Archive for the 'World Politics' Category

The more effective regime change?

26 January 2006

It is now clear that Hamas has won the Palestinian elections. Equally clear is the challenge this poses to all parties involved: to the outside world (Israel, the EU and the US) on how to deal with an organisation that still officially endorses terrorism and the annihilation of Israel, and to Hamas itself on whether it wants to become respectable and change something on the ground for Palestinians.

My bet is that Hamas will, indeed, choose the respectable route, even if it may take some time before the rhetoric changes accordingly. A sign of this is the fact that it chose to take part in the elections at all, and that it has declared and kept a cease-fire over the past year. This shows that its’ leaders not only have brains but also influence over their followers. Such a decision makes sense, because taking the respectable route is the sensible thing to do also from their own point of view. After all, by taking part in the elections they have achieved more power and a better negotiating position in a few months of campaigning than in decades of terrorist attacks. (more…)

Chavez II?

25 January 2006

The new president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, was inaugurated this weekend. His inauguration address in parliament was a long plea for the indigenous people of Bolivia, second-rate citizens for 500 years. Bolivia is the poorest country of South-America, but with its wealth of natural resources it could be richer than Sweden, he argued.

So, am I happy? I am not sure. He certainly highlights important problems and it is wonderful and rather exciting that more and more countries in the region are electing presidents that speak for the impoverished masses instead of the rich elites. That is democracy in action. (more…)

Oh Ca-nada…

29 June 2005

Not immediately a European issue, but still: Canada has (once again) joined the ranks of civilised countries today, by removing a law clause that reserved marriage exclusively to heterosexuals. So far, only the Netherlands and Belgium have preceded Canada, while the Spanish government is preparing a similar change to its marriage law. The vast majority of EU and western countries does have laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but somehow exempt their marriage laws. (more…)

“Die Türke vor Brüssel”

7 December 2004

Die Türke vor Brüssel, the Turks before Brussels, is the title of tonight’s “theme night” at Arte, the Franco-German television channel. The programme’s French, more neutral, title is: La Turquie et l’Europe, and it is of course about Turkey’s aspiration to become an EU member state. I would certainly recommend watching the repeat emission on December 8 at 15:15 (CET).

The, for me, most remarkable element was that those whose fate is often used as an argument by opponents of Turkey’s EU entry, actually seem to be among its most fervent proponents. The Armenian and Kurdish questions should not be used as arguments against Turkish accession, said the Armenian and Kurdish representatives I saw tonight. Even a Greek conservative MEP argued similarly as far as Turkish-Greek divisions were concerned. Obviously, their reasoning is that the continuation of the accession process makes Turkey less likely to cause trouble, and more likely to continue modernising.

Note that this does not imply that Turkey needs the EU legal and political framework as such in order to become stable and modern. The point (mine at least) is more about the effective management of expectations and political, economic, and social processes. The reform process in Turkey is driven by the goal and expectation of eventual EU membership and of what that requires. Previous EU enlargements have shown that it is not enough if a candidate state just transposes the EU acquis and additional requirements into domestic law. Implementation takes much more than that, including, in many cases, a change of mentality of ordinary people, policemen, civil servants, and producers. For the reforms to work, EU accession must be more than an elite project, but needs the active support of a substantial part of the population. It must be a truly nation-wide project.

But if public opinion inside Turkey is so important for the reform process to succeed, that means there is a role for politicians outside Turkey as well. If they make the impression of not being serious about Turkish EU accession, they undermine the reform process itself by taking away the common goal that drives it. What I am saying is that now the EU has said A by promising the country membership in 1963 and by confirming its candidacy in 1999, not just Turkish politicians, but the entire Turkish population expects to hear B as well. European politicians who want a different outcome for Turkey than full EU membership should think twice if they do not want to endanger the reform process.

A slap in the face of Turkey

30 November 2004

[updated] In his (Swedish language) blog, the always well-informed Bengt Karlsson points to a Presidency document outlining proposals on the start of accession negotiations with Turkey. It was leaked to the press yesterday, possibly in order to test the water. Its most remarkable contents:

  • Turkey has to recognise Cyprus;
  • The accession negotiations could be suspended if requested by at least one third of the Member States;
  • No Turkish membership before 2014;
  • No talks on membership before there is agreement on the 2014-2020 financial perspectives;
  • The EU should consider “permanent safeguard clauses, notably in the area of the free movement of persons”;


Getting worried…

29 November 2004

This fantastic photo (more here) sums it up pretty well: tensions are growing in Ukraine now part of the country is threatening to split off if Yushchenko becomes President. I am getting a bit worried now.

Many Ukrainians, in blogs or elsewhere, point to the fact that this is not about geopolitics, about East vs. West or Russia vs. America. The conflict is about Ukrainians, they say, fighting for their democratic right for free and honest elections.

Well, yes, I agree with them that this is what it should be about. But I am less convinced that this is what will determine the outcome. When Putin decided to support the Yanukovych election campaign, he, at least, seemed to be well aware of the risk of spill-over to his own sphere of influence would a western-european style government take over from the current autocratic cronies in Ukraine. So the fact that the outcome was almost even for both candidates was largely of his making. As for the EU, it is clear that it feels safer with a solid democratic state at its borders, especially if that state ultimately wants to join the EU. The same goes for the US, which has an interest in both strong democracy in an EU-aspiring Ukraine, and the weakening of Russian as well as EU foreign power following Ukraine accession to the EU. Therefore both the US and the EU are encouraging Yushchenko to stand firm.

Other worrying factors: the fact that state security personnel in the Ukraine comes mainly from the Yanukovich east whereas demonstrators are from the Yushchenko west, and the fact that Putin may not accept a solution involving a split-up of Ukraine. On the other hand: the EU is unlikely to impose strong sanctions on a country through which much-needed energy supplies are transported, and Ukrainian demonstrators from both camps are still treating each other with admirable respect and cheerfulness.

So let us just say the situation is hard to predict and very interesting.

Four more years of chaos

3 November 2004

It looks like the race has been run. Ohio is reporting 2 771 814 vs 2 624 201 votes for Bush (at 99% of precincts counted). Now I know the provisional ballots still have to be counted, but their number is only slightly larger than the difference between the two candidates and it is unlikely that they are 1) all valid votes and 2) all for Kerry. So I have to assume George Bush has won. I’m sure Bin Laden is happy with the result.

Crucial for America’s internal policy, however, is the outcome of the House and Senate elections. They have come firmly in Republican hands. So even if Kerry becomes president, he will still have to work with a conservative Congress. Which makes the thought of a Bush victory all the more worrying…

On the other hand, as Crooked Timber points out, “responsibility without power” for Kerry is probably not the thing to wish for. So under these circumstances (and I cannot believe I am writing this) a Bush victory is probably the least of two evils. At least it will be clear to all who is responsible for the chaos we are going to face. That is, if the wisdom of the American voters can be trusted next time…