SPD Meltdown in Berlin

31 oktober 2005

M�ntefering to Step Down as SPD Leader | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 31.10.2005

What a mess! The German Social Democratic Party SPD today managed to throw itself into what might well be the worst crisis in the post-war history of the party.

It was the much too successful revolt of the left wing of the SPD against party Chairman and potential Deputy Chancellor Franz Muentefering that caused the entire thing.

Faced with a devastating defeat when the party central board voted with 23 votes against 14 against his candidate for Secretary-General of the SPD in favour of the standard-bearer of the leftist faction, Muentefering declared that he could not remain as Chairman of the party.

Puuuhhh!

What will come out of this is a anyones guess at the moment. Berlin hasn’t recovered from the initial chock as of yet. And the SPD seems to be in outright turmoil. A commentator noted that not even the Greens in their most chaotic days were ever in such a profound disarray…

In principle, the coalition talks between CDU/CSU and the SPD continue. But that’s in principle. It’s exceedingly difficult to form a coalition with one of the pillars of that coalition in profound disarray. In pratical terms it’s unlikely to work.

Within a couple of weeks the SPD seems to be losing most of the leadership capabilities it once had, only to descend into a state of confusion and disarray.

This isn’t good for anyone. I’m not the one to cry too much for Social Democrats in trouble, but there ought to be a limit to everything.

Ëurope needs a stable and forward-looking Germany.

But today the leftwing of the SPD has throw everything in doubt.

There will be drama in the days ahead.


Global Europe

31 oktober 2005

Global Europe: full-employment Europe

As a contribution to the discussion on where Europe is heading, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has published a 15-page text on ”Global Europe” that is certainly worth reading.

It focuses on the new competitive challenge coming primarily from China and India, but also to some extent from America. And it notes that ”Europe as a whole is losing ground to competitors in five key areas: growth, labour market performance, skills, innovation and enterprise.

That’s correct, although it’s also correct that this ”Europe as a whole” also contains parts that are doing very well indeed, and which shows what can be achieved. Britain isn’t always among those regions, and that might explain the omission.

The thesis then is that ”from the era of a European trade bloc, we are moving to the era of a global Europe.”

Sounds good, but also neglects the rather crucial fact that the widening and deepening of the European single market is an absolutely key ingredient in any policy that wants to strengthen the global position of Europe.

It’s not two distinct and different phases in the evolution of Europe – but rather two that are now reinforcing each other.

But all in all, it’s a document worth reading and discussing.


Sounds like Norway…

30 oktober 2005

These are intense days on the Swedish domestic political scene. It’s less than a year to the general election in September of next year, and the governing Social Democrats are having their congress in order to try to get their act together and improve their standing with the electorate.

So far, we have heard them promise 10 billion Swedish crowns in new public efforts to improve the care of the elderly. Nice, no doubt.

And just prior to the congress, we had the main centre-right opposition party, likely to lead the next government, promise 5 billion Swedish crowns in a major expansion of public pre-school childcare. Nice, no doubt.

It all reminds me of politics in Norway prior to their election. There was virtually nothing that wasn’t promised.

But there is one crucial difference. They have oil – and we haven’t.

We have taxes. And for what I hear there is a grave risk of us getting more of those…


My Week Ahead

30 oktober 2005

Now and then I get mild complaints that my blog doesn’t really say what I’m doing. Most blogs have more of a personal touch – this one tends to be more focused on the substance of politics.

Since more than a decade back I have been writing a more or less weekly newsletter distributed to a fairly wide audience over the Internet. The limitation has been that they have been in Swedish, but they have included a fair amount of what I have been doing in different respects.

With the blog being more important, the frequency of the newsletter has declined dramatically. In a way, my blog entries are on their way to replace the newsletter, although it will never be the same. The readership is also very different.

Today is a wonderful autumn day in Stockholm, and I have been fortunate to be here the entire last week.

Tomorrow here in Stockholm I will record the first two ”dinners” to be shown by TV8 later this autumn.

We did six ”Dinner with Bildt” one-hour TV programs last year for TV8, and they have since then run several times. TV8 is as close to public service TV as you get in this country, although it is private. And the program is really a dinner conversation with interesting people on an interesting subject.

The programs were evidently so popular that TV( felt that they had to insist that I should continue with some more, and I have agreed although it has been somewhat difficult to fit into my schedule. And the first two of the planned six new dinners are recorded tomorrow.

As for the subjects and the guests – let’s return to that later.

On Tuesday I’m off to Washington for an informal meeting on trans-Atlantic issues that occurs twice every year, once in Europe and once in Washington. It’s a very good group, consisting of people both in and out of office, which over the years have engaged in very open debates on the most critical issues of the day.

And there will certainly not be a shortage of subjects this meeting either.

We meet just outside of Washington, but late Wednesday afternoon I go in town in order to join former Congressman Lee Hamilton in delivering the two keynote speeches at this years main meeting of the Transatlantic Policy Network. TPN is a gathering that brings together members of the US Congress with members of the European Parliament, although it is well attended also by members of the adminitration. As such, it is a most useful forum for dialogue.

TPN goes on until Friday afternoon, but by that time I must already be back in Stockholm on other issues.

Another trans-Atlantic week, as you can see.


Washington Media Firestorm 2

30 oktober 2005

Mr. Libby’s Indictment

It is not without interest that today’s editorial in The Washington Post makes an assessment of the ongoing drama that resulted in the indictment of ”Scooter” Libby very similar to the one I made here yesterday.

They note that the Special Prosecutor has found no evidence or sign of any criminal leaking of information. That was, after all, what he was asked to investigate.


Democracy? Dictatorship? Well, China…

30 oktober 2005

People’s Daily Online — China issues white paper on political democracy

The authorities in Beijing have just published a white paper on how they see what they call democracy in China. Obviously, they felt the need for some sort of explanation.

In it we can read that ”China’s democracy is a democracy guaranteed by the people’s democratic dictatorship”. And it is made very clear that everything is done under the firm direction of the Chinese Communist Party and with ”democratic centralism” as one of the guiding principles.

But the document is not only an attempt to describe everything in rosy terms. We also learn that ”the democratic system is not yet perfect; the people’s right to manage state and social affairs, economic and cultural undertakings as masters of the country in a socialist market economy are not yet fully realized; laws that have already been enacted are sometimes not fully observed or enforced, and violations of the law sometimes go unpunished”.

So the document can be read either as a rather bizarre attempt to try to dress up the regime in some democratic dressing – an effort most unlikely to succeed – or as a way of saying that there is some limited room for change in the system.

Change there will have to be, sooner or later, in the one way or the other.

Whether this rather remarkable documents is intended to stop or promote change is a subject of debate.

The issue will certainly not go away.


New Start with Cameron?

29 oktober 2005

cameroncampaign.org

For political parties, the election of new leaders can sometimes be a rather messy affair.

The Conservative Party in the UK hasn’t been spectacularly succesful in chosing its leaders during the last decade. The individuals that have been there with obvious leadershipb potential – a Kenneth Clarke, a Michael Portillo – have all been sidelined, and one has ended up with individuals that have all been heading for failure.

There are numerous reasons for this, but one has been the split in the party over the issue of Europe, and the obsession of its more nationalist wing with getting anti-Europeans to the top and putting this issue forward as one of the most important.

British public opinion might not be the most enthusiastic on European issues, which is hardly surprising if one sees the vitriolic anti-Europen line taken by some of the key media of the country. But they do not want to see their country isolated in Europe, and they don’t want antik-European sentiments to dominate the politics of their country.

Accordingly, the strident anti-European line has taken the Conservative Party from the one failure to the other.

Now it’s in the middle of a new leadership selection process. It’s an elaborate affair. First, a series of votes among the Members of Parliament produced a list of candidates that was eventually narrowed down to two. And now the 300 000 members of the party will vote by ballot in order to choose between these two. The winner will be announced on December 6.

The clear frontrunner at the moment is David Cameron. Young, untested and open on most issues, he seems to embody the hopes for a fresh start. He’s seen as the Conservative version of what Tony Blair once brought to a Labour Party going nowhere.

On Europe, David Cameron is more open than most. It’s simply not been that much on his agenda. But there is no reason whatsoever to believe that he will portray the party as negatively on these issues as some of his successors have done.

On Thursday of the coming week the two contenders David Cameron and Dave Davis are scheduled to meet directly in a TV duel. That’s a first in British politics where duels of this sort don’t even happen in general elections.

At the moment it looks as if David Cameron has established a solid lead in the campaign. We’ll see if that duels will change the situation.

But all together there seems to be an element of new life in and new hope for the Conservative Party.

If nothing else, then the United Kingdom at the very least needs a better opposition.


The Media Firestorm in Washington

29 oktober 2005

Mission To Niger

The US political scene seems completely consumed by the indictment handed down by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald against Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff ”Scooter” Libby.

The wolfpacks in the more liberal-oriented media had hoped that Fitzgerald would bring down the President’s Deputy Chief of Staff – and architecht of the Bush electoral victories – Karl Rove.

For all the enormous noise generated by the issue, the substance of the story that has generated the present firestorm on the US media scene seems rather thin.

The assumed accusation is that Rove and/or Libby deliberated leaked a covert CIA operatives name to the media in order to discredit a story that was critical of some of the information pointing at Saddam Hussein aquiring nuclear weapons.

To me, this sounded unlikely from the very beginning for the simply reason that the information that was allegedly leaked in no way discredited the story. The information was fairly irrelevant to the issue under discussion.

Linked from here you can read the July 14, 2003 story that started the firestorm. The information on the Ambassador’s wife doesn’t really either add to or subtract anything of political significance from the story.

In the Washington rumour hothouse, it is of course journalistically interesting with that extra CIA angle to the story, but hardly more than that.

Leaking more or less secret and inside information is of course part of normal life of most more or less normal people in Washington. The media is filled with such things on daily basis. But the leaking of the names of a secret CIA operative is a special crime, and accordingly this particular story quickly acquired a dimension of its own.

Since then, a Special Prosecutor has spent more than two years trying to find out how this information ended up in Robert Novak’s column that day and if anyone should be indicted for leaking secret information.

At the end of the day the Special Prosecutor hasn’t been able to find that Karl Rove did anything wrong, and has ended up indicting ”Scooter” Libby for issues that has to do with his behaviour during the investigation rather than the leaking of the information.

That’s of course serious, and will now result in the indictment being tested in a trial, but separate from the core issue.

And is that it?

More than two years and an immense amount of agitation, speculation and accusations that – as concerns the original substance of the story – has so far ended up in nothing.


Camp YaG 14/10

28 oktober 2005

A Desolate Place at the End of the Line

This is the prison camp in the desolate uranium mining town of Krasnokamensk near the Chinese border in a far-away part of Siberia where former Russian Yukos-creator Mikhail Khodorkovsky is scheduled to spend the next six years of his life.

He has already served two of the years of his prison sentence.

No one – either outside or inside Russia – really doubts that he is a de facto political prisoner of the Putin regime. He might have meddled in politics, but in a democracy that’s certainly no crime even if you happen to be a succesful businessman.

In the meantime the Russian authorities are preparing the final dismanling of the previously highly succesful Yukos oil company, as well as the take-over of other oil assets, bringing app a third of the country’s oil production back in state hands.

An obvious consequence of all these maneuverings is that we are now seeing oil exports from Russia declining. While exports increased by 14 % last year, this year the figure will be far less than expexted, and likely below 2 %.

Privatization is sent to the GULAG – and state inefficience is taking over key parts of the key oil sector.

It’s not a good story.


New York and Prishtina

27 oktober 2005

Kosovo, Still Messy After All These Years – New York Times

I have to confess that my views on the Kosovo issue are fairly close to those expressed by the editorial in The New York Times today.

It’s certainly worth reading, although I think it might be more representative of thinking in key European circles than among most of those leading public opinion on that side of the Atlantic.


Vaxholm War Skirmishes

26 oktober 2005

EUobserver.com: ”Just because Latvia is a new member state and one of its smallest states does not mean its concerns are less important”

A further skirmish in the ongoing Vaxholm war between the Swedish trade unions and a more open Europe occured in the European Parliament yesterday.

Internal market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy was called to account by the Socialists for the remarks he made during an earlier visit to Sweden.

His remarks had caused the Swedish government to go ballistic – after all, the hardly pressed Social Democratic party is very much dependent on the financial resources of the big trade unions associated with them.

But McCreevy stood his ground.

Pointedly, he remarked that ”just because Latvia is a new member state and one of its smallest states does not mean its concerns are less important”, referring to Swedish government attempts to just bully the Latvians into submission.

It’s important to understand what the war is really about.

The Latvian construction firm building the school had a collective agreement with all its workers. And the wages stipulated in this was above the minimum that is there on the corresponding Swedish market. Talk about ”social dumping” has no relevance whatsoever.

The only thing that had been dumped was the Swedish trade union. And that’s not necessarily the end of either Sweden or Europe.

The Vaxholm war continues. It’s of great importance for the future of Europe.


History Strikes Back in Poland

25 oktober 2005

Election 2005

The map showing the result of this Sunday’s election for President of Poland is rather remarkable.

It shows how support for the winning Lech Kaczynski was concentrated in those parts of Poland that once upon a time was part of either the Russian or the Habsburg empire. These are still the least developed parts of the country.

In contrast, support for the more liberal but less succesful Donald Tusk was concentrated in areas that once was more part of Germany and which to this day are the more developed ones. After 1945 however there was an almost complete change of population in these areas.

The result was not too inspiring.

It was the victory of the deep past over the more present future. It was the old and the rural asserting itself against the young and the urban. It was deep Catholicism against a more modern and liberal state. It was – as they said – Polska B versus Polska A.

And the campaign itself had its distinct low points. There was an attempt to smear Donald Tusk as not being sufficiently Polish and, the one way or the other, somewhat too German. Lech Kaczynski campaign openly against the concept of a liberal Poland.

We’ll see which consequences this will have. The powers of the President are fairly limited, but with the two twin brothers controlling both the biggest force in parliament and the presidency it is of course another situation.

The President does set the tone on foreign affairs. He has already accepted a mid-January invitation to Washington, made it clear that Brussels is third priority after both Washington and the Vatican and said that he will not go to Moscow until Putin has been to Warzaw. And with Germany relations are not ideal after the impresssions created by his campaign behaviour.

But it is of course the economy that is the most important issue.

Now Poland will have to get serious about forming a new government based on the somewhat earlier election to the Sejm. The Law and Justice party PiS of the Kaczynski brothers wants to get into a coalition with the liberal and reform-determined Platform PO.

One would hope that PO will now see the risks for the reputation of Poland in this election result and drive a bargain with PiS that guarantees a continued reform course. After the period of stagnation under the different decaying Socialist administrations it’s certainly high time for that.

Poland must not stumble from one decaying idea to another.


Kosovo Convulsions to Come

25 oktober 2005

SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENT OFFERS FULL SUPPORT FOR START OF POLITICAL PROCESS TO DETERMINE KOSOVO’S FUTURE STATUS

Yesterday’s Presidential Statement from the United Nations Security Council is the formal start of the process of trying to determine the future status of Kosovo. It followed an open debate at the Security Council after the presentation of the Eide report.

The statement is – as much too often is the case – somewhat naive.

It ”reaffirms its commitment to the objective of a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo” after having endorsed the Eide report that states that in particular the situation in the former respect is ”grim” and holds out little prospect for improvement.

I guess it’s the triumph of hope over experience.

The international community has now changed course from its previous doctrine of ”standards before status” to the new ”status before standards.

I certainly share the Eide assessment that the status issues must be on the table. Indeed, I have advocated this for years. But I certainly don’t share the belief that this will be easy or that everything will be better.

I see a substantial risk that standards will deterioate rather than improve as we accelerate the status issue. And if we neglect the risk of us setting up a failed state in a fragile region, and don’t take firm action to try to prevent this, we are almost certain of doing precisely that.

There will be convulsions ahead.

Let’s hope that President Ahtisaari has the stamina and patience to maneuver the process through the time it will take.


Hampton Court Harmony?

25 oktober 2005

COM2005_525_en.pdf (application/pdf Object)

The question of the week on the European scene is the degree of harmony or disharmony we will see when the heads of state and government of the European Union meet on Thursday in Hampton Court in England for a supposedly relaxed chat about the state of the economy and Europe.

For Tony Blair it’s the Number One chance of relaunching Europe along the lines he indicated in his speech to the European Parliament in June.

For Commission President Barroso it is his chance of showing that he is still a relevant actor on the scene.

For still-Chancellor Schröder it’s just stupid turning up when everyone is waiting for Angela Merkel and the policies coming out of the present talks between CDU/CSU and SPD.

Although the later fact substantially reduces the effectiveness of the gathering it will still be a closely watched event.

Can President Chirac abstain from the tirades against the global trade talks and liberal economic policies that he has frequently indulged in recently?

The distance between France and the rest has increased in the last few weeks as it has looked as if Paris is refusing solidarity with the agreed European line in the global trade talks, particularly on the agricultural issues.

The European Commission has produced a background document for the gathering which isn’t bad but neither particularly hard-hitting or agenda-setting. It’s a decent staff paper, but not much in terms of new policy directions.

Nevertheless it is worth reading for all those taking an interest in the debate.

It has got headlines for the proposalto create ”a new Globalisation Adjustment Fund which can complement the structural funds, and notably the European Social Fund, by providing a swift response, focused on people, to urgent problems which result from globalisation.

This looks dubious at best and dangereous at worst.

If an enterprise fails to stay competitive, should it then have the possibility of applying for European Union subsidies to cover losses that are bound to rise and rise?

Or should it suddenly be the European Commission responsibility to step in with retraining and other schemes when he firm has to close or reduce employment as a result of competition from outside the Union?

In both cases it looks highly dubious. This could not be the tasks of the European Union.

The only think certain of this proposal should be adapted would be that governments would direct criticism at the Commission for everything in this area it did not do. The Commission just sets itself up to be the scapegoat of choice for the populist politicians of Europe. It seems less than wise.

One would hope that there would be significant disharmony at Hampton Court at the least over this aspect of the European Commission paper.

It’s not more funds that Europe needs – it’s more firms.


Luther Heading for Mecca?

24 oktober 2005

Islamic Calvinists. Change And Conservatism In Central Anatolia – Reports – Turkey – ESI

The different reports from the European Stability Initiative are always worth reading, but very few of them more than this one.

It’s about the developments in the province of Kayseri in Central Anatolia in Turkey. And it’s not only relevant to any discussion about Turkey and the European Union, but has implications for a discussion on wider trends within the wider sphere of Islam as well.

To borrow from the summary of the report:

Central Anatolia, with its rural economy and patriarchal, Islamic culture, is seen as the heartland of this ‘other’ Turkey. Yet in recent years, it has witnessed an economic miracle that has turned a number of former trading towns into prosperous manufacturing centres.”

”This new prosperity has led to a transformation of traditional values and a new cultural outlook that embraces hard work, entrepreneurship and development. While Anatolia remains a socially conservative and religious society, it is also undergoing what some have called a ‘Quiet Islamic Reformation’.”

”Many of Kayseri’s business leaders even attribute their economic success to their ‘protestant work ethic’.

Is Luther preparing a march on Mecca – starting in Central Anatolia?


Internet Confusion in Brussels

24 oktober 2005

ubiquitous_world_20051017.pdf (application/pdf objekt)

It is hardly surprising that Commissioner Viviane Reding has felt a rather urgent need to answer the criticism that has been directed – by me, as well as numerous others – against the position taken by the European Commission in the ongoing international discussions on Internet governance.

And this she did in the linked speech in Brussels on October 17th. I’m sorry that it is only now that I have had the time to comment on it.

In the speech she defends the Commission position by giving what is very close to a completely false description of the existing state of affairs. The average reader is left with the impression that it is the US government that takes all the decisions on – among other things – country domain names, and the average reader is accordingly likely to find this a somewhat odd arrangement.

But this is not the case. All these decisions are taken by the independent ICANN corporation which brings together the different stake-holderds in the system, and Reding is saying that ”we fully support” ICANN. And they are always taken with an input from its powerful Government Advisory Committee, in which the European Commission has always been fairly active.

The US role is limited to an ultimate oversight over the changes introduced in the system through one of the so called root servers, although the most important one. This is a role that is derived from the historical role the US has played in the origin and evolution of the system.

But this is a power that, to my knowledge, has never been used to interfere with, alter or in any way change any of the decisions on these issues taken by ICANN. It’s an ultimate safeguard in the system – nothing more than that, but as such of rather profound importance.

The problem with the European Commission approach is that it misrepresents the actual state of affairs in order to seek changes that are very unclear and in fact might lead to a very messy and potentially dangereous situation.

It’s hardly surprising that Reding is very vague on what she wants to replace this ultimate US safeguards function with. She talks vaguely about ”a forum” that ”would not replace existing mechanisms and institutions, but complement them”.

What does exactly does this mean? First she attacks the existing mechanisms by misrepresenting then, and then she calls for something that would not replace anything of it?

Is it just a confused text, or confusing thinking or throuroughly confused policy? I suspect the latter.

And the problem is that by moving down this road – attacking a system that might not be perfect but actually works rather well, playing on feelings that we should rather seek to contain and introducing vague ideas about the future that might risk opening for profoundly dangereous developments – the European Commission risks actively playing into the hands of those that really want a handle on the control of the Internet.

Commission Reding says that she fully supports ICANN.

Fine, but then she should listen more to them that to the cotterie of control regimes that are seeking change.

And there are also others worth listening to on issues like these. The European Network Operators Association ETNO might not belong to the household names in the public debate throughout Europe, but on an issue like these they are certainly worth listening to.

In a letter to the European Commission, they have said that they are ”surprised” by the stand that the Commission has taken, and that they are ”concerned that the proposed amendment, as currently drafted, would risk to affect negatively global connectivity, security or reliability of the Internet.

That’s fairly strong language on an important issue.

The European Commission must be on the right side of an issue like this. Now it is – at best – in the middle of a self-created muddle in between.


Small for Europe – Big for Bosnia

24 oktober 2005

EUROPA – Rapid – Press Releases

In a small step for Europe the European Commission is now urging the opening up of negotiations with Bosnia on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

In themselves, these so called SAA’s are not particularly impressive. They are less in both substance and commitment to what the Central European countries were once offered.

But theior symbolic importance is still huge, since they are seen as the first necessary step that might one day lead to full membership in the European Union.

They are the concrete expression of the soft power of Europe that is gradually taking the region from the nationalist conflicts of the past to the European integration of the future.

So, every small step is of importance.

And this small step for Europe is undoubtedly a big step for Bosnia.


The Rain and Sun in Spain

23 oktober 2005

Well, we learnt a long time ago that the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.

That’s certainly been the case on the central Castillian plan where also Madrid is located this weeekend. But the rain was greeted almost with jubilation, since it brought relief from a long period of draught up on these plains.

Two issues are dominating the politics of Spain at this very time.

The first is the renewed constitutional tension after the ruling majority of Catalonia has presented a proposal for a radically extended autonomy to Madrid. There is talk of moving from a de facto federal state to something that comes close to a de facto confederal state, and then upsetting the big constitutitional deal that resulted in the constitution of 1978.

This issue will not go away lightly. And there are of course similar or more far-reaching proposals debated elsewhere, notable in the Basque provinces. There is no doubt that the state structure of Spain is under a certain stress from these centrifugal tendencies.

And these issues have their emotional connotations as well. To preserve the unity of Spain has always been the most important issue for important political groups. There is a risk of upsetting some of the core post-Franco compromises and deals that paved the way for modern Spain.

The other issue is obviously that of illegal immigration from Africa, recently highlighted by the dramatic pictures from the small enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the North African coast. Desperate refugees have come from South of the Sahara, and are ready for anything the scale the barriers and get into the paradise that Spain and the European Union is supposed to be.

Spain has absorbed immigration amounting to 1% of its population annually during a number of years. It’s big numbers, but these have also been of great importance to the positive development of the economy of Spain during these years. It has certainly been the best performing of the larger economies of the Euro area.

It’s been an expansion driven by domestic demand, in which the building sector has been a most important component. In no small way is the connected with the migration of people from the more northern parts of Europe to the sun along the coast of Spain that has required the one new large development after the other. Spain is becoming a Florida in Europe.

But this expansion of the construction sector to meet this growing demand would hardly have been possible without the influx of immigrant labour primarily from North Africa. And its future expansion will in the same way be dependent on this immigration.

So it’s to a large extent the combination of the sun inside the European Union and the hope for a better future light among those desperate for a better life in adjcent Africa that has allowed Spain to do as well as it has done.

An interesting aspect of the emerging new European economy.


Bosnia Between 1995 and 2014

20 oktober 2005

bildt.net

Any conference on Bosnia has its permanent features of standard rhetoric. Today’s meeting in Geneva wasn’t any different in that respect.

However, it fell to the Foreign Minister of Switzerland to stand for most of it. That was interesting in that it deprived others of that particular burden as well as showing a Switzerland somewhat more engaged on the international stage than so far has been the case.

As usual, much of the attention was focused on whether what we achieved in Dayton a decade ago was good or not. Everyone agreed that it did end the war, but then there were the usual discussions on whether the constitutional framework as agreed then is the appropriate one for the future.

Indeed, it has emerged as conventional wisdom that the Dayton framework need to be changed in a number of respects. But the problem is that opinion differs very widely on what needs to be done, and there is no truly serious dialogue on these subjects.

Making speeches is not the same thing as establishing a dialogue, and we see far too much of the former and far too little of the later.

In my speech I both went back to what the situation really was a decade ago and how peace was finally achieved in Bosnia. It’s a story somewhat different from the popular mythology on the subject, but that makes it even more important to tell it.

And then I wanted to say some thruths that are much too easily forgotten at more diplomatic gatherings like these, primarily on the failure of the politicians of Bosnia to concentrate on the economic reforms so urgently necessary. Indeed, if they are not pursued, there is a serious risk of an economic and social meltdown in the country some time in the future.

There is really nothing in the constitutional framework of today that prevents the responsible politicians in Bosnia from taking the decisions on economic reforms that are so urgently necessary.

Those interested can find my speech through the link to my webpage.

After the initial opening session, the conference broke up into different working sessions on different issues. As you could expect, the smallest number of people went to the session on economic issues, although that in reality should have been the most important one.

Bosnia is now on the verge of an important transition from the international protectorate established in 1997 – after I left – towards entering into a process of European integration. Commissioner Rehn announced that in all probability Bosnia will enter into negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union towards the end of this year.

And very soon my old Office of the High Representative will have to diminish its powers and its role. A decade after Dayton it is high time to give Bosnia its sovereignity.

There is much to be worried about in Bosnia today – but also the possibility of opening up a new phase in its development towards a more normal European country.


Geneva and Bosnia

20 oktober 2005

swissinfo swiss information business culture news informations of switzerland :NEWS – d�tail

These weeks a decade ago were dramatic and important when it come to ending the brutal war in Bosnia and paving the way for peace in that country.

Much of the work was centered on Geneva, and thus it is appropriate that perhaps the most important of the different events that will look back on those days and discuss the development of Bosnia in the years that have passed should take place here by Lac Leman.

Today, more than 300 people meet for a two-day conference that will be opened with speeches by the Foreign Minister of Switzerland Micheline Calmy-Rey, European Commissioner Olle Rehn, the Prime Minister of Bosnia Adnan Terzic as well as myself.

It is all very much the work of Wolfgang Petritsch. He served as the 3rd High Representative in Bosnia but is now Ambassador of Austria here in Geneva.

We are looking forward to an interesting day.


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