AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — These are busy times for Dutch residents who toil in the trenches of international justice and for those who work along side them in this country’s prisons. Since the arrest of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic in Belgrade last week, preparations are moving feverishly in the city of The Hague, home of the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where Karadzic will, at some time in the near future, face the judges and prosecutors who will conduct his trial on charges of genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. Nearby, in the resort town of […]

HISTORICAL NOTE — Many of the 200,000 or so Germans who thronged the Tiergarten in Berlin to listen to Barack Obama may see him as another John F. Kennedy, but Obama didn’t yield to the same temptation of throwing a German phrase into his speech — and getting it slightly wrong. In 1963, when Kennedy spoke at the Berlin Wall, Berliners roared their approval when the president said he identified with them, even if his historic phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” translates as “I am a doughnut.” What Kennedy meant to say was “Ich bin einer Berliner.” Twenty-four years later […]

Rights & Wrongs: Argentina, Burma, Karadzic and Pakistan

ARGENTINEAN COURT CONVICTS ‘DIRTY WAR’ PERPETRATORS — An Argentinean court sentenced eight men, including former army commander Luciano Benjamin Menendez, to long jail terms July 25, finally delivering a measure of justice to the thousands of Argentinean who fell victim to the military government’s murderous 1976-1983 campaign of state-sponsored violence. The court sentenced Menendez to live out the rest of his days behind bars for the kidnapping, torture and murder of activists who were held at the notorious La Perla detention center, a secret facility used by the military dictatorship where only 17 of more than 2,000 detainees survived incarceration. […]

France’s Soft Power

At the final Council of Ministers before the August vacation, Nicolas Sarkozy invited his entire government to share a going away toast in a salon of the Elysée Palace. There, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy offered them each a dedicated copy of her latest CD, which they all prominently displayed before the press upon leaving. Gotta love it. The degree to which France has remained obsessed with Sarkozy is truly fascinating. He’s consistently the cover story of the weekly news magazines, alternately calculatingly omnipotent or hystericaly powerless, but always front and center. But perhaps more fascinating is France’s newfound obsession with Carla Bruni, […]

BERLIN — The dust having settled now following Barack Obama’s history-making, if not perhaps history-defining, speech here, German media today all seem to conclude the same thing: Was that it? After days of newspaper coverage and speculation about what Obama might say, Germans got their answer yesterday: A well-received, though general, address on the past, the present and the importance of unity moving into the future. The speech lasted 28 minutes. Some in attendance could be heard saying, “A little short.” So high were the expectations surrounding his address, and so often were references to the historic Berlin speeches of […]

Obama in Berlin

I admit that I got chills up my spine when I heard that 200,000 people showed up to hear Barack Obama speak in Berlin. I don’t know what it feels like to have almost a quarter of a million living, breathing human beings, spread out in front of you off into the distance, hanging on your every word. For that matter, there probably aren’t too many people alive who know what that feels like. But I imagine it’s not you’re ordinary, everyday kind of adrenaline rush. (The only video I found so far of the event is kind of anti-climactic, […]

French Nuclear Follies

It hasn’t exactly been a great month for nuclear energy here in France, with no less than four incidents involving radioactive leaks and exposures. The most recent one involved 100 employees exposed to apparently minor levels of radioactive particles, but it was the second incident at the plant in question, where earlier this month water containing unenriched uranium leaked from an underground pipe. In investigating that leak, authorities found levels of radioactivity that couldn’t be explained by the quantities involved. (Cue scary music.) So what better time to announce the planned construction of France’s second European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), as […]

The runaway war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic has been arrested after eluding the international court for 12 years. Karadzic’s famous self-regard prevented him from accepting the cautious obscurity most would think appropriate for Europe’s most wanted man. Instead, he transformed himself into a striking, long-haired, bearded, mystic healer called “Dr. Dragan Dabic,” making appearances at live events, and on local television, and making regular contributions to a magazine called “Healthy Life.” But professional recognition was not enough. He often went to a café around the corner from his home at 5 Yuri Gagarin Street in Novi Belgrade, where he would […]

An ogre of a giant looms to the east of Europe, occasionally in the shape of a country, other times in the shape of a company, the two often indistinguishable. Russia and Gazprom are poised to devour the whole of Europe and its Asian neighbors. OAO Gazprom’s influence has been underestimated and, astonishingly, often ignored. By far the largest owner of natural gas reserves and the largest supplier of gas in the world, six times as big as No. 2, Royal Dutch/Shell, the company currently provides over a quarter of Europe’s natural gas, and is aggressively looking to greatly increase […]

The EU and Karadzic

I’m not going to wade too deep into the arrest of Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic, because there’s not a whole lot of nuance here. The short version is that this is very good news. More broadly, it vindicates in many ways the sheer weight of the EU’s soft power, as the new Serbian government’s desire to join is by all accounts what played the decisive role in the long-delayed effort to bring Karadzic to justice. Notwithstanding all of the Union’s institutional drawbacks and dysfunction, membership has its privileges. In that, the EU reminds me of a Dallas movie […]

Not-So-Young ‘Youth’: French Airman Implicated in Anti-Semitic Attack

Late last month, a Jewish teenager wearing a yarmulke was brutally beaten in Paris’s 19th arrondissement by a gang of what the French media has widely-described as “youngsters”: jeunes. As discussed in my earlier WPR report “‘Gang Wars’ or Anti-Semitic Attacks?,” while the Paris District Attorney’s office has identified anti-Semitism as an “aggravating” factor in the attack, both the District Attorney’s office and the French media have strongly relativized the charge of anti-Semitism by presenting the incident as the outcome of a series of “clashes” between rival “youth gangs”: a black and/or Arab gang, on the one hand, and a […]

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE . . . — That four-page biography of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi distributed to reporters traveling with President Bush to the G-8 summit in Japan earlier this month apparently wasn’t the only White House snafu in the background material compiled for the trip. As was reported, the specially prepared press kit described Italy as “a country known for governmental corruption and vice,” and called Berlusconi an opportunist who bought his way to political power. An Italian correspondent covering the summit read it and immediately telephoned an Italian official who, in turn, took it up with […]

Obama’s Not So European Visit

Steve Clemons argues that Barack Obama’s making a blunder by skipping Brussels on his upcoming European trip, and while the thought hadn’t even occurred to me before he brought it up, I’ve got to agree with him: He’s hitting France, Germany, the UK — and all of that is good. But Brussels is the capital of Europe. It is the promise of what Europe is struggling to become that makes Brussels a vital stopover point. Obama is visiting some of the key, strategic nodes that give Europe some of its legs — but the trip looks like an “Old Europe” […]

Asymmetric Diplomacy

This is about the sharpest take I’ve seen on the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM), from Nouri, aka The Moor Next Door: The Union for the Mediterranean is not in itself the construction of a new pole; it instead is an attempt to fortify the EU pole, and, inside of that, to strengthen France’s position. It seeks to put France in a headman position, so that it occupies a place of primary leadership within its region that is comparable to Brazil’s within Mercosur, South Africa’s within the SADC, and China’s within the SCO. Concerns over immigration agriculture aside, France seeks […]

Defending Sarkozy

To follow up on Petra’s post, the Syria-Iran relationship is based on interests, not values. In many ways, it’s against nature for both regimes. Given a secure border with Israel and lucrative commercial ties with the EU, Syria might feel less of a need for the Iran-Hezbollah insurance policy, or at least, as Petra says, more of a need to try to ratchet down their destabilizing influence. Those are the two angles Sarkozy is working. Is it a long shot? Sure. Is it easy to dismiss his efforts? Like shooting fish in a barrel, which is one reason he’s been […]

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