Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Last weekend, Finland’s foreign minister gathered six of his colleagues and the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, in the frozen far reaches of Lapland for two days of talks on the future of European foreign policy.
As informal ministerial gatherings go, it was a rather jolly (if cold) affair, complete with a ‘family photo’ taken with a pair of nervous reindeer, a chance to see the northern lights and activities such as skiing, sledging and snow-mobiling. Some of the ministers even brought along their families.
But as well as a relaxing weekend staying in luxurious cabins 250 km inside the Arctic Circle in the village of Saariselka, what exactly is the point?
Alexander Stubb, Finland’s young and energetic foreign minister, well know for doing triathlons and for his near-permanent grin, says such retreats help foreign ministers get to know each other better and allow them to discuss critical issues without outside pressure. First, they don’t have to worry about reaching hard-headed decisions, and equally they don’t have advisers whispering in their ears or minute-takers holding them to their every word. It’s an open-ended chat among colleagues about topics close to their heart.
As experiments in political unity go, Europe’s External Action Service takes some beating.
The budding diplomatic corps of the European Union, with a name that sounds like an off-shoot of Britain’s SAS, is supposed to represent the unified interests of the EU’s 27 member states to the rest of the world.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos recalled this week that it had been said of the previous U.S. administration that what American diplomacy needed was “regime change”. Europeans, meanwhile, he said, simply needed “a regime”.
America got its regime change with President Barack Obama, Moratinos explained this week, while Europeans got a new regime with the Lisbon treaty, a document that is supposed to help bolster the EU on the world stage and creates a more powerful foreign policy chief for the bloc.
“Self-confident”, “smart” and “rhetorically brilliant” – just some of the adjectives the media have lavished upon Germany’s favourite politician as he has covered thousands of miles traversing the globe on his country’s behalf since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s new centre-right administration took office late last month.
But Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is not in charge of foreign affairs — a position usually associated with voter popularity. He is defence minister.
Retired U.S. auto worker John Demjanjuk, 89, has been deported to Germany and prosecutors in Munich want to put him on trial for assisting to murder at least 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp in 1943. With most Nazi criminals dead, it is likely to be the last big Nazi war crime trial in Germany.
By C. Bryson Hull
Sri Lanka’s army has the Tamil Tigers on the run with a string of convincing military victories. Many people are asking if one of Asia’s longest-running civil wars is near its end after 25 years.
President-elect Barack Obama has been getting a lot of advice these days on how to deal with Muslims and Islam. He invited it by saying during his campaign that he either wanted to convene a conference with leaders of Muslim countries or deliver a major speech in a Muslim country "to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular”. But where? when? why? how? Early this month, I chimed in with a pitch for a speech in Turkey or Indonesia. Some quite interesting comments have come in since then. (Photo: Obama image in Jakarta, 25 Oct 2008/Dadang Tri)
Two French academics, Islam expert Olivier Roy and political scientist Justin Vaisse argued in a New York Times op-ed piece on Sunday that Obama's premise of trying to reconcile the West and Islam is flawed:
Now here's an interesting question. The New York Times reports that President-elect Barack Obama wants to make "a major foreign policy speech from an Islamic capital during his first 100 days in office." But from which one? As NYT staffer Helene Cooper explains, it's a question that's fraught with diplomatic, religious and personal complications. After a day of calling around Washington, she found a consensus:
It’s got to be Cairo. Egypt is perfect. It’s certainly Muslim enough, populous enough and relevant enough. It’s an American ally, but there are enough tensions in the relationship that the choice will feel bold. The country has plenty of democracy problems, so Mr. Obama can speak directly to the need for a better democratic model there. It has got the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that has been embraced by a wide spectrum of the Islamic world, including the disenfranchised and the disaffected.
Asked in a Reuters interview on Friday if it would be a tell-all memoir and reveal secret meetings in the build-up to the Iraq war, Rice replied: “Tell-all? What’s a tell-all?”
The ferocity of the reaction in the German media to the fortress-like new U.S. embassy in Berlin, which former U.S. President George Bush will inaugurate on Friday, strikes me as a reflection of the strains in German-U.S. relations since 2003′s Iraq conflict.
It underlines just how long gone the days of the Cold War really are. Then, when Berlin was the front line in the Cold War, America was West Germany’s best friend and U.S. soldiers were welcome across the country.