Europe Starting Up

05 januari 2007

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.

The Future of Somalia

01 januari 2007

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.


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