Achtung, Baby! No Contracts!

Saturday, December 13th, 2003

A collective Aber was ist denn los?! issued from the German government last Wednesday, the day after the Pentagon’s new policy excluding as primary bidders on Iraqi reconstruction contracts companies from “peace camp” countries was disclosed – not by any formal notification to the countries thus excluded, mind you, but simply by a posting on the Internet, to the “Rebuilding-Iraq.net” site, of the “Determination and Findings” text, signed by Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. That’s why government spokesman Béla Anda (a very Hungarian name, by the way) qualified his qualification of the American action as “not acceptable” with the proviso that what he had been hearing from the press would turn out in fact to be true. We can make our first plunge into the facts of this case with the authoritative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Wednesday article, Berlin Criticizes Washington: Decision Unacceptable. That’s also why German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was only willing to say that he had heard the news “with amazement” (“mit Erstaunen zur Kenntnis genommen“), and that he was going to get with his American contacts to find out what the hell was going on. (more…)

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Countdown to the Brussels Summit I: Irritation at Poland

Monday, December 8th, 2003

Last week, while we here at EuroSavant were obsessing over the previous Sunday’s draw for the European Football Championship next summer, Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller and several of his entourage were victims of a helicopter crash while returning to Warsaw from a visit to Silesia (the southwest part of Poland). No one was killed, but Miller himself sustained serious injuries to his back, and Polish newspapers all ran a photograph recently showing him lying in a hospital bed, all bandaged up although otherwise looking as hardy and self-composed as usual, with President Aleksander Kwasniewski sitting alongside.

According to Miller, his injuries won’t prevent him from attending the climactic EU summit in Brussels over the draft Constitution coming up this weekend, even if he has to show up there in a body-cast. In a recent analysis entitled The Poles Are Europe’s New Nay-Sayers, the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende points out that what is likely to be waiting for him there, at the least, are marathon negotiating sessions stretching long into the night “which can force even healthy politicians to their knees.” And that even means “healthy politicians” whose member-states have mainly stayed on the sidelines during the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), remaining above the acrimony. For the main protagonist in the process that the Poles have become, on the other hand, the coming days can be expected to bring not only long nights but also intense pressure. (more…)

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The Danes Wax Rhetorical Over Naples

Sunday, November 30th, 2003

Let’s now go to the reporting of the run-up to that EU IGC in Naples (and its early going) in the Danish press. If you want championship coverage of just what was contained in that omnibus compromise proposal distributed last Tuesday by the foreign ministry of the current-EU president, Italy, the piece to turn to is Politiken’s article Denmark Concerned over Italian Proposal for Constitution. (more…)

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Approaching the Naples IGC – French View

Saturday, November 29th, 2003

We’re back “in the groove” now, as you’d expect we would be, since there are big things going on. Yesterday and today in Naples there has taken place a meeting of EU foreign minsters constituting the latest step in the process of formal negotiations over the proposed European Constitution collectively termed the “Intergovernmental Conference” (IGC). The French press covers the run-up to this meeting well. (Coverage of what is actually accomplished – if anything – will probably be available by Monday.) (more…)

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An Interim IGC Evaluation: Buy Your Dollars Now!

Tuesday, October 21st, 2003

As varied as the individual details may have been, one theme clearly predominates the preceding accounts on this website, from the French, Dutch, and the Czech press, of the progress of the EU draft Constitution Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) so far. And that is, of course, that there has been virtually none – indeed, that there is even considerable dissatisfaction over the process currently being used to try to gain common agreement on an EU Constitution. (more…)

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A Nice* Refresher

Wednesday, October 8th, 2003

The EU’s Nice Treaty of December, 2000, stands in the immediate background to the ongoing deliberations in Rome over the draft Constitution that began this past weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, should this attempt to arrive at a mutually-acceptable EU Constitution (or perhaps “constitutional treaty”) fail, the status quo of that Nice Treaty is what the EU will be left with, until (if/when) the next attempt at further institutional reform actually succeeds. As we also have seen, Nice has had a more direct influence on the Rome IGC, in that the advantageous voting allocation in the European Council awarded there to Spain and Poland – for whatever reason – has become a point of contention. Those countries seemingly refuse to agree to the draft Constitution terms which would have them give it up.

So we find just what the doctor ordered in the Dutch newspaper Trouw, namely a refresher on that Nice summit of almost three years ago was all about, in an article entitled Failed Nice Summit Continues to Play Tricks with the EU. (more…)

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Poland Set to Derail EU IGC?

Friday, October 3rd, 2003

I’m back home, and back in business. And just a quick note for that subset of my clientele concerned (as am I) about the best Internet café in Prague: Unfortunately, the one I mentioned at the Narodni Galerie on Dukelskych hrdinu will shut down for good at the beginning of the week of 5 October. There were always free terminals to be had there, yes; but a normally welcome fact like that can also eventually backfire, when those in charge evaluate whether the facility is bringing in enough revenue to justify its existence.


The big event coming up soon from the EuroSavant perspective is the EU Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) for evaluating and (probably) amending, prior to official submission for approval to the 25 EU governments, the draft Constitution submitted last June by the European Constitutional Convention. One major thread to this story, it seems to me, is the hard line that the Polish government is taking in the run-up to this IGC, making its various demands for changes to the draft document clear and threatening to veto the whole process if it doesn’t get them. I noted this only obliquely in a recent entry which discussed the controversy over the proposed German “Center Against Expulsions” memorial for Berlin. But with the ICG due to start tomorrow, it’s time to zero-in on the topic – and fortunately, Le Monde’s new correspondent for Poland, Christophe Châtelot, does exactly that with what is his first dispatch in his new assignment, an article entitled Poland Goes on the Assault against Future European Institutions. (more…)

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Polish-German Relations Dampened by Expellee Dispute

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

Meetings, meetings, meetings! But maybe that’s a foretaste of the soon-to-be EU of twenty-five members. As we noted, Tony Blair met on Saturday (20 Sept.) with Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac in Berlin. Then on Sunday he met back at Chequers (the British Prime Minister’s country residence) with Spanish premier José Maria Aznar. (Those were surely discussions most suited to Blair’s day of rest, as he and Aznar see much more eye-to-eye on international issues these days than do his interlocutors in Berlin.) As for Gerhard Schröder, he met yesterday with Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller – just before flying yesterday evening to New York, for that all-important opening of the UN General Assembly and tête-à-tête with President Bush.

The German papers hardly gave front-page coverage to this meeting between Schröder and Miller (which took place at the conference center attached to the Schalke stadium in Gelsenkirchen, in the Ruhr area – Schalke are a famous German first-division football team, by the way). By and large that treatment was devoted to the overwhelming victory in the Bavarian state elections over the weekend for Edmund Stoiber’s Christian Socialist Union party – something that, unfortunately, EuroSavant isn’t all that interested in, although it has given rise to speculation that Stoiber is now rarin’ to take on Gerhard Schröder again in an electoral fight for the Chancellorship, when the time for that comes ’round again, of course.

That lack of press coverage was unfortunate, because Schröder and Miller had a lot to talk about in Gelsenkirchen. For one, they seem to have some hard-to-bridge differences over the draft EU Constitution, and this just a little over a week before the big EU Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) opens on October 4. Interestingly, according to an article previewing the Schröder/Miller summit in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung entitled No Unbundling of the EU Constitution-Package, it looks like Germany is considering deploying its big financial guns to try to get its way here. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is quoted by the FAZ as saying as early as the beginning of September that, in his view, EU expansion, the adoption of the draft Constitution, and negotiations over EU finances – which have much to do with how much financial help of various kinds Poland gets upon entering the EU – all constitute an interrelated package. Subtext: If you want to get the money you expect, you better show some give on the Constitution. But let’s leave any further discussion of those negotiations to the near future. With the start of the IGC coming up soon, it’s guaranteed that we’ll get back to this subject soon, and in considerably more detail.

At their meeting, the German and Polish heads of government also devoted considerable time to a controversy that arose over the summer – but is still simmering – about a proposal to erect a memorial called the Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen or “Center Against Expulsions,” in Berlin. This has considerably strained relations with Germany’s neighbors to the east, not just Poland; and it’s a dispute that gives me the opportunity to display a neat picture on these pages – a magazine cover, sorta kinky! – for the first time. (But you’ll have to click on “More…” to see it – ha ha!) (more…)

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Poles In Iraq III

Thursday, August 7th, 2003

Back to Poland, and on the news front there’s still little to report concerning the current deployment of Polish troops to the Middle East for eventual duty in the Polish security sector in Iraq. What I find today I find in Gazeta Wyborcza (and I confess that not everything cited here is dated 7 August). There’s this news item about further troops flying out: About 250 soldiers this time, of the Tenth Mechanized Battalion, flying out of Wroclaw, their commander proudly mentions that they’ve been well-trained for their mission, starting from the end of last year, peace-keeping, building-searching, convoy-running, yada yada. Much better is this: Been wondering exactly where the Polish sector in Iraq is going to be? Then check out this dynamite map on Gazeta Wyborcza‘s site (in .jpg format, and of course with accompanying Polish text). Looks like they drew the short straw: Their area straddles the Tigris and Euphrates just south of Baghdad, and includes such past trouble-spots as Karbala, Najaf, and al-Hilla. Well wait a second, this is in the mostly Shiite region, and I do believe that the Shiites have become more cooperative with the occupation lately, at least to some extent. (See my recent reporting from the German press about the plum cabinet jobs Shiite politicians are being assigned by the Governing Council.) Most violent trouble these days – or at least most reported trouble – seems to come from Baghdad and the “Sunni triangle” further north, places like Tikrit and around al-Fallujah.

If the news side is still sparse, on the commentary side we’ve hit the mother lode with Maciej Letowski’s piece for Gazeta Wyborcza entitled Nikt nie rodzi sie zolnierzem, or “Nobody Is Born a Soldier.” (more…)

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€S Drought Set to End

Friday, August 1st, 2003

EuroSavant has gotten some nice mentions elsewhere on-line lately. Among those, allow me to mention this one (under Thursday, July 31, 2003) from E-Media Tidbits. I’m delighted, but that is also somewhat of a mixed blessing, in that it is obvious that my usual posting schedule (that normally alternates between daily and every-other-day) has taken a hit during my recent stay in Poland. New visitors may get the mistaken impression that my rather slower publishing schedule of this Polish stay is my customary schedule. So I’d like to reiterate – especially to all those new visitors, spurred by these recent nice mentions – that I will certainly get back up to my former level of activity once I’m back at home base in Amsterdam, in two day’s time. Naturally, I’ll also be doing more of the multiple-media-source, comparative treatment analysis articles that I feel represent the high-point of what this medium, and this particular weblog, is capable of.

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Václav Klaus: Which Way Will He Vote?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2003

The countdown is on for the referendum in the Czech Republic on EU accession, to take place over next Friday and Saturday (13 and 14 June). As most of the other candidate countries have done, Czech authorities are also making use of the tactic of opening the voting centers over two days to encourage as large a turn-out as possible (although referenda in the Czech Republic do not have any legally-mandated level of participation, below which they become invalid). And the Prague authorities enjoy a further advantage: their referendum is towards the end in the series of candidate country referenda (only a couple of the Baltic countries remain), and the script has gone according to plan – all of the other countries voting before have voted “Yes” (if in some cases with distressingly-low levels of voter turn-out), so that puts further pressure on Czech voters not to show themselves to be the odd man out. (more…)

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Why Referenda Usually Just Don’t Cut It

Sunday, June 8th, 2003

Now the second and final day of Poland’s EU accession referendum is underway. Radio reports indicate that participation through Saturday ran rather short of the 25% one would hope for, at least on an accountant’s straight-line basis, to assure that final participation reaches at least 50% and therefore validity for the whole exercise. But after all, this is not some financial exercise . . . (more…)

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The EU: Poland’s Fourth Partition?

Saturday, June 7th, 2003

Here in Wroclaw, it’s a bright and sunny first day of voting in the Polish EU accession referendum. More guerrilla anti-EU material has popped up, in a last-minute attempt to change people’s minds – this time, it was in the form of posters showing the famous EU twelve-yellow-stars-on-a-dark-blue-field emblem – with a swastika in the middle, and the caption up above “Rozbior Polski” – the partition of Poland. That should strike a chord with historically-oriented Polish voters: in the famous 18th-century partitions of Poland, Poland’s neighboring states (then Prussia, Russia, and the Austrian Empire) agreed among themselves to simply reach out and grab the pieces of Polish territory that they wanted, and Poland was too weak at the time to do anything to defend herself. There were three of these land-grabs, and by the end of the third there was no more Polish land to seize any more, as it all had been taken – and Poland was not to re-emerge as an independent nation for more than a century, namely in 1918 directly after the First World War. (more…)

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Poland: The EU Accession Referendum Nears. An On-the-Scene Report

Friday, June 6th, 2003

The referendum on Poland’s accession to the European Union is very close now – it starts tomorrow, Saturday, and carries on through Sunday. As in most of the candidate states which have already held the referendum – particularly in Hungary and Slovakia – and as will most likely be the case in the one remaining significant state to do so after Poland, namely the Czech Republic next weekend, the crucial issue is not so much the referendum’s result, but rather the rate of voter turn-out. (more…)

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EuroSavant to Poland

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2003

As of today, EuroSavant is visiting Poland for a few days, specifically Wroclaw (before 1945 known as Breslau) in the southwestern corner of the country. I’ve scoped out the Internet cafés available there in the center of town; infrastructure-wise, I think there will be what it takes for me to continue submitting my posts at the usual frequency. And, as an added bonus, I’ll be able to indulge in a little primary-source blog reporting (as opposed to my usual secondary-source approach – or is it tertiary?), since the Polish EU accession referendum takes place this upcoming weekend, and I’ll still be there. I promise I’ll take careful and copious notes; I’m travelling there with my legal pad, pen (plus a few spares), and my fedora with the “Press” card tucked in the band – but this is Poland, so I’ll have to get a quick translation made there to “Prasa.”

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“It’s just what we need”

Monday, May 12th, 2003

EuroSavant is taking a few days off to head to sunny Barcelona, Spain. I expect to resume posting this upcoming Thursday, 15 May 2003, by around 12:00 noon UTC (that’s 8:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 7:00 AM Central Daylight Time, etc.). So all e-mail correspondents need to reckon with possible delays in my response.

I’m taking along with me as food for serious thought an article from the on-line edition of the Hamburg weekly Die Zeit, Wir haben’s gerate nötig (“It’s just what we need”), by Richard Herzinger, which I would recommend to all of you who can read German and are interested in Germany’s current place in the post-War in Iraq world. (more…)

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And a German Dispute Eastwards . . .

Thursday, May 8th, 2003

Once again Iraq is causing divisions within NATO. This time it’s between the Poles and the Germans. In one respect, this is nothing new: Chancellor Schröder’s SPD-Green administration had always made it clear that it would not support a war in Iraq, in any way, even if it were given official United Nations approval – e.g. if the so-called “Second Resolution” had passed the Security Council. On the other hand, Poland was one of the few nations (the others including only Australia and Albania) to actually send troops to contribute to the military effort of the War in Iraq. In fact, Polish commandos did some rather good work in securing Iraqi oil platforms offshore in the Persian Gulf once hostilities got under way.

But the war phase is now over, and the occupation phase has begun. (more…)

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