Travel, Mix, Understand and Change!

28 februari 2005

EUROPA – Rapid – Press Releases

Danuta Hübner is now member of the European Commission from Poland, but in the 1970’s she was just a girl that had the possibility of leaving her country and go to the University of Sussex in England.

Now she’s been back getting an honorary degree and speaking to its students. Her remarks on thge changes her Europe has seen and the tasks ahead are well worth reading.

The future of Europe depends on its ability to change – which is driven by the younger generation.

And she urges the students to ”become beacons of entrepreneurial zeal but alo of tolerance and understanding.”

”Travel, mix with strange people, become cosmopolitan… seek to understand even the strangest of your fellow human beings.”

Elephant Racing Ahead!

28 februari 2005

Economy & Policy

Today has been budget day in New Delhi. Projected to be the world’s larghest country in terms of population in a few decades, the economy of India has also benefited enormously from the liberal reforms of the last decade.

But more is needed, and the new Singh government want to increase the growth rate from the7 % of today towards a sustained growth around 10 %, which IMF and others conside perfectly possible given the right policies.

Todays budget brings a number of tax changes and opens up theecoomy further to foreign investment and trade. It looks good, and the Indian stock market accordingly soared after having seen the details.

I’m certain China takes note – and we should as well.

The Netherlands Vote June 1st

27 februari 2005

The Netherlands has now announced that it will hold its referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty on June 1st.

Before that it is generelly expected that the referendum in France will be held.

And it has now been announced that Denmark will have its referendum immediately after the summer on September 27.

Public opinion is the Netherlands on these issues are likely to be in a somewhat volatile stage. There has been a strong reaction against the perception that the larger powers – read Germany – can do what they want with the Growth and Stability Pact, while the somewhat smaller ones are supposed to adhere to it.

And to this should be added the debate on all of the issues connected with the Van Gogh murder last year. Issues of immigration and integration were certainly at the forefront of the debate when I was in The Hague some time ago.

But against this stands the very strong approval of the Constitutional Treaty by all of the major political parties of the country.

Elections? Real? In Egypt? If so… Great!

26 februari 2005

Aljazeera.Net – Egypt’s leader orders election reform

In a declaration of profound importance, President Husni Mubarak of Egypt has announced that there will be open, direct and contested presidential elections in the country in September.

Previously, President Mubarak has been election four times in a process having very little to do with real democracy.

But with a possible fifth term coming up, pressures – also in public – for change towards a real election have been increasing visible.

It’s not difficult to see that this has been inspired both by elections in Palestine and Iraq and by the public pressure on Egypt from US President Bush. Twice in the last month or so President Bush has called on Egypt to move towards more of democracy.

It remains to be seen what the details will look like. We are unlikely to see an entirely smooth process towards a fully democratic system.

But the genie is out of the bottle, change is the order of the day, democracy can not be avoided and the region is truly changing. It should not be forgotten that Egypt is not only the most populated but historically probably the most significant of all the Arab countries.

So, we are talking about changes of momenteous importance. And not even the most fervent Bush-bashers can avoid giving at the least some credit for all of this to him.

Is There a Plan B?

25 februari 2005

pr_599_britain_no.pdf (application/pdf Object)

As we are now seeing the one referendum on the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union after the other, it’s only natural that the question is asked what will happen if the one or the other country does not ratify the treaty.

The danger seems greatest in the United Kingdom, although it’s much too early to make any predictions on a referendum not likely to be held until Spring 2006 at the earliest.

Charles Grant of the Center for European Reforms has however tried to speculate on what might happen if Britain votes No. In essence, he sees a rather messy future in that case, with interest that are close to him – as well as me – likely to suffer and to be marginalized.

The link is to the press release which has just a summary of his arguments. I’m sure it’s worth reading in full.

Henry Kissinger on Middle East Peace Process

24 februari 2005

kis021005.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Some voices in the international debate are always worth listening to. Henry Kissinger is certainly among them. Coming from a more ”realist” school of international affairs than what is in vogue at the moment, he still brings vast amount of personal experience and historical perspective to the discussions.

Recently he appeared before the Committee of International Relations of the US House of Representatives with a rather hard-nosed assessment of the situation.

For those of us who have been listening to and reading him for mant years by now, this in his special way seems like a remarkably upbeat assessment of the prospects ahead.

A Far Away Country of Which We Know Little…

24 februari 2005

Meddling Raises Stakes in Moldova

Beneath the headlines of the global media, things are heaing in Moldova prior to the March 6 parliamentary election.

Sliced between coming EU member Romania and reforming Ukraine, but with the break-away Russian-run and criminals-infested enclave of Transdnestr dividing the country, the country is exposed to numereous different forces.

At least since the Ukraine presidential election, politics is changing in the entire post-Soviet area. We see circles in Moscow taking a far more aggressive approach in terms of trying to interfere to prevent political developments from going in a direction they don’t like.

In this article you will encounter the name Alksnis as one of those now active on this circuit. For anyone remembering the details of Russian nationalist attempts to undermine the stability of Latvia it’s a name that have the alarm bells ringing.