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Home arrow newsitems arrow Strasbourg's tradition for larger deals on NATO moves, a chance for Obama ?

Strasbourg's tradition for larger deals on NATO moves, a chance for Obama ?

Written by ACM
Wednesday, 01 April 2009
nato_summit_strass


 Few people know that the most important NATO's changes have been politically decided in Strasbourg the recent times, and that all indicates that this tradition will be probably kept now too, at its forthcoming 2009 Anniversary Summit, on Friday and Saturday.

It's indeed in Strasbourg, on 1997, that the most unthinkable change since NATO's creation, back at the Cold War, its 1st Historic Enlargement to Central - Eastern European Countries was in fact decided, after an EU Troika meeting with the f. Foreign Minister of Russia, Evgeni Primakov.

The decision had been taken at an EU - Russia meeting, a Monday before EU Parliament's session starts, and  the protagonists, 4 Foreign Ministers, immediatedly came to the Europeran Press Center (IPE 3) to announce the result to Strasbourg's Journalists.

But, "EuroFora" did not exist yet, ...and this radicallly important News remained practically hidden to the World, with the exception of a Greek and Turkish Media, and a local French radio...

Thus, the Foreign Ministers had to repeat the same exercice, one day later, at nearby Luxembourg, where several Brussels' Journalists had routinely gathered, for a banal ... Agriculture budget meeting..

There, Strasbourg info on NATO enlargement became immediately Headline "News", particularly once it was cited by US Agency AP, ... even if it was 24 Hours old !...Ironically, the most important GeoPolitical development in Europe's modern History, had to get the help of ... Cows or goats, in order to "exist"  for our scandalously stupid Mass Media...

In fact, the real NATO - Russia GeoPolitical deal had a much  broader scope : Primakov remained critical against NATO's Enlargement to former Warsaw pact countries, but accepted that Moscow let it be, in exchange of EU's promisse to boost its mainly Economic Framework agreement with Russia opening an era of more intense exchanges.

At the same time, the 1997 Strasbourg's diplomatic landscape had already radically changed recently, allowing for this unprecedented event to take place : Since February 1996, the same Primakov had formally signed Russia's entry to the CoE, as full Member : An immense change in the former Cold War-style  Organization of Strasbourg, which had also accepted, meanwhile, since the end of 1995,  ... the USA, under a special Status

Thus, CoE had already become .. Trans-Atlantic, without making big noise.!.. This fact obviously had facilitated the presence in 2006 in Strasbourg of both the f. Russian Foreign Minister Primakov, who had reportedly come for CoE's affairs, and the discreet contacts with some American diplomats.

The rest (i.e. attracting here EU's Troika at the same time) had been done thanks to EU Parliament's regular sessions in Strasbourg, which include, in addition to MEPs, also the rotating EU Council's Presidency, in the Top level form of Foreign Ministers, often even Prime Ministers.

It's probably nowhere else in the World, but in Strasbourg, that you could find, regularly crossing each other's routes, both EU, CoE, Russian and American Top Political Players, and even in such a "soft" and natural way, that they could have been discreetly meeting unofficially for Months, without anyone noticing, since they were, at any case, here, on the occasion of various differend other meetings, special to each one of these organizations which coexist in the same time and space..
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Strasbourg : ATA 1999 - NATO 2009
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This was made even more clear shortly afterwards, in  1999,  10 Years before NATO's 2009 Summit, during Atlantic Treaty Association ('ATA)"s Conference, organized in Strasbourg the same year that the 1st NATO's Enlargment Eastwards was enacted in real practice :

All the week-long, f. French President Jacques Chirac, f. NATO's SG Robinson, f. Presidents of Romania and Bulgaria, Constantinescu and Stoyanov, together with several Foreign and/or Defence Ministers, focused on parallel NATO and EU Enlargements :

There also, Defence, Security and Political levels had, oficially, nothing in common, but in fact, they were allowed a complex interplay on several concrete occasions : Both practically and symbolically, the 1999 ATA Conference took place ...inside CoE and EU Parliament's buildings all the week long..

France and other EU Countries' wish to be both inside the NATO, and "Autonomous" in their development and use of their own Defence capacities, inevitably marked the event.

And Now ?

A Decade later, New US President Obama's visit to Europen has also a broaderr GeoPolitical scope :

From Globall Finance in London, at the West, he heads towards EU issues at nearby Prague, Eastwards, showing anew that Strasbourg is in the middle pf it all..

NATO's Defense matters, once again, cannot and will not be treated alone, but in relation to all other main topical issues.

Russia is anew a crucial factor in Strasbourg Geo-Political issues in 2009, even more than at the beginning of this Decade in 1999, 1997 and 1995.

Collectively, thanks to a Franco-German idea, suggested by President Sarkozy and supported by Chancellor Merkel, to try to use OSCE to start examining the idea of a PanEuropean Security system, in order to avoid a Russo-American Missile Crisis in Europe. And/or bilaterally, by developing further an American idea to incite Russia to intermediate vis a vis Iran, while also cooperating closer on Afghanistan, Moscow's de-gel with NATO will anyway be on the Agenda.

But, obviously, the most intrigating issue, is the future of Euro-American links :

New US President Barack Obama, obviously has raised several hopes in Europe, including in French President Sarkozy, but he'd better try to start using this positive ambiance into building together something concrete the soonest possible, before Time runs away and unpredictable events or the usual routine, may threaten to take away more or less of this alchemie.

It's true that an American wish to try to ameliorate relations with Europe started also to be shown during former US President G.W.Bush's second mandate, since 2004/2005, while even his unsuccesful competitor, Senator Kerry, had insisted during the electoral campain on that point.

On March 2009, EU Parliament in Strasbourg, has just adopted a Report on Euro-American relations, drafted by ChristianDemocrat MEP Francisco Millan-Mons, which strongly supports new concrete steps in developing a closer Trans-Atlantic partnership, including by Institutional changes.

Meanwhile, it's not only France which fully re-joins NATO, but also the USA which might join the European defence in Strasbourg !

- EUROCORPS' Headquarters expect "probably during this Summer" 2009, that the American Army joins the MultiNational PC as "Sending Nation", said earlier to "EuroFora", EuroCorps' PIO Chief, colonel Raul Suevos.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
But a crucial test will inevitably be whether a new US position might make good use of Sarkozy's bold move to bring France back to NATO's joint Military commandment, by allowing Europe to equally develop its Defence capacities, particularly in the High-Tech sector, and safeguard its independence of thinking in some major strategic choices, while also being a faithful and reliable ally..

In particular, it seems that, as EADS-Astrium's chief expert on Security and Defence policy, General Molard, recently told "EuroFora" in Strasbourg, the main component which still lacks for Europe to acquire an independent capacity of modern defence, including on anti-missile protection, is to develop an Airborn and/or Spaceborn "Early Warning system", which, if the right decisions are taken in 2009, could be ready before 2016.

(See full Interview, for the moment sent only to "EuroFora"s Subscribers/Donors),

With this, and other similar concrete issues, is also linked the core question on whether a new US policy might accept to share and cooperate with the EU, and/or accept its parallel development, more largelly on all main Scientific and Technological breakthroughs related to Security and Defence, and particularly Air-Space Research and Development matters, without big exclusions.

- "This is not done "against" the Americans. Our American Friends (already) have a capacity to evaluate the situation. The Europeans will have their own capacity to evaluate the situation. So that we can discuss together. Because as the Americans don't always see everything, and aren't always right, also the Europeans don't always see everything and aren't always right. But, together, we (EU and USA) are stronger", concluded on the crucial question the experienced General Molard.

- "I think that what Sarkozy does is the right thing  : The development of a European Defence with the capacitty to act in an autonomous way, is not contradictory with France's return to NATO's military command. In fact, it can be mutually reinforcing", replied recently to "EuroFora" also EuroCorps' Chief of Staff, Georg Nachtsheim from Germany.

Last, but not least, at another front, new US President Barack Obama may also make good use of another unique opportunity in Strasbourg, this time mainly vis-a-vis Civil Society and Citizens  : A key sector in the foreseeable Future also for NATO, if it really wants to develop a new role also in direction of Civil Society (as current plans clearly indicate), and to become more Popular  :

It's well known that a part of Obama's driving force among the People, both inside the US and abroad, are his personal symbolic links with the Historic American Civic Rights movement, initiated by Martin Luther King. Some CoE Diplomats told "EuroFora" that they remember of Obama when they worked at WDC and US Senate's Black Caucus. Meanwhile, recent developments towards the closure of controversial Guantanamo bay prison, denounced by MEPs, that even f. president Bush had started to overcome, add in this same direction.

This is partly linked to a renewal of the classic "American Dream", to the point that even former US President G.W.Buish recognized that when he spoke of Barack Obama's personal course, from Chicago to Washinghton DC's White House.

But Strasbourg is also known in all Europe and the World as the "Capital of Human Rights", mainly because of Council of Europe's No 1 priority since the 2005 Warsaw Summit, and of the unique work done by the European Court of Human Rights the last decades.

Thus, it would certainly be a nice idea for the new US President, Barack Obama, to try to find a moment and a way to visit or otherwise link, symbolically and/or in real prtactice his 2 Days-long stay in Strasbourg with the CoE, and/or the ECHR.

After all, it's since 1995 ("Clinton A" era) that the USA have got a status inside CoE, and, by a positive coincidence, both ECHR and CoE buildings have been located inside the NATO Summit's Security perimeter (See MAP in related Newstory dated 31/3/09), just a few minutes way from the PMC building where the Summit takes place and Obama will stay overnight...

Even in the American and worldwide controversy on public funds for Human Embryo's use for Research, which opposed Obama to Bush, a right US move towards the CoE may help to alleviate fears against risks of abuse :

Strasbourg-based CoE has, indeed, a unique in the World legally binding mechanism for the protection of Human Rights in the domain (of growing importance world-wide) of Bio-Medicine, which includes some safeguards against possible abuses dangerous to individual persons, and to Humankind. American Legal Experts have worked together with European Experts from the start, since many years ago, to draft this International Treaty, (known as "Oviedo" Treaty, from the Spanish village in which it was signed at a special CoE event).     


"EuroFora" has already communicated such points and suggestions  to some CoE's staff, Months earlier. Shortly after that,  CoE's Secretary General, Terry  Davis, decided to visit Washington DC, on the occasion of a public event, at the eve of NATO's 2009 Summit here.

On all these points, results will be seen during the following days in Strasbourg, But what is sure is just that the way such questions will be treated here, is due to have an important impact on the Future.

***
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    The incoming Swedish EU Presidency (July-December 2009) may still remain in favour of Turkey's controversial EU bid, despite June 2009 EU Elections' results, but it has "very strong demands on Turkey"'s obligation to respect EU Rules, said the Head of Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, Cecilia Julin, to "EuroFora", reacting to critical Press reports.

    - "I know (that) the link is often made also to Sweden's position on Turkey"'s controversial EU bid. Indeed, "we (Swedish EU Presidency) are very much engaged in the future membership of Turkey, but not without fullfiling all the Criteria".

    - "It's very clear that we (Swedish EU Presidecny) have very Strong Demands on Turkey, in a sort of concept for Future membership of the Union, ...which will be a Long Process...", she stressed.

    This means, in particular, "the Copenhagen Criteria (on Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law), and also the adaptation to the Acquis of the European Union".

     - "If you listen to what Mr. Bildt (the Swedish Foreign Minister) says on Turkey at different occasions, it's very clear : We want Turkey to become part of the Union, in the Future. But we want it to fullfil all the Criteria : The Acquis of the European Union. That's very clear", she concluded.

    The Senior Official of the Swedish Foreign Ministry was reacting to critical Press Reports, from Brussels' Journalists invited by EU Commission's secretariat to Stockholm, who claimed that Bildt was abusing of a ..."Whip" (sic !) against Cyprus, by "threatening" the presence of UNO's Peace-keeping force at the "Green line" which separates the island's Government-controlled areas from the territories occupied by Ankara's army, if Nicosia didn't accept any political solution, regardless of Turkey's demands, before the end of 2009.

        Governing AKEL Party's new Secretary General, Andros Kyprianou, reacted by declaring that no-one can threat the People of Cyprus : -"We shall decide for our Future, and nobody else",  he reportedly said, asking to "keep calm". "In order to find a Solution soon, certain basic Principles must be respected", he stressed, calling those who feel an urgency to use their influence on Turkey. Other Political Parties were more critical.

    This was a reference to recently reported statements by Turkish Minister Bagis, Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan and Turkey's National Security Council (a Military-Political body), accused to push towards a partitionist "2 States" solution, contrary to UNO SC Resolutions for Cyprus' reunification.

    December 2009 is a crucial moment for EU's appraisal of Turkey's controversial EU bid, because EU Council has decided to review then Ankara's compliance with the European position on the recognition of Cyprus' Government, which was clearly set out by an EU reply of 21 September 2005 to Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan's claims, refusing to recognize even the existence of EU Member Cyprus, in controversial statements he made to London (former EU chair) on July 29, 2005.

    EU Parliament's latest Resolution on Turkey, adopted on March 2009 in Strasbourg, warned Ankara that "the non-fulfillment of Turkey's commitments... by December 2009, may further seriously affect the process of Negotiations" with the EU.

    In practice, the issue boils down to Ankara's "embargo" against Ships and Airplanes using Cyprus' seaports or airports at the strategic EU island, which traditionaly hosts one of the World's biggest Shipping flags. EU has already "freezed" 6 relevant Chapters in EU - Turkey Negotiations since December 2006, after Ankara refused to fullfil a commitment it had undertaken when EU had decided to open controversial "accession" negotiations with Turkey, back on December 2005.

    - "As far as EU - Turkey relations are concerned, it's clear that Turkey needs to fullfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the additional Protocol (to "EC-Turkey Association Agreement"),  This is an important issue....and should be addresseed as soon as possible as it clearly affects the pace of the accession negotiations.Issues covered by the Declaration of September 2005 will continue to be followed up, and progress is urgently awaited", warned earlier in Strasbourg the out-going Czech EU Presidency (former vice-Prime Minister Alexander Vodra).

    But the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, Cecilia Julin, dismissed "interpretations" by "some" that Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was reportedly "threatening" Cyprus with consequences on the UNFICYP, if it doesn't accept any solution until December 2009, while Turkey is reportedly delaying in an attempt to impose a partitionist "2 States" solution.

    On the contrary, Julin, stressed that "Sweden has strong demands on Turkey'"s respect of "Copenhagen Criteria and EU Acquis".

    Meanwhile, Sweden  is "concerned" about the risk of "Stalemate" in Cyprus' Talks, but is well aware that "the main responsibilities lie with the two leaders and the UNO", Europe playing only a role of "facilitator".

    After carefully verifying, the Head of Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, stressed to "EuroFora" that Bildt's reference to UNFICYP "was not linked to a Threat", and dismissed those who "interpreted" it so.

    On the contrary, the Swedish EU Presidency acknowledged the fact that Peace Talks are mainly for the UN and the leaders of the Cypriot communities, EU's role being limited into that of a "facilitator".

    As for Turkey's reported attempts to impose a "2 States' solution", the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service sharply replied by stressing that Turkey must respect the "EU Acquis" rules.

    In particular :

    - "Basically he (Bildt) underlined that it's the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus and the UN that have the main responsibilities for solving the problem", started to say the Swedish Senior Official to "EuroFora", referring to the above-mentioned "briefing".

    - "But the EU had a role in sort of pointing out the benefits and facilitating a little bit the outcome for the settlement of the whole Cyprus' issue", she added.

    - "And he did state the Fact, that the rest of the World (i.e. USA, etc) will, of course, look at the differend issues which are at the table, and the future of the UN Peace keeping force is part of what is at the table", she admitted.

    - "I understand that some have interpreted that as a Threat, by the Swedish Minister" "But", in reality, "it's a statement of a Fact, that, when we'll look at the differend issues, one of the issues on which we shall have to take a stand on, is the future of the UN Peace keeping force in Cyprus".

    Indeed, one of the questions usually raised for a Solution of Cyprus' issue is what International and/or European or other Guarantees, by a Peace-keeping force, might be needed afterwards, eventually for a transitory period.

    Questioned anew by "EuroFora" whether (according to critical Press Reports) this could be taken as a veiled warning that, if Cyprus didn't accept any Turkish demand for any solution whatever, it might be left alone to face Ankara's Military Invasion/Occupation, she denied :

    - "He (Bildt) didn't say it in that way"... "It was not linked to a threat, or anything like that", the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service stressed.

    On the contrary, "he (Bildt) underlined that the main responsibility lies with the parties concerned on the island". "The EU can try to facilitate and show the benefits of reaching a settlement. But also, when the EU and the rest of the World (i.e. USA) will have to look at it, they will look at all the Facts on the table, and the presence of the UN Peace-keeping force is one".

    And "he (Bildt) didn't speak about that at all", she replied to "EuroFora" question on Turkey's reported attemps to impose, in one way of another, a partitionist "2 States solution".

    Asked whether Bildt's aim was to incite both parties to move forward efficiently, she agreed :

    - In fact, "the EU is really very concerned with the Stalemate in the situation. Yes !", the Head of Sweden's Foreign Ministry's Press Service anounced. That's why Bildt "was hoping for the two parties (i.e. for Turkey's also) to engage and break, a little-bit, the present stalemate, come to a solution of the issue" of Cyprus.

    But, replying  to a "EuroFora"s question on the risk, denounced by several politicians in case of strict Time Deadlines, for Turkey to provoke a stalemate and wait for the time to come to impose a partitionist "2 States' solution", she reacted by pointing at Turkey's obligation to respect "EU Acquis" :

    - "Turkey must fullfil the EU Acquis : That's clear !", the Swedish Senior Official stressed.

    More details are expected when Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt will debate his Programme with new MEPs at EU Parliament's plenary mid-July in Strasbourg, that he has visited already in 2008.

    Foreign Minister Carl Bildt became familiar with Strasbourg's CoE last year, when Sweden chaired the PanEuropean organization of Human Rights. As EU chairman-in-office, he will also chair the 27-member States strong EU Group inside the 47-member States strong CoE.

    Minister for EU affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom is well known at EU Parliament, where she has been an active MEP of the Liberal Group for many years, following also Press Freedom issues.

    Both have already made various statements at "EuroFora", on differend topical matters.

    ***

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