Serbia: That Incredible Shrinking Country

This weekend’s election results in Serbia, and in particular the gridlock state of the political process and the resilience of the vote for the nationalist Serbian Radical Party (as ably explained by Doug in the previous post), pose new, and arguably reasonably urgent questions for all those who are concerned about the future of those European countries who currently find themselves locked outside the frontiers of the European Union. What follows below the fold is a cross-post of an entry I put up earlier this afternoon on the new global economy blog: Global Economy Matters. I don’t normally like cross-posting, since I would prefer to put up original Afoe content, but my time is a bit pressed at the moment, and I feel the issues raised are important enough to merit a separate airing on this site.
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Elections in Serbia: Oh, Well

So Serbia had parliamentary elections yesterday.

Short version: could have been better, could have been much worse. There will be a new government, but probably not much will change.

A bit more below the flip.
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Thomas Barnett joins Shrillaholics Anonymous

Thomas P.M. Barnett, Pentagon thinker and tech entrepreneur, stands up in the centre of the circle and says…I am Thomas Barnett….and I…am shrill! You’ll feel better now you’ve said it, Tom. See his latest column, here, in which he says that:

That’s how we’ll master this allegedly chaotic world: recalling that we’re history’s first and most wildly successful multinational economic and political union. Our greatest source of stability is our vast web of horizontally connecting networks.

Does that sound like a union of states not far from you, anyone? That has been the subject of much criticism, nay, contempt from Tom’s employers recently?

Meanwhile, back at his blog, he asks: Can Israel and Iran grow up, making the good point that everyone else has had to get used to nuclear deterrence. Our octopus-like tentacles of technocratic integration, economic interdependence and international law inch closer to his occiput. Soon he’ll be one with the Borg.. After all, what better example of his “SysAdmin shrinking the Gap” is there but EU enlargement?

47% of the Dutch support the reconstitution

From EUObserver via Nosemonkey comes the news that 47 per cent of the Dutch, according to a poll carried out by TNS-NIPO for RTL TV, are “positive” about the effort to reconstitute the constitution. 36 per cent were neutral and only 17 per cent negative. 47 per cent were actually in favour of a constitution itself, with 18 per cent against, and 33 per cent neutral.

However, 60 per cent said they would vote down any attempt to bring back the original text. The data is here (Word doc, .nl). 600 persons were surveyed by telephone and the results were weighted by age, sex, and employment status.

The Plot!

I’m not sure what Jerome is driving at here. It seems quite clear that, by promising a further referendum on whatever arises from Angela Merkel’s efforts to revive the Constitution, Ségoléne Royal is taking quite a risk, not least by betting on her ability to get the Laurent Fabius fanclub on side. I wouldn’t bet on a remixed Euroconstitution passing a referendum in France, but perhaps the argument is that the “non de gauche” was really a generalised protest vote and once the Left is back in power, the poison will have been drained from the issue.

Instead, the collectif antilibérale over there seem to think the whole thing is a British plot to get the Germans to stop the French from reviving the constitution, which is now a key document of multipolarity, solidarity, republicanism, laicité and other agreeable qualities. It used, of course, to be an Anglo-Saxon liberal conspiracy to subvert the French welfare state, but presumably that portion of the statement is no longer operative. Anyway, it’s not the French government that is reviving it, it’s the Germans. And it’s not the Left that is reviving it, but the Right, which begs the question why he is so annoyed by the possibility of its non-revival.
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Hrant Dink shot dead

Hrant Dink, an Armenian-Turkish journalist who won fame and notoriety for challenging Turkish nationalism, was shot dead in Istanbul yesterday.

If you’re not following events in Turkey closely, you might not have heard of Hrant Dink. Briefly: he was an ethnic Armenian but born and raised in Turkey. The genocide didn’t kill or expel all of Turkey’s Armenians, quite; there are still about 50,000 of them, mostly living in or around Istanbul. Dink was the editor of the Armenian community’s newspaper, Agos, and also its most prominent public intellectual.

Dink got into trouble with Turkish authorities for two things: he insisted on the reality of the Armenian Genocide, and he openly discussed the ambiguous position of ethnic and religious minorities in the Turkish state. Dink wrote about how, as a boy, he had to sing the Turkish national anthem every day in school: “I am a Turk, I am hard working and honest… happy is he who calls himself a Turk… great is our race.” It made him think, he wrote: who am I? If not a Turk, then what?

“As a child, I didn’t know what it meant to be Turkish or Armenian. At Armenian boarding school in Istanbul, I recited the Turkish credo every morning, but I was also told I should preserve my Armenian identity. I never came across my own name in school books – only Turkish names. As an adolescent, I heard the word ‘Armenian’ used as a swearword. As a Turkish citizen, I saw high-court decisions that referred to Armenians as ‘foreigners living in Turkey’. The Armenian orphanage that I worked so hard to establish was confiscated by the state.”

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The Man Who Would Have Been Chancellor

If not for his late and somewhat befuddled response to catastrophic floods in eastern Germany back in August 2002, Edmund Stoiber might well have been Chancellor today. The floods and some convenient anti-Americanism tipped the scales for Gerhard Schroeder, leading to his replacement by Angela Merkel. Yesterday, Stoiber announced that he would step down as Bavaria’s premier and as head of the CSU at the party’s conference in September.
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Sometimes the stereotypes are right

It’s usually a charmingly naive belief that wars are the fault of leaders, and if the Ordinary People could choose we’d all live in peace. It doesn’t take long, considering some parts of the blogosphere, your local bar, the historical record and such, to realise this is absurdly simplistic. For one thing, there are always plenty of people who, whether they knew it or not beforehand, burst into a dark bloom of hatred at the hat of a drop. For another thing, the structural forces, the permanently-operating factors in Soviet military jargon, that make leaders do these things would work just as well whoever the individuals are.

Call me a determinist and spank me if you like, but I doubt that’s seriously contestable. But the Arab-Israeli conflict seems to defy this, or at least it has done in the last two years or so. Consider the detailed draft agreement on the Golan Heights, but not just that – the Prisoners’ Document agreed between Hamas and Fatah, Khalid Meshaal’s recent statement that Hamas would accept Israel within the 1967 green line as a “reality”, and more, going back to the ceasefire offer set up by MI6 station chief Alistair Crooke back in 2002, and it’s hard not to conclude that some people aren’t trying.

As Simon Hoggard said about Northern Ireland, they’ll do anything for peace but vote for it. More accurately, they would vote for it if it was on offer – majorities of both parties to the conflict express this view in polls. There are probably lessons to be learned about the long-term management of national interests in a small space from Europe – Gordon Brown’s chief economist and now MP, Ed Balls, has apparently been commissioned to study the economic aspects of the question, and he’d be a fool not to look back at the Monnet/Schuman plans. I doubt he’d like it very much – what did happen to the suggested French-Italian-Spanish initiative after all, then?

In conclusion, though, it’s tempting to think that the continuance of the conflict has a lot to do with hierarchy itself, and the vastly enhanced power and status that war gies leaders. If it wasn’t for the frozen war, Belfast politicians would be of similar status to those of Bradford. No US presidential gladhanding there.

Update: You doubt my method? The Globe and Mail reports that Dick Cheney rejected an offer of Iranian help in Iraq and Lebanon in 2003…oh, and another offer: Jalal Talabani says the Iranians offered him and the US talks “from Afghanistan to Lebanon”..

Weltverbesserungsmassnahmen

Remember that book by Matthias Matussek we fisked some time ago? Well, a telling quote from it was that Weltverbesserungsmassnahmen – measures to improve the world – were supposedly a very German notion. I’m not sure about this – I suspect they are more a (very broadly) left-wing notion, although one that must include the Whig tradition. Anyway, Matussek might have a point.

Germany took over the EU Presidency on the 1st of January, which puts Angela Merkel in the chair of the Committee of all the Committees, a position I’ve said before she is ideally suited to. And what an agenda she brings with her. Apparently, the European Constitution is coming out of its closet in order to…wait for it…”give Europe a soul”.
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It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

A storm with hurricane-force winds is making its way across Germany as I write. The national rail system has stopped all passenger traffic (for the first ever, by some accounts). I’m a long ways inland and in a building essentially sheltered on all sides, but it’s surely rough out there.

Dramatic rescue in the Channel, probably more trouble in the Baltic or Poland, depending on how the storm tracks. Purists will note that this is not a hurricane (being neither tropical nor having a cloud wall), but for mid-winter (or ostensibly mid-winter, the blooming and budding plant life argues otherwise) in Central Europe it’s a good little storm. Hope none of you have had to be out in it too much.