To Oslo – and then Brussels and New York

15 maj 2006

The sun is shining over Stockholm, but I’m soon heading for the airport for a quick trip to Norway.

Dinner in Oslo down by the water at this time of the year is seldom a wrong move. Chilly – but beutiful.

And I guess many there are busy preparing for their annual May 17th national day, parading down the Karl Johan main street and waving flags. It’s impressive.

But tomorrow it’s back to Stockholm again.

Towards the end of the week I have some conflicting engagements with both a two-day meeting of the commission set up to review the constitution of Sweden – we are to submit our recommendations in 2008, so the hurry is limited – and the big Brussels Economic Forum orgaized by the Commission.

On Friday afternoon I have to be at the Forum, however, since that’s when I’m chairing its session on enlargement and its effects on the European economy. Speaking in that session will also be Javier Solana, Giuliano Amato and Olli Rehn.

But later that day I’m off to New York for a weekend of dialogue with Russian business leaders. It’s part of the regular series of such meetings that RAND has been running during a number of years.

On the economic and financial front this looks like being a week of some turmoil, and on th political front of at the least some importance.

In Brussels, the foreign ministers of the European Union are meeting today and tomorrow with a fairly heavy agenda. They will discuss the report from the Quad meeting in New York last week on the Middle East and the mechanism that the Union is now setting up to facilitate economic aid to the occupied territories, bypassing the Hamas government.

But there will also be Balkans on the agenda.

On Sunday there is the referendum on independence in little Montnegro, and the European Union is likely to say that they will strictly respect the result in accordance with the agreed criteria, and that they expect both Podgorica and Belgrade to do the same.

That sounds more straightforward than it is. It might well be that the independence vote falls short of the 55 % support required according to the agreement, and that will open up the entire question again.

But some sort of qualified majority for important constitutional changes – and this is certainly such – is far from uncommon.

We’ll have to wait and see.


Nuclear Power Turns Green

15 maj 2006

An editorial in the New York Times yesterday – reprinted in the International Herald Tribune today – makes the case for a new look at nuclear power.

It’s not a new position, but it is receiving new support in view of the combination of the energy security and environmental challenges we so obviously are facing.

In the words of the NYT:

How much impact nuclear power could really have in slowing carbon emissions has yet to be spelled out, but there is no doubt that nuclear power could serve as a useful bridge to even greener sources of energy.”

True. And gradually we are likely to see policies also in Europe starting to move in that direction.

The energy review in Britain will be the first major move. But others are bound to follow.


Which Way Britain?

14 maj 2006

British politics these days is all about when Tony Blair will step down and hand over 10 Downing Street to his long-time rival Gordon Brown.

At some time he is likely to do that. And the evolving conventional wisdom in London – for whatever that is worth – is that it will happen within a year from now.

But no one really knows. It is highly likely that he hasn’t decided himself but is thinking of different options. And it is highly unlikely that he has given a firm time for the hand-over to anyone.

So it’s really all speculation at this stage.

But that speculation is itself is creating a new situation. The Labour party is seen as increasingly divided at a time when the Conservatives are coming back. And Tony Blair is starting to look like something of a dead duck.

His political energy looks undiminshed to an outside observer – but his political powers are very clearly in decline.

Many are making comparisons to the situation when Margaret Thatcher was forced from her leadership position in 1990. It was, as Gordon Brown pointed out last week in a comment that was widely interpreted as a push for an early transition, an ”unstable, disorderly and undignified” exit, which come to haunt the Conservative party for many years.

The two great questions hanging in the air is first what the Blair era has really achieved and second what a Brown policy would really mean.

Margaret Thatcher left after eleven years of solid achievements. She wasn’t my cup of tea in every respect, but that she took Britain from decline to a new start is today obvious to all. She made Britain into a robustly competitive nation.

Tony Blairs greatness as leader was that he accepted the Thatcher revolution and carried it into the Labour party, thus creating New Labour. If there was a Blair revolution, it was primarily a follow-up. Britain – well, overall – stayed on track.

Where Gordon Brown stands on the different issues is less clear to me.

He has presided over a rather solid expansion of the public sector and a stealth increase in taxation. That’s solidly Old Labour. But he often preaches the virtues of deregulation and open markets. That’s obviously New Labour.

And on Europe it’s all very unclear. He’s a man who loves to go to Washington and buy the latest books. I’m all in favour of that. But he’s also a man that only occasionally turns up at European Union meetings, and then far more to lecture than to listen. That doesn’t give influence.

The centre of gravity in the Union in terms of foreign affairs has already moved from London to Berlin. The German presidency during the first half of 2007 will obviously be of key importance – it’s towards the end of that we will also see a new President of France.

But without an active approach by London not very much can be done anyhow.

There are certainly big European issues that need to be addressed. The important debate on future enlargement. The necessity of getting some sort of treaty on institutional reform. The commitment to review the budget. The need to deepen the single market.

Is there a Brown policy that differs from the Blair one on issues like these?

It will be important to watch the British transition in order to get some sort of view of where its politics might be heading.

There is still time – perhaps until his 10th anniversary of entering Downing Street a year from now – left of Blair.

There are some important issues he needs to tackle. A solid energy policy – most probably a new British push for nuclear power. The continued wrangling with Iran. And reform of the pension system.

But then then there will probably be a few Brown years. Policies? Well, that’s the question.

After that, it looks increasingly likely that there will be the Cameron years.


How To Win War To Lose Peace

13 maj 2006

There have been numerous book published on the Iraq war, but Cobra II by Michael Gordon and Bernhard Trainor will be hard to beat.

It has already established itself as the most authoritative description of the preparation of the war and its actual conduct.

And it is certainly worth reading – both for the down-in-the-dust description of the usual fog and confusion that war always is, and for the insight in gives you on the miserable way in which one planned for the after-war situation.

According to the book, Donald Rumsfeld was as committed to fighting a new type of fast war with more limited quick-strike forces as he was determined that there should be no follow-up stability operations à la Balkans and definitely no so-called nation building.

Well, winning the war was undoubtedly a success, but peace has proved to be far more elusive.

And Cobra II gives at the least part of the answers why. There was litterally no planning for what to do after victory – apart from an astonishingly naive determination to withdraw US forces as fast as possible.

Only days after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, preparations for leaving Iraq were ordered. General Franks flew into the city, meet the commanders that had fought their way to victory and said that they should be prepared to leave.

According to his guidance, the invasion force of 140 000 troops should be scaled back to about 30 000 troops by September. The belief was that there would be a functioning new Iraqi government up and running in thirty to sixty days.

Well, it didn’t work out like that. The coalition forces in Iraq today are more numerous than the forces that won the war. In many respects they are still too few. And there still isn’t a truly functioning Iraqi government.

Proper planning and far more numerous forces would certainly have avoided some of the worst of the mistakes, although it’s an illusion that everything would have been smooth running without these obvious mistakes. But a difficult situation was undoubtedly made much worse and much more complicated.

But there are numerous other insights of value in the book.

There is the usual one on the difficulty of intelligence. It turns out not only that the US intelligence assessments were wrong on the issue on weapons of mass destruction, they were also substantially wrong on what the US forces would encounter once they entered the country.

There is seldom such a thing as certainty when it comes to intelligence. The Iraq war certainly illustrated that old thruth again.

A book well worth reading.


The Israel Lobby Controversy

13 maj 2006

The controversy generated by the essay by John Mersheimer and Stephen Wall on ”The Israel Lobby” that I have written about earlier just continous and continous.

The flight back from London today gave me the time to catch up with some of the latest contributions to the debate.

It’s an important debate because it now seems to engage a very significant portion of all those seriously discussing foreign affairs in particular in the United States.

The one way or the other, it is a debate that will have a lasting influence.

Among the most readable contributions to the debate that I have come across is the piece by Tony Judt in Haarets.

He is a professor and the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University, and his book ”Postwar: The History of Europe Since 1945” has been reviewed very favourable and is most readable.

He vividly describes the change in the public perception of Israel that, in his opinion, has occured:

We can see, in retrospect, that the victory of Israel in June 1967 and its continuing occupation of the territories it conquered then have been the Jewish state’s very own nakba: a moral and political catastrophe. Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza have magnified and publicized the country’s shortcomings and displayed them to a watching world. Curfews, checkpoints, bulldozers, public humiliations, home destructions, land seizures, shootings, ”targeted assassinations,” the separation fence: All of these routines of occupation and repression were once familiar only to an informed minority of specialists and activists. Today they can be watched, in real time, by anyone with a computer or a satellite dish – which means that Israel’s behavior is under daily scrutiny by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The result has been a complete transformation in the international view of Israel.

But I would recommend those interested to read the the entire piece. It’s an important one.

And those more interested in the debate as such might find interest in Mersheimer’s and Wall’s reply to some of their more virulent critics in the latest issue of the London Review of Books.


Century of Excellence

12 maj 2006

 After some hectic days in Stockholm it was a very early flight from a sunny home to a sunny London.

Under the theme ”A Century of Excellence” we are here celebrating the 100 Year Anniversary of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce here.

During the first part of the seminar Margot Wallström from the European Commission, Chris Patten, nowadays Chancellor of Oxford University, and I have just spoken about different aspects of our rapidly changing world.

Margot had her focus on the environmental challenges and the need to make economic growth sustainable in view of them.

Chris spoke about the changing nature of the China that he knows so well not the least after his years as the last Governot of Hong Kong. Can China continue to be a successful growth economy without opening up also its political system? He did not think so, although the trends that he sees at the moment are rather moving in the opposite direction.

I concentrated on how the politics and the economy of Europe is changing as a result of the Eastern enlargement of the European Union.

Without in any way wanting to put all the other achievements of European integration in the shadows, I think it can be safely said that this enlargement was the European integrations finest hour.

So far. Posted by Picasa


The Dramatic Swedish Shift

10 maj 2006

A somewhat bigger picture to show something that illustrated what’s been happening with Sweden during particularly the past decade.

The graphs show exports and imports as a share of our total economy. You can say that they together measure the degree to which our economy is integrated with the rest of the world.

You can see that this increased fairly steadily through the 1960’s, the 1970’s and the 1980’s.

But then you see the big shift that occured in the first years of the 1990’s. It was a time of profound structural reforms in Sweden – as well as us entering fully the European Union.

And then everything takes off. You can see that the curves bend upward in a fairly dramatic way. A different economy emerged – and a different Sweden is the result.

A major study published these days by McKinsey tries to analyze the performance of the Swedish economy during the years since 1995.

Their conclusion is that the good performance has mainly been because of the rapid increase in productivity in the private sector, which they explain by a combination of our entry into the European Union, our more stricter competition policy and by the rather radical structural reforms in terms of liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation undertaken in the early 1990’s.

Thus the success of the Swedish companies on the world markets and the dramatic shift you see in these curves.

That’s the story of the economy of Sweden during the past few decades.

I produced the graph in connection with a speech I delivered in Stockholm earlier today on The Art of Governance. A rather ambitious title, to put it mildly.

But in it I tried to look both back on the past decades in Sweden, as well as forward on the new tasks and challenges a new government later this year will be confronted with.

The speech is unfortunately in Swedish – but there might be those interested in it anyhow.


Putin Without Surprises

10 maj 2006

Today was the day of Russian President Putin annual ”state of the union” address.

It was in the corresponding speech last year that he ventured into a number of very pecular theories and thoughts. Those interested in the details can read my rather detailed blog entry on the subject from a year ago.

But this year they seem to have learnt that lesson – as well as the one from the rather remarkable series of pronoucement on energy issues that we have seen coming out of Moscow lately.

They probably concluded that they did not have more feets to shoot themselves in.

So it was a rather eventless but not necessarily uninteresting speech that was delivered in the great hall in the Kremlin.

The most important focus was on overcoming the demographic decline of Russia. At present the country is declining with 700 000 people every year. There will not be enough men to fill the ranks of the army President Putin wants to build to assure the greatness of the country.

But he also acknowledged that the performance of the economy is falling short of his declared aim of doubling GDP within a decade. Less clear was however what he wanted to do about it.

No major surprises, that is.


Balkan Concerns One Year Later

09 maj 2006

It’s Europe Day, and one year after we presented our report, the members of the International Commission on the Balkans meet again in a slightly rainy Rome to discuss where we stand with the international policies towards the region.

As presented at a press conference under the chairmanship of Giuliano Amato, it was a rather downbeat assessment.

What is happening is that Europe is slowly backing away from its commitment to the Balkans – and the Balkans is slowly backing away from its commitment to Europe.

It’s not dramatically visible on a daily basis. But for those of us following the more long-term trend, the change is visible and worrying. And there is a growing sense of alarm among Balkan observers over what might be the long-term consequences of this gradual slide of policies.

You see the big change in the smaller things.

Failure by the Bosnian parliament to agree to rather limited constitutional changes. Failure by the Serb authorities to apprehend or otherwise deal with the Mladic issue. Difficulties in getting real status negotiations on Kosovo going.

Without a clear European accession perspective, the politics of the Balkan starts drifting again, reforms begin to stall and new risks start to appear on the horizon.

We’ll see if our message of concern – even alarm – from Rome is heard.

In June the European Council will discuss also the future enlargement strategy for the European Union.

Will they sink the Balkans – or will they give the peoples of the region new hope?


Policy Meltdown in Middle East

08 maj 2006

As the economic and social situation on the occupied West Bank and in Gaza deterioates, there is an accelerating need to discuss what Western policy is really trying to achieve.

I utter fail to see how a social meltdown in the occupied territories will foster the forces of moderation and promote the possibilities of peace.

On the contrary, it is likely to play into the hands of the fundamentalists and the militants, and thus be contrary to the goals that we normally claim that our policy has.

In Europe, I have yet to meet anyone who genuinely believes in the policy that is pursued. Indeed, the European Union is busy seeking ways around it, although there are reports that it is encountering resistance from the United States.

The interest of Israel in this is somewhat strange. As the occupying authority on the West Bank, they are the ones that will have to handle the consequences. The aid that has been given to the Palestinian Administration has, de facto, been making the task of the occupation somewhat easier.

Gaza is of course much worse. Here Israel is also closing the border crossings, thus making any trade impossible. It risks rapidly becoming even more of a hotbed for terrorists than has already been the case. And our policy is to a large extent responsible.

Anmong the voices protesting the policy is the one of Jimmy Carter. He knows what he is talking about concerning the region.

Others are equally critical, but less outspoken. Outgoing Quartet representative in the region, former World Bank president Jim Wolfensohn, has views that are very similar to those of Jimmy Carter.

It’s no coincidence that he asked to be relieved of his post – and that the US did not want to see him replaced by anyone else.

It’s an emerging economic and social meltdown in the occupied areas and in Gaza.

But it’s already a policy meltdown of dangereous propotions in Tel Aviv, Washington and Brussels.


Battle for the Quirinale

07 maj 2006

Tomorrow morning I’m taking the train from Fidenza via Bologna to Rome.

So far I’m enjoying the sun and life of northern Italy. Couldn’t be much better.

I’m heading for Rome for a final follow-up meeting Monday evening and Tuesday of the International Commission on the Balkans.

But I will be arriving in a Rome filled with political drama of the highest order. It’s tomorrow that 1 010 representratives – both chambers of the Italian parliament as well as representatives of the country’s 20 regions – meet to elect a new President of the Republic.

When elected, that new president is likely to ask Romano Prodi to form the next government.

But it’s completely up in the air who will be elected. It will be a secret ballot.

Prodi has put forward ex-Communist Massimo D’Alema as candidate. This has, rather predictably, caused a storm of indignation from the centre-right. Also the Vatican – still a force – has voiced its grave reservations.

Berlusconi – not a happy man these days – have gone so far as to suggest that the election of D’Alema would lead to a ”fiscal strike” by his voters, i e a refusal to pay taxes. It sounds pretty extreme to me when an outgoing Prime Ministers is seen as advocating illegal, and at the end of the day, non-democratic measures.

It’s thus highly uncertain that D’Alema will be elected. To be elected in the first votings of the rather complicated system you need 674 votes – but estimates are that the centre-left coalition can only muster 541, and are thus significantly short of what is needed.

Just as well, in my opinion. A more widely respected and broadly supported candidate would not hurt the politics of Italy at this important point in time.

And there are numerous such.

I’m having dinner tomorrow with Giuliano Amato. He would certainly make a good and well-respected president. He’s from the centre-left – but respected by the centre-right.

Another possible name is Mario Monti. He’s more from the centre-right, but is respected by the centre-left.

Both are names that will bring Italy credibility and voice with the rest of Europe.

But we’ll see. Maybe the entire thing is sorted out when I’m sitting om my train heading for Rome.


Baltic World In New Focus

07 maj 2006

There seems to be a sudden Baltic focus in important parts of the trans-Atlantic relationship.

US Vice President Cheney was just a couple of days – as I have been writing about – in Vilnius in Lithuania.

Baltic? Well, the city of Vilnius itself is significantly more Central Europe than Baltic Europe, but Lithuania is still considered as one of the Baltic countries.

One of the results of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to Washington in the past week is that President Bush will visit her in Stralsund in mid-July. That’s definitely a Baltic city.

That coming meeting is surely a sign of the new weight of the relationship between Washington and Berlin. It will be the third meeting between Georg Bush and Angela Merkel within six months.

It’s the most intense of the relationships between Europe and the US at the moment. And the most significant.

But back to the Baltics.

From Stralsund President Bush will head for St Petersburg and the G8 Summit there. Another distinctly Baltic city.

But he will be back in Europe within just a couple of months. Then he’s heading for Riga in Latvia for the NATO Summit there in November. Another distinctly Baltic locations.

So the US President will be visiting three important Baltic cities within just five months. It will be a distinct record in high-level US presence in that part of the world.

From a Swedish perspective we might note that our airspace will be filled with an American leadership heading for Baltic cities. But they will just pass by – on present plans, they will not be landing.

Stralsund has its own place in Swedish history.

It was of course an old Hanseatic trading city with all the links to the Baltic world of those days.

But it was in 1628 that Swedish troops helped it to withstand the siege by the Catholic forces of Wallenstein in the Thirty Year’s War. And when that war ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Stralsund and parts of Pomerania ended up under the crown of Sweden, where it was to remain the one way or the other until the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, when it become part of Prussia.

In more modern times, Stralsund was part of the East German dictatorship after 1945.

I remember how the house in the main square once built for the Swedish garrison commander was then used as the House of the National People’s Army. The town itself housed a school of the East German navy.

Bu now Stralsund is part of modern Germany. And it is part of the parliamentary constituency of Angela Merkel.

That’s why it is part of this coming into new focus of the Baltic world.


Fragile But Crucial Peace

06 maj 2006

After a couple of deadlines had passed, and two minor rebel groups deserted the process, there was a peace deal signed between the Sudanese government and the main rebel force in Darfur.

It’s undoubtedly a huge step forward – but represents just another step in the long and difficult road towards stability for Africa’a largest country.

Darfur was a strange war in that it, at least to some extent, was a war triggered by peace.

It was when the long efforts to get a peace deal between Khartoum and the Southern parts of the country finally were crowned with success, and the South suddenly got a major share of both the power and the resources of the country, that there was a feeling in far-away Darfur that they ought to have the same.

That lead to the first attacks against government forces in the area. And with the government army so worn down by the long conflict in the South, they really didn’t have the capability to respond and restore order. That was when the militias and thugs were let loose and the carnage and tragedy really started.

But now a combination of factors have lead to a peace deal.

I haven’t seen its details, but it’s bound to be fragile. All peace deals initially are. There are hard compromises to be swallowed, and there are always then men with the guns that want to carry on.

Sudan will require an enormous amount of internatonal attention and resources in the coming years. Its fate will be the fate of much of Africa.

Key to its future is to get the deal between the North and the South to work. Five years from now there will be a referendum on whether Sudan should stay united or whether they will go their separate ways. It’s critical to make Sudan feel like a country with hope for the future prior to that.

If the North and the South where to split, there is no hope for peace in Darfur, and there is the significant risk of carnage also in other parts of the huge country. If the country should be split apart, there are many that would lay their claims to the spoils, and they know how to do it.

Such a process of disintegration will not remain within the borders of Sudan.

We have already seen how the conflict in Sudan has been spilling over into Chad – or the other way around. There are numerous other such examples along the long borders of the country. Sudan borders on no less than ten other countries – many of them with unresolved issues not too dissimilar from those of Sudan.

So we have every reason to hope that peace will get hold in Darfur.

A massive humanitarian effort is needed immediately. But there will also be a need for a truly massive UN operation to make the country as a whole succeed.

The biggest UN operation today is the one in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I would expect the one in Sudan to be even bigger a year from now.

Africa is at stake.


Old Links With New Meanings

04 maj 2006

The conference in Vilnius is over, most participants have returned or are on their way home, and I have ended up for the evening nearby Parma in northern Italy.

It was undoubtedly a succesful conference.

This group of countries meet for the first time in Kiev in December of last year, but there is no doubt that there will be further meetings after Kiev and Vilnius.

There is a need to discuss common values for our common neighborhood.

It is striking how a new time brings forward also old links and ties of different sort.

The conference was jointly hosted by the President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania and President Lech Kaczynski of Poland, and discussions to a large extent dealt with the situation in the areas of Europe that where once covered by the union that existed between the two.

The union of Lublin that created the common state was set up in 1569, but could fall back on nearly two centuries of common existence. It lasted until the Napoleonic wars, and come to cover a very larg part of Europe between the Baltic and the Black Seas.

Relations between Poland and Lithuania have certainly not been harmonious all the time since then, although they were both parts of Imperial Russia for a long time. When they regained their independence in 1917, however, disputes over Vilnius poisoned their relationship for more than a generation.

But those days are gone.

They are both members of both the European Union and NATO, and they are both now looking towards the East in an important part of their engagment. The border to Belarus is only 50 km from Vilnius, and Kiev is close to both Vilnius and Warzaw.

Together, there is no doubt that Poland and Lithuania can serve an important function as a bridge between the trans-Atlantic institutions and those countries in the East of Europe that are not yet members of these.

The union of Lublin is unlikely to be resurrected. But there are new links growing from old connections.

All to the benefit of a new Europe.


Cheney and All Other Democrats in Vilnius

04 maj 2006

It’s a pleasantly warm and sunny morning in Vilnius. The leaders of the democratic East of Europe have now begun their discussions. But a lot of the early attention is centered on the visitor fram far away.

It is not that usual for the Vice President of the United States to venture on foreign policy missions. But today he is here at the Vilnius Conference. It is cedrtainly a sign of the importance that thev US attaches to the region, its values and its stability.

Dick Cheney called the Baltic region ”the frontline of freedom in the modern world.” He reminded of the decades of Soviet occupation, but also pointed at the extraordinary democratic and economic success of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania during the past 15 years.

Good words.

And now the meetings goes on. Javier Solana has taken over the chair, and President Saakashvili of Georgia is speaking as I write these comments. And after that we’ll listen to the UK Minister for European Affairs Doiuglas Alexander and European Parliament representative Elmar Brok.

Then I will be chairing the next session with, among others, President Yushenko from Ukraine as well as – then speaking his mind – Javier Solana.


Serbia in Serious Crisis

03 maj 2006

Contrary to my own expectations, the government of Serbia has not succeeded in handing over Radko Mladic to the ICTY tribunal in the Hague.

Accordingly, the European Commission is now ”calling off” its talks with Serbia and Montenegro over a so called Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Undoubtedly a serious step.

And Serb Prime Minister Kostunica is saying that this risks doing ”great damage” to the country. Serious consequences of a serious step.

How did it come to this?

There is no doubt that the government during the last few weeks and months have taken major steps to destroy the support network for Mladic. They were very clearly on his tail, and they made his life substantially more difficult.

Whether they should have been able to arrest him or not is difficult for an outsider to judge.

It can not be excluded that Prime Minister Kostunica relied too much on efforts to pressure him to surrender, and hesitated in ordering an assualt that might well have resulted in him being killed. That might simply have been one bridge too far for Kostunica.

But it might also be that he simply slipped out of the net. It would not have been the first time in human history that a manhunt suffered a setback.

Although it has little to do with the challenges of today, there is little doubt that the European Union is applying harder standards to Serbia than it did to Croatia.

In the Croatia case, the EU did not open membership negotiations as long as Ante Gotovina was not apprehended and brought to the Hague, but there were no problem in negotiating and concluding an SAA treaty with Croatia with Gotovina still at large.

But these things apart it is a fact that Prime Minister Kostunica had undertaken to meet the deadline – and that he did not.

He did not, at the end, give the European Commission any other option. The ”call off” was the only possibility for the Commission when the Serb government failed to honour whnat it had promised.

What will happen now remains to be seen. To ”call off” is easy – to ”call on” will require Mladic in the Hague. Nothing more and nothing less.

Deputy Prime Minister Labus has resigned in protest against the inability of his own government. He has been driving both economic reforms and the European approach of Serbia. It remains to be seen whether the rest of his G17Plus party will follow him into opposition.

We might be facing a government crisis in Belgrade – at the worst possible time.

A government in crisis might be even less capable of taking the steps that might be necessary in order to bring Mladic to the Hague. It might simply be too busy trying just to survive under pressure from the different forces in parliament.

Add to this that there is a critical meeting in the Kosovo status negotiations tomorrow in Vienna. And that we are rapidly approaching the referendum on independence in Montenegro May 21.

It couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Serbia is in crisis – and that means that the Balkans is in a potential crisis.


The Success of Enlargement

03 maj 2006

Today the European Commission published its assessment of the effects after two years of the biggest enlargement ever in its history.

It’s a timely and important document in view of the tendencies in the debate in some member states to blame enlargement for all sorts of evil.

And – while it does not explicitly say so – it also implies that a further enlargement of the European Union might bring further benefits to us all:

Two years later, the biggest enlargement ever of the European Union is an economic success: the 10 new Member States’ economies are growing at a rapid pace enabling them to progressively bridge the gap with their richer neighbours. But the latter also win as the increase of the EU’s single market by 75 million to 450 million inhabitants brings a wealth of trade and investment opportunities. More importantly, enlargement has acted as a force of modernisation in the EU as a whole – a timely force given the sudden emergence on the world scene of China and India.

It’s a message worth repeating over and over again.


Soft or Hard Partition?

03 maj 2006

Although there is official optimism on Iraq after a new Prime Minister has now been designated, the real debate in Washington over Iraq seems to be a very different one.

Broadly speaking, it can be described as a debate between the soft and the hard partition options.

A recent heavy-weight voice was added to the soft partition school in a recent OpEd article in the New York Times by Senator John Biden and Les Gelb.

It’s somewhat ironic that at virtually the same time as there is failure in Sarajevo in the efforts to continue to revise the Dayton constitution, Biden and Gelb hails Bosnia as a model for the future of Iraq.

Essentially, they argue for a constitutional deal that divides Iraq up in three semi-autonomous entities with a common Baghdad at its centre. It’s a soft partition of the country.

But there are difficulties. One is that they foresee that all oil revenues should be shared so that 20 % of then could be given to the Sunni’s to finance their entity.

This sounds good in theory, but the problem is that the hasty semi-deal on the constitution has already given part of these rights away, and it’s very difficult to see how them now can be taken back. And without that component the entire thing looks like a non-starter.

A remark that is difficult to avoid is that the alleged soft constitutional division of Bosnia was only achieved after a very hard division during the very brutal Yugoslav civil war. The human cost was truly horribled. Whether it could have been achieved without that civil war is a separate but by no means irrelevant question.

Another part of the debate was referred to in a recent news article in The Washington Post, which gave voice to some of those saying that a hard partition in the form of a civil war in Iraq is now more or less unavoidable. Some are even saying that it might be desirable.

The soft partition advocates speak about the post-war Bosnia as a model.

The hard partition advocates suspect that it is rather the pre-war Yugoslavia that is the best guide to the situation that Iraq is now in.

Neither a particularly attractive option. Mildly speaking.


Between Baltic and Black Seas

03 maj 2006

A few hours ago President Adamkus of Lithuania opened the first part of the meetings here in Vilnius on ”common vision for common neighbourhood”.

He called for an open and fresh discussion on how to establish an agreed strategic perspective on how to support and consolidate democracy and freedom in Europe’s East.

For him, ”the fate of democratic consolidation in Europe’s East is the greatest issue in trans-Atlantic politics.” Sitting here in Vilnius, with the most near-by other European capital being Minsk in authoritatian Belarus, that is a most understandable position.

But how should we proceed in consolidating democratic structures between the Baltic and the Black Sea? And President Adamkus widened the perspective by talking also about a vision for the area between the Adriatic and Caspian Seas.

These are the questions that will be the focus of the discussions here.

The meeting here in Vilnius can be seen as a third-generation effort to assist in the democratic transformation of the East of Europe.

The first generation was really the so-called Visegrad Group of Central European countries that was formed already in 1991 trying to advocate them being included in the European Union.

The second generation was the so called Vilnius Ten, based on the ten countries that meet here in Vilnius in May 2000 in order to advance the issues of their inclusion in both NATO and the European Union.

With the enlargement of both the European Union and NATO to these areas now two years old, attention shifts towards the wider East and the issues of democracy and security there.

It’s to a large extent a question of the political and economic future of Russia. But it’s equally a question of the political and economic future of the areas in between Russia and the European Union.

And those are the issues on which President Adamkus is calling for a clear strategic vision.

Easy in theory – somewhat more complicated in practice.

Just one example uppermost in the minds of many dealing with this part of Europe.

There seems to be little progress in establishing a new government after the elections in Ukraine. In principle, agreement has been reached on the reforming of some sort of Orange coalition, but in practive contradictions on core issues are blocking progress.

There is a significant risk of a deepening constitutional crisis on the Dnepr.

And without a solid government in Kiev driving reforms there is a big strategic hole in any strategy for democracy and security between the Baltic and the Black Seas.

But we will probably hear more from President Yushenko when he arrives here in Vilnius later today. Tomorrow he will be in the panel on the summit that I’m moderating.


Vilnius for Democracy

02 maj 2006

Last week it was very much the internal state of the European Union as well as the challenges facing the trans-Atlantic relationship that was the focus of different discussions I attended in Berlin and Brussels.

Tonight I’m heading for beutiful Vilnius in Lithuania where the perspective will be different – but certainly no less important.

The Vilnius Conference will focus on the prospects for democracy and freedom in the more Eastern parts of our continent.

If the enlargement of the European Union has consolidated peace and created new prospects for prosperity in the belt of 10 nations and 100 million people from Estonia to Bulgaria, the situation further towards the East is less clearcut.

Vilnius will be an impressive gathering.

Among apart from the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, there will also be those of Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Romania and Bulgaria as well as the Vice-President of the United States.

That the US is sending Vice President Cheney to this gathering can be seen as a sign to Moscow that the democracy issues are still high on the agenda prior to the G8 Sumnit in St Petersburg in mid-July.

My task will primarily be to moderate different sessions both on the pre-summit tomorrow and the large summit on Thursday. The voice of the European Union will be the voice of High Representative Javier Solana. And Sweden is sending Deputy Prime Minister Bo Ringholm.

Our discussions in Vilnius will certainly have consequences well beyond the summit itself. And they will take place during days of other important events as well.

Today will see diplomats from the EU3 as well as from the US, Russia and China meeting in Paris to discuss which steps to take after the IAEA report on Iran to the Security Council at the end of next week. Expect them to agree on the aims – but differ on the means.

Tomorrow I hope the European Commission will publish its assessment of the effects of the enlargement two years ago. There is no way around making any such assessment very positive.

Tomorrow will also see German Chancellor Merkel heading for Washington for talks with President Bush only days after returning from her talks in Tomsk with President Putin. It’s clear where the European centre of gravity these days is.

Italy might be getting a government. Silvio Berlusconi is resigning later today, and we might well see the process of forming the Prodi government speed up in relation to expectation. That will further contribute to the change of the balance on important political issues in Europe.

But in the Balkans there is now an extremely acute risk that the European Union will have to suspend talks with Serbia and Montenegro over the coming SAA agreement due to the failure to deliver Mladic to the Hague. It will be a significant setback primarily for Serbia, but for the efforts at stability in the wider region as well.

And in Great Britain there will be the not altogether unimportant local elections that I have written about before on Thursday.

Another week in the politics of a rather dynamic Europe.