The Great Chinese Cyber Wall

30 september 2005

China hits blogs where it hurts | The Register

Things were not too good before, but now it seems as if the authorities in Beijing are getting even more nerveous over the potential political impact of the Internet – including the new phenomena of blogging.

Recently, a series of new measures have been announced to control the flow of information over the Internet.

In effect, the regime only wants its own version of what’s happening to be available.

That’s a sign of weakness – not the other way around.

Gustaf Mannerheim

29 september 2005

There is no doubt that Gustaf Mannerheim is one of the most interesting personalities of the dramatic European 20th century.

With wide margins seen as the most significant Finnish personality ever, I think it is too limited to see him only in that perspective.

That what was I argued at a most well-attended seminar at the Embassy of Finland earlier today that had gathered different scholars of both the period and of the person.

Most of the attention given to Mannerheim is obviously focused on his role in securing the independence of Finland in 1917 and 1918, as well as surviving the Soviet onslaught in first the Winter War 1939 and 1940 and then the war of continuation from 1941 to 1944.

But essentially he was a Swede from Finland who become a general in the army and court of the Tsar of Russia, and whom the Bolsjevik revolution forced back to his native Finland to try to save it from the Red menance.

The speech is – unfortunately – in Swedish, but there might be those that understand that language as well.

It could be noted that the two main languages of Mannerheim were Swedish and Russian. His Finnish was never much to boast about.

It was a different time.

Congratulations Finland!

29 september 2005

World Economic Forum – Global Competitiveness Report

For the third consecutive year, Finland emerges as the world’s most competitive economy in the annual ranking by the World Economic Forum.

A number of factors contribute, but not the least the commitment to education and research that is there in Finland. It’s basic education system is consistently ranked as one of the best in the world.

But the Nordic area as a whole is doing well in this ranking.

Sweden keeps its number three position, Denmark moves up from position five to position four, and Iceland from ten to seven. Only Norway slips – from six to nine.

But all the five Nordic nations are in the global top ten of competitiveness.

The others in that exclusive category are United States, Taiwan, Singapore, Switzerland and Australia.

Sweden’s ranking is, as usual, one of ambivalence. We are coming were high on topics like Internet connectivity and managment skills in the enterprises, but fairly low on those connected with the politics of the country.

On quality of education in science and mathematics we rank 42 out of 117, on labour market legislation 117, on the tax system 109 and on flexibility in wages 108.

It’s fairly obvious that there is a need for improvement – and that it can be done fairly easily.

But overall, the Nordic countries are not only the top of Europe, but very clearly part of the top of the world.

Strange Maneuvering in Strasbourg

28 september 2005

News – Press service – Info – Turkey and opening accession negotiations

Confusion is probably the best way of describing the results of today’s debate and vote on the issue of Turkey in the European Parliament.

At the end of the day, however, 356 MEP’s voted in favour of and 181 MEP’s against a resolution that gives a green light to the opening of membership negotiations.

The biggest group in the European Parliament – the centre-right EPP-ED group – is split on the issue, with the Germans and the French there opposing it all.

But it should be noted that a majority of the EPP-ED group does not share this point of view, but takes a more positive view.

Road for Turkey as Important as Destination

28 september 2005

EUROPA – Rapid – Press Releases

Today, the European Parliament is discussing the issue of starting accession negotiations with Turkey.

That negotiations will start on October 3rd now looks virtually certain. It’s only Austria making some strange sounds, but they might in fact be playing for something else.

In Parliament, enlargement commissioner Olliu Rehn has been presenting his point of view.

And he makes the important point that the journey is as important as the destination.

In more concrete terms, this means that the continued reform process that will have to be driven forward in Turkey during the years of negotiation might be as important as achieving the goal of membership.

This is certainly true. One needs only to look at the example of the Central European and Baltic states to see the critical importance of the journey.

It’s a journey of new European reforms and European transformation that starts for Turkey on October 3rd.

Good for us all.

Denmark Debates Europe

28 september 2005

DR Nyheder Online – Deadline 22:30 –

Yesterday was the day when Denmark was supposed to have had its referendum on the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union. Obviously, this did not happen.

Instead it was the day when an ambitious attempt was made to restart the debate on where Europe is heading.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen published a not particularly offensive piece on the issue in Politiken in the morning, and Danish industy – including the trade unions – organised a major conference on European issues where I was one of the featured speakers. Among others there was also Foreign Minister Per Stig Möller and the new leader of the Social Democratic opposition party.

And there seems to have been a fair amount of attention given to these issues on TV as well. I was the guest in the main TV current affairs program in the evening.

It has to be said that Denmark takes these issues seriouly. To some extent it is the result of having had a long series of referendums which over time have forced far more of debate on these issues.

There seems to be a fair amount of consensus on getting away from the focus on the institutional issues, and to concentrate on some of the issues of substance, with the economy taking centre stage. As expected, Danes of all persuasions speak proudly of their Danish model of labour market flexicurity.

Noticeable is also a broad consensus is sharply critical of the mess created with quotas for Chinese textile imports. Being the trading nation that it is, Denmark is a strong opponent of the protectionist sentiments sometimes found in the deliberations in Brussels. Good.

The controversial issue remains enlargement with an emphasis on Turkey. In his article, the PM was vague on the issue, restricting himself to asking questions, although the Foreign Minister was obviously more positive.

I spoke about the merits and importance of enlargement with an emphasis on Turkey and the Balkans. I’ll make certain that a link to the text appears here as well.

A good initiative, Denmark!

Swiss Yes

25 september 2005

SCHWEIZ: Resultate der Volksabstimmung vom 25. September 2005 (NZZ Online)

In a referendum today, the voters of Switzerland has endorsed the agreement that extends the right of free movement of workers also to the ten new member states of the European Union.

With 56 % yes, it was a more positive result than when Switzerlands joining of the Schengen agreement was endorsed by 55 % in a previous referendum.

In its own way, also Switzerland wants to be part of Europe.