Vienna: The End of the Beginning

So the latest round of talks on Kosovo begin in Vienna today.

There have already been seven rounds of talks since February. The result: the two sides have utterly failed to reach any agreement on anything whatsoever.

But this is not just an eighth round. No, this is a new “phase” of the talks. Now, instead of special negotiating teams, the political leadership of both Kosovo and Serbia will be coming in. On the Serb side will be President Tadic, Prime Minister Kostunica, and Foreign Minister (sort of) Draskovic. On the Albanian side, President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Agim Ceku will lead a team that includes representatives from all major Albanian political parties.

What will this accomplish?

Almost certainly nothing.
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The HRC is dead, long live the HRC?

The UN has elected a brand new Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission. Why was the old HRC discredited? Well, basically and officially, because several of its members were known to violate human rights and/or to protect their own interests. It is only logical. However, who will be taking a seat in the new and improved HRC? Right, some of those very same countries that were known to violate human rights: China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
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Breaking The Seals

Leafing through the comments on Brussels Gonzo’s last post, I can’t help getting the feeling that this news about Iran’s decision to resume its nuclear programme may well serve to focus our energy debate a little.

Britain yesterday vowed to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council, intensifying diplomatic pressure over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Responding to Iran’s decision to resume limited uranium enrichment research, Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, told parliament: “I think the first thing to do is to secure agreement for a reference to the Security Council, [if] that is indeed what the allies jointly decide, as I think seems likely.”

British, French and German foreign ministers meeting in Berlin on Thursday are expected to call for an emergency session this month of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog, which would then discuss a referral of the dispute to the Security Council.

Something Worries Me About Peter Bofinger

Really I realise I have been remiss in another important sense. I have long assumed that in fact the decision to reduce deficits was taken due to the coming fiscal pressure from ageing. This certainly was the background to the discussion. However now I look at the details of the SPG this area is not mentioned (as far as I can see) and the other – the free rider and associated – is the principal consideration.

So those who criticize the bureaucratic and infexible nature of the ECB are in the right to this extent. Of course the underlying demographics *should* be part of the pact, but that is another story.

I find myself in a tricky situation, since I am deeply sceptical that the euro can work, and now after the French vote even more so, but since it has been set in motion, the best thing is obviously to try and make it work (even while doubting). So I am thinking about all this. Obviously I should try and write a longer post making this clearer.

The SGP was adopted at the Amsterdam Council 1997. A history of the implementation of the pact, and a summary of the debate over the new pact can be found here. The Stability and Growth Pact was designed as a framework to prevent inflationary processes at the national level. For this purpose it obliges national governments to follow the simple rule of a balanced budget or a slight surplus.

Now if we go back to the origins of the pact, to the communication of the European Commission on 3 September 2004, you will find the following:

“As regards the debt criterion, the revised Stability and Growth Pact could clarify the basis for assessing the “satisfactory pace” of debt reduction provided for in Article 104(2)(b) of the Treaty. In defining this “satisfactory pace”, account should be taken of the need to bring debt levels back down to prudent levels before demographic ageing has an impact on economic and social developments in Member States. Member States’ initial debt levels and their potential growth levels should also be considered. Annual assessments could be made relative to this reference pace of reduction, taking into account country-specific growth conditions.”

Now curiously I have found nothing in Bofingers argument which seems even to vaguely recognise this background.

A good starting point for this topic would be the conference “Economic and Budgetary Implications of Global Ageing held by the Commission in March 2003.

The European Council in Stockholm of March 2001
agreed that ?the Council should regularly review the
long-term sustainability of public finances, including the
expected strains caused by the demographic changes
ahead. This should be done both under the guidelines
(BEPGs) and in the context of the stability and
convergence programmes.?

This document on the history of EU thinking on ageing and sustainability is incredible.
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The Adams Family

I’m crossposting something I originally wrote for my own blog because I realized it’s probably of far more interest to Fistful readers than to my own.

In March I wrote in Slate about Gerry Adams and the IRA, and the theory advanced by Ed Moloney (author of the excellent A Secret History of the IRA) that the Northern Bank bank robbery in December was part of Adams’ covert strategy to force the IRA to accept peace. If that theory is true, and I’m convinced by it more and more every day, then we’re now seeing the plan unfold.
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Venice Commission on Bosnia-Herzegovina

Teekay was looking forward to the Venice Commission’s report on Bosnia-Herzegovina last week. (The Venice Commission, for those of you who don’t lie awake at nights in excited anticipation of its next publication, is the constitutional reform advisory body of the Council of Europe, which in turn is not to be condused with the European Council.)

Well, the report’s out – not yet on their website but they’ve sent me a copy. It’s not as radical as some in Bosnia-Herzegovina might have liked, but given the Venice Commission’s normally relatively anodyne pronouncements it’s pretty strong stuff.
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Agenda 2020.


New Europe?
Late Thursday night, the European Council approved, as widely expected, the Commission’s recommendation to open membership negotiations with Turkey, largely without imposing additional conditions to be met prior to the beginning of the talks on October 3, 2005. “The time to start negotiations with Turkey has come,” Commission President Jos? Manuel Barroso said. Council President, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, will discuss the EU proposals Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, over breakfast on Friday.
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A resolution in sight, or a deeper crisis?

Two recent posts from Victor Katolyk:

korrespondent.net
The negotiations between Kuchma, Yanukovych, and Yushchenko will be held at 18:00 in the presence of international mediators. Yushchenko refused to hold eye-to-eye meetings with Kuchma or Yanukovych.

The negotiations will be mediated by Xavier Solana, Jan Kubish, Alexander Kwasniewski (President of Poland), Valdas Adamkus (President of Lithuania) and, possibly, other European and Russian diplomats.

Jan Kubis is OSCE Secretary-General. This does seem to be a good sign, except a post after it reveals what may be a worrying development:

elections.unian.net
In Lugansk, the session of the Oblast council has finished its sitting. The deputies adopted a decree about creating an autonomous south-east republic and signed an appeal to Putin with a request for recognition, – says the press center of the Ukrainian Socialist Party.

Currently, the local deputies are awaiting the arrival of Moscow mayor Luzhkov.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past twenty-four hours has been the creation of parallel authorities within Ukraine, notably the National Salvation Council established by Yuschenko which has begun issuing issuing decrees and establishing its own military command structure for forces loyal to it. The worry I have is that while Yuschenko’s position appears to be strengthening – see, for instance, that reporters on Ukrainian state TV are moving away from the Government – those who fear a Yuschenko victory are moving to set up their own parallel (and perhaps secessionist) administration.

As I write this, though, Victor has another update noting that the head of Yanukovich’s headquarters has said that “creating an autonomy in the Eastern oblasts is not the best solution”. However, the idea is now on the table. After the relative quiet since Wednesday evening, this afternoon looks like another critical phase. A lot will depend on how hardline both sides are in the negotiations.

Blogwise, there are updates from Foreign Notes, The Command Post is covering events in good detail and via there, a blog I wasn’t aware of before, Notes From Kiev.

There’s now also an official statement from the Council of Europe urging a peaceful solution.

Turkey recommended for EU accession talks

The European Commission has recommended that accession talks for Turkey should begin, but hasn’t laid out any dates for the process:

Commission officials are reporting on the progress Turkey has already made, along with Bulgaria and Romania.

The final decision on Turkey rests with the leaders of all 25 EU member states in December – with accession years off.

The Commission’s recommendation is a milestone in an increasingly impassioned debate.

The decision was reached by a “large consensus” among commissioners, one EU official said, but no vote was taken.

There was also no recommended date to start negotiations with Turkey.

More from The Scotsman/PA, EU Business, Reuters and EU Observer.

Update: The full text of Romano Prodi’s speech can be found here and I’ve copied it below, so you can click on the ‘continue reading’ link to see it as the English HTML link on the site doesn’t seem to be working (pdf and doc links are).
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