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Oct 232009

Do you know what Sweden and Finland have in common with Azerbaijan, Congo, Lichtenstein, Monaco and Tajikistan? Perhaps quite a lot but they are also members of the exclusive group of 22 countries which have paid their UN contributions in full. Among other EU countries only Austria and Germany belong to this group. (From AP via UN Wire).

A big shame on the others!

A large part of the UN Budget is spent on special political missions, requested and mandated by the Security Council. (This does not include peacekeeping operations). Not a single one of the permanent members have paid up in full.

In another development, to use newsspeak, 5 members of the so called “Nordic Council” have written an article in EU Observer  under the heading “Closer Nordic partnership needed within the EU.” The authors stress that the Nordic cooperation was developed and functioning well long before the EEC and are worried that the wider EU-cooperation would lead (or have already led) to “unnecessary bureaucratic barriers between the Nordic countries and detracts from citizens’ and businesses’ freedom of movement.” Continue reading »

Oct 192009

President Klaus seems to be looking for an exit strategy. Apparently he has explained in a radio interview that his famous “footnote” can also be added to the next Treaty that will have to be ratified by all member states, for instance in connection with the membership of Croatia.

However, the Prime Minister of Slovakia has declared that any exception granted to the Czech Republic must also be given to Slovakia. As far as we know, Slovenia has not yet said anything in this matter but it is to be expected that they also will invoke an exception as far as the AVNOJ regulations are concerned.

Swedish euroblogger Mats Engström sums up very neatly (EN) the situation of the Swedish Presidency. Mats is the only blogger who has mentioned Austria and Hungary in this context. He seems to think that a declaration as proposed (?) by President Klaus might satisfy also those countries. We feel less sure about that but hope, of course, that he is right. According to Swedish “Europaportalen”  (SW) the Swedish Presidency is prepared to assist in drafting a resolution (?) that would satisfy all parties involved. We have somehow the feeling that Mr. Klaus may not be very interested in Swedish assistance, having already blamed Mr. Reinfeldt for making public the content of confidential talks. 

Time is running out for the Swedish Government: ratification of the Treaty and nominations of the top representatives as well as the new Commission would automatically make the Presidency a success and even conceal a likely failure in Copenhagen. Failing in all those respects would leave a very bitter after taste.

Oct 172009

Swedish Radio reports that according to an interview published today (17/10 2009) President Klaus  says that the “Lisbon Treaty has gone to far to be stopped at this moment however much some of us would like it.” This is the link to the Swedish website: Tveksamt tjeckiskt ja till Lissabonfördrag (SW). This is (probably) the interview with Klaus in “Lidové Noviny”: Schválení Lisabonu nebude konec dějin (CZ). You can paste the text into for instance Google Translator and get a certainly not unambiguous translation.

Here is our attempt: “The train pulled away so far that it probably will not be stopped.” President Václav Klaus, in a comprehensive interview with LN for the first time indirectly admitted that the Lisbon Treaty to sign after all.  ‘Lisbon Treaty is a good thing for Europe, for freedom in Europe and the Czech Republic do not. Train with her but I drove so fast and it’s so far away that he may not be possible to stop or go, whatever we wanted so many, “said the president literally.

Even the possible entry into force is not the end of history,” he says in an interview Klaus.oznámil that the CR calls continued exemption from the Charter of Fundamental Rights”

“Lisbon Treaty a good thing for Europe”? Sounds more like wishful thinking on behalf of Google than from Klaus. We provably have to regard this interview as a curious incident, nothing more, at least not until we can get a full authorized translation.

Update: Austrian daily “Die Presse” covers this story in some detail.  Klaus should have declared that he is not going to wait for the British elections.  The rest is rather unclear and sometimes contradictory.

Oct 082009

A stubborn old man, of course. Czech president Vaclav Klaus shows his contempt for the EU presidency by refusing to talk  (SW) to Mr Reinfeldt, presently the President of the European Council. According to Mr. Reinfeldt, however, President Klaus insists on adding a”footnote” to the Treaty as a condition for signing (even if the Czech Constitutional Court would reject the objections made by a number of Klaus supporters). Exactly what this footnote would contain is anybody’s guess but Mr. Reinfeldt says “As far as I understand it, he’s linking this to the (EU’s) Charter of Fundamental Rights and then he wants the European Council to take a decision on this footnote”. This could probably be done only in December and there is of course no guarantee that all 26 member states would agree on Mr. Klaus’ footnote.

This last ditch effort by Klaus is of course intended to  delay the ratification until the British general election. Statements today by Mr. Cameron and his shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs leave no doubt that the UK is interested in the common market and free trade and nothing else. In other words in transforming the European Union into a super-EFTA, the ill-fated free trade area where the British cynically abandoned their partners when they could get a better deal with the  EEC.

The democratic deficit of the EU institutions is a burning and important issue. But how “democratic” is it to have the whole Continue reading »

Oct 062009

I see in the EU Observer that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is seen “as too young by some EU officials” with respect to the job as the new EU “Foreign Minister.” The guy is 60. He is also considered as too “anti-Russian”. German ex-minister Steinmeier, another candidate, is considered as too “pro-Russian.” Makes you wonder: exactly how Russian should you be for this job?

Btw: Time to revive the “Anyone But Blair” campaign?

Jun 242009

Mohammad Ali Abtahi Mohammad Ali Abtahi

‘Worst than that, one of my friends who lives in Germany told me once that there they have a kind of sausage which is made of pork’s blood!! I didn’t let him continue the story since I was sure that I won’t like to hear the rest.’”

(From my Swedish blog, July 2004)

Muhammad Ali Abtahi, one of Iran’s vice-presidents under president Khatami but also a very active blogger has been arrested in Teheran. Nothing is known about his fate so far. On his bilingual site (Farsi and English) Abtahi used to provide unique inside information from Iran. But he also wrote about personal and everyday things in his own special English. I have quoted his views on “Blunz’n” or blood sausage above.

Abtahi obviously had to be very cautious and guarded in his writing. However, it was not too difficult to read between the lines. After the recent presidential elections he seems to have thrown his usual cautiousness over board and written this article from which the above heading has been taken. Obviously this was too much for the oppressive regime.

Reporters without Borders” report that at least 33 journalists and “cyber-dissidents” haven been jailed and several others warned. Media attention will probably die down in a few days but we must never forget the brutalities of the Teheran theocracy.

If the EU had had a strong common foreign and security policy, we might have been able to do something. As it is now, EU leaders have to confine themselves to “express their concern”…

May 312009

One week before election day it may well be that previous estimates of participation rates in Sweden will turn out to have been way too low. It is true that TV-debates between party leaders mainly focus on domestic policy issues and that many people still have very vague ideas about the competences of the EP. Nevertheless, the feeling that the EP and the election are important seems to be growing. Former Minister of Justice, Thomas Bodström, writes on his blog (our translation): “In the previous election I always got the question: why should we vote in the EP-election? This time people ask: for whom should we vote in the election”. Our guess at the present moment is that we will be in for a surprise with a comparatively strong showing at the polls.

One very important factor in this context is a very strong element of personal campaigning of candidates - Continue reading »

Jan 082009

This is somehow a follow-up to the previous post on smoking in Austria. Leading daily newspaper Die Presse presents a guide to restaurants and cafés where you can smoke in peace. As if that would be a problem!

Comments from readers are hilarious: to prohibit smoking is an infringement on personal liberty. “Eating, sleeping, breathing (!), smoking and drinking are thousand year old traditions.” We must be tolerant: smokers should tolerate non-smokers and vice versa.