Archive for the ‘European Union’ Category

Why Can’t France, Sarkozy Get International Respect?

December 2, 2008

In much of the world, President Nicolas Sarkozy enjoys a reputation for being something of a diplomatic dynamo. But Sarkozy and France get ignored, maligned, lectured and insulted often and loudly from one voice in Asia…..In China, the energetic French leader has a strikingly different standing than the one he enjoys almost everywhere else. In China, Sarkozy (and France) is the favorite international whipping boy……

By Bruce Crumley
Time Magazine

Business ties with China are likely to suffer if the French President goes ahead with his plan to meet the Dalai Lama.  Photo by Gerard Cerles / Pool / Reuters

The latest humiliation comes with Beijing’s decision to boycott the 11th annual China-European Union summit, which has been scheduled to open in Lyon today. China stunned E.U. officials last week by announcing that its delegation of more than 150 political and business leaders would stay at home because, in the words of China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, “the summit cannot be held in a sound atmosphere, nor can it achieve expected goals.” The reason? The French President’s plan to meet with Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on December 6 as part of an event honoring fellow Nobel peace prize winner Solidarity leader Lech Walesa in Poland.

“China firmly opposes any contacts with the Dalai Lama by foreign leaders in whatever form,” Qin said in a statement released by the state-run Xinhua news agency. “We hope that France could fulfill its commitments, and properly deal with China’s major concerns in earnest so as to create conditions for the steady development of bilateral relations.”

Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama greets the audience ... 
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama greets the audience before delivering a speech in Prague November 30, 2008.(David W Cerny/Reuters)

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Legal Hurdles in West Slow Pursuit of Pirates

November 29, 2008

Somali pirates firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades hijacked yet another ship in the Gulf of Aden on Friday, this time seizing a chemical tanker. A German military helicopter from a nearby warship arrived in time to pull three security guards out of the water, but not soon enough to prevent the hijacking of the ship and the rest of the crew.

By Nicholas Kulish
The New York Times

The latest attack, in which even trained security personnel aboard could not deter the pirates, demonstrated the urgent need for coordinated action by governments from Cairo to Berlin. But the bureaucratic and legal hurdles facing international institutions and national governments have so far defeated most efforts to deal with the nimble crews of pirates in speedboats, whose tactics have grown bolder as their profits have paid for better weapons and equipment.

The French warship Nivose escorts commercial ships in the Gulf ... 
The French warship Nivose escorts commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden. Somali pirates dodged an increased foreign naval presence in the Gulf of Aden to seize another ship as the deadline ticked down for a Saudi tanker held to ransom.(AFP/Eric Cabanis)

While the pirates have been buying GPS devices, satellite phones and more-powerful outboard motors, officials in Europe have been discussing jurisdictional issues surrounding the arrest of pirates on the high seas and even the possibility that the pirates might demand asylum if brought onto European Union shores.

Germany, perhaps more than any other country, epitomizes both the importance of safe passage for ships and the difficulty of reacting swiftly. It is the world’s leading exporter of goods, and according to the German Shipowners’ Association it has the world’s largest container-ship fleet, with some 36 percent of total container capacity.

That would seem to argue for swift action to stop the pirates, and Germany did indeed draw international attention earlier this week when it announced that up to 1,400 military personnel members might take part in the mission to combat piracy. But the figure significantly overstated the likely deployment as part of a European Union mission in the region, and Parliament has yet to approve it. It also remains to be seen whether the rules of engagement give German sailors a free enough hand to fight the pirates.

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Massive Public Spending Hoped To End Global Recession

November 29, 2008

In a bid to jump-start the beleaguered global economy, countries around the world are introducing massive public spending programs aimed at creating millions of jobs, boosting the use of green energy and modernizing infrastructure in a way that could transform urban and rural landscapes.

The viability of some of the plans remains unclear. But observers say the number of countries moving in tandem underscores the perceived severity of the coming global recession and the view that governments must at least temporarily pick up the slack as the hard-hit private sector sheds jobs and cuts spending. 


By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 29, 2008; Page D01

It is time “to invest massively in infrastructure, in research, in innovation, in education, in training people, because it is now or never,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a recent public address.

World leaders are pursuing a variety of strategies to tame the economic crisis, including moves to unclog credit markets, strengthen financial institutions and ease monetary policy. But fiscal stimulus packages, in particular, have emerged as a favorite tool of policymakers. Some countries’ plans are particularly bold: China is accelerating projects to build more nuclear power plants and a vast natural gas pipeline; Italy may erect the first bridge connecting Sicily to mainland Europe.

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Poland, Czech Republic Ask U.S. To Keep Missile Defense Plans; Telling France, Sarkozy, Medvedev to “Bugger Off”

November 17, 2008

Poland and the Czech Republic hope that the new U.S. administration does not change its plans for a missile shield in Central Europe, the Euronews television channel reported on Saturday.

“We are not waiting for, even on political grounds, any kind of revolution. But of course, a new president looks at everything in a new way,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said on Saturday.

“We know the position of the newly elected president – he told me himself that he wants to be sure that thing works,” the Polish foreign minister added in comments broadcast on Euronews.

From: RIA Novosti

Under President George Bush, Washington has worked hard to reach agreements with Warsaw and Prague on the deployment of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

The U.S. has insisted that the missile shield is intended to protect against attacks from “rogue states” such as Iran. Russia has protested strenuously against the system as a threat to its national security.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, speaks with President ... 
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, speaks with President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev during the EU-Russia summit, in Nice, southern France, Friday, Nov. 14, 2008.  They agreed with each other but leaders in Poland, the Czech Republic and the U.S. said “bugger off.”(AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who takes office in January, has been noncommittal on missile defense. After his election victory, a senior foreign policy adviser, Denis McDonough, said he would only continue with the project if its effectiveness was proven.

Euronews also reported that the leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic had been surprised by the declaration of French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday that the missile defense system would not improve Europe’s security.

“We should not talk about deployment of a missile shield, which would do nothing to bring security,” Sarkozy said at a news conference with President Dmitry Medvedev after the EU-Russia summit in the French resort city of Nice.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said in a statement to reporters he “was surprised” by Sarkozy’s remarks.

“As far as the French presidency’s mandate for the EU-Russia summit is concerned, it contains no mention of the anti-missile shield,” he said.

France holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union.

An Iranian surface-to-surface missile lifts off from a launch ... 
An Iranian surface-to-surface missile lifts off from a launch platform during a test firing at an undisclosed location in the Iranian desert in this image released to Fars News by the military November 12, 2008.  Iran says these missiles can now reach Israel and into Europe.REUTERS/FARS NEWS

China Settles Trade Dispute Over Media Access

November 13, 2008

China agreed on Thursday to loosen restrictions on foreign news and information providers inside the country, settling a trade dispute with the United States, the European Union and Canada.

The agreement, which was signed in Geneva, allows international news and information agencies, like Bloomberg, Dow Jones & Company and Thomson Reuters, to more freely compete and sell their services inside China, where government controls were tightened in 2006.

The United States and European Union had filed a case against China at the World Trade Organization in March arguing that China unfairly required foreign news and financial information providers to be licensed by the Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese state-controlled entity that serves as the official outlet for the Communist Party and also a competitor of the foreign news companies. Canada later filed its own complaint against China.

According to the settlement, China agreed to remove the requirement that financial news providers be licensed by Xinhua and instead will set up an independent regulatory agency to oversee all financial news and information providers.

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Russia Promises to Halt Missile Deployments Facing Poland

November 12, 2008

Russia’s foreign minister has said it will abandon plans to station missiles in Kaliningrad if the US does not base part of a missile shield in Europe.

Sergei Lavrov said short-range Iskander missiles would only be deployed in the western enclave, which borders Poland, to neutralise any perceived US threat.


President Dmitri Medvedev unveiled the planned counter-measure a week ago.

The US insists the planned shield is designed solely to guard against attack by “rogue states”, such as Iran.

At present, the system will include a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in northern Poland. Moscow says they could threaten its own defences.

These would be in addition to radars and interceptors in Alaska and California in the US, and another radar at Fylingdales in the UK.

‘Third zone’

At a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday, Mr Lavrov was asked whether the Russian plans to deploy Iskander missile systems in Kaliningrad might affect Friday’s EU-Russia summit and renewed talks on a new partnership and co-operation agreement.

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European Union Sends Naval Force to Deter Pirates

November 10, 2008

The European Union launched Monday a security operation off the coast of Somalia — its first-ever naval mission — to combat growing acts of piracy and help protect aid ships.

Dubbed Operation Atalanta, the mission, endorsed by the bloc’s defence ministers at talks in Brussels, will be led by Britain, with its headquarters in Northwood, near London.

“Britain is a great military power, it’s a nice symbol that this operation be commanded by a British officer and from a British headquarters,” French Defence Minister Herve Morin said, after chairing the meeting.

“It is a great symbol of the evolution in European defence, and I would say, of its coming of age,” he told reporters.

The so-called EUNAVOR operation will be made up of at least seven ships, three of them frigates and one a supply vessel. It will also be backed by surveillance aircraft.

A Kenyan man (R) talks with two officers from the Italian navy ...
There are also NATO ships on anti-piracy patrol.  Here a Kenyan man (R) talks with two officers from the Italian navy on the deck of their destroyer Luigi Durand De La Penne in Mombasa, November 6, 2008. The Italian warship is operating under the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) and together with the British military vessel HMS North Umberland conducts maritime operations off the coast of Somalia to allow the World Food Program (WFP) to fulfill its mission of providing humanitarian aid to Somalia. NATO has increased operations following recent attacks on vessels by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.REUTERS/Joseph Okanga (KENYA)

It will include contributions from eight to 10 countries including France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain, with Portugal, Sweden and non-EU nation Norway also likely to take part.

“Our participation in the Somalia project is an important one,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told reporters.

“This is obviously a very challenging project but one that European leaders are approaching with real humility as well as determination,” he said.

The EU initiative was taken after Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed urged Somalis and the international community to combat rising piracy off the lawless nation’s waters.

Last month, a maritime watchdog said Somali pirates were now responsible for nearly a third of all reported attacks on ships, often using violence and taking hostages.

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Russia, Medvedev Step Back: Missile Deployment Opposite Poland Only If U.S. Missile Shield Built

November 10, 2008

Medvedev and Putin seem to be pressuring barack Obama in a cat and mouse game…
By Maria Ermakova

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) — Russia will deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad only if the U.S. goes ahead with plans to build a defensive shield in Europe, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said, signaling an easing of Russia’s stance.

Placing missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian region wedged between Poland and Lithuania, would be “a responsive measure” taken only if a U.S. anti-missile defense system is located “in the form of interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic,” Grushko was cited as saying today by state-run television channel Vesti.

“Russia won’t deploy Iskander if the U.S. decides against plans to locate the system in eastern Europe,” Interfax news agency quoted Grushko as saying in a separate interview.

Grushko’s comments differ from those of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made just hours after Barack Obama won the presidential election. Medvedev said Nov. 5 that he would deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad to “neutralize” the U.S. system, without making any qualification.

“This is a step back and it was right to do so,” said Alexander Rahr, a Russia expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. “They must have realized in the Russian government that Medvedev’s announcement must have sounded quite harsh, while Obama has been rather reserved about the matter.”

`Good Partnership’

Medvedev congratulated Obama on his victory in a phone conversation yesterday and the two agreed to organize a meeting in the “near term,” according to a Kremlin statement. Rahr said that with the latest remarks on missiles, there is now “a chance for a good partnership.”

Russia has repeatedly criticized the U.S. missile-defense system as posing a threat to its territory and said it would target Poland and the Czech Republic in response. The U.S. says the shield is necessary to protect against attack from “rogue” states such as Iran.

Grushko’s remarks come amid doubts over whether Obama plans to press ahead with the missile-defense system in Europe. Obama’s office said yesterday that he has made “no commitment” to the system, after a statement on the Polish president’s Web site suggested that Obama will press on with the shield. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in an interview with yesterday’s Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper that “we don’t know” what the U.S. will decide.

`Workable’ Technology

“Obama’s position is as it was throughout the campaign, that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable,” Denis McDonough, Obama’s senior foreign policy adviser, said in a statement released to reporters.

For Russia’s Putin, knockabout with Obama is just the ticket

November 10, 2008

When John F. Kennedy became President of the united States, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev seemed to relish at taunting the young president.  Now Vladimir Putin takes up the task of annoying Barack Obama it seems….

Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev

MOSCOW (AFP) – Still Russia‘s dominant politician, Vladimir Putin can only relish the prospect of a new bout of Russian-US rivalry with American leader-in-waiting Barack Obama, say analysts.

While much of the world celebrated Obama’s US presidential win, a stony-faced Russian reaction was a reminder of Cold War-style tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Still Russia's dominant politician, Vladimir Putin, pictured ...
The snake in the wood pile has little fear of the wood shed….
Still Russia’s dominant politician, Vladimir Putin, pictured in September 2008, can only relish the prospect of a new bout of Russian-US rivalry with American leader-in-waiting Barack Obama, say analysts.(AFP/Pool/File/Alexey Druzhinin

On the Internet, Russian bloggers portrayed the victory of a black candidate as evidence of American decline. On an official level, President Dmitry Medvedev chose the day of Obama’s win to announce the deployment of short-range missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost in Europe.

Numerous analysts said Medvedev’s response was clearly authored by Putin, no longer president himself but powerful in the prime minister’s post and long the spearhead of Russian attacks on the United States.

“Putin is of course number one in this tandem,” said Yevgeny Volk, head of the Moscow office of the US Heritage Foundation, a research centre.

The announcement of missile deployments to Kaliningrad is meant “to test Obama — whether he really is a strong and efficient leader,” said Volk.

Although he stood down as president in May in accordance with the constitution, Putin has kept a high profile.

He has released a judo training video, has “saved” a group of journalists from a loose Siberian tiger using a tranquilizer dart, and still meets world leaders such as Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi, whom he hosted this month in the Kremlin.

Analysts said Putin’s natural role was in baiting a United States cast by state media in the role of aggressor and that the 56-year-old could return to Russia’s presidency.

Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, who currently works at Washington’s Hudson Institute, said Putin was beset by economic worries in the prime minister’s post and wanted to “flee” for the safety of the presidency, a tsar-like role generally seen as beyond criticism.

Media speculation that Medvedev could step down to make way for Putin mounted this week when Medvedev said he wanted to extend presidential terms to six years.

“Testing” of Obama Has Already Begun

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Split Over Russia Grows in Europe

November 8, 2008

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, November 8, 2008; Page A10 

BERLIN, Nov. 7 — Russia sent President-elect Barack Obama a message this week when it threatened to “neutralize” the proposed U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. But analysts said the tough talk from Moscow had another aim as well: to exploit a festering divide within Europe.

Many Eastern European countries have become increasingly alarmed over what they consider Russia’s aggressive attempts to re-create a sphere of influence over satellite states of the former Soviet Union. Such concerns soared after Russia sent troops into Georgia in August, sparking a brief war.

The worries worsened Wednesday when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the Kremlin would move short-range missiles into Kaliningrad, a sliver of Russian territory on the Baltic Sea bordering Poland and Lithuania, if the United States proceeds to base parts of a missile-defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus called the Russian threat “beyond comprehension.”

In contrast, Germany, France and other countries in Western Europe play down any security risks posed by Moscow and instead see Russia foremost as a lucrative — if unpredictable — trading partner. These countries, which former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld once derided as “Old Europe,” generally consider the U.S. missile defense project to be an unnecessary irritant.

Peter Struck, a former German defense minister and now parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, one of Germany’s two ruling political parties, called Medvedev’s speech “understandable” and blamed the Bush administration for provoking Moscow. In a radio interview, he said he hoped Washington would soften its “intransigent position” on the missile shield.

As a protest over the war in Georgia, the European Union withdrew in August from negotiations with Russia over a “strategic partnership” agreement. On Wednesday, just hours before Medvedev gave his speech in Moscow, E.U. officials reversed their position and indicated they would soon resume talks. The shift was led by French and German officials who argued that engagement with Russia was more likely to succeed than isolation.

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