Thursday, April 21, 2011

Germany’s Libya Abstention and the World: What Now?

         Germany’s March 17th decision to abstain from the United Nations vote for a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Libya has unleashed a firestorm of international criticism – as well as open skepticism on the country’s current and future fitness for leadership on the world stage. The tumultuous last few weeks have observers voicing three primary concerns on whether Germany should (or even could) assume the world leadership position it claims to want: 1) a paradox, both in policy and in image, 2) battered confidence on the part of its foreign partners, and 3) an uncertain future in global leadership.

         Germany’s actions are paradoxical at national, European and international levels. The country long followed draconian foreign-affairs strictures such as “never alone” and “never again Auschwitz,” which guided the country since it emerged, shuddering and ashamed, from its losing role in World War II. After abstention, these tenets seem, at least in the immediate, to have largely been cast aside – with no alternatives proposed to replace them. Equally problematic are the polling results of German opinion on Libya: Reuters reported in April that a whopping 71 percent of Germans support international intervention in the country. According to a contributor at the online Atlantic Community, 65 percent of Germans – essentially, many of the same voters – would disapprove of German participation therein. The country shows a sort of diplomatic allergy to the often ugly business of conflict prevention. Berlin still insists it wants a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, but after its ill-considered abstention, its Western UN allies will surely be loath to grant such a diplomatic trump card to a partner increasingly seen as unreliable.

         The battered confidence in Germany’s recent diplomacy is perhaps best reflected by the United States and France. (...)

Making Sense of the EU: Back to Basics

The EU, or rather, the EU's delegation in Washington, has just released a broad four-page overview of the the European Union. Should be a good guide for those transatlantic policy newcomers seeking to understand the EU in simple terms, as well as those who could use a refresher on "what exactly the European Union is – and what it is not,"  to borrow the delegation's words.

If only answering those questions -- both inside and outside the EU -- were that simple!

Click here to see the document, then scroll to the "Latest Publications" section and click on "EU Focus: Understanding the European Union." For deeper (if dated) info on the EU, see this 2009 survey.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

US Presidential 2012: Among GOP Leaders, No One Thinks of Europe

The Huffington Post ran this piece on the foreign policy ideas of the United States' Republican leaders for the 2012 presidential race. European and transatlantic issues are glaringly absent from the party's foreign agenda.

Also called the GOP (for "Grand Ole Party"), Republicans constitute the other half of the US political party system, with Obama's Democratic party seen as more aligned with European-style ideas on the role of the state, social welfare and other issues. These Republicans, who after the President's rough two-and-a-half years in office, are sure to give Obama a serious run for his money. European observers following the early maneuvers of the 2012 campaign should know these names and judge who might toe the line against Obama, who as the incumbent will surely be nominated again as his party's leader.

Here are EurAmerican's picks for the three best and worst GOP hopefuls when it comes to foreign affairs. At best, the top dogs present a balanced and respectful attitude toward America's involvements abroad, a condition that is not always a given, with a certain focus placed on trade and high-skilled immigration. Among the worst candidates, several posture around imbalanced policy considerations that range from myopic to unrealistic, on such issues as support for Israel and what to do against the threat of Islamic extremism. A casual reading of the HuffPo article reveals that, in a party overwhelmed with either domestic or at least non-European foreign policy questions, few take the time for pronouncements specific to the Old Continent.

The Best Three

1) Mitt Romney

HuffPo says, "in an effort to make the U.S. a more competitive economy -- particularly with China -- Romney has proposed enforcing looser immigration laws to take advantage of highly skilled workers. (...)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bearish and Bullish on the EEAS

The transatlantic commentariat has said much about the early successes and failures of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and its chief, Lady Catherine Ashton. What follows are two diametrically opposed opinions on how EU foreign policy's been doing.

Presseurop's Iulia Badea Guéritée absolutely slams the fledgling agency. Guéritée posts a withering indictment that claims Ashton has been by turns "absent," "voiceless" and the embodiment of timidity in European foreign affairs. 
"The European External Action Service was created over three months ago to provide the EU the unified voice it lacked and its boss, Catherine Ashton has been remarkably…absent. Absent – or overshadowed by other European leaders – in the changing Arab world, absent in Japan, absent in Libya and absent in Lampedusa. What needs to happen for Ms Ashton and the EEAS to come out of the woods?"
Some paint a more rosy picture of the EU's diplomatic strength. Brookings Institute scholar Justin Vaisse counters that European policy heft is being increasingly felt around the world, not least of all according to yardsticks like the European Council on Foreign Relations' "score card" for EU foreign policy effectiveness. (Vaisse played a founding role in the score card's creation.) He writes proudly that

"... The Scorecard seems to be encouraging a discussion about Europe's role and behaviour in the world – our tools, our values and ideals, our interests, our vision. "Policy" is suddenly back in "European foreign policy." "
Chuffed as Vaisse may be to say so, the question of the true gravitas of the EU's global role is the subject of lively discussion worldwide.

French vs. English, Sarkozy, NPR, etc. etc.

The working-language battle continues in Brussels... See these three posts from the excellent Kovács & Kováts blog, which chronicles the Hungarian presidency of the EU. 

Looks a little like this old EurAmerican post, a throwback from all the way to last August. The post mentions Arthur Goldhammer, the guru behind the blog French Politics, who talked to NPR this week about French President Nicolas Sarkozy's new muscular foreign affairs posture.

Germany as the EU's "Vicar," Global Christian Support for Israel

From EUobserver, a weird analogy that suggests Germany is the "vicar" of Europe, stuck between a rock and a hard place as the reluctant leader of a crisis-emergent European Union. 

The piece cites the sociological concept of "organizational punishment" -- in which the leader of a group purported to uphold communal values is punished whenever it fails to meet its own lofty principles -- to describe Germany's role, much like a vicar in the Catholic church. 

Speaking of religion, see the latest numbers from the Pew Research Center on foreign policy support toward Israel by white American Christians -- fully 64% of white evangelicals, compared with that of 36% of Catholics and 34% of non-evangelical Protestants. How this sentiment differs from the Israel policy espoused by Christians in Europe

More numbers from Pew are below.

Monday, April 11, 2011

EEAS: "Democracy Scholarships" for N. Africa

A Brussels diplomatic official has revealed that the European Union’s nascent diplomatic service will be spearheading a new initiative in North Africa to offer some 2,000 “democracy scholarships” in the wake of the continuing regional turmoil. Now that the world is watching the North African and Middle East regions, the idea may pick up speed from the broad international attention toward providing peaceful stability measures with immediate as well as long-term benefits.

The idea for a European-Mediterranean partnership recalls the Union for the Mediterranean, a program launched in 2008 by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Though still an active project, it has met with only lukewarm enthusiasm among EU members, and has been overshadowed by issues such as the global financial crisis, as well as concerns over immigration and whether such a project would yield much strategic payoff for the European bloc.

The European External Action Service, the EU diplomatic arm known in shorthand as the EEAS, has been reported to be taking on the preliminary stages of organizing the scholarship. Promising students will compete for places at prestigious universities throughout Europe. It is believed that the fund aims to send a clear initial signal to young North Africans that the EU supports the broad popular struggle for democratic rule organized in large part by students and other disaffected young people. 

The ultimate goal for the scholarship, according to those close to the project, is to set in motion a deeper exchange of democratic ideas via a pattern of “circular migration” among the students’ home countries and the EU.

The fund is targeted to appeal both to young North Africans wanting to study in Europe and those who may simply appreciate the EU’s show of solidarity through pro-democracy educational funding. Budget estimates for the scholarship run as high as 50 million euros.

Applicants from Tunisia and Egypt will be given priority initially, and the planners set the start date for the fund as early as the fall semester of 2011. Reports are unclear as to whether the program will be expanded to include nations currently in the most chaotic days of unrest, such as Libya or other Mediterranean coast states.  

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Libyan Ambassador to US Breaks with Qaddafi

The Libyan ambassador to the US has resigned over the uprising currently roiling his home country, reports the Washington Diplomat, a DC monthly covering the diplomatic community in the American capital. At the time of this writing, the article was available in print but not online.

Ali Suleiman Aujali, the 60-year-old who was until last month Qaddafi's representative in Washington, is still residing in the city while his country's rebel government continues in its struggle to establish an alternative government from the authoritarian rule that has lasted over 40 years. A career diplomat, Aujali has served in ambassadorial posts in Malaysia, Argentina, Brazil and Canada.

Aujali's service, juxtaposed with his new and vociferous denouncement of Qaddafi, raises the question as to how Aujali managed to serve the leader since Ajali's public service began in 1969. In a recurring theme of the article's expansive profile, Aujali distinguishes between Libya's diplomatic corps and that group's boss. 

"You must know that not every Libyan diplomat is the last 42 years has dirtied his hands with blood or money... I have never been a mouthpiece of the regime," he explained. When questioned on his marked about-face in recent days, he borrowed a classic Arab proverb, saying, "different occasions require different speeches."

The change in tone resonates with the defection of Moussa Koussa, who last week resigned as Libya's foreign affairs czar. He has fled to London and faces unclear prospects as to whether he may face prosecution relating to the 1988 airplane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. The event is widely believed to have been orchestrated by those close to Qaddafi and at his request.