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.