Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Romanian face of justice

In the aftermath of the report issued by the European Commission on the Romanian justice system and fight against corruption, many comments and interpretations have emerged in the Romanian press . This was to be expected. One of the most prominent debates stirred by the report these days is about the re-confirmation of Daniel Morar as Chief Attorney of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). (more here, here and here)

His mandate is due to expire on August 12 and various scenarios have been voiced in the media that all aim at Morar’s replacement.  The Social- Democrats (PSD) want to change the procedural rules that regulate the appointment of the head of DNA. The Liberals, that for a while now have, more openly than not, sided with the Social-Democrats (yes, Romania is definitely not a good case study of political doctrines!), are also opposing Morar’s second term. Fears of being prosecuted for corruption, as well as the quasi-paranoid assumption that the DNA (and implicitly its leader) is a political tool of President Basescu can be traced as the main roots of these positions.

One should not forget that this discussion takes place only few days after the Commission harshly criticized Romania precisely for the politicization of the justice system and fight against corruption. So, as could be imagined, all this political maneuvering is not at all well seen in Brussels. The Commission is probably remembering the case of Monica Macovei, former Minister of Justice, who was also becoming “uncomfortable” for some parts of the political arena, and therefore had to leave her position, notwithstanding the great appreciation and support she had in Brussels.

A clear sign that the Commission has had enough is the declaration made by the EC spokesman Mark Gray on the topic:

We have seen the comments published by the Romanian media, quoting so-called sources in Brussels, referring to the reconfirmation of Morar as head of DNA. Our position is very clear. We expect the reform process to go forwards, not backwards. We constantly emphasized the good DNA results and the importance of institutional stability in investigating files and in initiating investigations in high-level corruption cases. Reconfirming the chief prosecutor will be a test for the renewed commitments of Romanian authorities

Usually the European Commission does not interfere in questions regarding the staffing policy of Romanian institutions. But they do it in cases where they see that there is a real danger of a deterioration. The intervention will, surely, be criticized by the Social- Democrats and Liberals, as biased and outside the scope of the Commission’s mandate. But the Commission probably realised that its neutral approach leaves too much room for interpretation to Romanian politicians.  By putting aside the diplomacy for a moment and calling the facts by their name, the Commission is increasing the pressure on Romania. Controversial as it may seem, this attitude might prove to be the only “mild” weapon the Commission has left before it starts deploying its artillery of sanctions and safeguard clauses.

Written by Anda

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How to explain a political process with a video?

The brilliant people at Common Craft just released a great video that explains the US elections in ‘plain English’! If you don’t know their other videos (mostly about internet issues) you really missed something and I strongly recommend them to you. Basically they “make complex ideas easy to understand using short and simple videos.”(mission statement!) But now enjoy “Electing a US President in Plain English”

“Make complex ideas easy to understand” … sounds like the EU needs something like that. Although the EU started experimenting with online videos lately, it still lacks creativity and a certain “online buzz”. Most of the videos about the EU (not only EUtube!) are either pure news reports or have a political motivation. However, one of the greatest problems of the EU is that nobody understands what exactly it does and how it works (which can also explain low turnouts at European elections). Unfortunately EUtube as well as other video producers do not address these issues. Short simple online videos could help people to learn and think about the EU.  Maybe the video on US elections can turn into an inspiration to produce similar videos about the European elections or the EU decision making process …in plain 23 languages!

Obama, Berlin and the world

So what did we expect from Barack Obama’s foreign policy speech in Berlin?  Since Barack Obama is not even the official democratic candidate yet, and obviously not the US President, I think expectations were hugely exaggerated. Apart from that, the following list of expectations sums it up (at least for me):

  1. Great visions for the future of everything: yes.   – Policy details: no, not really.
  2. Great rhetoric: yes.  – Great visuals for his campaign: yes, definitely.
  3. Bush-bashing: no. – And a “Berlin surprise”: Oh yes please.

And what did we get? (You can read the transcript of the speech here)

1. What about “visions”: well, sort of. Barack Obama spoke about many global problems and a lot of shared responsibilities and the need for cooperation. Not more, not less. Of course freedom played a big role (George W. Bush would have said the same!). Also the importance of immigration is something Europe needs to learn! Interesting maybe the issue of nuclear disarmament. I haven’t heard any politician to call for that in the last decade or so. Of course he did not go into any detail (it is election campaign time! not a good time for details). However, the “big visionary moment” of the speech was missing. But considering what could have gone wrong with such a speech, I guess it was OK. But of course symbolism prevails over content in every election campaign…

2. What about “great rhetoric”: First of all, I think the rather short speech was well constructed. The second part was better than the beginning. But I also found that the family background did not really work (maybe he should have started with something else and talked about it later? ). I liked the idea of a “world citizen” (what do you expect with that blog name…?). The delivery was very professional but, again, the big moment was missing. BUT the visuals for the campaign were great (and eventually that matters at the moment): They can suggest that he is respected and hugely popular in Europe (the crowd of 200 000 was impressive, right? ) which might give him some foreign policy credibility in the US. But that depends on the spin of the campaign…

3) Obviously no Bush-bashing abroad which is unthinkable in the diplomatic world. So what about the “Berlin surprise”: Nothing really. Basically he used Ernst Reuter and the Berlin airlift for his speech trying to put it in context with globalisation and global challenges. Not a bad idea. But then again, since expectations were huge I doubt that he could have delivered a real “surprise”. Maybe next time…

Anything else?

Well, from a European perspective we can take note that he knows about the EU and he generally thinks highly of global institutions and international cooperation, which is good to know. But I think the really remarkable thing is the pure existence of this event, a kind of “globalisation of US election campaigning”. I think we will see similar events in the future! As somebody on German TV said “It seems that he is the candidate for the world presidency”.

Update: Here is the video of the speech:

Latest monitoring report on Romania- definitely not the last

Today the European Commission released the monitoring reports on Romania and Bulgaria, foreseen by the “cooperation and verification mechanism”.

On the whole, not many surprises: the rough tone that was expected, telling off the two countries for the very small (if existing) progress regarding judicial reform and fight against corruption. This time, Bulgaria is more severely punished, with part of its funds being suspended. Romania receives yet another warning but still no decisive measure such as the activation of the safeguard clause or retention of European funds.

What is the Commission’s assessment of Romania? In the usual diplomatic slang, the report notes that Romania presents a “mixed picture”. However, it does not take great further reading to realize which are the predominant shades in this “mixed picture”: although Romania seems to have re-established its commitment to judicial reform and the fight against corruption, the “legal and institutional framework is still fragile” and decisions on (especially high level) corruption are highly politicized. Some progress is acknowledged, but so is the lack of political consensus regarding justice reforms.

In conclusion, Romania still has a (rather long) way to go in fulfilling all the benchmarks set at the time of accession and will continue to be closely monitored by the Commission. A crucial element is the political will to fully implement all the commitments made by Romania when joining the EU; and looking at the Romanian political arena at the moment, this does not seem to be a safe bet.

One can almost hear the sigh of relief in the high governmental offices in Bucharest, at the confirmation of the fact that (1) no safeguard clause will be activated, (2) no funds will be suspended, (3) Bulgaria is considered to do worse and is more harshly sanctioned. ‘Schadenfreude’ and relief, that’s all.

Unfortunately. Now they can happily continue their holidays. They “escaped” this time again. This makes me doubt the effects of such a neutral report. Maybe next time the Commission can act more severely. It is sad, but only a “shock therapy” might make the Romanian political class aware of the importance of fulfilling its commitments and not just indulging in the mere satisfaction of doing slightly better than the neighboring country.

Written by Anda

Dragandabic.com – The surreal website of Karadžić is a fake!

By now we all know about a certain Dr Dragan Dabic (aka Radovan Karadžić). It is also a fact that Karadžić worked as a doctor of alternative medicine in the centre of Belgrade. And he even had his own website!

First thought: How weird …  Second thought: Wait a minute… why is there an English translation? Also the headline…

“The Ever Increasing Need for Alternative Viewpoints in the Modern World.”

– shouldn’t it be about medical viewpoints??? Also the rest of the quotes are clearly written with the war criminal in mind:

Behind every able man, there are always other able men.
A wise man makes his own decisions,an ignorant man follows the public opinion.
He who cannot agree with his enemies is controlled by them.

An email that starts with “healingwounds@” … give me a break!

I think this page is a big fake! In the Whois directory you can find the following information:

Domain Name: DRAGANDABIC.COM
Registrar: ENOM, INC.
Whois Server: whois.enom.com
Referral URL: http://www.enom.com
Updated Date: 22-jul-2008
Creation Date: 22-jul-2008
Expiration Date: 22-jul-2009

Aha … the page was created yesterday and now everyone seems to “find” the website and is amused about the email address…

BTW: Apparently the real website is this one: http://www.psy-help-energy.com/ – looks very weird as well! (Update: There is also a discussion about a few suspicious things connected to this website!)

Update: In case you are still not convinced that this is a hoax (although international media has also picked up the story eventually) compare this screenshot from July 28 with the screenshot from July 23! You will notice:a separate page in Serbian, more advertising, some esoteric signs and a black and white picture called “dragan-dabic-mladic”…

Update: The International Herald Tribune reveals the background story of the hoaxer here: An online hoax becomes a source about Karadzic:

The hoaxer identified himself as Tristan Dare, and described himself as a “media artist who specializes in masterminding viral ‘guerrilla style’ interactive online performances.” He said he was a “citizen of the world, and currently resides in the global village.” He agreed to be interviewed, but only via e-mail, after being reached at the randomized e-mail address assigned to the person who registered dragandabic.com. His identity could not be confirmed.

He would not speak over the phone, but laid out a chronology of the site’s creation and editing, and had meticulously tracked his viral experiment across the media landscape with a couple of dozen screenshots of news Web sites, from Poland to China to Japan, that referred to the site.

[…]

He said the Internet traffic totals “reached 24,000 by the end of Day 1 (July 22), to 180,000 visitors on Day 2 (July 23).” He added, “In those first two days over 1.6 million files from this one-page site were served to automatic server requests,” which includes not only accessing the site but also viewing or linking to the photos on the site.

Read the complete article here.

Karadžić arrested, ambassadors back – What next for Serbia?

Serbia’s new government really seems determined about its pro-EU ambitions.

The arrest of war criminal Radovan Karadžić is clearly a political breakthrough, not only for Serbia but also for the entire region as well as a promising sign for EU-Serbia relations.  Actually it can be interpreted as a success for the EU foreign policy approach towards Serbia in the last couple of months which consisted of openly supporting pro-EU forces coupled with some small concessions.

So what is behind this bold move of Serbia? Obviously symbols are very important in diplomacy (referring to the discussions about the “pro-EU” government) but I do not think this is purely a short term bit of PR. It is poltics, in a very realist sense of the word. The arrest of a war criminal like Karadžić is a politically risky business. And more importantly, the improvement of relations with the EU and the prospect of getting better contractual relations with the EU seems to be a political priority for the Serbian Government. So  it is rather easy: In order to receive any benefits out of the SAA (just consider the economic problems!) they needed to show their willingness to cooperate with the ICTY. If they are serious about their policy priorities they have to deliver. (BTW: The SAA, which was not that easy to get for the Serbian government in the first place, is signed but not implemented, implementation depends on full ICTY compliance.)

What next for Serbia?  – Here is the “to do”- list for the Serbian government:

1.) Serbia needs to get the SAA implemented which is in its own interest. However, the arrest of Karadžić might be enough for the time being to prove “full compliance with ICTY” which is a precondition for the SAA implementation. A bit of diplomatic wrangling (especially with Netherlands and Belgium) will be needed but it is possible to get the “full compliance” despite the other missing war criminals.

2.) Arrest Ratko Mladic & Goran Hadzic – Could happen quite soon. Apparently Karadžić was found during a operation that was aimed at Mladic. Of course the success now gives them a bit of extra time to arrest the next one. (I would look for someone with a long beard … just a thought after the arrests of Saddam Hussein and now Karadžić)

3.) Push the Kosovo issue in the background for the time being. Finding a diplomatic formula over the Kosovo issue is obviously the most difficult thing for Serbia, so tactically it is better to get it out of the way. I don’t think a quick solution is likely here. My guess is that this will be one of the political chapters in the EU accession negotiations, so it will be on the agenda in 5 years or so…. Although a final solution can be posponed until the very last moment of the negotiations (maybe with one of those very tense EU summits…), but eventually a Serbian recognition will happen. Plus, the EU will not repeat the Cyprus mistake.

4.) Status of an official EU candidate: Depends a bit on the complex “Lisbon Treaty and Ireland” issue. But I think once the SAA is implemented, the logical next step would be to get the offical status of a EU candidate, maybe next year. We are not talking about EU accession here, not even about opening EU accession negotiations, that is clearly a long term project.

Another interesting (and somewhat overlooked) story is that Serbia’s foreign minister Vuk Jeremic announced plans to reinstate the country’s ambassadors to twenty (!) EU countries that recognized Kosovo’s independence.  Belgrade withdrew its ambassadors for “consultations” on Feb 17 following the recognition of Kosovo by the majority of EU countries. So far these plans do not include ambassadors to the US and Japan.

However, another sign that Belgrade has priorities. And the priority, at the moment, is to have better links with the EU. I know it is strange to write and read about “policy coherence” in a Serbian context and that some “election promises”  were actually not forgotten and official priorities are treated like priorities… but c’mon why not give them some credit for a remarkable political move !?

After Karadžić, Mladić?

Recent developments in Serbia give the impression that the newly established government tries to act in a  “European way” and fulfill the criteria of the SAA as quickly as possible. Probably everyone who follows the developments in the region and who knows something about the Yugoslav conflicts is relieved after this capture.

However, there are also some questions which made me think about the whole story and transnational justice in particular: a hardly recognizable grey-haired man lived in the Serbian capital and no one knew anything about him for years? Of course it is more than obvious that there was not enough political will or maybe some influence from the outside.

The story of ICTY is also a difficult one. On the one hand it is a modern response to secure justice on a transnational level and it gives hope that even if justice is blind inside the national framework there is a chance on the international level. However, it is well-known that the institution had to go through different stages, and a huge lack of financial resources because of the political indifference. And in this sense it displays an example of sharp division between morality (as presented in the religious world) and politics as such. But as we see from the recent development sometimes the two can meet… but can they meet also in the case of Mladić?

Written by Tanchi