For the second year in a row, the largest number of asylum seekers are now coming from Russia. One has to assume that this to a large extent is connected with the conflict in Chechnya, but the statistics isn’t so differentiated that it actually says so.

The second largest number of asylum seekers are coming from Serbia-Montenegro. I would consider it more than likely that this to a large extent consist of people from the minority communities in Kosovo in view of the insecurity they are feeling there.

Although we are thus in one of the periods when the number of asylum seekers is declining – it was a 19 % drop for the EU countries – we have no right to be complacent, and should instead see the figures on where these people are coming from as an indication on where we need to concentrate our efforts to seek resolution to different conflicts.


Reform in Palestine

03 mars 2005

Foreign & Commonwealth Office News

It was undoubtedly an important meeting that was held in London this Tuesday on how to help building a viable and democratic Palestine state.

The initiative come from Tony Blair, but the meeting was well attended in every single respect. Palestine President Abbas was obviously there, but so was UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, US Secretary of State Rice, President of the Europan Commission Barroso and numerous others.

Since I was at the same time at the University of Cambridge giving lectures and being part of seminars on ”Peace After War”, I couldn’t follow all the details of the conference, but the concluding remarks by Tony Blair seems to sum up what was achieved.

A good days work, obviously.


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