Unfinished Cyprus Peace

31 juli 2005

Turkey Signs Customs Union Additional Protocol

In a significant move, Turkey has now signed a protocal that extends its agreement on the customs union with the EU also to the Republic of Cyrprus. This was a precondition for the envisaged launching of accession negotiations on October 3rd.

But at the same time Turkey makes clear that this does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus as the government of the entire island. Such recognition will be given to a government that emerges out of a peace process that brings an end to the division of the island.

There are certain to be protests from Nicosia and efforts to use this to block the accession negotiations. What Athens will do remains to be seen.

But having exelled in both nationalism and populism in blocking the UN-sponsored and EU-supported comprehensive peace plan for the island, which was supported by both Ankara and the Turkish part of Cyprus, Nicosia has given the moral high ground on these issues to the Turks.

K2 versus Human Rights in Uzbekistan

30 juli 2005

U.S. Evicted From Air Base In Uzbekistan

The US has been facing a serious dilemma in its relations with Uzbekistan after the massacres in May in the city of Andijan.

While State Departement has been clear in its condemnation of what happened, and has called for an international investigation, the Pentagon has been equally clear in wanting to keep its critical so called K2 air base which is the main hub for both US and international operations in Afghanistan.

It’s been a true dilemma – and interesting to watch how the controversies around it have unfolded.

But now the dilemma has evidently been resolved by President Kamirov, who has asked the US to leace K2 within 180 days. He wants to be free to terrorize his own people in order to be able to stay in power.

We’ll see what happens. 180 days is a long time. But it must be slightly embarrasing for Washington that it was Kamirov rather than them that said that the base there is hardly possible to combine with a firm stance for human rights.

End of Terror in Ireland

30 juli 2005

Derry Journal – the latest news, sport, business and entertainment from Derry

On Thursday July 28 the leaderhip of the Irish Republican Army issued a statement saying that it’s armed campaign was over and ordered its units to get rid of their weapons in a transparent and credible way.

For 36 years the so called Provisional Wing of the IRA was one of the deadliest terrorist organisations in the world. It’s killings and bombings brought havoc not only to Northern Ireland but well beyond. It come very close to killing Prime Minister Thatcher and a substantial part of the British Cabinet. It could be brutal in the extreme against its adversaries.

It was also important in spreading terrorist techniques to other terrorist organisations around the world. There were links with ETA in Spain and recently two IRA operatives were caught with the FARC guerillas in Colombia.

Now, the political process seems finally to have taken over. The previous cease-fire has been turned into a cessation of armed action. The road seems to be open for a restoration of the political process under the Good Friday Agreement.

But the proof of the pudding remains in the eating. Previous attempts at the disposal of the arms depots have not been seen as credible, and that in combination with obvious IRA links with organized criminality lead to a collapse of confidence in the peace process.

Now, it remains to be seen if the arms are given up in a way that is seen as credible. And important is also that one gives up the secret bank accounts abroad from which new weapons fairly easily can be purchased.

The example of IRA shows the difficulties of defeating a terrorist organisation, but also that it can be done. At the end of the day, it was the political process more than the sustained counter-terrorist campaign that made the difference, although the one without the other would scarcly have been possible.

It was when recruitment started to slow down, war fatigue become obvious in all communities, sympathies abroad for terrorism disappeared and a political perspective was opened up that the end started to come for the armed campaign of the IRA.

We are not at the end yet. There is always the risk of the desperate dissidents within the terrorist ranks. And the building of confidence in the seriousness of the decision takes time.

But in all probability a decisive corner has been turned. Terrorism can be defeated.

Cold Water over Kosovo

29 juli 2005

There seems to be increasing convulsions concerning how to deal with the future status of Kosovo in the months and years to come.

Up until last year, the international community pursued a policy of “standards before status”. The idea was that first Kosovo would develop into a decent and well-ordered place, not the least in terms of respect for minorities, and than one could address the issue of some sort of independence.

How realistic it was to try to kick the can of final status down the road is highly debatable. I wrote myself in International Herald Tribune that it was an illusion to think that the issue could be delayed for long.

Then came the explosion of anti-Serb and anti-minority violence in March of last year. The NATO forces failed to protect the minorities attacked, and the UN administration itself come under violent attack. There was sudden fear in the international community that the entire place was going to literally blow up.

Discreetly, this lead to the “standards before status policy” being abandoned, and replaced with something that said that one should first to a quick assessment of standards and then be prepared to move quickly to talks on status, finishing them towards the end of this year or, at the latest, by mid-year 2006. It become something like ”status and standards”.

Norwegian NATO Ambassador Kai Eide was recently asked to do the report on how standards have been fulfilled in Kosovo, and he’s obviously spending his summer on the issue. An old Balkan hand, he’s undoubtedly highly qualified for the task.

But now signs are multiplying that there is an emerging international consensus that the politicians and institutions of Kosovo have made far less progress than one had hoped for.

Media leaks talks about Kai Eide being disappointed with what he has seen, EU High Representative Javier Solana was very critical on his recent visit and on July 26 the so called Contact Group countries delivered a strongly worded letter to Kosovo Prime Minister Kosumi expressing its disappointment.

And now the head of the US Office in Pristina Phil Goldberg has given an interview to the Kosovo newspaper Express in which he strongly criticises the institutions and political leadership in Kosovo. According to Goldberg, the Kosovo Government and political leaders lack the willingness to address issues related to minorities, and he also says that there is insufficient organisation and preparations for the upcoming talks on final status.

There is obviously a concerted international effort to throw cold water at the politicians and institutions of Kosovo. They have simply not lived up to expectations, and they are not being told that they must either do more, and so quickly, or face an uncertain delay in the status talks.

The problem is only that none of the issues that are now seen as critical is open to any quick fixes in some weeks or months. If the Kosovo leadership lacks the will to address issues related to minorities we are talking about something that goes to the very core of the international efforts to create a reasonably multi-ethnic Kosovo.

After all, most nations did not go to war in 1999 to replace Serb repression of Albanians within Serbia with Albanian repression of Serbs and others in Kosovo. If that is what is achieved, then it’s little more than turning the tables in a century-old conflict.

We’ll see what consequences the new signals will have. Kai Eide will deliver his report to the UN Secretary-General some time in September, and it’s then up to the leading nations to decide how to proceed.

In all probability, there will be some sort of status talks, but in all probability they will be more lengthy and more complicated, and result in a less clear-cut solution, than most have so far been believing.

There are fears, particularly among Europeans, that too fast a process towards some sort of gradual independence involves the risk of setting up a “failed state” in the middle of a very sensitive area. While the US is keen to press ahead, it knows that at the end of the day Kosovo is a place in Europe rather than anywhere else. Russia remains deeply sceptical, but seems to think that the NATO governments can just as well stew in their own juice.

However the final decision will be phrased, it will be of momenteous decision for the whole region. The present showers of cold water over Kosovo is just the beginning of a true drama during the year to come.

Victory for Trade Pact

28 juli 2005

House Approves Free Trade Pact – New York Times

With almost all Democrats voting against, the US House of Representatives narrowly approved the Central America Free Trade Agreement.

There is no doubt – as has been noted earlier here – that it brings the prospect of major improvement for the countries of Central America.

It is bizarre that it has been so fiercely opposed as it has. The combined economies of the Central American states is roughly the same size as the city of Tampa in Florida. But the politics of fear was much in display as Democrats and protectionist tried to defeat the treaty.

It’s a small step for the world, but a most significant one for Central America.

The Swedish Connection

27 juli 2005

Germans See Key to Probe in St. Pete

A major police raid in Germany and Switzerland has sought evidence in cases of corruption and money laundering related to telecommunications business in Russia.

The linked article in The Moscow Times gives some important elements of the story. But it fails to mention the Swedish connection.

These are the groups that Swedish-Finnish telecommunications company Teliasonera has decided to make their prime and only ally in Russia.

We’ll see what comes out of the investigations. Their scope is of course strictly limited to what’s illegal in Germany and under German law, so they cover only a tiny portion of what looks like a big scheme.

But it doesn’t look as if these are the very best of allies one should have in countries like these.

From Maoist to Capitalist Revolution

27 juli 2005

It’s indeed somewhat ironic to see that Nanjing Automobiles from China is now buying the Rover car plant in the United Kingdom for 50 million pounds.

Once upon a time, under the name British Leyland, the Longbridge plant was a pride of the proud British automobile industry.

But then things started to go wrong, and one of the things that seems to have started to bring Longbridge down was the more or less constant wildcat strikes organized by the militant and Maoist trade unions there. For them, this was a scene of the cultural revolution, intending to bring down capitalism and all of its profiteers.

Well, to some extent they did bring down at the least this plant. It has now passed many hands and been a source of constant concern also for the British government. One of the latest owners was German BMW, but they didn’t succeed with it either.

Enter China. No less than two Chinese car companies competed for the plant, and Nanjing automobiles won. It’s owned by the Nanjing regional governments, in all probability financed by the regional more or less broke but publicly-funded banks and de facto controlled by the regional branch of the Communist Party of China. That’s the way things are.

So things seems to have gone full circle. The Maoist revolution did have its share in bringing down at least the Longbridge plant, but the capitalist spirit took over the Communist Party of China.

And now the workers at Longbridge will be assembling Rover cars essentially from components manufactured in China.

The world isn’t what it used to be. As a matter of fact, it is much better.

German Alternatives

24 juli 2005

Now, everything is on the table. The election programs have been presented. The President has given his OK. Everyone is awaiting the formal go-ahead for the federal elections in Germany September 18

Elections are always decided on election day – never before. At this time before the September 2002 elections the opposition lead by CDU/CSU was clearly in the lead in the opinion polls. But then events in combination with the tactical skills of Gerhard Schröder intervened, and the red-green coalition, by the thinnest of margins, managed to survive.

Then it was the sudden discussion concerning a possible war in Iraq and the flooding disasters in Eastern Germany that suddenly changed the scenery. The opposition challenger Edmund Stoiber lost the election during the last two weeks of the campaign, and he essentially lost in among the voters of Eastern Germany.

Now, prospects for the opposition looks more solid. But there are problems on the horizon.

What happened during the years since 2002 is that the red-green coalition in Berlin suddenly was forced to see the necessity of structural reforms in the economy, launced the so called Agenda 2010 but then gradually started to lose the support of their own party machineries and voters. Their past rhetoric clashed with the reality of governance, and the result was a de facto collapse of the consensus needed for succesful governance.

When Chancellor Schröder laid out the arguments for dissolving the Bundestag in a remarkable statesmans-like address on July 1st, this was effectively what he said. He did not hide the painful poolitical reality of his situation.

Since then, attention has been focused mainly on the government program presented by the CDU/CSU, but also on the emergence of new political forces to the left of the SPD and the Greens.

Angela Merkel has been firm in wanting to present an honest program that can be governed on after the election. It has obviously taken some arms-twisting within the CEDU/CSU to do so, but as a side-effect her reputation as a determined boss has been reinforced.

She has come out with a program that aims at boosting the economy and furthering by taking down wage taxes by two percentage points, thus further increasing the competitiveness of German industry, lowering income taxes with the highest bracket going down from 42 to 39 % as well as proceeding with plans to take down corporate taxes to 19 %. All of this should be financed by an increase in VAT from 16 to 18 %.

And to this should of course be added other measures. Labour market regulations will be further liberalized, among other things.

This program has, of course, lead to a major debate on the wisdom of increasing VAT, and of announcing the intention ahead of the election. SPD is saying that with the CDU everything will be more expensive but nothing will be better. FDP is not happy with the VAT increase, saying that more expenditures should be cut.

But economist and business leaders that are grudging over the VAT increase are still giving their nod of approval to a program that does attack some of the structural weaknesses of the German economy.

I agree. In fact I believe that Germany is already on its way towards boosting its competitiveness. But this would give this development further impertus. This should provide more jobs down the line as well.

And so far it does not seem as if the VAT proposal has hurt the standing of CDU/CSU in the opinion polls.

As the SPD has started to work with Agenda 2010, its leftist wing has become increasingly frustrated. And now a new phenomenon has emerged with the alliance between the old leader of the SPD and former finance minister Oscar Lafontaine and Gregor Gysi of the old PDS successor to the East German communist party.

With a message of heavy leftist populism, although with an element of nationalism and resistance to immigration, this new group has now climed to 12 % in the opinion polls. In East Germany, it today looks like the single strongest political force.

This is primarily a very difficult challenge for the SPD, and so far they have not managed to find a strategy to counter this new leftist development. The debate on what to do is accelerating.

But it’s also a problem for the ambitions of Angela Merkel. The latest opinion polls give the combination of CDU/CSU and liberal FDP 49 %, while a combination of SPD, the Greens and the new leftist populist gets 48 %. A slight shift to the left and Germany risks entering a most difficult situation.

What then? A grand coalition between the CDU/CDU and the SPD? Not impossible, but any mention of that possibility exposes the left flank of the SPD even more than it already is, and accordingly we are likely to hear everyone saying that it will not happen. But an impossible situation might require impossible answers.

We’ll see. The hoped-for coalition between the CDU/CSU and FDP is certainly very possible on present trends, indeed the most likely outcome. But there is room for drama and surprises in the weeks ahead.

We’ll stay tuned.

London Lives

22 juli 2005

BBC NEWS | UK | Police issue bomb suspect images

I landed in London just after the second wave of attacks had started, and spent the day and the day thereafter in that magnificent city.

London has seen much of this before. There are still memories of the Blitz during the war, and there was the sustained campaign by the IRA during a number of years. The attack on 7/7 left 56 persons dead.

So, life tends to go on. If you are alert, you might notice some beefed up security and some movements that are normally not there. If you are not, and if you don’t intend to use the subway, you are not likely to notice anything at all besides the news reports.

Life goes on. There is no terrorism that will terrify London.

I commented immedately after the 7/7 attacks that one conclusions seemed to be that the quality of these attacks seems to be declining. And with the quality we of course see a declining political effect of them.

That conclusion is certainly reinforced by the follow-up wave of attacks. That second wave follows the pattern we saw in the Istanbul attack and what we know was planned after the Madrid attack.

But obviously it all failed. Detonators went off but failed to ignite the explosives in all of the cases. The prospective suicide bombers fled in panic. They are most unlikely to be able to be on the run for long.

Obviously, the technical competence of this particular group – or groups – leaves much to be desired. They – literally – blew it.

Even if Prime Minister Blair has warned of the possibility of the terrorists creating an ”Armageddon” in Britain and elsewhere, the reality so far is different.

In fact, there have so far been only five succesful al Qaeda inspired attacks in the West, with the recent London one – if that could be considered a success – being the sixth. Most of them kill a fairly small number of people, or none at all. Since 9/11, the average death toll in all al Qaeda-linked attacks has been 32.

Bad and horrible – but hardly Armageddon.

The average lethality of al Qaeda linked attacks has more than halved in the last two years. Including 7/7, the average number of attacks during this period has been 15.

This is not to say that the threat isn’t serious. It certainly is. These are attacks that aim at killing as many innocent people as possible. But we shall not paint the enmeny larger than he actually is, and we should not let fear dominate our socities.

It was great to be in London these days. The calm counter-operations of the police were impressive. The determination of the city to just continue was obvious.

In these cases, and so far, the terrorists are losing, and we are winning.

Germany Decides

22 juli 2005

K�hler Gives Go Ahead for Early Elections | Current Affairs | Deutsche Welle |

German President Horst Köhler has now decided to dissolve the Bundestag in order to pave the way for federal elections September 18. It will in all probability be the most important election in Europe this year.

There are still some clouds. The Presidents decision is likely to be taken to the Constitutional Court, and in theory they could take another line, although it seems extremely unlikely.

So, it’s virtually certain that there will be elections September 18, equally certain that this will see the end of the red-green government in Berlin, and highly likely that the name of the Chancellor of Germany in October will be Angela Merkel.

But elections are elections, with all the uncertainties associated with that. At this time prior to the September 2002 elections the opposition was clearly in the lead in the opinion polls, but then different events intervened.

Democracy is a constant drama, and now we’ll see it played out in Germany. More to come.

Angela Coming

21 juli 2005

05_07_11_Regierungsprogramm_Englisch.pdf (application/pdf Object)

It’s still not clear if there will be federal elections in Germany September 18 or not, but for the time being the overwhelming probability is that there will be, and that the result will be that Angela Merkel will be the next Chancellor of the strongest of the member states of the European Union.

Accordingly, it is of the greatest interest to look at the program that CDU/CSU presents before the election.

So far, only the foreign policy parts are translated into English. The entire program is of course available in German at http://www.cdu.de.

But I will return shortly with my comments to it. It’s very clearly going in the right direction – but it will clearly have to achieve more in order to deliver true success in the years to come.

Europe as a Model

20 juli 2005

Export Goods, Not People

One of the more controversial issues on the US political agenda at the moment is the upcoming vote in the House of Representatives on the Central America Free Trade Area.

The Democrats, supported by the always backward-looking trade unions, are agitating fiercely against the treaty. And the vote will be critical in determining how the wider agenda of opening up world trade will develop.

The former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias argued forcefully in the Washington Post for ratification of CAFTA. And he sees what has been done in Europe as an inspiration for what can be done in his part of the world:

The countries of the Americas would be well served by studying the example of the European Union, where trade policies were enacted in conjunction with reasonable aid. Between 1986 and 1999 the income per capita in the poorest countries of Western Europe rose from 65 percent to 78 percent of the European Union average, largely thanks to economic integration with wealthier countries. Such an astonishing leap was made possible not only by the opening of markets but also by the transfer of resources from wealthier to poorer European nations, facilitating investments in technology and infrastructure.

Let’s hope the majority of the members of Congress listens to his arguments as well as those of the administration.

We need a more open world – so that it’s benefits can be shared also by those now deprived of them.

India Shines in Washington

20 juli 2005

Prime Minister of India

In sunny and warm Washington, these are the days dominated by the visit of the Prime Minister of India Mr Manmohan Singh.

It’s undoubtedly an important visit. The world’s most powerful country and what shortly will be the world’s most popolous country. And they are both well-functioning democracies governed by the rule of the law and committed to an increasingly open global economy.

Mr Singh was given the honour of addressing a Joint Session of Congress, and I have linked to his speech, which gives a flavour of how modern India approaches the modern world.

He rightly stressed the success of India’s policy of liberalizing its economy:

The economic policy changes that have been made in India have far-reaching implications. They have liberated Indian enterprise from government control and made the economy much more open to global flows of trade, capital and technology. Our entrepreneurial talent has been unleashed, and is encouraged to compete with the best. We will continue this process so that Indian talent and enterprise can realize its full potential, enabling India to participate in the global economy as an equal partner.

That’s important. But what gets the immediate headline is the US offer to India of technology for the nuclear power production, lifting existing sanctions in that area. India needs the power for its future economic development.

Thus, the US accepts India as a nuclear weapons power, and stands ready to help it use also the possibilities of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

An axis of democracies is being formed between North America and South Asia. Europe take note.

Sharon and Abbas versus Extremists

20 juli 2005


As I wrote about in the beginning of this year on this blog, the decesive immediate development in the search for peace between Israel and Palestine this year would be the respective leaders Ariel Sharon and Abu Mazen confronting the extremists in their respective camps.

This is certainly what we have been seeing in the last few weeks.

In Gaza, the police of the Palestinian Authority has been engaged in gun battles with the armed forces of the Hamas. And now in Israel, the confrontation between the police and the army on the one side and the extremist settlers over the coming evacuation of settlements in Gaza is heating up.

The extremists are feeding and fueling each other. For the settlers, there are no moderate Palestinians worth talking to, and Israelis that believe so are views as traitors to the cause. For the extremists on the Palestinians side there are no moderate Israelies worth talking to, and Palestinians that believe so are seen as traitors to the cause.

It’s this logic of violence and intolerance that must be broken. And to me it looks as if the violence we see on the TV screens now are part of that process. The moderate majorities are no longer tolerating being harassed by the militant fringes of their respective societies.

As to the continuation, that’s an open question. US Secretary of State Rice is on her way to the region to give support to the disengagement and the relative truce, and perhaps to start to discuss what will happen thereafter.

Important days ahead in the region.

US Myths and Bosnian Truths

20 juli 2005

Was Bosnia Worth It?

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Richard Holbrooke published his reflections not only on his recent visit to the Srebrenica commemoration, but also on the way in which the war in Bosnia came to its end a decade ago.

There is naturally much in his piece that I can agree with, most particularly his description of the very real progress that we have seen in Bosnia during the last decade. We have seen more of refugee return that I think most would have believed should be the case.

But his description of how the war was brought to an end continues a tradition of mythology that bears only a limited relationship to the real story.

He implies that it was all a question of some sort of military intervention, notably the use of air power.

There are small but significant factual errors in his article. Just one example. In a key passage, he writes the following:

It is by now universally understood that a great crime was committed in Srebrenica. As assistant secretary of state for European affairs at the time, I argued, unsuccessfully, that we needed NATO airstrikes to stop the Bosnian Serbs — bullies who preferred long-range artillery and short-range murder to anything resembling a real military operation. But Britain, France and the Netherlands had troops deployed, as part of the United Nations’ peacekeeping force, in three extremely exposed enclaves in eastern Bosnia, including Srebrenica. Facing the brutal threats of Mladic, they refused to consider airstrikes until the Dutch troops were ignominiously escorted out of Srebrenica. By then it was too late.”

This all sounds nice, but I don’t think anyone is aware of any intervention by him in favour of more use of air power in the case of Srebrenica. I talked to him during the critical weekend, as well as others, and this was not mentioned either by him or by others.

In fact, air power was used against the advancing Bosnian Serbs in Srebrenica, but proved massively ineffective. The fighters had great difficulty finding any targets, are were also afraid of being hit by fire from the ground. One could argue that there should have been even more of this, but I know of no one with factual knowledge that believes that this would have made any difference.

He claims that Britain, France and the Netherlands were against air strikes since they had troops in the eastern enclaves. Well, France did not, and it is entirely wrong to say that no air strikes were made until the Dutch had left Srebrenica.

In fact, the British commander of the UN force had ordered air strikes on a number of occasions previously, although he certainly did not see such as the sole solution. And there were air strikes at Srebrenica.

Later, more massive air strikes were made. But a recently published CIA assessment is very much in line with my long-held view that they had far less impact on the ground that on the TV screens. The capabilities of the Bosnian Serb forces were only very marginally affected by them.

What then lead to the end of the war? Wasn’t the role of Richard Holbrooke and Washington of critical importance?

It certainly was – but in a very different ways.

Up until then Washington had been blocking practically every serious attempt to achieve a political settlement. As late as during that spring, they had overturned a deal negotiated by one of their own very best diplomats. There were deep and profoundly disruptive divisions in Washington over what to do with Bosnia.

Shocked also by Srebrenica, minds were finally focused in Washington, and a realistic political strategy started to emerge. The key part of this was the agreement that Bosnia should be a state of two entities, one of which should be the Republika Srpska.

It was when Washington agreed to the setting up of Republika Srpska, and pressed Sarajevo into doing the same, that the war come to its end. The peace was based on a political deal – not a military campaign or a couple of bombs.

This is a reality that doesn’t fit to well with the myth that most things in the world can be achieved by a little bombing. It can’t – and it was a very limited importance in Bosnia as well.

Does it make any difference?

Yes, I believe it does, since erroneous myths about the past can easily lead to erroneous policies in the future. Ending wars is a difficult process itself – it does not get easier if there are profoundly distorted lessons from the past.

So, the US role was critical, and no one was more important that Richard Holbrooke in getting Washington to wake up to the realities. He deserves massive credit for that.

But the historical truth about what that role really was is very different from the myths that continue to make the rounds in the media – including in this article by Richard Holbrooke.

Endless terror war?

19 juli 2005

Experts fear ‘endless’ terror war – Terrorism & Security – MSNBC.com

The London bombings on 7/7 has lead to a new debate on where we really stand in the efforts to contain and perhaps eventually defeat the forces of global terrorism, as well as the link of this issue with the war in Iraq.

There is no doubt that terrorism has accelerated in recent years, although large-scale attacks have been on a gradually less impressive and less effective scale.

The database on these issues kept by the RAND Corporation – I happen to be on the Board of Trustees – certainly shows this. ”The 5,362 deaths from terrorism worldwide between March 2004 and March 2005 were almost double the total for the same 12-month period before the 2003 U.S. invasion.”

But at the same time it’s very obvious that the entire thing started well before the Iraq war and that the curve was pointing distinctly upwards well before that time.

So, we simply don’t know the answer on that particular issue. But we do know that the curve continues to point upwards and that it does present a very grave challenge for our socities.

It’s not a question of us fighting all Muslims and their religion, as some would extremists on either side woul certainly like. It’s a question of us encouraging those forces inside the Muslim world that want to modernize and reach out to the rest of the world. There are many of those.

The war inside Islam against the forces of intolerance and hatred will certainly not be won easily. It will take a long time. But it can in essence only be won by those inside the Islamic world ready to stand up for true democracy and tolerance.

Our task is to support them. Islam must be made our ally in the fight against terrorism.

If not – everything will be vastly more difficult.


19 juli 2005

John Tierney: Why all the fuss? – Editorials & Commentary – International Herald Tribune

The US political scene is at present entirely consumed by the issue of Karl Rove. Described by president Bush as the ”architect” behind his second-term victory, he is widely and in a somewhat exaggerated manner seen as ”the genius” behind the throne in the Bush world.

No suprise he is seen as somone that should be attacked by all means by his political opponents. That’s part of the game.

Few persons are by now able to see the big issue in all the small issues loaded on each other in the media frenzy over the Karl Rove issue on this – I’m presently in the US – side of the Atlantic. It’s an inside Washington story gone ballistic.

The piece in the International Herald Tribune I have linked to here tries to put things in perspective. Not easy – but important.

Electronic Estonia

19 juli 2005

The State Chancellery of the Republic of Estonia

Estonia continues to advance rapidly in terms of the use of modern information technologies.

Now it has been decided to pave the way for Internet voting in first the local elections scheduled for October of this year and for the parliamentary elections in 2007.

That’s – to my knowledge – a distinct first. Estonia is likely to establish itself as the global avant garde in these important areas.

Not bad – mildly speaking – for a country that only 15 years ago was still a part of something called the Soviet Union.

Remarkable, in fact.

A European and English Leader Departs

18 juli 2005

Independent Online Edition > UK Politics : app1

There is no doubt that Edward Heath – who died a few days ago at the age of 89 – was one of the most important statesmen of his country in modern times.

He was Prime Minister for the relatively brief period between unexpectantly winning the 1970 election and also unexpectantly losing the snap election he called himself in 1973.

But during that brief period he brought into reality his dream of taking Britain into what was then still the European Economic Community. He had argued for and prepared the step for a long time, not the least in building a close relationship with France, and there is no doubt that he was instrumental in taking the United Kingdom into the EEC on January 1st 1973.

For him, the ideal of Europe was never just the large free trade area that the British are sometimes accused of being in favour of. He believed genuinely and passionately in the need for the nations of Europe to come together to secure both peace and prosperity, and to preserve and promote their position in the world.

For him, the days of the Empire were definitely over, and the special relationship with the United States would never be enough. He wholeheartedly endorsed the policy that Tony Blair has later described at putting Britain ”at the hearth of Europe”.

He lost power to an anti-European and anti-reform Labour party supported by the militant and backward-lookingh old trade unions. In his 1970 manifesto he had set out some of the policies – including trade union reform – that were necessary in order to reform Britain, but it would eventually fall to his successor as Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher to implement them when she become Prime Minister.

The relationship between Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher was not a happy one. He saw gher attitude towards the rest of Europe as hopelessly narrowminded and uninformed, and deeply regretted when she let the Conservative party be taken over by Empire-dreamers and anti-Europeans of different sorts.

And there were indeed significant differences between them on these issues, although not on others. The critically important trade union reforms that Thatcher introduced had been outlined already by Heath. His 1970 program for modernising Britain would have repercussions all through her years.

But on Europe they differed. When she in 1989 saw the fall of the wall in Berlin and the unification of Germany as the re-emergence of some old German threat, he saw it as the possibility to realize a new European dream.

They never reconciled. He stayed in the House of Commons nine years after she had left just to make the point that he was still around. At times, he was much too bitter against his successor, much like she was against her successor.

As a young student, I was in a group of European students invited to Downing Street to meet him in the early 1970’s. At the time, we certainly saw him as a European visionary and as a modernizer of Britain. He was a most open and most pleasant man, also when I had the opportunity of meeting him during later years.

It’s politicians carried by a vision that creates legacies that last. Edward Heath was certainly among them.

First London Lessons

13 juli 2005

FT.com / Comment & analysis / Comment – Engage Muslim support or lose the war on terror

It still much too early to draw any definitive lessons from the terrorist attack that struck London. We do not know enough about the background, the plan and the perpetrators.

One possible conclusion is that the attack was a failure from the viw of the attacker. More than 50 people lost their lives, but this is a far cry from either New York in 2001 or Madrid in 2004.

Financial markets hardly registred the event. London life goes on as before. The world has adjusted to a new normality, which regrettably includes these sorts of attacks.

The September 11 attack in 2001 against New York and Washingon was probably more succesful than its planners had anticipated. Although one of the aircrafts failed to reach its designated target in Washington – either the White House or the Capitol – this was ambly compensated for by the physical collapse of the World Trade Center in New York, which could hardly have been anticipated.

But this attack against London in fact achieved very little. It was a coordinated strike along the Madrid model against innocent humans where they are mostly found – on trains, buses and in subways – but it failed to paralyze the city or the nation to any significant extent.

Londoners had seen terrorism before, and to some extent they were even anticipating it.

So, the first preliminary conclusions concerns the diminishing effectiveness and the diminishing returns on these attacks, without in any way diminishing the magnitude of the threat they represent.

If this – in the context of things – is slightly reassuring, the second conclusion is far less so.

For the first time we see suicide bombers appearing in Europe, and these seems not to be coming from somewhere else, but from these countries themselves. The hearth of the threat is in Europe itself.

We’ll learn much more in due time. But the one reassuring and the one disturbing preliminary conclusion still merits and rather profound debate on where we are heading.

The contribution of Anatol Lieven in the Financial Times yesterday is an important part of that debate.