Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bildt's Myopic European Vision for Sweden

Former EU and UN Balkan envoy and Swedish PM Carl Bildt was named Minister of Foreign Affairs in Sweden back in early October. Bildt is perhaps the Scandinavian politician with the most international experience -- and he is a smart man. As a MFA he held a speech before christmas outlining grand traits of Swedish foreign policy, which is worth the read: comprehensive and straightforward reasoning.

One clear weakness though, as so often with those who think primarily within the EU paradigm: The role of security policy looks strangely downplayed and the policy recipes are even more blueeyed. Basically, the way forward for Carl Bildt is a Europeanization of Swedish foreign policy.

Despite my tremendous optimism on the power and opportunities of globalisation, I am one of those who regard the strategic perspectives of the next few decades with deep concern. And who are convinced that only a more intensive strategic discussion on the challenges we are facing will be able to lead to policies that move us forward.

Basically, what is important is to safeguard and further develop all the opportunities of globalisation for an increasingly open and better world – but to do this in full awareness of the strength of the forces that, if they succeed in growing stronger, risk throwing everything into disarray.

No global era of liberation and new opportunities has lasted for ever. War and confrontation have not been written out of history.

And these crucial challenges are to be found in areas that, in terms of today’s distances, lie close to our Europe.

An attempt at predicting the future in 2025, recently published by the EU Institute for Security Studies – The New Global Puzzle: What World for the EU in 2025? – stated laconically that “the political, economic and security outlook at the borders of the Union is likely to have deteriorated considerably” before then, and warned of the possibility of “a systematic breakdown of the Middle East.”

The trends are not difficult to see. Authoritarian states that lack legitimacy. Stagnating economies and rapidly growing populations. And at the same time, the increased role of religion in politics as well –which is not limited to the Islamic world alone. (...)

In our globalised world, both security and insecurity are also globalised.

And as we now look ahead, it is the developments in the forecourts of Europe – over towards Hindu Kush, down towards the Strait of Hormuz, the Horn of Africa and the cultural dividing lines of the southern Sahara – that represent the most serious threats we must be able to face in order to have faith in the future potential of globalisation.

If we want to meet these challenges, and secure the better world that will so clearly be possible, there is no alternative to a stronger Europe – with the examples it sets, with its initiatives and as a partner in cooperation with others.

And that conclusion is further strengthened by all the other new challenges that now confront us.

It is no longer possible for anyone to ignore the substantially increased importance that global environmental issues will have. Can we protect maritime resources from depletion so that we do not create risks for future generations? And the challenges involved in the significantly increased demand for energy can hardly be underestimated. The work to meet the new risks posed by new infections and diseases, in a time when viruses can also quickly fly first class between the cities of the world, will also demand a new level of international cooperation.

Being Minister for Foreign Affairs in Sweden today is not the same as it was yesterday.

We are living at the beginning of a major paradigm shift of our own. We are in the midst of a new phase of accelerating globalisation. We see the darkness at the edge of Europe’s strategic horizon. And we see how states are weaker and more tentative when confronted with all these new developments.

Naturally, national foreign policy still has a role to play. We have a role in developing cooperation in the Baltic Sea region and northern Europe, which will become ever more important. We must safeguard our national interests even in an age of internationalism.

But even so, these are not the crucial tasks.

The crucial tasks lie in strengthening European cooperation which can make us, together, the force in the service of peace, freedom and reconciliation that the world will be in ever more desperate need of.

They lie in safeguarding the ideas of the open society, open economies and the open world against those forces that want to turn back the clock.

And they lie in building better networks for international cooperation that can provide globalisation with new opportunities. To a large extent, this is of course a matter of the United Nations – continuing to build on the five lessons that Kofi Annan presented in his recent speech.

Our society has increasingly become both more Europeanised and more globalised.

Our prosperity has always been based on our participation in European and global economic integration – but even in these respects, we see how developments are accelerating.

The very limited mentioning of the transatlantic relationship makes this very hard to accept as a bone fide foreign policy for a small Western country. But thought provoking that Bildt actually feels this way: very top people can also be fundamentally wrong.

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