Eurasian Future?

15 december 2005

Polls conducted on different websites are popular, but seldom of any particular interest.

This one is, in my opinion, worth noting.

It’s on one of the key websites covering Russian economic affairs. Very well visited in Russian as well as in English.

Asked which country they thought would be Russia’s number one economic and political partner in 2025 they overwhelmingly gave their vote to China.

European Union shared the second place – with less than half the share of votes than China – with India, followed by Kazakhstan.

Notable is that Ukraine comes in very low on the list. Perhaps one sees Ukraine moving more firmly into the European Union orbit during the coming years, making it less of a natural partner for Russia.

The impression is clearly of a Russia increasingly turning its attention to Asia.

A Eurasian bloc might slowly be developing.

RBC – RosBusinessConsulting – Your choice

Future European Leaders

15 december 2005

As the United Kingdom presidency of the European Union draws towards its end – with the ongoing European Council meeting being the key event – agreement has been reached on which countries are going to be in the presidency for the rest of this decade as well as the next.

Sweden will – which we knew previously – have the presidency during the second half of 2009. This means that this will be one of the key responsibilities of the government that will be formed after our September 2006 elections.

The most interesting presidency during 2009 will be the preceding one, which will be the Czech Republic. The reason for that is that will be the presidency primarily responsible for chosing the person that will be president of the European Commission during the coming five years. But it can certainly not be excluded that this responsibility will spill over into the Swedish presidency as well.

But after that there is no presidency for Sweden on the horizon.

But during the years to come we will see the Baltic countries assuming this heavy responsibility.

Lithuania will be in charge during the first half of 2013. If things go as I would like them to go, this might well be a crucial period in concluding membership negotiations with key Balkan countries. I would like both Bosnia and Serbia to conclude their membership negotiations under the Lithuanian presidency so as to be able to enter as full members by 2015.

Next in line of the Baltic countries will be Latvia, taking over the first part of 2015, then perhaps presiding over a European Union that would have perhaps 100 million more citizens than today. I’m then including Turkey as well.

And then Estonia will be the EU presidency during the first half of 2018.

By then, much will be different. If Estonia is able to keep its present growth rates and its reform path during the years until then, it would then have reached a level of economic development which might well be even somewhat above the average of the member states of the European Union.

Europe is changing – and rather fast.

Welcome to Dinner!

15 december 2005

Linked you’ll find the formal letter of PM Tony Blair inviting his colleauges to the European Council meeting starting in Brussels tonight.

As you can see, this will be the budget summit, although there will be an element of the Middle East as well.

In addition, there are some issues of VAT rates, with the French holding everything hostage to that as well.

And then there is the seemingly small, but in fact very important issue of candidate status of Macedonia.

This is the last time that Tony Blair will chair a European summit. To a not inconsiderable extent, his place in the history of European integration will be decided by whether he succeeds or fails tonight and tomorrow.

Let’s hope that he succeeds.

UK EU Presidency 2005 Latest News

Democracy, Democracy, Democracy

15 december 2005

Today is the third time this year that the voters of Iraq are called to the polls in an important election.

Now, it’s the new parliament under the new constitution that will be elected. And from this will be formed the first really sovereign government of the new Iraq.

It’s encouraging that key Sunni groups that stayed away from the last election now seems to be participating.

But this is by no means the end of the state building efforts in Mesopotamia.

If succesful, it is at the best the end of the beginning.

Polls Open in Iraq As Danger Remains

Macedonia Taken Hostage

14 december 2005

Although I would expect the issue to reappear when the heads of state and government of the European Union get together in Brussels tomorrow for the crucial meeting of the European Council, it is a fact that it was France that at the meeting of the foreign ministers of Monday blocked giving Macedonia the status as candidate for membership of the Union.

In itself this designation would not necessarily have meant that much. The Commission, which recommended the step, noted that the country is not yet fully ready to start accession negotiationens.

But it would be an important political signal.

First to Macedonia itself, showing that implementing the Ohrid Peace Agreement, signed after the heavy fighting in the country in early 2001, is the road that eventually leads to full European integration.

Secon to the region as a whole, showing that the door to the European Union remains open, but it is dependent on performance on whether one can enter or not.

Both signals would have been of great importance as a critical time approaches in the region.

But France wanted otherwise and said no. French foreign policy seems to be in a rather sorry state at the moment – disoriented after the Non in the referendum, and apprehensive towards a European development it doesn’t really control any more.

In public remarks the French foreign minister hinted that it was more of a short-term thing, indicating that in six months time there could be a reassessment of the entire question of an accession strategy for the Western Balkans. Whether this would mean that it would then be no to everyone, or perhaps yes to everyone, was left as unclear as many other things.

And to some extent there is no doubt that France has taken Macedonia hostage to its stance on the EU budget negotiations. Keen to protect its farm subsidies, it’s threathening to block everything else.

I don’t think this is a policy that long-term protects French interests by creating allies and friends. Rather on the contrary.

And I’m certain that it is a policy hurting the Balkans and Europe’s important role there.

A Voice of Experience

12 december 2005

In the US, the debate over possible exit strategies from Iraq is getting increasingly intense.

After having been distinctly on the defensive, the administration has recovered some ground with the publication of a policy document on Iraq, while the Democrats have run into trouble when they tried to go from being just negative to shaping a policy line of their own.

Now Henry Kissinger has added his voice to the debate.

Apart from his usual sharp analysis, he seems to me to make two important points.

The first is that too early a withdrawal would have disastrous consequences well beyond the borders of both Iraq and the wider region.

Our leadership and the respect accorded to our views on other regional issues from Palestine to Iran would be weakened; the confidence of other major countries – China, Russia, Europe, Japan – in America’s potential contribution would be diminished. The respite from military efforts would be brief before even vaster crises descend on us. Critics must face the fact that a disastrous outcome is defined by the global consequences, not domestic rhetoric.”

In this he is on the same line as the White House in its recent policy statement, but on the second point he clearly is not.

While the administration sees things in a purely military perspective, and says that withdrawal of US forces will be done in accordance with the military judgment of the military commanders on the ground, Kissinger sees this as much too limited perspective.

While it might be convenient from a political point of view to give the responsibility to the local military commanders, the issues are much too political and much too important than that.

Kissinger accordingly wants to see a strategy with a political rather than a military focus. And where the White House talks in terms of a ”national strategy for Iraq”, Kissinger argues for a strategy that brings in different regional and international political players.

That seems to be wise.

The lessons we have learnt clearly shows that state-building is a profoundly political process, with security no more than the necessary foundation, and that it can never really succeed without being supported in a wider regional and international framework.

Experience is often a good guide to the future. And Henry Kissinger has an abundance of it – in combination with an open mind and a first class analytical talent.

Moving toward a responsible exit strategy in Iraq | The San Diego Union-Tribune

Slowly Towards Christmas

11 december 2005

The coming week is a weeek of most important political events, as I have noted in a previous entry.

Focus will be on Hong Kong, Brussels and Baghdad.

My week will start in Brussels tomorrow with a board meeting of the European Policy Center. It’s one of the rapidly expanding think-thanks in Brussels trying to stimulate the debate and dialogue on different European issues.

But then I’m heading for Geneva for two days of different other board meetings dealing primarily with energy issues as well as with developments in Russia.

And then back to Stockholm for more board meetings and to follow the outcome of the Brussels European Council from this horizon.

Quick Impact in the UK

11 december 2005

It was expected that the leadership change would give the UK Conservatives a boost in the opinion polls, but it seems to have come earlier and stronger than most expected.

An opinion poll in the Sunday Telegraph today puts the Cameron Conservatives ahead of Labour and on levels where they haven’t been for more than a decade. And there is another one in The Sunday Times with more or less the same result.

We seem to be at the dawn of a new era. There is much work to be done but this is a great start”, said the Party Chairman Francis Maude.

A good start it certainly is. And the fact that the appeal of the possible Blair successor Gordon Brown looks like declining adds to it.

Much certainly much work to be done. The Cameron approach so far is stronger on style than on substance.

And on the important European issue, he has started by creating a major mess for himself, his party and his European friends.

Telegraph | News | Cameron’s election gives Tories lead over Labour

Nobel Message from Oslo

10 december 2005

Today is the day of the Nobel prices in Stockholm and Oslo. The peace price is awarded in Oslo, and the science and litterature prices in Stockholm.

In Oslo City Hall, the IAEA Director-General El Baradei had just delivered his Nobel lecture. And it is worth reading.

He describes the changing landscape of nuclear proliferation:

There are three main features to this changing landscape: the emergence of an extensive black market in nuclear material and equipment; the proliferation of nuclear weapons and sensitive nuclear technology; and the stagnation in nuclear disarmament.

And this is not something that anyone of us can ignore:

Today, with globalization bringing us ever closer together, if we choose to ignore the insecurities of some, they will soon become the insecurities of all.

Equally, with the spread of advanced science and technology, as long as some of us choose to rely on nuclear weapons, we continue to risk that these same weapons will become increasingly attractive to others.

These are the larger issues surrounding the handling of the more concrete challenges we are facing at the moment in this area.

North Korea continues to stall the six-party negotiations on its nuclear potential. And from the new President of Iran comes a stream of increasingly outrageous statements.

Nobel Lecture: ”i”

Interim Plan for Balkans

09 december 2005

During the last week I have been in numerous discussions on how the European Union should move forward with its policies in Southeastern Europe.

Some things are moving forward. So called SAA negotiations have now been started with both Bosnia and Serbia.

Other things might be moving as well. The European Council next week ought to follow the Commissions recommendation and give candidate status to Macedonia, although France has been trying stop the entire thing. But when Angela Merkel went to the Elysée Palace for the first time and made clear her support, the issue was evidently settled.

And then there are of course the Kosovo negotiations. Teams are now being formed, and things will start to get more serious in the beginning of the new year.

When we issued the report of the International Commission on the Balkans in March of this year, one of our ideas was to develop a more advanced pre-membership option for these and possible other countries. In economic terms, this should be based on them becoming members of the customs union of the European Union, thus driving trade integration and economic reform.

The case of Turkey since 1996 clearly shows how succesful such an approach can be.

The idea seems to be gathering a certain amount of momentum. in a recent paper, Michael Emerson at CEPS in Brussels takes up and develops the idea, combining them also with the need to do more to facilitate the freer movement of people in the region.

It remains to be seen how ambitious the Commission will be in its approach.

It is now preparing a paper to be the basis for the meeting that will be held in Salzburg in early March under the Austrian presidency. That meeting will take stock of developments in the region and chart the way forward.

Someone has to take the policy lead on these important issues – it remains to be seen if the European Commission will do it.

Book Store

Brussels, Hong Kong and Baghdad

09 december 2005

Brussels these days is a city in tense anticipation of the events during the week to come.

The meeting of the European Council on Thursday and Friday is the final show of the UK Presidency, and all depends on whether it will be able to deliver an agreement on the EU budget for 2007 – 2013 or not. Overall, the consensus seems to be that it has been a rather lackluster performance by London during the past few months.

One would be hard pressed to find much support in Brussels for what Tony Blair is trying to achieve. His latest proposal for a budget compromise was blasted by Commission President Barosso for being a budget for a mini-Europe and not the one that we are building.

It’s in particular his proposal to scale back on support to the new member states – the so-called EU12 – that has aroused the anger. Blair’s meeting in Tallinn and Budapest to get support for his approach seem not to have gone to well. There is widespread talk about ”a lack of solidarity”.

Be that as it may it is still important to get a budget agreement during next week. One can certainly continue the controversy under the Austrian and even Finnish presidency next year, but that would risk seriously diverting attention from other issues.

And the regular soap opera on the budget is certainly not something that brings Europe closer to its citizens, as is so often talked about.

The leaders of Europe will convene in Brussels only a day after the representatives of the 148 member states of the WTO have gathered in Hong Kong to see to which extent they can move forward the global agenda of trade liberalisation.

Prospects are not too encouraging. Even if there will be a tendency to blame most of European – which means French – reluctancy to go further on the issue of agricultural subsidies, that’s too simplistic a picture.

There is also a considerable reluctance among emerging economies to open their markets more to non-agricultural products. These are not exactly poor countries, and it’s not unreasonably that they do themselves what they ask of others.

It will be important days in Hong Kong, and the issues are certain to be touched upon during the discussions in Brussels as well.

But also Baghdad will be the object of attention. On December 15th the voters of Iraq will elect their first free and fully competent parliament, out of which the first free and fully competent government will be formed in the weeks and months ahead.

For all the problems of Iraq, it is remarkable that the voters there are now going to the polls for the third time this year. And this time it looks as if all groups will take fully part in the contest for power in the more democratic Iraq.

It will be an important week in Brussels, Hong Kong and Baghdad.

News – Press service – Flash – Statement by Conference of Presidents on the financial perspective

Gotovina Arrested

08 december 2005

It was on Playa de las Americas on Teneriffa in Spain that Ante Gotovina was finally arrested. Indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal for his role in the Operation Storm against the UN Protected Areas in Croatia in August 1995, he has been on the run during the last few years.

With Ante Gotovina eventually transferred to the UN detention facility in Schveningen outside of Den Haag in the Netherlands, the cloud that has been hanging over the Croatian process of accession to the European Union can finally disappear.

That’s good news for Croatia – and for the entire region.

I was in Brussels participating in the ”Balkan Summit” of Friends of Europe when the news broke. First it was just a rumour, then it was confirmed and then the details started coming.

Serb President Boris Tadic was quick to congratulate Croatia on the arrest, but he was also clear that this means that there will now be increased pressure on his country to really secure the arrest of primarily Radko Mladic but also Radovan Karadsic.

It remains to be seen when ICTY will be ready to start the trial of Ante Gotovina. It will probably take some time for the defence to prepare itself. But there is no doubt that it will be one of the most important and controversial trials of the entire history of this UN war crimes tribunal. Europe

New Start in London

07 december 2005

It was hardly a surprise that David Cameron emerged the winner when the members of the Conservative Party of the UK had to choose a new leader. Simply speaking, they wanted their own Blair, and with 67% voted for Cameron as the new leader.

His task is to make the Conservative Party a party that can once more be elected and that can govern. That was what Blair did to the Labour party after its turbulent years in the wilderness. Since then, he has won three general elections and seen off no less than four leaders of the Conservative party.

But the success of Blair has at the least to some extent been the result of the self-destruction of the Conservatives. After the Thatcher and Major years it descended into a wild Euroscepticism and tendencies towards imperial nostalgia that effectively made ikt unelectable.

A modern person in Britain simply couldn’t be a Conservative during these wilderness years.

The task of restoring thre fortunes of the party is not a small one, and it will take its time. That the election of Cameron was announced the same day as Chancellor Brown had to announce that the UK economy will perferm significantly less well than he so confidently had predicted adds to the feeling of change in Britain.

David Cameron comes to the position after only four years in the House of Commons and no experience whatsoever of governmental responsibility. He is the least experienced new Conservative leader ever, and significantly less experienced than Blair was when he took over Labour.

But in reality he has been along in politics for a long time as political assistance, speechwriter and aide. He knows the political trade as well as anyone. Whether he will master the art of governance must however remain an open question.

So far he has steered clear of any more detaileed policy pronouncements. He clear wants to take the sharp edges of the imsage of the party.

In a most unwise concession to the fanatical Eurosceptics he has indicated that he wants the Conservative members of the European Parliament to leave the EPP group and line up with more marginal and in some cases outright strange groups. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with that. A Conservative party that claims to be a serious governance alternative in one of the most important member countries of the European Union can’t really deprive itself of influence in Europe.

We’ll have to wait and see. I’m just leaving Brussels for London, although I will be back here in the evening in order to be ready to address different Balkan issues tomorrow.

The Conservative Party – Our Key Challenges

Growing, Growing, Growing….

06 december 2005

New figures coming out of the US economy confirms that in almost every respect it is doing significantly better than expected.

It is impressive:

The upward revision in productivity reflected the fact that the government last week revised upward overall economic growth for the third quarter to an annual rate of 4.3 percent. It had originally estimated that the gross domestic product was growing at a 3.8 percent rate in the third quarter.

I’m in Brussels speaking at an event focusing on issues of research and innovation in Europe. And my message here is that even though we have fallen seriously behind the US during the last decade, there are measures that can and must be taken in order to improve the situation.

Close to 40 % of the scientist and engineers in the United States that have a doctorate degree are born abroad. The ability of America to attract the best and the brightest from abroad has been one of its key sources of strength.

A significant part of the explanation for this is the superior funding over there. On the average, costs for a student in tertiary education is 2-3 times higher there, reflecting better funding for the universities, making them more able to compete in the global marketplace for talent.

There is no reason why we should not be able to do the same in europe. The sums involved are not vast – but the returns are likely to be.

And we do have advantages that should not be neglected.

Europe now draws on a significantly larger ”domestic” talent pool than the United States, particularly after the enlargement of the European Union.

And standards of basic education are generally better than in the United States. In the new member states, and East of them, one very often find impressive standards in terms of basic science, engineering and mathematics.

So the conditions are clearly there.

With the right policies and the right funding we would both be able to use our larger and richer talent pool and be better able to attract the best and the brightest from around the world.

Over time, there is little doubt that this would translate into a more globally competitive knowledge economy in Europe.

And then we could see the European economy starting to grow at the least as impressively as the American one is doing at the present.

Productivity Expands at a Faster Pace

At Least Something…

06 december 2005

The liberal group managed to secure three out of the 35 seats in the Moscow City Duma in the Sunday elections.

Official figures gave them 11 percent of the vote, although they themselves claimed that 14 percent was more according to the theuth, claiming different election irregularities.

Not too much. But at the least some liberal voices in some political bodies in Russia.

United Russia Gets 28 Out of 35 Seats

The Week Ahead

05 december 2005

Back from the Ukraine and beginning another week. It’s dark mornings in Stockholm at this time of the year.

But today I will stay here. Among other things, I’ll speak to students at the University of Stockholm at the invitation of the Foreign Policy Association there. I guess we’ll discuss where Europe is heading.

And tomorrow I’m off to Brussels to speak about research policy in Europe as well as a number of diverse meetings. From there I go over the day Wednesday to London for an event with Kreab, going back to Brussels late in the evening.

Thursday is the day of the Balkan Summit organized in Brussels by the Friends of Europe, and I’m leading the discussion on economic prospects of the region. Commissioner Olli Rehn as well as Montenegro Prime Minister Djukanovic is on my panel.

It should be an interesting day. Balkans is back on the Brussels agenda. And the issues ahead are not easy.

From there, late afternoon, I’m flying to the United States for a quick board meeting Friday. But then I’m back in Stockholm by lunchtime on Saturday.

Another interesting week.

Moscow Votes

04 december 2005

Today is a snowy and grey day on the banks of the Dnjepr in Kiev where I happen to be at the moment. And I would expect the weather to be roughly the same up in the woodlands towards the northeast where Moscow is located.

Today is election day in Moscow. And every election offer something of interest.

The most interesting fact about this election is that one has banned the ultra-nationalist Rodina party from taking part in it. The reason given for the ban is a TV spot produced by the party that has a clear anti-immigration message.

But that can hardly be the real reason. I haven’t seen the TV spot, but I seriously doubt that it is much different from the general level of the message coming from Rodina.

The alternative interpretation is that Rodina – which to a very large extent was a creation of the Kremlin before the last Duma elections – might have been too succesful in the election. It’s a child of the Kremlin that one is having problems controlling.

And that unfortunately says something about the political trends in Russia today.

Of interest will be to see how the combined efforts of the liberal reform parties SPS and Yabloko are rewarded by the voters. Together they need to pass the 10 % hurdly in order to get represented in the Moscow City Duma.

If they succeed, it could point to the possibility of them joining forces before the 2007 Duma elections, which would be a most welcome development.

We’ll see. In the meantime Kiev is consumed by speculations about it’s upcoming March 26 elections to the Rada – the Ukrainian parliament.

More about that later. Today it’s Moscow’s polling day.

Kremlin’s Hopes Pinned on Moscow Election – NEWS – MOSNEWS.COM

CCTV9 on European Issues

02 december 2005

While in Beijing some weeks ago, I did a lengthy interview with China’s CCTV9 English-language TV channel.

Coming immediately after the riots in France, it was unavoidable that these issues were high up on the agenda.But I also spoke about issues like democracy in China.

Although I’m presently sitting in Donetsk in the easternmost part of the Ukraine, I notice that the interview is now available on the CCTV website for those that might be interested.

CCTV-English Channel-dialogue

Tsunami over Rosenbad

01 december 2005

Today, an independent commission has issued a report on the performance of the Swedish government in the wake of the tsunami catastrophy during the Christmas 2004 which is unique in modern Swedish history in its criticism of the government in general and the Prime Minister in particular.

The report is a political tsunami sweeping in over Rosenbad, which is the building housing the core governmental functions in Stockholm.

The report details with astonishing clarity how the government was completely asleep at the wheel, and continued to be so for a remarkable long period of time.

For someone with some knowledge of these things the report of the independent commission makes astonishing reading. It was common knowledge that things were bad, but hardly that things were this bad.

We are talking about a profoundly dysfunctional government. And this was brutally exposed in a situation like this.

The Prime Minister doesn’t talk to the Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister doesn’t talk to the Deputy Foreign Minister. The civil servants at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs don’t talk to the higher levels and don’t dare to do anything in the absence of concrete orders.

It’s profoundly dysfunctional. And exposed in a way that’s just amazing.

One small detail – although an important one – is that of the disputed phone call from the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister to the Deputy Foreign Minister.

The first claims that he called the later on his mobile phone, on instructions from the PM, to check that things were OK. But the the later denies ever receiving such a call, and has now publicly referred to the logs from the mobile phone companies to prove that no such call was ever received by him.

This is astonishing in itself. Two of the very key persons in handling the foreign and security affairs of the nation are demonstrating in public that they have no confidence in each other.

Even more astonishing is the fact that the Prime Minister has announced that they and everyone else so heavily critized by others will remain in their position. The sufferings inflicted by the tsunami will not be eased by any resignations or dismissals, he says.

That’s probably correct.

But equally correct is to note that a dysfunctional set-up of persons just continue at the helm of the nation.

If they couldn’t talk to each other before or during the catastrophe last year, they are even less likely to be able to talk to each other after entering having de facto accused each other in public of lying.

The report is the most damming document every issues on the performance of a Swedish government. It is unique in every single respect.

But it’s not necessarily an indictment against the Social Democratic party. I know of past Social Democratic Prime Ministers that ran governments far more functional.

It’s an indictment against the Persson system of government.

And the core conclusion to be drawn from the report is that this can’t be allowed to go on. With the existing set-up of failed persons just sitting there, they are as likely to fail the nation tomorrow as they failed the nation yesterday. – Bakgrund

Soft Power of Europe on the Dnjepr

01 december 2005

Today is the day of the summit between the European Union and Ukraine in Kiev.

Everyone from Tony Blair and Jose Manuel Barosso downward are there. And a series of agreements will be signed.

In itself, these will not solve the numerous problems of Ukraine. It’s still the March elections that are crucial.

But it does show the prospects that are there for the future.

Tomorrow I’m heading to Kiev and Donetz to discuss the political and economic future of this important part of Europe.

ForUm :: President of Ukraine opens the EU-Ukraine Summit