Coming Clash of Mitrovica?

30 augusti 2006

I’m getting increasingly worried over where the talks over the future status of Kosovo are really heading.

Over the course of the process so far, there have been very little done to try to build some sort of confidence across the ethnic divide in Kosovo and the region.

On the contrary, it is my impression that the divide has recently deepened even further.

A grenade attack against some Serbs by an Albanian in northern Mitrovica in northern Kosovo the other day lead to a further escalation of feelings. There are reports of an increasing number of weapons in the area.

With time now running fast, there seems to be very limited possibilities of some sort of agreed or semi-agreed outcome before the end of the year. If the so called international community sticks to its timetable, there are increasing signs that we are heading for trouble.

And it could easily get very nasty.

If the independence of Kosovo is just imposed by diktat, I believe there are two possible scenarios for Serb-dominated northern Kosovo.

The first is that they simply refuse to go along and block the access of Prishtina authorities to the area, in extreme case with armed violence.

In that case, NATO could of course escort Kosovo Albanian officials in the area, as well as try to block all borders with Serbia. But such a NATO occupation and military rule of the area can’t last for long.

And in the course of it, there would be a high risk both of violence in that area itself – primarily by the Serbs – as well as by Albanians against Serbs in more exposed locations in central and southern Kosovo.

The second scenario would be that the Serbs simply see themselves as betrayed, and there is an immediate and massive exodus of both them and other minorities from Kosovo.

We will get an ethnically pure Kosovo, as well as perhaps 100 000 new refugees in Serbia with all the political consequences this might have.

And then there is of course the – perhaps most likely – scenario of first the first and then the second scenario being played out.

Violence, ethnic cleansing and mass refugee movements…

On present trends, I fear that’s where the present process is heading.

The Real London Story

30 augusti 2006

As we approach the 5th anniversary of September 11, there will be numerous attempts to take stock on where we are in what in the United States is often referred to as the Global War on Terrorism.

And I will certainly also have reason to return to the subject of ”GWOT” in the weeks to come.

Fears of the resurgence of large-scale terrorism were rekindled by the dramatic arrests in the United Kingdom recently. Suddenly, the threat looked very real again.

UK pre-trial secrecy rules have since then prevented much information of relevance from leaking out, but a recent major story in the New York Times gives an amazing amount of details concerning what it was all about.

Access to this article was blocked in the United Kingdom due to their special legal rules in cases like these.

Although there might not have been the risk of an ”imminent” attack, the information in the NYT article clearly shows that it was a determined group working on a rather advanced scheme. Whether they would have had the capability to carry it out is another matter – there seems little doubt that they had the intention.

Their motivation seems to have been less general ideological, and more what they saw as the West’s ”war against Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Whether they had any links with the original al-Qaeda network is uncertain, although there is little doubt that they saw it as a source of inspiration.

This, then, is likely to be the new threat.

Not a world-wide and centrally-directed fanatical terrorist movement of ”Islamic fascism” bent on setting up a new khalifate from Andalucia to Indonesia.

But rather copy-cat attempts by third-generation immigrants in Europe or elsewhere to revenge what they see as grave injusticies committed against different Muslim population.

It’s a different, and perhaps more difficult, challenge.

The Rotten Governance of Rosenbad

29 augusti 2006

Right in the middle of the election campaign, the Constitutional Ombudsman JO has published his report on the behaviour of the Prime Minister’s State Secretary Lars Danielsson.

Some might remember that I have written about this several times during the years. In my opinion, it was obvious that Mr Danielsson had lied to the Parliamentary Commission set up to clarify the governments handling of the December 2004 Tsunami disaster.

But Mr Danielsson was consistently protected by the Prime Minister.

Gradually during the Spring the media pressure on the issue intensified. There were extensive revelation of how Mr Danielsson had used the Gulfstream IV executive jet of the government on missions that certainly did not require it.

When the Constitutional Ombudsman JO decided to take up the issue, Mr Danielsson asked for an extended vacation. He has now been on vacation for 14 weeks, and is scheduled to go back to work in the Cabinet Office on Monday.

That is now unthinkable.

Without using those words, the JO is saying that it is highly likely that Mr Danielsson has been lying throughout the different investigations, and sums up that he has seriously hindered the review and investigation of the governments conduct.

In my opinion, Mr Danielsson has to be relieved of his duties immediately.

I don’t think it has ever happened that a person on this high level has been so harshly critized on such a central issue by such an authoritative body.

It isn’t the rotten governance of Sweden – it’s the rotten governance of Rosenbad; the Prime Minister’s Office.

An Estonian Model?

28 augusti 2006

If we are in the business of models in Europe, it does not hurt to take a look at the performance of Estonia.

Leading the Baltic ”tiger economies”, it has also served as an inspiration to the debate about economic policy elsewhere.

Indeed, it was Estonia that championed the concept of the flat tax- since then adopted even by Russia.

The other day the IMF published its annual review of the performance of the Estonian economy. It points to some of the challenges of extremely high growth, but very clearly applauds the main lines of policy:

Estonia’s rapid economic growth stems from its liberal economic institutions and conservative financial policies. Real living standards now surpass those in most new member states of the European Union. Increasing trade and financial integration are offering new opportunities, but also creating imbalances. The challenge now is to implement policies that minimize the resulting risks to macroeconomic stability while continuing to profit from access to foreign markets and technologies.”

Not bad for an economy that little more than 15 years ago had little else but empty grey shelves in the stores.

Model For Whom?

28 augusti 2006

Although nowadays the so called Swedish model is primarily talked about in Sweden – in the rest of Europe it´s rather the Danish model that’s on the agenda – it has a resurgence now and then.

In the latest issue of National Interest, Johan Norberg has published a piece that tries to correct the record somewhat.

Highly critical, broadly correct, and certainly worth reading by those that take an active interest in Sweden.

A Role For Europe?

28 augusti 2006

Although I´m sitting in Bled discussing Caucasus and the Caspian region, the issues of the Middle East continue to be in focus.

In the shadow of the developments around the Lebanon conflict, there is a dramatically changed situation in Ramallah and on the West Bank. And I would argue that for all the importance of handling the aftermath of the Lebanon war, it’s now imperative not the least for the European Union to start to address the Palestinian issues.

The situation there is simply not sustainable. A stat of collapse and chaos is drawing nearer.

There seems to two alternatives.

One is to accept a new Hamas-Fatah coalition government of the Palestinian Authority and an end to the Israeli and international sanctions against it.

The other might well lead to a dissolution of the Palestinian Authority – since it is collapsed by the sanctions anyhow – and going back to direct Israeli occupation rule as it was before the Oslo agreement.

An article in Egyptian Al-Ahram spells out the options that are on the table, and if you strip the text of some of the hyperbole it seems like a good summary of the situation.

This clearly calls for concerted international diplomacy. And with the US have locked itself in a situation of supporting nearly whatever Tel Aviv does, there is a new opening for the European Union.

Next weekend, all the foreign ministers of the European Union are heading for Lappeenranta in Finland for their informal so called Gymnich meeting.

This is a subject they can’t avoid. Europe has a responsibility.

Energy Security In Focus

26 augusti 2006

Sunday morning I’m flying off to Ljubjana in Slovenia, and from there go to beutiful Bled for the Bled Strategic Forum.

The conference this year will focus on the Black Sea and Caspian Sea areas and the challenges we will be facing there.

I’ll take part in a discussion Sunday afternoon on Europe’s geostrategy and energy security and the relevance of the the Caspian Basin in these respects.

But I guess there will be plenty of discussions also on other aspects than security.

With some sort of decision on the future status of Kosovo coming up soon, it will be necessary to discuss the impact this might have on the secessionist areas in both Georgia and Moldova. To say that a Kosovo decision will have no impact on these issues is just trying to stick the head into the sand.

But no doubt energy will be important. Independent access to the energy resources of the Caspian Basin has to be an important part in the overall energy strategy of the European Union.

There will no doubt be interesting discussions on the subject. And for me it’s only the first in a series of international meetings focusing on energy security issues during the next few months.