With the results of the first round of France’s presidential election in, the conventional wisdom says the May 6 runoff between Gaullist Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Ségolène Royal will be decided on the merits of two distinct economic and social visions: Sarkozy’s impatient laissez-faire reform vs. Royal’s defense of France’s traditional welfare state. But, trumping policy, the results of the election may actually be decided on the strengths of two very different political styles: the first, Sarkozy’s, rooted in the political machinery of the past, and the other, Royal’s, an as-yet untested strategy tailor-made for the current media age. The […]

WELL-VERSED DIPLOMATS — What would Talleyrand make of next week’s European Union poetry marathon in Washington? The accommodating 19th century French diplomat, who managed to serve in succession the French revolutionary government, Napoleon, and the restored monarchy without missing a beat, advised “Pas trop de zele” (not too much zeal, or don’t go overboard) in his profession. But on May 5, diplomats from the EU’s 27 member states will spout 136 poems from their respective countries, together with translations, over five hours — and that involves a lot of zeal.For those who miss the marathon, the poems will also be […]

Ambassadors from the 15 U.N. Security Council member states have begun a fact-finding mission to assess the current situation in Kosovo. The mission is expected to visit the Serbian capital of Belgrade from April 25-26, the Kosovo capital of Pristina from April 27-28, and then Brussels, where the ambassadors will confer with NATO and EU leaders. Upon returning to New York, they will report their findings to the Security Council. The council is currently deliberating whether to implement the recommendations on Kosovo’s status offered by U.N. Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari last month. Ahtisaari’s Comprehensive Proposal does not explicitly advocate granting […]

In an interview with the mass-circulation German tabloid Bild Zeitung, German Chancellor and current EU president Angela Merkel marked the EU’s 50th birthday celebration by revealing that her wish list includes a European Army. What Merkel and other EU leaders want is not a perpetuating of existing arrangements, but a “European fighting force” independent of, but working with, NATO. Given the complexities of existing EU defense arrangements, it is easy to understand the desire of European leaders for the kind of unified command and control structure a European Army would need. While Merkel claimed the prospect had “come closer,” the […]

PARIS — The April 11 terrorist bombings in Algiers brought international attention to a radical group that seemed on the verge of extinction before becoming an al-Qaida franchise late last year. But a recent spate of attacks in North Africa belies a broader threat, according to some analysts, who say the real focal point of operations is mainland Europe, where a series of deadly plots have already been interrupted. Responsibility for the twin explosions that killed 33 people was claimed by al-Qaida’s Committee in the Islamic Maghreb, which had been known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) […]

In February of this year, Germany’s influential Bertelsmann Foundation published the results of a new public opinion survey on anti-Semitism in Germany and the view of Germany among Jews in Israel and the United States. The Bertelsmann study made for headlines both in Germany and around the world: among other reasons, because it came to the conclusion that anti-Semitism is on the decline in Germany. The Bertelsmann findings thus plainly contradict the widespread assessment of both academic specialists and journalistic observers, who have pointed rather to a remarkable banalization of anti-Semitic prejudice in Germany in recent years. This process of […]

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LUNATIC FRINGE COULD BLOCK THE ROYAL FLUSH — The French press calls them the “eight little Indians,” and they are the lesser candidates left behind after Sunday’s first round in France’s presidential elections. They could only ever hope to receive a handful of votes — 1 or 2 percent each — but those votes were siphoned off from the main candidates, mainly the Socialist Ségolène Royal. Still, by the May 6 runoff their names will be all but forgotten. Because of the heavy state subsidy, you don’t have to be rich to run for office in France. Olivier Besancenot, the […]

In the aftermath of more deadly bombings in Algeria and Morocco, many analysts are beginning to look closer at the entity that took the name “Al Qaida’s Committee in the Islamic Maghreb” in January 2007 after establishing an alliance with al-Qaida last September. Since the re-branding of the organization formerly known as the GSPC (the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat), the group’s activities have become infused with a new vigor and lethality. Now, the GSPC — an organization whose operational strength and influence had been waning since the 1990’s — has refashioned itself as an official affiliate of Bin […]

Sapurmurat Niyazov, the Kim Jong-il of Central Asia, left quite a legacy: a crumbling infrastructure, egregious human rights abuses, rumors of mass starvation outside the capital, and a personality cult capped by a funny name. Turkmenbashi, the father of all Turkmen, left some pretty big shoes to fill when he died last December. As a result, Gurbanguli Berdymuhkammedov, Turkmenistan’s second dictator and the world’s most powerful dentist, faces some serious choices. The first is how closely he’ll stick to his election promise of keeping Niyazov’s policies in place. There are many encouraging signs that President Berdymuhkammedov will open his country […]

Earlier this month, the government of Uzbekistan completed its ratification of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ). The signatories of the so-called Semipalatinsk Treaty also include the former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Although the accord could provide timely support for international nonproliferation efforts, the signatories still need to satisfy the concerns of Britain, France, and the United States regarding possible loopholes in its underlying treaty. Article 3 of the CANWFZ prohibits the signatories from researching, developing, manufacturing, stockpiling or otherwise trying to acquire a nuclear explosive device. Furthermore, they pledge not to allow other parties to […]

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Editor’s Note: Corridor’s of Power is written by veteran foreign correspondent Roland Flamini and appears in World Politics Review every Sunday. Click here to browse past installments of the column. THEY CAN RIOT, BUT THEY CAN’T VOTE — France’s growing population of Islamic immigrants is now reckoned by some to make up almost 10 percent of the population, but the candidates in the coming presidential elections don’t have to worry about the Islamic vote because there really isn’t one — yet. Though there may be as many as six million Muslims in France, almost half are not French citizens, and […]

People must have been starting to wonder about the Alliance of Civilizations and its promises to prescribe a remedy that would allow the Western and Islamic worlds to resolve all their differences through dialogue, mutual tolerance and understanding. Or maybe Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who launched the initiative three years ago, was just tired of taking flak for a project so abject and useless that not even the U.N. would go near it. Finally, though, it seems the “high-level group of eminent persons” — that’s the job title — have got their act together. The act in […]

On the whole, Chinese President Hu Jintao’s March 26-28 meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin was uneventful. As during past summits, the two leaders signed various commercial deals, issued joint declarations affirming Sino-Russian cooperation on diverse global issues, and attended high-profile cultural events. Much more noteworthy was Hu’s subsequent side trip to the Russian republic of Tatarstan on his way back to Beijing. During his March 28 sojourn, Hu met the republic’s leading industrial officials, visited a trade exhibition in the capital city of Kazan, and engaged in discussions with representatives from the republic’s major oil producer, Tatneft, […]

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Editor’s Note: Corridor’s of Power is written by veteran foreign correspondent RolandFlamini and appears in World Politics Review every Sunday. Click here tobrowse past installments of the column. TONY’S BOY SAVES DAY — The fact that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s foreign policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, emerged as the key figure in resolving the standoff with Iran over the 15 captured British sailors and Marines sends the message that it was Downing Street and not the Foreign Office that succeeded in resolving the crisis. The British government has kept mum about how its diplomatic offensive developed but, according to British […]

PARIS — “The question that needs to be asked is — do we want to be vassals of the United States, do we want to be a 51st state?” observed Gilles Savary, a French Socialist member of the European parliament, to the London Daily Telegraph recently. Savary was referring to U.S.-European relations in tones the Telegraph described as “searingly anti-American.” But Savary is not just another left-wing French politician singing the familiar anti-American chanson. He is a foreign policy spokesman for Ségolène Royal, the Socialist presidential candidate. Savary’s comment carries added weight because the conventional wisdom about Ségolène Royal is […]

There are two men named Viktor vying for control in Ukraine. The first, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, came to power in January 2005, riding high on a wave of orange-clad supporters during the aptly named Orange Revolution. The second, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, drowned in that sea of orange. Or at least many thought he did. Today, Yanukovych has consolidated his power and has once again become a relevant challenger to Yushchenko. Ironically, it was Yushchenko who approved Yanukovych as prime minister in August 2006 — but not without leaving a trail of political landmines that are exploding today. […]

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CHOICE PARIS ADDRESSES — Whoever chose the location of French presidential front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign headquarters has a sense of humor. The large, glass-fronted but somewhat rundown Sarkozy center of operations is in the rue d’Enghien, a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the city’s 10th arrondissement. Travel agencies advertise cheap flights to Conakry, Abidjan and Tunis, and the smell of sizzling kebabs fills the air: A strange backdrop for a candidate who has made tightening up on immigration the heart of his conservative campaign. A large portrait of former interior minister Sarko (to the French) in the entrance hall is visible […]