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Posted on on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (

Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances

by Emmanuel Karagiannis
Middle East Quarterly – Spring 2016 (view PDF)…

Shifting Eastern Mediterranean Alliances

The exploitation of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean has drawn together hitherto estranged states.

In August 2013, Cyprus, Greece, and Israel signed onto the “EuroAsia Interconnector” project, which would install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable (illustrated above) to connect their power grids and to be a means by which “three nations … [can] enhance their growth and prosperity” and build a “bridge of friendship between our nations.”

The Eastern Mediterranean is changing fast with its estimated 122 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas reserves (the equivalent of 21 billion barrels of oil) already having an impact on regional patterns of amity and enmity.[1] With Israel and Cyprus well underway to becoming gas exporters, the problematic Israeli-Lebanese and Cypriot-Turkish relationships have been further strained. At the same time, energy cooperation has been the driving force behind the nascent Greek-Cypriot-Israeli partnership, manifested in rapidly growing defense and economic cooperation. Clearly, the development of energy resources and their transportation will have far-reaching geopolitical implications for the Eastern Mediterranean and its nations.

The Strategic Significance of the Gas Reserves

Natural gas is the fastest growing source of energy in the world, currently accounting for 22 percent of total global energy consumption.[2] It is both affordable and more environmentally friendly than other commercially feasible options, resulting in an increasing demand even in an era of dropping oil prices. That demand seems likely to be met in large part by the newly discovered gas reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Israel has the potential to become an important regional producer of liquefied natural gas. Its Tamar field, with estimated reserves of 9.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf), came online in 2013 while its Leviathan gas field (above), with a potential of 16 tcf, is slated to be ready for production in 2017.

Israel, for one, has the potential to become an important regional producer.[3] Its Tamar field was confirmed to have estimated reserves of 9.7 tcf while its Leviathan gas field has the potential of producing up to 16 tcf.

Meanwhile, in November 2011, U.S.-based Noble Energy announced a major gas discovery south of Cyprus: The Aphrodite field was estimated to contain 7 tcf. In February 2013, a seismic survey south of Crete indicated that rich hydrocarbon resources may soon be found in Greek waters. Most recently, the Italian company Eni announced the discovery of a huge gas field off the coast of Egypt.

For reasons of geographical proximity, these Mediterranean energy resources concern first and foremost the European Union—the world’s third largest energy consumer behind China and the United States.[9] While oil is still the dominant fuel, accounting for 33.8 percent of total EU energy consumption, natural gas comes in second at 23.4 percent.[10] The Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves have three distinct advantages for European governments (and companies) and are thus viewed by them as a strategic priority. First, due to their smaller sizes and populations, the needs of Israel and Cyprus are relatively low and most of their gas could be exported. Second, Eastern Mediterranean gas could partly cover Europe’s energy needs and thereby decrease its dependence on an increasingly volatile Russia. Finally, since both Israel and Cyprus lack the capital and the offshore drilling technology to develop gas reserves on their own, foreign energy companies have identified them as investment opportunities that could generate significant financial returns.

As the Middle East implodes, security of energy supply has become an important policy objective for the EU. Indeed, there is a consensus among European governments that new initiatives are needed to address energy challenges. The EU is already directly involved to some extent in Eastern Mediterranean energy affairs because Greece and Cyprus are member states while Turkey is a candidate for membership and has a customs union with the EU. Although the governments of the EU and Israel are often at odds politically, economic relations between Jerusalem and Brussels are close and multifaceted.

The development of Israeli and Cypriot gas fields could help strengthen Europe’s energy security. Currently, European countries import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from politically unstable countries such as Nigeria and Algeria. But the Eastern Mediterranean could serve as a third gas “corridor” for Europe, alongside Russian gas and the southeast European pipelines for Azeri gas. The Italian Eni company, the British Premier Oil, and the Dutch Oranje-Nassau Energie have clearly shown interest by bidding in the second round of licensing for natural gas exploration in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone (EEZ),[11] a sea zone prescribed by the United
Nations over which a state has special rights.

The U.S. administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies.

Given the prominence of the Middle East for U.S. energy policy, it is hardly surprising that the gas finds in Israel and Cyprus have drawn Washington’s attention as well. Although the U.S. is likely to become the largest gas producer in the world as a result of increased use of shale gas, the administration views Eastern Mediterranean gas as an alternative source for its European allies who depend heavily on Russian supplies.[12] Within the private sector, the American company, Noble Energy, has played a leading role in the exploration process; it has a 40 percent stake in the Leviathan fields, a 36 percent stake in Tamar, and a 70 percent stake in Aphrodite.

Not surprisingly, these discoveries have attracted Moscow’s interest as well due to a potential, adverse impact on its gas exports to European markets. Russian energy companies, which often act as the Kremlin’s long-arm, are particularly active in the region. In February 2013, for example, Gazprom signed a 20-year deal with the Israeli Levant LNG Marketing Corporation to purchase liquefied natural gas exclusively from the Tamar field.[13] Then in December 2013, the Russian company SoyuzNefteGas signed an agreement with the Assad regime to explore part of Syria’s exclusive economic zone. One month later Putin signed an investment agreement with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to develop gas fields off the Gaza Strip.[14]

Warming Israeli-Greek Relations

Despite past support for the Palestinians, newly-elected Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras (left) of the left-wing SYRIZA party, here with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has sought to strengthen ties with the Jewish state. Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean and energy-consuming Europe while Israel is now poised to become a major natural gas producer. Thus, Greece and Israel share significant energy interests.

Energy considerations have a long history of influencing the course of relations between states, and the new gas discoveries are no exception to this rule, affecting Israel’s relations with both Greece and Cyprus.

Greek-Israeli relations have been frosty for decades. The postwar Greek governments typically followed a pro-Arab foreign policy in order to protect the large Greek community in Egypt, secure Arab support on the Cyprus dispute in the United Nations, and maintain access to cheap Arab oil.[15] While there was de facto recognition of the Jewish State in 1949, legal recognition needed to wait until 1990 under the right-wing Mitsotakis government. But the formation of a Turkish-Israeli strategic partnership in the mid-1990s provoked a strong backlash with Athens reverting to its pro-Arab policy.[16]

This policy, too, has changed with the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalk?nma Partisi, AKP) in Turkey since the early 2000s. With Athens alarmed by Ankara’s growing regional assertiveness, and Jerusalem disturbed by the new regime’s fiercely anti-Israel approach, Greek-Israeli relations improved rapidly with the two countries signing a string of agreements in the fields of security, energy, trade, and tourism, and exchanging official visits at the ministerial, presidential, and prime-ministerial levels.[17] In March 2012, the air-naval exercise Noble Dina, involving U.S., Israeli, and Greek forces, was conducted in the Aegean Sea while, a month later, a joint Greek-Israeli air exercise was held in central Greece. Most recently, Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos stated that “[Greek] defense planning should take into account friends and allies who seek defense cooperation in the region. And I clearly mean eastward toward Israel.”[18]

Athens’s new Israel policy has been largely unaffected by the frequent change of governments in recent years. The last three prime ministers before the current one—George Papandreou (2009-11), Loukas Papadimos (2011-12), and Antonis Samaras (2012-15)—all met with Israeli officials and concluded agreements, all the more striking given the political and ideological differences among them: Papandreou is a moderate, left-of-center politician; Papadimos is known as a liberal technocrat, and Samaras, a right-wing politician.

In the wake of the economic crisis that has roiled domestic Greek politics and the austerity measures that the EU has sought to impose on Athens, Greeks took to the polls in January 2015 and brought to power the left-wing SYRIZA (Greek acronym of the Coalition of the Radical Left) party, in coalition with the small, right-wing party, the Independent Greeks. This caused considerable alarm in Jerusalem as many senior SYRIZA officials have strong pro-Palestinian sympathies: European Member of Parliament Sofia Sakorafa, for one, is a self-proclaimed friend of Hamas while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has participated in pro-Palestinian rallies. In late December 2015, the Greek parliament passed a non-binding resolution recommending recognition of “Palestine” as a state.

And yet, the SYRIZA-led government has not distanced itself from Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias identified Turkey as a source of threats[19] while Minister of Defense Kammenos, leader of the Independent Greeks, harbors strong pro-U.S. and pro-Israeli views.[20] In late November 2015, Tsipras visited Israel and, yet again, on January 27, 2016, together with six members of his cabinet when they held a joint meeting with the Israeli government.[21] So it seems likely that the Greek-Israeli partnership will continue.

Athens is seeking bids for an Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe.

Beyond common concerns about Turkey’s intentions, Athens and Jerusalem share significant energy interests. Both countries want to implement the 1982 U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to facilitate the exploration and exploitation of the seabed;[22] and both maintain that the Eastern Mediterranean could be unilaterally developed through its division into exclusive economic zones of 200 nautical miles. In contrast, Ankara has not signed on to UNCLOS and favors a settlement in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean that would take perceived Turkish interests into greater account.

Moreover, Greece’s location makes it a natural bridge between the energy-rich Eastern Mediterranean, including Israeli fields, and energy-consuming Europe, and Greeks see the country as a hub for bringing Eastern Mediterranean gas to European markets. In March 2014, Athens announced an international tender for a feasibility study of the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas to Europe via Crete and the mainland.[23] While the proposed pipeline would be rather expensive and pass through disputed waters, Russian intervention in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine has given new momentum to the project as the EU looks for alternative sources of natural gas.[24] The European Commission has included the proposed pipeline in its list of “Projects of Common Interests” that could receive financial support.[25]

If Jerusalem and Nicosia decide to opt for liquefaction of their gas resources, then Greek-owned shipping could also play an important role in transporting liquid gas to the international market. During his visit to Israel in November 2015, Tsipras stated,

One of the main issues in our discussions today was [sic] the opportunities arising in the fields of energy in the Eastern Mediterranean … We are examining ways to cooperate in research, drilling, and the transportation of gas from Israel to Europe.[26]

While energy is not the sole factor contributing to the improvement of bilateral relations, it has certainly played a crucial role in the convergence of Greek and Israeli interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Jerusalem and Nicosia

The development and exploitation of Eastern Mediterranean energy resources have also given a boost to Israeli-Cypriot relations. Despite geographical proximity, the two countries have largely ignored each other for years. For most Israelis, Cyprus is either the site where Holocaust survivors were forcibly interned by the British (1946-49) as they sought refuge in mandatory Palestine or the closest place where couples unable or unwilling to contract a religious marriage in Israel are able to enter into a civil marriage.

For its part, Nicosia traditionally took a pro-Arab line in diplomatic settings that differed little from neighboring Greece; and just like in Greece, the AKP-induced chill in Turkish-Israeli relations had a warming effect on Cypriot-Israeli relations. In March 2011, Israeli president Shimon Peres hosted his Cypriot counterpart, President Demetris Christofias, who reciprocated this hospitality in November. Both sides came to view each other as potential counterbalances to Turkey’s presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Cypriot defense minister Dimitris Iliadis signed an agreement on the “Mutual Protection of Confidential Information” in January 2012 with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak,[27] and a month later, Netanyahu paid a visit to Nicosia, the first ever by an Israeli prime minister, to discuss energy and defense cooperation. According to press reports, the Cypriot navy is planning to buy two Israeli-manufactured hi-tech offshore patrol vessels in order to patrol its exclusive economic zone.[28]

The energy dimension of the nascent Israeli-Cypriot relationship is particularly strong. Nicosia has announced plans to build a liquefied natural gas plant in its Vassilikos industrial area to process its gas. Since the current gas finds are not large enough to make this multi-billion dollar project economically viable, Nicosia has suggested to Jerusalem that the two countries pool their gas reserves to form a single producing unit. In 2013, Minister of Energy Yiorgos Lakkotrypis declared:

[W]e feel that through a close collaboration with Israel, we will be able to be a major player in the world energy market, something that might be too hard for each country to achieve individually.[29]

The future of the Israeli-Cypriot partnership will also depend on the export route of the Israeli gas. Jerusalem has examined a number of options for the optimum utilization of its gas fields but probably prefers to export gas westward in order to improve its relations with European countries.[30] From the Israeli perspective, energy cooperation with Greece and Cyprus could build a new web of alliances with the EU that would help Jerusalem to break out of its increasing geopolitical isolation. The Netanyahu government even lobbied on behalf of Greece in Europe and the United States for an economy recovery plan.[31] In late March 2012, during an energy conference in Athens, then Israeli minister of energy Uzi Landau spoke of “an axis of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel and possibly more countries, which will offer an anchor of stability.”[32] In August 2013, the three countries signed an agreement to install a 2000-megawatt underwater electric cable to connect their power grids—the first of its kind to connect Europe and Asia.[33]

Most recently, in December 2015, a series of trilateral consultations was held in Jerusalem in which a set of issues were taken up and discussed, with energy development topping the list. The parties agreed to further promote trilateral consultations and to meet on a regular basis, beginning with a meeting of their heads of state in Nicosia on January 28, 2016.[34]
Lebanon, Cyprus, and Israel

While revenues from the sale of oil and gas can bring wealth and prosperity to societies, they also have the potential to upset regional balances of power. In the Eastern Mediterranean, where countries have been locked in conflicts over territory for decades, gas discoveries seem likely to increase the stakes. Contested ownership of gas resources has, in fact, destabilized already strained relations between Israel and Lebanon as well as between Turkey and Cyprus.

Although a delimitation agreement between Lebanon and Cyprus was signed in January 2007, the Lebanese parliament has refused to ratify it to date, and Hezbollah declared the agreement

null and void because the Lebanese side that signed it had its official capacity revoked … The sea, like land, is a one hundred percent legitimate Lebanese right, and we shall defend it with all our strength.[35]

When in December 2010, Nicosia signed an agreement with Jerusalem demarcating their maritime borders, Beirut accused both states of violating its maritime rights.[36] The following year, in a televised speech marking the fifth anniversary of Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel, the group’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, threatened Israel with a strike against its energy infrastructure:

We warn Israel against extending its hands to this area and steal[ing] Lebanon’s resources from Lebanese waters … Whoever harms our future oil facilities in Lebanese territorial waters, its own facilities will be targeted.[37]

These are not hollow threats. Hezbollah has the military capacity to attack Israel’s offshore gas platforms should it choose to do so. The 2006 war revealed that its vast arsenal of missiles and rockets includes Chinese-manufactured C-802 anti-ship missiles (range 75 miles) and Zelzal-2 rockets (range 125-250 miles).[38] For its part, the Israeli navy is acquiring at least two 1,200-ton patrol-class vessels, along with additional unmanned aerial vehicles and missile-armed, remote-control gunboats.[39] In this way, Jerusalem seeks to deter possible raids from Lebanon. The protection and exploitation of gas reserves is thus seen by the Israeli leadership as a matter of national security.
Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel

The relationship between Turkey and Cyprus is yet another example of a long-standing conflict with few prospects of imminent resolution, and the AKP’s rise to power has only exacerbated the situation.

Turkey’s strongman, Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdo?an (left), seen here at the World Economic Forum, Davos, in 2009, publicly berating Israel’s then-president Shimon Peres for alleged Israeli misconduct, has managed to alienate—and alarm—Eastern Mediterranean neighbors with frequent outbursts and occasional saberrattling. This has led Cyprus, Israel, and Greece, the area’s potential energy producers and transporters, to seek closer ties that would have been inconceivable a decade ago.

In Erdogan’s increasingly paranoid worldview, the possible economic and diplomatic revival of Cyprus as a result of gas development poses a clear and present danger to Turkish national security. In September 2011, Ankara signed a continental shelf delimitation agreement with the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” and shortly afterward, the Turkish state oil company (TPAO) started its first drilling near the occupied Cypriot city of Famagusta.

While Ankara has invited foreign companies to explore its Mediterranean coast for energy resources, only the Royal Dutch/Shell has thus far expressed interest.[40] In late October 2014, a Turkish research vessel entered the Cypriot EEZ to collect seismic data. Nicosia viewed this as a violation of its sovereign rights, since it had already licensed parts of its EEZ to foreign energy companies.[41]

Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation.

The energy factor has also internationalized the “Cyprus Problem,” creating a new point of friction between Ankara and Jerusalem. The Turkish government did not anticipate the rapid improvement of Israeli-Cypriot relations and fears that the bilateral cooperation will not be limited to the energy sector. Even before this development, Erdo?an had threatened Jerusalem over its gas exploration initiatives, warning that while “Israel has begun to declare that it has the right to act in exclusive economic areas in the Mediterranean…[it] will not be owner of this right.”[42] For its part Jerusalem has not remained passive, requesting Cypriot permission for the use of the Paphos air base by Israeli fighter jets.[43] In early November 2015, the two countries conducted the second Onisilos-Gideon military exercise in the western part of the island.

The internationalization of the “Cyprus Problem” extends well beyond the region. Chinese companies have already bid for gas exploration and liquefaction projects in the Eastern Mediterranean and are negotiating an agreement with the Cypriot government to purchase LNG by 2020. Consequently, Beijing has closely followed the Cyprus peace negotiations.[44]

An Engine for Conflict Resolution?

The Eastern Mediterranean energy boom has helped warm traditionally chilly bilateral relationships between some countries while aggravating already strained relations with others. Can it also become an engine for promoting regional cooperation?

While the last few years have seen a great deal of saberrattling out of Ankara, the likelihood of a military confrontation between Cyprus and Turkey, or Israel and Turkey, seems small. The construction and operation of energy infrastructure (e.g., pipelines, refineries, natural gas plants) is a costly business requiring political stability, and Ankara may not wish to undermine its role as an energy transit state. Indeed, Israeli and Turkish officials have recently concluded secret talks about bilateral reconciliation that covered, among other items, the laying of a natural gas pipeline between the two countries. This would allow Turkey to reduce its energy dependence on Russia (relations with which have worsened following the downing of a Russian fighter jet in November 2015) as well as to open up a new market for Israel’s natural gas projects off its coast.[45]

In addition, Ankara has offered to build a “peace pipeline” to transport Cypriot gas to European markets via Turkish territory.[46] Nicosia has not rejected this plan provided there is a resolution to the “Cyprus problem,” including the reunification of the island and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the northern section. This bolsters the argument, advanced by the U.S. State Department among others, that gas profits could contribute to the island’s unification as both Greek and Turkish Cypriots would have major additional incentives to accept a peace deal.[47] It is no coincidence that the special representative for regional energy cooperation for the newly-established State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources is based in the U.S. embassy in Nicosia.[48]

This optimism is rooted in the long-held, liberal view of international relations positing that economic benefits resulting from energy transportation can help resolve political conflicts. Yet if history offers any guide, an economic boom attending hydrocarbons exports can just as often lead to ethnocentrism and economic nationalism as to goodwill and shared prosperity. The production of large quantities of oil and natural gas in the North Sea, for example, has strengthened Scottish nationalism and may eventually lead to Scotland’s secession from the United Kingdom. Likewise, the Clinton administration’s promotion of a “peace pipeline” to carry Azerbaijani oil through the contested area of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia to the Turkish market failed because Armenia did not wish to make the necessary territorial concessions to Azerbaijan.[49] Then again, in 2004, Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili floated the construction of a Russian-Georgian oil pipeline through the breakaway republic of Abkhazia to facilitate a solution to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, only to be rebuffed by both Russia and Abkhazia.[50] The proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline had the same fate in 2009 when the Indian government announced its decision not to participate in the project for security reasons.[51]

Evidently, such pipelines have failed to materialize because states were neither willing to surrender territory nor comfortable depending on hostile neighbors in return for possible economic benefits. Those who envisage the prospect of a “peace pipeline” positively affecting the current negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots for the resolution of the “Cyprus Problem” may find themselves seriously disappointed.

The new substantial gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean are rapidly transforming regional orientations. Energy interests have brought Israel closer than ever diplomatically to Cyprus and Greece and have played an important role in the apparent thaw in Israeli-Turkish relations. At the same time, energy has generated new tensions between producing countries and countries that feel excluded from the regional natural gas development opportunities. Relations between Turkey and Cyprus as well as between Israel and Lebanon, poor at best, have come under further strain.

U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region.

Undoubtedly, U.S. and European interests will be well served by the emergence of the Eastern Mediterranean as a gas-exporting region. However, this will only be possible if there is a resolution to the ownership issue that can accelerate the pace of private investment in the regional gas industry.[52]

Without a region-wide legal agreement, energy companies may not be able to secure the necessary funding to develop and implement gas projects. Washington, which enjoys good relations with all Eastern Mediterranean countries, could act as a broker in hosting multilateral regional talks to defuse tensions and promote mutual understanding between countries in the region.

Emmanuel Karagiannis is senior lecturer at the department of defense studies, King’s College, London, and author of Political Islam in Central Asia (Routledge, 2010) and Energy and Security in the Caucasus (Routledge, 2002).

[1] “Natural Gas Potential Assessed in Eastern Mediterranean,” U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Communication, Reston, Va., Aug. 4, 2010.

[2] “International Energy Outlook 2013,” Office of Communications, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Washington, D.C., July 25, 2013.

[3] Brenda Shaffer, “Israel—New Natural Gas Producer in the Mediterranean,” Energy Policy, Sept. 2011, pp. 5379-87.

[4] Haaretz (Tel Aviv), Aug. 13, 2009.

[5] “Israel and its natural resources: What a gas!” The Economist, Nov. 11, 2010.

[6] Cyprus Mail (Nicosia), Oct. 4, 2013.

[7] Kathimerini (Neo Faliro, Gr.), Feb. 27, 2013.

[8] BBC News, Aug. 20, 2015.

[9] “Total Energy Consumption, 2014,” Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2015, Enerdata, Grenoble, accessed Jan. 15, 2016.

[10] EU Energy Market in 2014 (Luxemburg: Publication House of the European Union, The European Commission, 2014), p. 6.

[11] “Second Licensing Round—Hydrocarbons Exploration,” Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia, accessed Dec. 29, 2015.

[12] Middle East Online (London), Aug. 6, 2013.

[13] RIA Novosti (Moscow), Feb. 26, 2013.

[14] Ed Blanche, “Enter the Bear,” The Middle East, Mar. 2014, pp. 29-30.

[15] John Sakkas, “Greece, Arab World and Israel: A Troubled Triangle in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Defensor Pacis (Athens), Mar. 2007, pp. 95-104.

[16] Amikam Nachmani, Turkey-Israel Strategic Partnership (Raman Gan: The BESA Center for Strategic Studies, 1999), pp. 1-10.

[17] The Washington Post, Oct. 21, 2010.

[18] The Times of Israel (Jerusalem), Feb. 11, 2015.

[19] Sigma Live (Nicosia), Nov. 30, 2015.

[20] The Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2015.

[21] Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Israel and Greece hold Government-to-Government Consultation,” Jan. 27, 2016.

[22] “Israel’s Candidature for IMO Council 2014-2015,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sept. 9, 2013.

[23] Reuters, Aug. 10, 2014.

[24] New Europe (Brussels), Mar. 11, 2014.

[25] “Projects of Common Interests,” The European Commission, Brussels, Oct. 14, 2013.

[26] Kathimerini, Nov. 25, 2015.

[27] Today’s Zaman (Istanbul), July 3, 2012.

[28] Cyprus Mail, Dec. 18, 2013.

[29] Hürriyet (Istanbul), May 9, 2013.

[30] Simon Henderson, “Natural Gas Export Options for Israel and Cyprus,” German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2013.

[31] The Jerusalem Post, Mar. 6, 2011.

[32] Kathimerini, Mar. 28, 2012.

[33] Cyprus Mail, Aug. 9, 2013.

[34] Joint Statement: Second Political Consultations at the level of Secretaries General of Israel, Greece and Cyprus MFA’s—17/12/2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nicosia.

[35] Al-Akhbar (Beirut), Oct. 27, 2012.

[36] YNet News (Tel Aviv), July 10, 2011.

[37] The Daily Star (Beirut), July 27, 2011.

[38] BBC News, Aug. 3, 2006.

[39] United Press International, May 23, 2013.

[40] Hürriyet, Nov. 23, 2011.

[41] The Guardian (London), Nov. 10, 2014.

[42] Simon Henderson, “Turkey’s Threat to Israel’s New Gas Riches,” Policywatch, no. 1844, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington, D.C., Sept. 13, 2011.

[43] The Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2012.

[44] Li Guofu, “China: An Emerging Power in the Mediterranean,” in Daniela Huber, et al., eds., The Mediterranean Region in a Multipolar World: Evolving Relations with Russia, China, India, Brazil, (Washington, D.C.: The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2013), pp. 11-9; “Will Cyprus Become a New Investment Heaven for China?” China Radio International (Beijing), Oct. 31, 2013; Chinese ambassador Liu Xinsheng, interview, Cyprus Mail, Jan. 5, 2015.

[45] The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 18, 2015.

[46] Hürriyet, May 27, 2013.

[47] Sigma Live, July 24, 2015; Ethnos (Athens), Mar. 29, 2012.

[48] Cyprus Mail, Feb. 9, 2012.

[49] John J. Maresca, “A Peace Pipeline to End the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict,” Caspian Crossroads, Winter 1995, pp. 17-8.

[50] George Anjaparidze and Cory Welt, “A Georgian-Russian Pipeline: For Peace or Profit?” Eurasianet (New York), Mar. 8, 2004.

[51] The Hindu (Chennai, Madras), Nov. 25, 2013.

[52] James Stocker, “No EEZ Solution: The Politics of Oil and Gas in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Middle East Journal, Autumn 2012, pp. 579-97.


Posted on on May 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

From pro-American to pro-Russian? Nikola Gruevski as a political chameleon.
Vassilis Petsinis, 22 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

A former staunch ally of the US-led War on Terror, Macedonia PM Nikola Gruevski has gradually turned his country away from the west towards Russia – all the while keeping his neoconservative ideology intact.

Following the unrest in Kumanovo and the massive anti-government protests, FYR Macedonia has captivated the interest of the international press. The most recent mobilization has been the peak of a wave of discontent that commenced with the countrywide student protests some weeks ago. In the domestic front, opposition circles have issued a series of charges against the government led by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE such as: promotion of nepotism, unwillingness to combat corruption, illegitimate surveillance of political opponents and, on top of all, growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, political analysts have detected a certain rift in the relations between Skopje and the West which has resulted in the Macedonian government’s more decisive reorientation towards Moscow.

Russia has pledged its political support to Nikola Gruevski’s and the two sides have extended their cooperation in energy issues and other areas of economic concern. Without neglecting the crucial impact of shifting geopolitics, this brief piece mostly concentrates on VMRO-DPMNE’s, predominantly, neoconservative agenda under the leadership of Nikola Gruevski. It also sets in a comparative context how this neoconservative platform has remained intact despite the gradual readjustment of the state’s foreign policy from Euro-Atlantic institutions towards Moscow’s orbit of influence.

From one neocon to another:

In 2003, Nikola Gruevski succeeded Ljub?o Georgievski in the party’s leadership. An ambitious young politician back then, Gruevski’s main ambition was to centralize decision-making within VMRO-DPMNE and modernize the party’s structures.

The latter objective was achieved via the recruitment of a younger pool of cadres. Following a widespread trend all over Southeast Europe (e.g. Albania’s Edi Rama and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremi?), the party’s central committee and later the Cabinet of Ministers consisted of young, aspiring and, often, Western-educated individuals (e.g. the Foreign Minister between 2006 and 2011, Antonio Milošoski). Moreover, Gruevski maintained the central aspects of Georgievski’s strategy of rapprochement vis-à-vis the ethnic Albanian community.

Despite this, Gruevski’s term in office has been marked by the emphatic endorsement of Neo-Macedonism to the detriment of the modernist narratives over the Macedonian ethno-genesis in the nineteenth century. The adoption of Neo-Macedonism became further institutionalized through the endorsement of grandiose architectural projects, largely inspired by classical antiquity, which commenced in 2010.

On the domestic front, the Socialists/SDSM and other opposition circles accused the government of investing a disproportional percentage of the state’s budget on these projects. In foreign policy, the emphasis on Neo-Macedonism further complicated relations with the southern neighbour, Greece.

Since the early days of Nikola Gruevski’s term in office, the ‘new’ VMRO-DPMNE drew inspiration from the rather influential trend of neoconservatism among policymaking circles in the US. As it was the case with various other statesmen in Central and Southeast Europe (e.g. Romania’s Traian B?sescu), Nikola Gruevski underlined his firm commitment to Euro-Atlantic institutions and opted for the rapid liberalization of the economy along post-Keynesian lines.

Meanwhile, Gruevski constantly stressed his deep faith in God and highlighted the significance of Eastern Orthodoxy and its system of moral values as a fundamental pillar of the state’s identity. In the field of foreign policy, Nikola Gruevski soon emerged as a staunch supporter of George W. Bush’s policy-doctrine on the Middle East. Throughout the 2000s, FYR Macedonia had dispatched military personnel to Afghanistan and Iraq under the auspices of the US-led ‘Coalition of the Willing’.

The NATO summit in Bucharest (April 2-4, 2008) was a landmark. As a gesture of gratitude to its small Balkan ally, the US delegation elaborated possible ways to include FYR Macedonia in the NATO enlargement round irrespective of the state’s dispute with Greece. However, the Greek PM, Kostas Karamanlis, vetoed this proposal on the basis that any outstanding issues with the northern neighbour must be previously resolved in order for Greece to grant its assent.

The Greek veto was met with discontent in Washington and infuriated Skopje. Especially in the light of Karamanlis’ opening to Russia, Skopje-based policymakers and think-tanks did not simply charge Athens with ‘parochial and introverted nationalism’. They went a step further and accused Greece of acting as a ‘Trojan horse’ in Moscow’s service with the aim to destabilize NATO and sabotage its enlargement in Southeast Europe.

The pendulum shifts: Fluctuating geopolitics and disillusionment with the West

Barack Obama, who succeeded G.W. Bush to the US Presidency in 2009, watered down various aspects of his predecessor’s ‘hawkish’ foreign policy. Instead, the new administration in the White House opted for a doctrine of appeasement in regards to their regional competitors (e.g. Russia and Iran).

Meanwhile, the simultaneous advent of the economic crisis made European policymakers more introverted and reluctant to the prospects of the EU’s wider enlargement. With specific regard to FYR Macedonia, European policymakers and political analysts soon stroke a critical stance towards Nikola Gruevski and his apparatus. The main areas of concern were symptoms of nepotism and authoritarianism as well as accusations over the relentless propagation of ‘ethno-kitsch’.

This shifting landscape in global and regional politics had direct ramifications on the government circles in Skopje. Several commentators have argued that delaying the state’s accession to Euro-Atlantic institutions runs detrimental to FYR Macedonia’s stateness and it is largely to account for Skopje’s disillusionment with the West. From a more ‘ideological’ angle, though, the change of guard in the White House and the subsequent adoption of a new US foreign policy doctrine are not to be overlooked either.

In other words, Nikola Gruevski’s government has lost much of the patronage that it enjoyed during George W. Bush’s tenure in office. Moreover, we are currently experiencing the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world order. The last few years have witnessed the consolidation of semi-authoritarian models of governance among emerging regional actors (e.g. Recep Tayyip Erdo?an in Turkey and Vladimir Putin in Russia). The latter development has encouraged the, if only subtle, admiration of certain statesmen throughout Central and Southeast Europe towards the above-mentioned models.

For instance, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán recently coined the concept of illiberal democracy. According to the Hungarian PM, ‘it is not an imperative that contemporary democracy must be structured along the ideological frame of Liberalism…there can be numerous other models of democracy in Europe, nowadays’. Moreover, Viktor Orbán has also positioned Hungary’s foreign policy more solidly within Russia’s orbit of influence.

In particular, both FIDESZ and VMRO-DPMNE converge along a common axis. Both are post-Communist parties that commenced their engagement in politics as, anti-establishment, umbrella-initiatives that hosted a wide range of conservative as well as liberal standpoints. However, in the long run, local adaptations of neoconservatism evolved into the dominant intra-party trend.

Nikola Gruevski and/or Viktor Orbán are not merely unhappy with the outlook(s) of Euro-Atlantic institutions on their respective states or the way(s) that their rule has been portrayed in the Western press. They have also isolated specific elements in Vladimir Putin’s leadership which they deem rather akin to their brand(s) of neoconservatism. These are, namely, Russia’s leader-centred and strong government, the promotion of national and Christian values, and the safeguarding of ‘naturally ascribed’ gender-roles.

Especially in the light of a multipolar international system, one might contend that the neoconservative, ideological, core in parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and/or FIDESZ has remained intact despite the, apparent, foreign policy readjustment towards Moscow.
What next? Skopje amidst political polarization and fears of ethnic radicalization

In addition to the decline of popular confidence, the government in Skopje may also have to face the challenge of resurgent ethnic radicalization. During the last couple of weeks, a militant group, allegedly consisting of ethnic Albanians, became active in the northern town of Kumanovo. The apparent resurgence of militant Albanian ethno-nationalism triggered a series of conspiracy theories.

Pro-government circles have hinted at the involvement of ‘foreign decision-making centres’ who are not particularly content with the bilateral cooperation between Russia and FYR Macedonia. In the other end of the spectrum, opposition circles have suspected the government of engineering the Kumanovo troubles in an attempt to play the card of ‘national unity’ as a last resort. A third assumption that has not been examined to an adequate extent is the possibility of a peculiar, yet amorphous, blend between Albanian ethno-nationalism and elements of Islamic fundamentalism along the lines of the ‘Chechen precedent’.

Russia, on its part, has been quick to point the finger for both the Kumanovo incidents and the anti-government mobilization at the West. The US and the EU have been accused of orchestrating one more ‘Maidan-style’ coup with the aim to destabilize the government and obstruct cooperation with Russia in energy issues.

Russia Today and other pro-Kremlin media outlets dedicated considerable time to the coverage of pro-government demonstrations where Russian flags also featured among the crowd. Quite a few Western political analysts have expressed the wishful thinking that Nikola Gruevski may be forced to resign under popular pressure and be replaced by a coalition government with a Euro-Atlantic orientation.

Setting regional geopolitics aside, Nikola Gruevski’s opening to Russia reveals an additional pathology of Post-communist politics. Even back at the time when parties such as VMRO-DPMNE and FIDESZ had adjusted their foreign policy more firmly towards the West, their political activity and decision-making had been shaped by local adaptations of the neoconservative narrative. Within the context of their political development, such parties replaced their admiration for certain aspects of American neoconservatism with the endorsement of selected elements found in Vladimir Putin’s semi-authoritarianism while their (neoconservative) ideological core remained intact.

Apart from nominally right-wing parties, centre-left statesmen in the region have also detected, albeit more subtly, some ‘positive’ aspects in Vladimir Putin’s pattern of governance (e.g. the Bulgarian Socialist Party/BSP and Slovakia’s SMER). Therefore, in order to grasp such chameleonic mutations more adequately, one should also pay close attention to political culture among post-Communist parties in Central and Southeast Europe and its evolution.

Dr Vassilis Petsinis is a Visiting Researcher at the Herder Institute (Marburg, Germany). His main areas of specialization are European Politics and Ethnopolitics with a regional focus on Central and Southeast Europe. His profile can be found here.




Related Articles: The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward – Heather Grabbe -the same source.

The deep roots of Macedonia’s current turmoil – and the way forward.

Heather Grabbe 13 May 2015, openDemocracy, London

The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of a captured state machinery – by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance. This will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance.

For nearly two decades, Macedonia has been a pressure cooker of public anger at corruption, deteriorating governance and chronic unemployment. Now the valve has blown. This year, union-organised strikes were followed by student protests against flawed education reforms. Then the opposition party released recordings of conversations that exposed government wire-tapping of more than 20,000 citizens. Quickly dubbed “bombs”, these recordings were released over the last three months by the main opposition party leader at press conferences. On them appear the voices of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, senior officials, journalists, judges and security officials conspiring in electoral and judicial fraud, and organising systemic corruption. On the latest, released on 4 May, the prime minister discusses with interior ministry officials a cover-up of the murder in June 2011 by one of his bodyguards of 21-year old Martin Neshkovski, a student who supported the ruling party.

These revelations have led to a new wave of protests, led by grassroots networks of civil society rather than the opposition party. The young activists have become more radical in their demands under sustained attacks by riot police and government infiltrators, who provoked the protestors for five nights in a row. Last Friday, they pledged to come back to demand the resignation of the prime minister. Then the population awoke on Saturday morning to news of what the government called a “terrorist attack” in an ethnically mixed neighbourhood in Kumanovo, a town near the Serbia/Kosovo border. The results were the deaths of police officers and arrests of alleged terrorists. The government-controlled media called for unquestioning support for the government, and labelled as a traitor anyone who disputed the official interpretation of events. What is going on? Is this a security crisis or a consolidation of power by the ruling party in the face of mounting opposition?

High stakes – but for security or politics?

The shootings in Kumanovo have woken up the rest of the world because they are reminiscent of the security crisis fifteen years ago, when ethnic Albanians took to the hills with their guns to demand rights, representation and jobs. The country narrowly escaped a full-blown civil war thanks to the Ohrid Agreement, which gave the Albanians greater political and economic inclusion, including quotas for public-sector jobs and parliamentary seats.

It was NATO and the EU that took responsibility for Macedonia’s security in 2001, with Javier Solana, as EU High Representative for Foreign Policy at the time, and George Robertson, then NATO Secretary-General, as the main negotiators at Ohrid. But the current crisis is not primarily driven by ethnic tensions. The security framing by the government obscures a much deeper crisis in the body politic, and a looming one for the economy.

After 24 years of independence, Macedonia’s model is crumbling. The ruling party has held onto power by controlling the state and media, and borrowing on international markets to keep the economy going. This has undermined the country’s fragile democracy – despite the promises made at Ohrid, which are still not fully implemented – and failed to build rule of law and a sustainable economy. Prime Minister Gruevski won power nearly a decade ago on promises of clean government and economic development. But he then perfected the system of clientelism and state capture begun by Branko Crvenkovski, his predecessor as opposition leader and prime minister, and later president. Gruevski has used snap elections twice to keep his party in power, and his leadership has become increasingly coercive. The wiretap recordings have confirmed that his VMRO-DPMNE party has captured all vital areas of the economy and established complete control over media, even imprisoning critical journalists. Macedonia’s ranking has fallen from 36 to 136 in the freedom of media index produced by Reporters Without Borders.

The government dispensed with parliamentary debate at the end of 2013. Faced with a short deadline to approve the next loan to pay pensions before the Christmas and New Year holidays, they forcibly expelled the opposition and media from the parliament during a debate over the state budget rather than find an agreement.

The public is scared. More than half of Macedonians believe they cannot freely express their opinions. A staggering 81 percent believe that fear of consequences for them and their families prevent them and others from speaking out. Their political fears are heightened by their economic vulnerability.

The chronic economic malaise underlying acute political crisis.

The Macedonian economy appears to be financially stable. The government nurtures an image of business promoter and responsible borrower. Until recently, it was the region’s poster child for the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. European banks were happy to earn good returns on Macedonian state bonds. Macedonia’s average GDP growth of 3% in the last three years is the highest in the region, completing this picture of prosperity.

But the economy is not sustainable. The government has used debt financing to invest in grandiose infrastructure projects, including the flagship “Skopje 2014” project, which erected statues and faux-classical buildings in the capital at a cost of over 600 million euro. Between 2008 and 2014, Macedonia’s public debt quadrupled, rising from 23% of GDP in 2008 to around 46% in 2014. Debt is projected to reach the 60% ceiling prescribed by the international financial institutions by 2019. The state budget increased by a third over the same period (from roughly 2 to 3 billion euro). Inflows of foreign direct investment averaged only 2.8% of GDP per year between 2009 and 2014, low even by regional standards.

Life for citizens has become more precarious. Around a third of the workforce is unemployed, the second highest rate in Europe after Kosovo. Without the heavy borrowing, the fragile economy could not sustain more than 300,000 pensioners, who rely on the state budget for half of their needs. Nor could it afford to pay the huge number of state employees. The last official number was 140,000 in 2008, and latest estimates range from 200,000 to 255,000. The total number of people employed in Macedonia is 700,000 – meaning that the state employs nearly a third of the workforce. No wonder people are leaving to seek better prospects abroad. A census has been postponed by the government, but Gallup estimates that more than 300,000 people have left the country. According to Deutsche Welle, most of the 120,000 Macedonians who acquired Bulgarian passports have already emigrated to the EU or elsewhere. Macedonia seems to have more registered voters (at 1,780,128) than residents.

VMRO-DPMNE has kept its hold on power in this unhappy state by resorting to strident nationalism and intimidation of its opponents, increasing the divisions in a multi-ethnic country. Ethnic Macedonians are understandably aggrieved by the lack of a solution to the dispute with Greece over the country’s name, which already blocked entry to NATO – and Gruevski has adroitly used the issue to rally nationalism in support of the government. Meanwhile, the ethnic Albanian political parties have been co-opted by their share in the spoils of mis-governance, even though their people remain even more alienated and poorer than the rest of the population.

The divisions are deepening right across society. Three-quarters of ethnic Albanians still firmly believe in EU and NATO accession as the way to a better future, but by now over 62 percent of other Macedonians think badly of joining the EU. Three-quarters of the ruling party’s supporters see the name dispute with Greece as the key reason for Macedonia’s now bleak EU accession prospects; but only 20% of opposition supporters agree. The biggest divide is between rich and poor, especially along party lines. The poor are undoubtedly getting poorer: resources available to the poorest fifth of citizens fell by 38% between 2008 and 2012. But business profits have grown by almost two and a half times since the year 2000. Nearly 80% of all Macedonians believe it is unfair that employment in state institutions and general prosperity is based on political party membership.
The way forward: a unity government with EU and NATO support

Macedonia is once again becoming a security threat on the EU’s borders. But this time it’s different: a non-partisan civic movement has taken to the streets for the first time to change the country. There is a real opportunity to use this energy to build democracy and a market economy in this multi-ethnic state.

No party is doing well in Macedonia: the secret recordings have lost the government all credibility, but the public has little faith in the leaders of the opposition and ethnic Albanian parties either. The immediate solution lies in collective action first by all those who have created the problem.

Now that three of the prime minister’s key allies have tendered their resignations, Macedonia should turn again to the solution that averted the civil war in 2001: a unity government composed of the four main parties. To foster the necessary compromises and offer a fresh start. it would not include the current prime minister, public prosecutor or speaker of the parliament – but opposition parties must be involved in open and credible oversight of the intelligence agencies, and take responsibility for the discredited interior ministry.

The most promising scenario is a government of national unity that lasts for 12-18 months, to prepare the country for free and fair elections, and create an independent commission to investigate all the events since the opposition was violently ejected from the parliament in 2013. And it should agree on a common negotiating platform on the name dispute with Greece. Macedonia’s newly reinvigorated civil society should also contribute to the work of the parliamentary commissions and monitor the new government’s progress in restoring the accountability of public institutions. The country must avoid just replacing the driver in the seat of the captured state machinery, by increasing inclusion and pluralism in governance.

As so often in the Balkans, such a scenario will be impossible without EU and NATO assistance. The default position among EU foreign ministers is to expect sovereign countries to sort out their own political problems through democratic institutions. But after a decade of unconsolidated democracy and state capture, Macedonia does not possess those institutions. Therefore, other levers of influence are needed. NATO could offer a tangible incentive to all parties by offering a possibility to re-open membership talks. EU accession negotiations are far off because so much time has been lost on necessary reforms, but the enlargement process is vital to offer hope, especially to the ethnic Albanians, and guidance to reformers who are seeking to take back captured parts of the state. The support of EU institutions, member-states and banks is vital for the country’s macroeconomic stability. Neighbouring governments could also exert more pressure, as their own security is at stake. Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov was the first to request Gruevski to step down.

The EU can no longer afford to indulge a model of governance in Macedonia that has been far more aggressive in its authoritarian zeal than nearby Montenegro or Turkey. The European People’s Party has a particular responsibility to get involved, having accepted and protected VMRO-DPMNE as a sister party for all these years. Now it must act to uphold the standards of democracy on which it was founded, by putting pressure on VMRO-DPMNE to relinquish its grip on power and join a unity government. The time to move is now, as the costs of inaction will continue to rise.


Posted on on May 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Eurovision and Euro elections: the final straw in Polish gender wars.



 How is the victory of Conchita Wurst being politicized in Poland? What is the connection between Eurovision and the upcoming European Parliamant elections?


The Polish political scene was electrified following the Austrian win in the Eurovision song contest. Right-wing parliamentarians and candidates in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament held numerous press conferences in order to complain about  this ‘new’ Europe, which allows the victory of a ‘woman with a beard’.  Also Polish social media exploded with homo- and transphobic comments and memes.

‘Europe takes away our shipyards and sugar factories and gives us bearded weirdoes instead!’ a
right wing political party spokesperson tweeted yesterday. Another tweet by a Polish candidate for the European Parliament epitomizes the general mood yesterday: ‘Europe has lost it! They promote
a bearded weirdo from Austria instead of beautiful and talented girls. This madness needs to be done away with!’

The victory of the Austrian singer Conchita Wurst (drag alias of performer Thomas Neuwirth) politicized Eurovision for Poland (to see how political Eurovision has always been in other parts of Europe, it is enough to follow voting patterns in the Balkans or the Caucasus). Politicians and commentators alike were going out of their way to deride the debauchery they saw. ‘Conchita Wurst is a symbol of the direction, in which Europe is heading (…) a symbol of Europe I don’t want. My Europe is based on Christian values’, said the spokesperson of the main Polish opposition party, Law and Justice (currently polling first for European elections).

‘Very disquieting things are going on in Europe, things that show decadence, downturn and we would like to reverse this trend’ Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Law and Justice, pointed out. ‘Any propaganda aiming to efface differences between men and women is the road to decay (…) we should definitely not celebrate such things, these events do not bode well’ he added.

The Polish Catholic Church lost no time in putting their two cents in as well: ‘This is another form of promoting groups that sneer at human dignity (…) another confirmation that backgrounds priding themselves on sexual licentiousness are protected by the dominant media and “politically correct” authorities’ said priest Marek Drzewiecki. ‘It seems that the victory of Conchita Wurst was a result of the propagation of genderism. And here we should have concerns, because in the long run this destroys the family’, commented the Polish media go-to priest Dariusz Oko.

It has to be said that Polish commentators were outdone only by the Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who stated that this was the end of Europe and that the Soviet army should have never left Austria 50 years ago…


Polish gender wars:

Trolling and hate speech are a common blight of internet memes and fora. But the Polish political and social media reaction to this year’s Eurovision winner is part of a larger war which has been waged against the term ‘gender’ in Poland. As outrageous as it sounds, for the past two years or so, mainstream conservative and right wing forces (which dominate the Polish political scene) have constructed and maintained a discursive fight over the meaning and application of the seemingly obscure academic concept of gender. The virulent attacks were mostly aimed at feminist and queer academia, gender equality programs and policies especially in school and kindergarten education.

The ‘war on gender’ discourse originated in the catholic church and quickly spilled over into parliamentary and local politics. By conflating and mixing terms and phenomena this discourse attempts to hammer the message home that ‘gender’ (or ‘gender ideology’ and ‘genderism’ as used by the proponents) destroys traditional Polish family values (through divorce and same-sex relationships), promotes and ‘spreads homosexuality’, causes child sexual abuse (gender equality education is supposed to ‘sexualise children’), and turns everyone into transvestites. There is no knowledge or education on the differences between sexual reassignment, cross-dressing or transgender and queer identities and essentially no awareness on issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Hence, the ‘war on gender’ in Poland is intensely trans- and homophobic and plays into the wider anti-feminist and anti-LGBT moods within Eastern Europe. According to the 2013 ‘EU LGBT Survey’ by the Fundamental Rights Agency, 57% of people self-identifying as LGBT felt discriminated against in Poland (EU average – 47%), with only Lithuania and Croatia ranking higher (61% and 60% respectively). The lack of improvement in the social position of sexual minorities paired with attempts to roll back women’s rights (restrictions on abortion law, lack of civil partnerships legislation, problems with the implementation of anti-discrimination clauses) are a wider feature in the region. After the fall of state socialism, Eastern Europe has seen waves of growing religious and nationalistic intolerance. The rhetoric of ‘return to tradition’ (where ‘tradition’ stands for normality and nature, meaning mono-ethnic patriarchy) has become an ever-present image and dominant component of the revived and mythologized national identities in Poland, Russia, the Baltic states, the Balkans, Slovakia and Hungary.


‘We are Slavs’ vs. Wurst

According to such narratives ‘women are women and men are men’, because there are undeniable biological differences which give the two sexes specific gender roles, since men and women must have inherently different emotional and psychological qualities. This gender essentialism emerges most strikingly if you compare the Polish Eurovision performance – the song ‘We are Slavic’ and Conchita Wurst’s ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’. Eurovision is a proud feat of kitsch, but the two performances give a perfect illustration of competing gender perspectives. Conchita Wurst embodies everything that conservative Eastern Europe fears from the EU – subversion and transgression in terms of gender roles, gender ambiguity and flexibility in gender expression (translated in Poland into moral decay, rampant trans- and homosexuality, as well as going against nature or god’s law). What about ‘us, Slavs’? The song depicts perfectly the Polish heteronormative natural and traditional vision of gender roles: ‘We Slavic girls know how our charms and beauty work/We like to shake what mom gave us in our genes/ This is Slavic blood!/(…) What’s ours is best, because it’s ours!’ Whether you think the performance was pastiche, soft porn or just good fun, the not-so-subtle message was that Slavic women know ‘how to use what mother nature gave them’ and half-dressed do the laundry and churn butter by hand in sexually inviting ways for their men.


War on gender and European Parliament elections

The Polish ‘war on gender’, which had somewhat died down in the past couple of months, reached another apogee this week thanks to the Eurovision song contest. The amount of bile, hate speech and trans- and homophobia that spilled from Polish political elites and social media in response to the event shows how dominant the ‘gender war’ thinking has become as a comfortable rhetoric tool in debates. It also gave conservative Eurosceptics an image to point to before the European Parliament elections later this month. Given the already extremely low interest and weak voter turnout (never exceeding 25% so far) in European elections, the Polish right wing gained an emotive picture to scare people with and to rally against. An image that plays perfectly into the political game they have been playing since mid-2012, when they took on fighting ‘gender’ and trying to curb gender equality, women’s and sexual minority rights even further. Image of a woman with a beard.


Barbara Gaw?da is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on gendered political discourses in Eastern Europe.

Related Articles of Open Democracy:
The lead-up to the European elections in Bulgaria: how not to do politicsNikolay Nikolov
We don’t talk about politics in PolandMarzena Sadowska
And from the ECONOMIST of  May 19, 2014 by T.J. in Eastern approaches – Ex-communist Europe:“The Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church and another senior churchman have used the floods to attack the country’s lesbian and gay community as well as Conchita Wurst, the bearded Austrian drag queen who won the Eurovison song contest on May 10th. They claim that the floods were a punishment from God for their vices.”
But this is not all – similar arguments come in Vienna also from Muslim sources. Personally  – I was lectured today by my good Macedonian Muslim tailor on how from above angels punish us for the ways women behave,  and he gave me full description of the way these angels, under Gabriel, act according to the Koran and tradition.He also reminded me of Lot’s daughters and the upheaval they caused and the hole in the earth that is now the Dead Sea! To show how series this is he gave me to take home some booklets that were given to him.
In short, a poor rational person like myself is pushed to take cover by these Eastern minds – be they from the Eastern Christian Churches or Muslims.    Europe is still far away from enlightenment.
And what about the Christian right or the extreme Jewish Orthodoxy in America? Are they any better?
Too bad that in the 21st Century we still have to hear such arguments while we try to analyze man-induced climate change.
On the other hand, according to the “Heute” paper of today, the husband of Conchita Wurst (Tom Neuwirth) is Jacques Patriaque – who is a “Boylesque” dancer – that is the men parallel to Burlesque that shows mostly women.

This information became available as Mr. Patriaque will be performing in an upcoming festival – www.boylesque – This new angle to Conchita’s story story is bound to be reason for new criticism.
Whatever – we will continue to hold to our idea that people’s preferences do not entitle them to prejudice that impacts human rights of others.




Posted on on April 3rd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

As we wrote in our posting – the ZERO DRAFT text for the RIO+20 outcome document included a paragraph  (#57) in its form that went into the informal-informals March 2012 meeting wording as follows:

“57. We agree to further consider the establishment of an Ombudsperson, or High Commissioner for Future Generations, to promote sustainable development.”

It also had two versions of Paragraph 49 – one titled “Commission on Sustainable Development” – the other titled Sustainable Development Council.

These paragraphs are to be found PART IV of the draft — INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.

The draft  left the March Informal-informals with the wording as follows.

– – – – – – – –

57.       We agree to further consider the establishment of an Ombudsperson or High Commissioner for Future Generations, to promote sustainable development.

[57.     We agree to further consider the establishment of [an Ombudsperson, or / the position of – Liechtenstein] High Commissioner for [Future Generations / Intergenerational Solidarity – Holy See]. to promote sustainable development [at global, regional, and national level – Bangladesh]. – G77, Japan, Russian Federation, New Zealand delete; Canada, Norway reserve; EU delete and propose language in 49 alt quint; Montenegro, Liechtenstein move to para. 49 alt sext]

We like the addition by Liechtenstein – “the position of” because it makes it clear that this should be a small body.

We are neutral about the inclusion in the outcome document the recommendation to have similar positions at lower levels as we think that is going to be the task of those other levels to decide on this.

Obviously we are shocked by the opposition to the paragraph by groups like the G77 minus Bangladesh – ( but most probably many more member States of the G77 that did not go on the record yet ) Japan and New Zealand that have not yet understood that it should be a small office like Liechtenstein is proposing and thus not have major monetary implications, and the Russian Federation.


Now let us see the EU  and the Montenegro suggestions for Paragraph #49:

[49  alt  quat (former para 57) [We support the establishment of an Ombudsperson, or Higher Commissioner for Future Generations, to promote sustainable development and the integrated approach at the highest level of decision, policy, and program making within the UN. We call upon the member states to establish similar institutions in their own national laws, which would be independent from the executive and have a mandate to consider petitions from the public and advocate for the interests and needs of future generations.  — Montenegro]

[49 alt quint   We agree to further consider the establishment or appointment, of a High-level Representative for Sustainable Development and Future Generations, possibly to be held within an existing office as the high-level voice called upon to promote an integrated and coherent approach to sustainable development through continuous dialogue with policy-makers, the UN system and civil society.  — EU, former para 57 as amended]

We find the Montenegro version stronger as it does not have the added wording of the possibility of placing the position within an existing office. Independence must be the ground rule, and if it is not guaranteed this new position can not succeed. On the other hand, if this is what it takes to get on board those that want to make sure that the creation of this position will not carry large financial burdens, we feel, mandating it to be small should answer these fears.


Posted on on September 24th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (


The Balkans will only become a permanently stable region when all the countries that comprised the former Yugoslavia are accepted as members of the European Union, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister told the General Assembly today.

Speaking during the Assembly’s annual general debate, Nickolay Mladenov – whose country became an EU member in 2007 – noted that the EU “was created to make war impossible in a continent that has seen at least a century of conflicts.

“Europe shall not be whole and complete until our neighbours in the Balkans are part of our Union,” adding that only membership will “make war impossible.”

The Balkans endured a series of vicious conflicts during the 1990s after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, and only one country to have emerged from that State – Slovenia – is now a member of the EU.

Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro are official candidate countries, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia have been recognized as potential candidates. The EU currently has 27 member countries.

Mr. Mladenov said Bulgaria would work to promote regional cooperation and neighbourly relations across the Balkans, and particularly encourage the EU-facilitated dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.

“Bulgaria welcomes the pragmatic approach taken by both Kosovo and Serbia during their first meetings. It is important that they build on this momentum and continue to engage in a constructive and pragmatic manner,” he added.

“All must show restraint and prevent the build-up of tension. This is vital for the security, prosperity and – ultimately – for the European perspective of the region.”

* * *


Transitioning to democracy brings with it challenges and must be an inclusive and locally-driven process, the leaders of Hungary and the Czech Republic told the General Assembly today as they drew lessons from their own experiences two decades ago to apply to the current situations in North Africa and the Middle East.

“I want to stress that systemic change cannot be agreed upon or pre-arranged at international conferences, and that it cannot be mediated of passively ‘acquired’ as a foreign investment,” Czech President Václav Klaus said in his address to the Assembly’s annual general debate.

“It is a domestic task and it is a sequence of policies – not a once-for-all policy change.”

Mr. Klaus also said the democratic transitions in countries such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt should lead to increased trade with Europe to create prosperity and stability in the region.

Hungarian President Pál Schmitt cautioned the emerging democracies that there will be challenges in establishing new structures of power, drafting new constitutions and ensuring credible elections.

“The Hungarian society has, on the one hand, already met successfully many of these challenges and, on the other hand, has also made some avoidable mistakes. We therefore feel equipped to share our experience and offer a substantive toolkit for good governance and democratic change.”

Separately, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today discussed a range of issues, including developments in the Middle East and the economic situation in the European Union, with the President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski, when the two met on the margins of the General Assembly’s general debate.

Poland holds the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union and Mr. Ban and Mr. Komorowski also discussed UN-EU relations.


Posted on on February 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The case of accession of Macedonia is no laughing matter. It is still unknown how Greece’s current financial and economic troubles will have an impact on the Macedonian name dispute. Athens is currently under tremendous pressure from big eurozone countries such as Germany and France to cut back spending and provide accurate data on its deficit, while facing unprecedented scrutiny by the European Commission.

Some diplomats suggest that this offers a window of opportunity for clearing the name dispute and should be seized, while others say that because of the painful economic measures, Athens will be even less inclined to compromise on the name issue, a matter of national pride.

But neither are some gestures from the government in Skopje of any help, such as naming the airport and a major highway after Alexander the Great, a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon – moves which prompted fierce criticism in Greece.

Brussels officials familiar with the matter say that if a solution is found, Macedonia’s membership could be coupled with Iceland’s, which has also applied to join the club. Their accession would happen after Croatia’s, which is the closest to EU membership at this stage.

“Once we open negotiations, people are in for a big surprise. Everybody thinks Iceland will have no problems in joining, but actually it is Macedonia who will be flying through the negotiating chapters. Apart from some classical problems with the judiciary and fight against corruption, Macedonia has harmonised its legislation and implemented a lot of EU requirements,” one EU source told this website.

As for Iceland, although it is part of the EU’s internal market, negotiations are likely to run into trouble over fisheries and other topics dear to the Nordic islanders. The current financial dispute with Great Britain and the Netherlands is also not looking good for the EU prospects of Reykjavik. And contrary to the situation with the Balkan country, some parts of the Icelandic political establishment are against EU membership.

For now, both Macedonian and Greek officials, despite the declared willingness to find a solution, have not yet inched closer to a result. The UN mediator on the issue, Matthew Nimetz, is due in Skopje next week. The UN is just the bigger international body to stir the EU soup.

OK, more important to us seems the Financial Times comment from Washington about “Baroso’s man goes to Washington.”

The comment is by Tony Barber who runs a Brussels blog and he addresses the EU appointment of Joao Vale de Almeida to be EU’s next Ambassador to the US.

The outgoing Ambassador is John Bruton who was a former Irish Prime Minister and well known to Congress and the White House when he got his appointment in 2004.

The incoming Ambassador is a Portuguese Eurocrat who worked for Mr. Baroso and is totally unknown to Washington. Indeed some in Washington have seen him as involved as a by-stander to the G8 and G20 meetings, but when faced with him, following the EU elected so called Permanent President and sort of Foreign Ministers, both of whom are totally unknown to Washington, all what they see as qualifications for Mr. Vale de Almeida is that for five years – 2004 – 2009 he was Chief of Staff for the EU Commission’s President Mr. Baroso – the non-permanent and non-rotating – third EU President – of that nebulous intractable – so called European Union – the symbol of its refusal to be united, even though he was the one that did in effect push for the Lisbon rules for creating that goal of a United Europe.

The laughs come up when the author of the note points out that the perception is reinforced by the fact that Baroso has engineered the Ambassadorial appointment for his man in advance of the newly being created EU foreign service under Dame Ashton – who will have her job as who chooses ambassadors.

OK, we hope the EU helps squeeze Greece into allowing its neighbors to chose their own names, and to squeeze Island of allowing its fish to be caught by Greek fishermen. The mess in Cyprus can then be left to the UN to handle that other tough issue and in the meantime – the EU of 27 will require from the world to be seen as an EU of 28 – with the EU itself being the added state that enlarges meeting tables with one more unproductive participant.

The sad thing is that the world needs an EU that amounts to the missing G3 with which China and the US can sit down at a small table before inviting over India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Russia . . . one or two more, and start looking at what is of highest importance for the future of the Planet – issues such as global warming and climate change.


Posted on on January 30th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

On November 1, 2005, SIXTY YEARS SINCE THE END OF WORLD WAR II, THE LIBERATION OF THE AUSCHWITZ EXTERMINATION CAMP BY THE SOVIET ARMY, AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UN, finally, the UN that in major part came about because of the fact that the world realized that walking in the ashes caused by anti-Semitism and other isms, is not the will of the human race; the UN was created to learn from that experience – but did it? It took 60 years, the creation of the State of Israel, the travails of Zionism is Racism abomination, and one strong Ambassador of humanity to the organization – US Professor/ Senator/Ambassador Moynihan, to start to beat the anti-Semitic UN steel into compliance.


UN Designates International Holocaust day
November 1, 2005, release:

The UN General Assembly has decided by acclaim to designate January 27 as international Holocaust Day.

This is the first time ever that a resolution introduced by Israel has been adopted by the UN General Assembly. Some not inconsiderable distance has been traveled from the infamous “Zionism is Racism” resolution to this resolution. At least, the world can be united in condemning genocide, even if “Zionists” propose the initiative. The vision of Austria and Germany co-sponsoring and approving of such a resolution is certainly heartening to the surviving victims of Nazi persecution, to the Jews, gypsies and others whose families died in the Holocaust and to the state of Israel.

Unfortunately, it is not at all certain how some countries will mark this day. Some of the rhetoric of the UN discussion is ominous: Several Muslim and Arab governments expressed “reservations.” Some countries believe that the Holocaust, in which a state turned against noncombatant civilians, was the same as bombing the cities of enemy countries at war. In many of the countries that approved of this resolution and even among those whose representatives spoke kind words about humanitarianism, Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are best sellers. Some of those countries have been accessories after the fact to genocide, or committed it themselves. In those countries, every day is Holocaust day. From the remarks of the Ukrainian representative, you would not know that the Jews of the Ukraine were rounded up by Ukrainian SS, or that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were run by a Ukrainian nicknamed “Ivan the terrible.”

What public activities will mark Holocaust day in Iran, where President Ahmedinejad has called for a world without Zionism and America? In Syria, a book about the Blood Libel (the accusation that Jews kill Christian children in order to use their blood for baking Matzot) was written by the former minister of Defense. Syria also made notable contributions to the history of racial persecution in its treatment of the Kurds. Will Syria mark this day in sympathy with the victims, or will they celebrate it by showing, perhaps, a screening of Lenni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will? Will this day become an occasion for so-called “anti-Zionists” to trot out Holocaust denial and accusations that Israel is committing a Holocaust against the Palestinians, or that the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis?

Will the world again stand aside at the next genocide, as it did in Rwanda, and as it did for a very long time in Darfur, and as it continues to do in Tibet? In the discussion, each state was quick to accuse others of genocide, but unwilling to accept responsibility for crimes of their own states and governments. The Venezuelans spoke about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Chinese alluded to Japanese crimes. The Ukrainians alluded to Soviet crimes. The discussion would have more meaning if the Americans had spoken about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Chinese had spoken about their activities in Tibet, the Japanese had spoken the rape of Mongolia and the Turks had spoken of the Armenian genocide.

The implementation of the resolution will be of more consequence than the paper or the words themselves,  and the reality of the actions of states will be more important than either.

The proliferation of vile Web sites and articles about the “Holocaust Myth,” claiming the Holocaust never happened and is yet another Jewish plot, points up the urgent need for this day of remembrance.

Alert readers of what was said that say will note some bitter ironies in the remarks of representatives of some states, whose people and governments were active collaborators or passive accessories in the crime of the Holocaust.

The date – January 27 – was picked as that was the date the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination machine was closed by the Soviet army.

The first commemoration was held at the UN in 2006 and this year we have thus the fifth such event – or actually a series of events, that traditionally start on the Saturday before the actual date with a ceremony at the Park East Synagogue located on Manhattan’s East Side – Midtown.

The list of this year’s events at the UN, as provided to parties outside the UN – and published on our website is:…

But besides the UN itself, the fact that the UN has thrown the light upon the Holocaust atrocities, and the world’s need to remember these atrocities by having an International day of Remembrance, it is now that even in unexpected places in the civilized world, we find events being organized for the purpose of remembering and of learning from that experience. We thought thus to mention here one such event in a place we hardly expected to find it – the main Carnival city of the North-East of Brazil – Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.…

We will be reporting on this year’s week-long series in several postings that will involve also other related events – for now we will put up the clear Jewish angle to the comemoration – as it reflected in the Park East Sybagogue events and in the political official presentation at the UN main event of January 27, 2010


by H.E. Srgjan Kerim President of the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Park East Synagogue
New York, 26 January 2008

Rabbi Schneier,
Members of Park East Synagogue,
Dear Friends,

I am very grateful to Rabbi Schneier for inviting me to the Park East
Synagogue – a historic architectural treasure in the heart of

I am sure that you are all very proud of Rabbi Schneier for his
commitment and spiritual leadership that has brought this synagogue
international recognition.

It was only five years ago that I had my first opportunity to attend
and participate in a Jewish ceremony, here at the Park East Synagogue.
The experience inspired me to write a poem entitled ‘Temple’. I would
like to share a short extract with you today. I hope you will
appreciate it;

Nowhere in the world is it possible
To find such a grandiose temple
That would keep for ages
The layers of human sin
And all our shame.

I’ve always believed
There’s nothing greater in a temple
Than the final sounds melting
In the concluding Amin
Until I heard the word
Of a great friend of mine
Who walked in the steps of Moses
And is called a Rabbin.

Park East Beit Knesset,

I wish there would not have been such an occasion for me to address
you today. However, as we all know the Holocaust happened. It is
definitely one of the darkest pages in the history of mankind.

Unfortunately, we are still facing some lonely, desperate attempts to
blur the horrifying dimensions of the Holocaust.

We gather here today to remember and pay homage to those who lost
their lives in the Holocaust; the atrocities that they were subjected
to can never be forgotten.
The perpetrators of the Holocaust fed man’s ego with delusions of
supremacy and tried to erase the bonds that all human beings share.

The liberation of the Nazi concentration camps over 60 years ago
revealed one of the most evil crimes against humanity. The
consequences still reverberate in the present.

Elie Wiesel – Nobel Laureate, a Holocaust survivor and champion of
moral responsibility – has best put this into perspective:

“Let us remember, let us remember the heroes of Warsaw, the martyrs of
Treblinka, the children of Auschwitz. They fought alone, they suffered
alone, they lived alone, but they did not die alone, for something in
all of us died with them.”

We must also remember to pay tribute to those who survived and bravely
carried on with their lives – and in doing so inspired others. I would
like to salute the strength and perseverance of all Holocaust
survivors and their families.

I know that some of you are with us today.

Not only have you survived, but you have rebuilt communities all over
the world, become stronger, and enabled future generations to thrive.
You just have to look around at all the people gathered here today to
recognize this fact.

The recognition of this day of Holocaust remembrance by the
international community heralded a change of tide at the United
Nations; and, a step forward in the collective memory and conscience
of our world.

Dear Friends,
Remembrance of the Holocaust is more than the recognition of a tragic
past – or the darker side of human nature.

Remembering is an ethical act; it has ethical value in itself.

Remembrance is also a means through which we can understand ourselves:
an engine for change that should enable us to create and sustain a
better, more just future.

I am reminded of my father and his family. During the Second World War
he bravely helped to save and protect the family of Isac Sion – his
school friend – amidst the terror of occupation.

At the age of twenty my father and Isac subsequently joined the
National Liberation Movement of Macedonia to fight for freedom,
against the Nazi dictatorship, alongside the Allies.

Isac Sion subsequently went on to become Vice-governor of the Central
Bank of the Former Yugoslavia and following this was appointed as
Yugoslavia’s trade representative to the United Kingdom.

My father and many others like him served the Jewish people in their
hour of need. Their actions epitomize the practical meaning of
something profound that the famous Irish politician and philosopher
Edmund Burke once said, and I quote;

“All that is needed for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

When I had my first opportunity, in some small way, to redress the
atrocities committed during the Holocaust – as foreign Minister of
Macedonia – in 2000, I appointed Elie Wiesel as our first Special
Envoy and Goodwill Ambassador. He then became the United Nations
Messenger of Peace for Human Rights and the Holocaust.

And, in honour of the Jewish community, my country will soon complete
the construction of a Holocaust Memorial Centre. This is a symbolic
gesture to bring back the memory of the victims from Treblinka to

Looking back at the turbulent history of the Balkan region there are
some bitter lessons that we must learn: war begins when the perception
of the pain of others ends. We can also turn this around to say that
when the perception of the pain of others begins there is no room for

We must remember that every religion and culture must be tolerant of
the legitimate right for others to assert their difference in freedom.

Furthermore, intolerance of other religions or cultures is often a
sign of the degree of intolerance within a particular religion or

Dear Friends and members of Park East Beit Knesset,

The United Nations was founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, when the
world was in need of hope for a better future.
It was created to embody that hope as a promise to humanity. However,
most disturbingly, since the Holocaust there have been genocides and
serious crimes against humanity in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Yugoslavia.

That these atrocities occurred is not necessarily the failure of the
United Nations as an organization; but rather, represents the lack of
collective will of its Member States to take the decision to act or

Even while we gather here, there are places – like Darfur – where
people suffer from the very crimes, which, time and time again, we
have vowed would never again happen.

For the dignity of all humanity, we must strengthen our ability – our
collective resolve – to prevent such atrocities, whenever and wherever
they might occur.

Indeed, terrorism, violence, rape, murder, poverty and discrimination
on the grounds of race or religion continue to be part of the everyday
lives of many people. This fact alone should jar us with indignation.

Despite the tragic failures of the international community to prevent
crimes against humanity since the founding of the United Nations,
there is hope – failure is not an option.

In 2005, the General Assembly passed a resolution that included the
‘Responsibility to Protect’. In doing so, all nations signaled their
commitment to take action – to hold themselves accountable – to
recognize that with sovereign rights come responsibilities to their

In fact all of us here today can add our voice, with the United
Nations, to ensure that this new paradigm within international
relations comes to life.

Rabbi Schneier offers us an example of what we can do. He has been a
great advocate for human rights, and the promotion of religious and
ethnic tolerance. He has worked tirelessly to strengthen ties with
communities from different faiths and backgrounds through his good
works and publications.

In 2003 we jointly organized the first ever South East European
regional conference on ‘Dialogue among Civilizations’, at Lake Ohrid
in Macedonia.

In this spirit, and as we have just celebrated the life of the great
Martin Luther King Jr., I think it is fitting that I should recount
something he once said. It captures the same call to action that needs
to be instilled in the world today if we are to prevent a repeat of
the Holocaust;

“injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere….. Whatever
affects one directly, affects all directly.”

Dear Friends,

On the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of
the victims of the Holocaust, as well as of the 60th Anniversary of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us embrace our
diversity, and honor our interdependence, as the only path to peace
and justice.

Together, it is our common challenge to eliminate all distorted
notions that deepen barriers and widen divides: for they all originate
in the discriminatory practices of the mind.

We can achieve this by promoting intercultural dialogue and
cooperation for peace as a means to replace misunderstanding with
mutual respect and acceptance.

But we must also move from words to action, from principled intentions
to deeds that promote human security, human rights, the responsibility
to protect and sustainable development. For herein lies the hope of a
new culture of international relations with the United Nations as its

Members of Park East Beit Knesset,
And, all those gathered here today,

Let me wish all of you and the wider community peace, health and prosperity.

Let all our thoughts honour the victims of the Holocaust, and let us
spare no effort to ensure that we never again witness such evil. We
may not be able to change the past, but we must have the courage and
vision to change the future.

In order to do so, it is not enough to reiterate solemn gestures; we
must do everything possible to transform our attitudes to have full
regard for the dignity of all individuals, communities and nations.

Thank you. Shalom.


But that was the last President of the UN General Assembly to be welcome

to speak before a Jewish Audience – in those 5 years. Before him were: Mr. Jan Eliasson of Sweden #60,

and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of  Bahrain #61.

Now it is UNGA’s 64th session: On 10 June 2009, Ali Abdussalam Treki

of Libya was elected by acclamation at a plenary meeting of the

192-member body of the United Nations General Assembly.

Treki assumed office as president of the 64th session on 15 September 2009,
succeeding General Assembly president, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of
Nicaragua who was 63rd President of the UNGA. Both these gentlemen
have made anti-Israeli statements and were also mentioned in this
context as plain anti-Semites, thus making it impossible to listen to
their linguistic expressions when it comes to the commemoration of the
liberation of Auschwitz. Thus, these last two years, the presentations
at the UN, it was Vice Presidents of the UNGA that spoke in their
place, and the UN General Assembly as such was not represented at the
Saturday pre-commemoration service at the Park East Synagogue.

But in 2009, The Park East Congregation had the honor to host the UN
Secretary General.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
24 January 2009

Remarks at Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Park East Synagogue:

Thank you very much, Rabbi [Arthur] Schneier, for that kind introduction.

I especially appreciate you for calling me a mensch. With apologies to
those of you who do not speak Yiddish, I have to say: thank goodness
he didn’t call me meshugenah.

To all, I wish you Shabat Shalom.

Excellencies, distinguished Ambassadors to the United Nations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we mark the International Day of Commemoration honoring victims
of the Holocaust. This is a most important and solemn occasion.

As you know, my friend, the late Tom Lantos, died shortly after last
year’s observance. Some of you may have met him when he came to this
Synagogue. He was dear to me, as he was to you. He made an
extraordinary journey from a Nazi labor camp to the halls of Congress.
He became a leading champion of truth and justice. Like those of you
who also lived through the Holocaust, he was never defeated by the
unspeakable horrors that he survived.

I can only imagine what he endured. Yet I, too, have witnessed man’s
inhumanity to man. I have seen it as Secretary-General, traveling in
places torn by war. And I saw it as a six-year old boy fleeing to the
mountains to escape fighting in my own country.

The UN helped South Korea to recover. Like Tom Lantos, like many of
you, I came to believe in the transformative power of the United

Today, the UN is on the cusp of a great transition. Never have global
challenges been so large. Climate change, terrorism, the global
financial crisis – these troubles transcend borders. They affect all
countries, rich and poor. They will be overcome only when all
countries come together in response. That’s why we have a United

Yes, the UN has its imperfections. It’s not perfect. Because of this,
from day one since I took office, I have pushed to change it. I have
insisted on a new culture of transparency and accountability. I have
worked to make the UN more efficient, effective, modern. In short, we
have tried to make it a better instrument to serve mankind.

We are here to mark the Holocaust. Like you, the United Nations is
determined to tell its timeless lessons.

Precisely two years ago, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution
condemning, without reservation, any denial of the Holocaust. I quote:
“Ignoring the historical fact of those terrible events increases the
risk they will be repeated.”

With you, I stand in saying: never again. Never. When I paid tribute
to Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem, I wrote in the book there, “Never
again. Never.”

Memory speaks. That is why it must be preserved and passed to future

Our Holocaust Outreach Program sponsors exhibits, workshops and panel
discussions. The aim: to confront deniers, or those who would minimize
the importance of the Holocaust.

When President Ahmadinejad of Iran declared that Israel should
“disappear,” or be “wiped off the map,” I strongly condemned his
remarks – twice.

We at the United Nations stand for human rights.

We stand for democracy and the rule of law. By working for economic
and social development, we build the foundations for peace.

We have a new instrument in our hands. It is called the Responsibility
to Protect – the idea that every nation has a legal obligation to
protect its people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and
crimes against humanity. Where nations fall short, the international
community has the right to take collective action.

Yes, it is difficult in practice. But I assure you. This is a major
advance in safeguarding mankind from crimes against humanity.

My friends,

Today is not simply a time for remembering. The Holocaust has lessons
for us, here and now. Let us heed them.

My job can sometimes be terribly painful. I see unbelievable hardship,
the worst human suffering. You are familiar with the grim catalogue of
names and places: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur,
Somalia and, of course, the Middle East.

I am just back from the region. I went to push for a cease-fire. More,
I went in search of a lasting peace.

The recurring violence between Palestinians and Israelis is a mark of
collective political failure – by both sides and by the international

I saw first-hand what most people saw on television. I met a child and
his parents in Sderot, southern Israel, traumatized by falling
rockets. Never for one moment have I forgotten that a million people
in southern Israel live in a daily state of terror and fear.

In Gaza, I saw the most appalling devastation. I saw the UN compound,
still burning.

I said to all I met, on both sides: This must stop.

I left the region more determined than ever to work toward a world
where two States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace and
security. War can never be an answer. We need to strengthen the forces
of peaceful coexistence and dialogue.

No one sees this more clearly than your own Rabbi Schneier. He has
devoted his life to overcoming hatred and intolerance.

You all know him as the founder and president of the Appeal for
Conscience Foundation. What you may not know, and what I am very
grateful to him for, is his pioneering work for the UN’s Alliance of

He knows first-hand that no one man or nation has all the answers. He
knows the sacred value of tolerance. He has survived the greatest
trials that life can hurl at a man or a woman and emerged not only
with his humanity and spirit intact but stronger. He survived the
Holocaust. Like others among you, he never lost sight of man’s
essential humanity, our capacity for good, our inherent dignity.

So, let us be frank. We must recognize the limits of power and
goodwill. We here know that we can never entirely rid the world of its
tyrants and its intolerance. We cannot turn all extremists to the path
of reason and light. We can only stand against them and raise our
voices in the name of our common humanity.

Tom Lantos was fond of saying that even the littlest actions, the
smallest of our daily deeds, can do much to leave this earth better,
less evil, less selfish, less monstrous than we found it. And he
stressed that doing these things, even in a modest way, gives you the
energy to keep moving forward. On this day of days, that seems to me
to be good advice.

As we remember the victims of the Holocaust, let us reaffirm our faith
in the dignity of humankind and our extraordinary resilience – our
moral strength – even amid history’s darkest chapters.

Thank you very much.


On January 23, 2010, before a full house at Park East Synagogue, the
main speaker for Saturday Pre-Commemoration of the International
Holocaust Remembrance Day was  Ambassador Susan Rice of the USA, and
at the actual ceremony at the UN General Assembly Hall was German
Ambassador to the UN H.E. Peter Wittig.

The remarks were:……

At the Park East Service this year, a further Honored Guest was Rabbi Ricardo Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, who has been visited at his Synagogue by the Pope, also as part of this year’s Holocaust Remembrance.

Also present were Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria, Ambassador Peter Wittig of Germany, Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, Ambassador Anastassis Mitsialis of Greece, Ambassador Marta Horvathne Fekzi of Hungary, H.E. Most Reverend Celestino Migliore the Permanent Representative of the Vatican, Ambassador Yukio Takasu of Japan, Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini of Italy, Ambassador Mohamed Loulichki of Morocco, Ambassador Jim McLay of New Zealand, Ambassador Andrzey Towpik of Poland, Ambassador Juan Antonio Yanez-Barnuevo of Spain, Ambassador Rayko S. Raytchev of Bulgaria, Ambassador Kim Won-soo, from the UN Secretary General’s Office, and about further twenty top Diplomatic Representatives. But I must remark that from all the Islamic and African Countries only Morocco was present – and from the newly emerging States only Brazil and China were present.


Posted on on November 1st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

This WEEK in the European Union

Still dated 31.10.2008 an EUOBSERVER / EU WEEKLY AGENDA (3-9 November) – Europe’s attention will be focused on the US elections this Wednesday, when senator Barack Obama is set to become America’s first black president if recent polls prove to be accurate.

Two days after the election of the new US president, EU leaders will hold an extraordinary meeting on Friday. Summoned by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who chairs the bloc’s rotating presidency, the heads of state and government are to formulate a common position ahead of the G20 summit scheduled a week later in Washington to address the financial crisis and its effects on the world economy.

Europeans will be watching the US presidential elections closely on Wednesday, with a clear preference for senator Barack Obama.

The consequences of the financial crisis will also be reflected in the European Commission’s autumn economic forecast for 2008-2010 to be published on Monday (3 November). The forecast will cover economic growth, inflation, employment and the government deficits. A day later, Eurogroup chair Jean-Claude Juncker will give the European parliament’s economic affairs committee his assessment of the way the crisis is having an impact on the bloc’s economies.

Also on Tuesday, the European Parliament begins its “Arab week”, which will see a number of Iraqi MPs and the secretary-general of the League of Arab States meeting European legislators.
Enlargement reports:

On Wednesday, enlargement is high on the agenda, with commissioner Olli Rehn presenting in the European Parliament an updated overview of the EU’s enlargement policy and a summary of the progress made over the past twelve months by each of the countries that want to join the EU.

According to a draft version seen by EUobserver, Croatia could conclude accession negotiations with the EU by the end of next year, if it fulfills the remaining conditions, while Serbia could become an official EU candidate. Macedonia will still not be offered a date to open membership talks with the bloc, while Bosnia-Herzegovina is to be criticised for its “inflammatory rhetoric” that “adversely affected the functioning of institutions and slowed down reform”.

Turkey still has a long way to go before concluding accession talks, the draft report reads, but the EU hails Ankara’s role as promoter of regional stability after the Georgian crisis.

Lobby for Nabucco after the Georgian crisis:

The August war between Russia and Georgia also highlighted Turkey’s “strategic significance for the EU energy security, particularly by diversifying supply routes”, the draft report reads, mentioning the importance to go ahead with the planned Nabucco gas pipeline, which will connect Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria through Turkey to the gas-rich Caspian countries.

Promoting Nabucco will be also the aim of energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs next week, when he starts a five-day tour on Wednesday to the Caspian countries, Georgia and Turkey. He is scheduled to hold high-level talks on the issue for the first time since Georgian crisis, a development that made Caspian countries weary about their relationship with the West.

An EU-China energy conference will take place Thursday and Friday in Brussels, gathering industry and administration officials from the two sides, with discussions focusing on renewable energy, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage.

EU foreign ministers and those of the 12 southern Mediterranean countries involved in the Euromed partnership will also be meeting in Marseille on Monday to decide on, amongst other subjects, a headquarters for the organisation.


Posted on on May 23rd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Human security threatened by diverse group of challenges   says Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, President of the 62nd session of the General Assembly.
22 May 2008 – Challenges ranging from hunger and poverty to armed conflict and from environmental degradation to international terrorism all pose a threat to human security and illustrate the need to devise solutions that are both integrated and people-centred, President Srgjan Kerim today told the General Assembly’s first-ever thematic debate on the issue.
Speaking at the one-day forum at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Kerim said it was a time “for a holistic approach focused on people, their protection and empowerment” and one that moves beyond the understanding of security as state security only.

The 2005 World Summit referred to the concept of human security, noting that “all individuals, in particular, vulnerable people, are entitled to freedom from fear and freedom from want, with an equal opportunity to enjoy all their rights and fully develop their human potential.” wishes to note here that above effort of restructuring UN’s goals was one of the efforts of former UN SG Kofi Annan that brought upon him the wrath of several UN Super giants of the P5 kind, the UNGA President is much less constrained in his pronouncements.}

The President said at today’s debate that the international community should enhance its cooperation given the interconnectedness of people’s insecurities.

“As the global food crisis illustrates, a well-coordinated and integrated response by the international community is needed to address both the prevention stage as well as the full range of factors that affect people’s well-being.”

He called for a “new culture of international relations” with the principle of human security as its foundation.

Speaking to reporters later, Mr. Kerim said: “It was stressed today that human security is relevant in many, many critical areas, important parts of the activities of people and of the global challenges of today.”

The debate’s keynote speaker, Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, also said the issue must be reframed to include the concepts of survivability and resilience.

Global imbalances in the realms of population growth, poverty, food, resources, ecology, migration, energy, money, peace and cultural understanding are “multipliers” of human security, in that they can exponentially affect lives by either providing stability or instability,   observed Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.

The Prince noted that “States have not relinquished their sovereignty to cooperate with one another more effectively, and market-driven solutions have proven incapable of addressing the systemic problems that transcend national borders.” { ??? now – this statement is not clear to us – we accept that market solutions have failed us – but so have monarchs and elected governments – it is the “Sovereignty of States” that is at the bottom line the reason for the world’s misery – just look at Sudan and even Saudi Arabia. Does the Prince reside in that same neighborhood?}

In his speech, he also said that representatives from all sectors – government, business and civil society – must establish a global programme of action to bring about an end to poverty and ensure adequate food supplies, a clean environment and stable purchasing power, among others. {Very Good !!!}

“When we say we are looking at human security, what we mean is that we want to alleviate the present situation by creating a system so that, as the future keeps arriving, it arrives in the form of better and better present situations,” he said. “The consequences of what we do now must bring about a better present moment in which to live.”

In 2006, an open-ended forum comprising Member States from all regions called Friends of Human Security – of which the Prince is a member – was established to encourage collaboration among nations on the topic.


Posted on on May 16th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Ukraine has high hopes for French EU presidency – writes Elitsa Vucheva from Kiev for the EUobserver – May 14, 2008.

Expectations are high in Kiev that an EU-Ukraine summit in September in France will result in stronger ties between the two sides and boost progress in negotiations on a new bilateral agreement.

“We expect certain serious steps to be taken along the lines of preparing the new enhanced agreement and the free trade agreement [between Ukraine and the EU],” Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko told a group of journalists in Kiev.

“We look forward to the EU flashing the green light for us that would help us on our way forward,” she added.

Ukraine’s relations with the EU are currently regulated by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in force since 1998, a set-up that Kiev considers politically insufficient.

Negotiations to replace the PCA started in March 2007 and Ukraine wants it to contain a clear reference to eventual EU membership, and avoid the vague political formulations that have characterised Brussels statements about the large eastern European country to date.

The new bilateral agreement is also to include a free trade agreement on which negotiations were launched in February.

Oleksandr Chalyi, a senior foreign-policy adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, suggested that after overcoming a “very deep political and social crisis” by signing the Lisbon treaty, the EU would now be “more capable of developing a consensus on Ukraine’s European perspectives.”

“We want the legal substance of our partnership transformed to association,” instead of a simple “closer cooperation,” Oleksandr Chalyi

According to government estimates, a clear majority of Ukrainians – around 65 to 70 percent – back the idea of seeing their country becoming a future EU member. The EU, however, has not shown much enthusiasm for this and still prefers to talk about “a much closer and enhanced partnership.”

Ian Boag, head of the European Commission’s delegation to Ukraine, stressed that the deal that will be eventually reached should not be seen as “a stepping stone for membership of the EU.” But in a bid to reassure the Ukrainian side he added that “nothing excludes [such an option].”

In this context, a high-level EU-Ukraine meeting planned to take place on 9 September in France and under French EU presidency, is expected to bring a breakthrough in the stagnating bilateral relations.

Paris recently floated a proposal for an “Association Agreement” with the former Soviet country – which stops short of any EU accession commitments but provides for visibly stronger ties.

Kiev welcomed the fact that “such country as France recently put new ideas to bring Ukraine closer to the EU.”

“Now we are working on the basis of the French proposals and… hope this event [the EU-Ukraine summit] will produce some results,” said deputy foreign minister Kostiantyn Yelisieiev in charge of negotiating the new agreement.

He stressed the importance of the French idea, considering that “France was one of the countries ‘a little bit cold’ [towards Ukraine’s EU perspectives].”

According to Mr Yelisieiev, the September summit will be “the real test [for EU-Ukraine relations] and will show the real intentions of the French leadership” regarding Ukraine.
Problems still to be tackled:
Along with the lack of political consensus among EU states on the 46-million strong country’s EU future, Ukraine still has its own internal issues to tackle before such a possibility could be realistically discussed.

Political in-fighting blocking much needed changes has on several occasions prompted the EU to call for more political stability in Ukraine, while Kiev still has to tackle its inefficient administration, high levels of corruption, as well as judicial and economic reforms.

Ukrainian politicians concede there are problems.

“We have got to get rid of corruption and other negative consequences of our socialist past… We should achieve European standards as soon as possible,” foreign minister Volodymyr Ogryzko told journalists in the margins of Europe’s day celebrations in Kiev on Sunday (11 May).

But he added: “I do hope that we will have a very concrete signal from the EU that Ukraine will in the nearest future be in the EU.”


At, we expressed already in the past our “puzzlement” of why Ukraine does not agree of its own free will to let the eastern third of the country – still Russian speaking – go and join Russia – if that is what the people living there prefer – and then the western 2/3 of the country could easily readjust and join the EU as the EU’s natural eastern frontier. That would leave outside only Russia and Belarus – quite a natural outcome.


Further, in Peter Sain ley Berry, while questioning the EU intent with Turkey, makes the point that the Ukraine belongs to Europe.

[Comment] The elephant on the European doorstep.
16.05.2008 – By Peter Sain ley Berry.

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT – Politically, it has been a propitious time for those named Boris. Not only do we now have a Boris as Mayor of London, but, in the Balkans, the parties that support Serbian President Boris Tadic, and seek a European future for Serbia, defeated those that affected an isolationist persuasion. Whether Mr Tadic will now be able to form a pro-European government remains to be seen.

The European Union’s position at least is settled. The Western Balkans – seven countries with a population of approximately 27 million – have been offered a European future, subject only to satisfying the normal criteria. This process will take time but few doubt the result. We are on course therefore for an EU of 34.

This will make the government of the EU more complex. If there are 15 possible bilateral relationships in a community of six, there are 351 in a community of 27. Adding a further seven states increases the complexity by a whopping 210. Apart from this complexity there will be other consequences, including for financing, for decision-making, for the distribution of MEPs and Commissioners. None of this seems to be being discussed. Nevertheless, there is general agreement that the Western Balkans should accede to the Union in due course. Public opinion is broadly favourable.

The same cannot be said for Turkey, to which Queen Elizabeth II of Britain paid a state visit this week. At the formal banquet she praised the advances made by the government and rehearsed Britain’s credentials as a champion of Turkish entry. Although Turkey is formally a candidate for accession, the end of that process seems as far away as ever. Britain, and her allies among the newer member states, may champion Turkish entry for sound geo-political and geo-economic reasons, but France and Germany most certainly do not. Moreover, European public opinion is divided.

The reasons are partly geographical. I remember a former President of the European Commission, the late Roy Jenkins, saying that the then Turkish President had acquired a piece of paper from some prestigious geographical institute certifying Turkey’s Europeaness. His response was that any country that needed a piece of paper….. probably wasn’t European.

In this he was no doubt correct, though in the absence of a recognised border with Asia, who can say? But there are other more important arguments – financing of the poor but populous Turkish state is one, the internal coherence of the Union is another. Which is why France and Germany have been trying to divert Turkey down the route of a ‘privileged partnership,’ instead of full accession, through which the EU’s commitment might be modified if necessary. Turkey, of course, is having none of that. Meanwhile the accession negotiations drag on.

Out of 35 chapters only six have been opened and eight are frozen by the Cypriot stand-off. France, which assumes the rotating Union Presidency on 1st July, has said it will continue the negotiations in good faith. This is a semi quid pro quo for Turkey agreeing to sup from the poisoned chalice of France’s ‘Mediterranean Union’ scheme (now formally adopted by the EU) designed to provide a political forum for the EU and its Mediterranean neighbours.

Turkey has been told specifically that belonging to the Mediterranean Union will not affect its EU candidacy. But as the French rather hope that the Turks may be persuaded to accept some leadership role in this body – so taking its mind off EU membership – it would be prudent for them to take this assurance with a grain of salt.

What is certain is that the Union would not be the same if Turkey joins with its 80 million population. It would not necessarily be a worse Union, or a better Union, but it would be a different Union. For quite apart from the effect that Turkey itself will have on the existing member states, its accession would change the dynamics of other nations looking for a European future.

Chief of these is the Ukraine whose Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, was again this week announcing her intention to bang on Mr Sarkozy’s door come July.

In fact, when it comes to European credentials the Ukraine has rather better claims than Turkey. It’s capital, Kiev, is closer to Brussels, for instance, than Athens. Moreover, as anyone reading Heinrich Boell’s – great anti-war novel ‘Der Zug war Punktlich,’ can appreciate, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine are but stations on a journey into Europe’s deep hinterland. The railway line is no doubt still there.

It is true to say that with its 55 million people the Ukraine is therefore the elephant on our European doorstep. Still, the policy is to resist giving any hint of promise of future membership. True, the country has much to reform before it could become a credible candidate. Nevertheless, it has as much right to lay claim to its place in the European firmament as anyone else. The banging on the door will become louder and more insistent. There will be other bangings, too; Georgia is already demanding to be heard. Belarus, Moldova, the other Caucasian nations may well follow suit.

No one can believe the Union can remain the same should these accessions take place. Again, they are not necessarily to be resisted. It may be in our interest that we should go ahead. But we should not sleepwalk toward a decision, finding out too late that we have no room left for manoeuvre.

For despite the frequency of the phrase, ‘Future of Europe,’ and constant enjoinders to discuss it, a conspiracy of silence surrounds anything more remote than the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. Only the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, has raised the difficult questions about where the future borders of Europe should lie and what sort of Europe, in terms of its integration, competencies and governance, we are seeking. And short shrift he has got for his pains.

This is unfortunate, for the Future of Europe is the future of the next thirty or forty years.
I do not see how we can continue to espouse Turkey’s candidacy and not that of the Ukraine. But this has consequences. If we are to have a grand Europe, a Europe of 42 states and 700 millions of people, it is not too early to start debating the prospect now.

The author is editor of EuropaWorld.


Posted on on April 12th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


Pope Benedict XVI will address the General Assembly and staff of the United Nations in separate events at UN Headquarters next Friday during the first day of a visit by the head of the Roman Catholic Church to New York.

During his scheduled three-hour visit to UN Headquarters, the Pope will also meet with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim and Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month.

The visit will fall on the first anniversary of Mr. Ban’s visit to the Vatican, when the Secretary-General then invited the Pope to come to the UN. It is the fourth papal visit to the UN, following those of Paul VI in 1965 and John Paul II in 1979 and 1995.

A spokesperson for the Secretary-General said today that Mr. Ban looked forward to meeting the Pope again and continuing their discussions on issues of common concern, such as poverty reduction, climate change, disarmament, and dialogue among civilizations.

Mr. Kerim told reporters that the Pope’s address to the 192-member Assembly would be particularly important as he represented more than one billion people around the world.

“More than ever we need today an articulated, clear and profound dialogue among cultures and religions, particularly between Christianity and Islam,” he said.


Posted on on April 11th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (


(11 April 2008)

At the recent UK/French Summit in London on 27 March, 2008, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Sarkozy agreed that both the UK and France share a common desire to reform international institutions, including the United Nations and the Security Council.

On the Reform of the UN Security Council, both its enlargement and the improvement of its working methods, they reaffirmed the support of the two countries “for the candidacies of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan for permanent membership, as well as for permanent representation for Africa on the Council.”

A communiqué went on to say:

“We regret that negotiations towards this goal remain in deadlock and are therefore ready to consider an intermediate solution. This could include a new category of seats, with a longer term than those of the current elected members and those terms would be renewable; at the end of an initial phase, it could be decided to turn these new types of seats into permanent ones. It concluded we will work with all our partners to define the parameters of such a reform.”

The operative part is that Germany, Brazil, India and Japan be invited to join the permanent members on a fix term and renewable basis. – this will not give them the veto right, will bring up the number of European members to four, the number of Asian members to three, create a first Latin member, and leave the door open to South Africa by the time Nigeria and Egypt will end their oposition to this choice. Will this fly? May be. Why not start thinking also of an EU membership that combines some of the Europeans? ??

The 2007-2008 President of The UN General Assembly, Dr. Srgjan Kerim, from Macedonia, a country the EU has yet difficulty to pronounce its name, made some deep remarks of his own:

In effect what he said is that the Security Council reform must be about more than just changing the composition of its membership, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim says, calling on the body to be “based on an equilibrium of interests rather than a balance of power.”

In an opinion column for the United Kingdom-based pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper, published yesterday, Mr. Kerim wrote that reform of the Council must lead to “a new culture of international relations” based on full respects for human rights, human security, responsibility to protect and sustainable development.

While changing the Council’s composition is a necessary first step, it should not be viewed as an end in itself.

Instead, Council members should be “ready to share responsibility, willing and able to act to protect human life – as the body of last resort – whatever and wherever the threat may be.”

Mr. Kerim said such ideas are needed because “our present institutional structures are too rigidly anchored in an international system where pre-eminence is given to the State as the primary interlocutor and agent of change.”

He called for renewal of the UN as a whole, for the Bretton Woods institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and for other international and regional bodies.

Speaking to reporters today at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Kerim echoed those remarks.

Council reform, he said, must have “a more profound meaning than just enlargement. It has to mean adaptation of the institutions, of the United Nations above all, and that goes for the General Assembly and the Secretariat as well. It all has to adapt to a new, very different world.”

Yesterday the President told a working group on Council reform that Member States should show “effective flexibility” in their negotiations on reshaping the 15-member body, and ensure that the concerns of all sides are taken into account, especially those currently underrepresented.


Posted on on April 9th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Macedonia was approved for NATO but could not join because of the two Greek EU Member States – Greece and Cyprus – objecting to its name.

Now a Cyprus Former First Lady, to become   EU Commmissioner of Health, hesitates to discover her age for cultural reasons and Turkey may finally decriminalize questions about “Turkishness.” Does   the EU take itself seriously?

New commissioner asked ‘rude question’ about age.

08.04.2008 | By Renata Goldirova
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Androula Vassiliou, a former first lady of Cyprus and the country’s new EU commissioner-designate, has revealed that she does not like people asking her age.

On Tuesday (8 April), her spokesperson refused to reveal how old Ms Vassiliou is following a journalist’s question, saying it was “rude” to ask and inappropriate to speak about a woman’s age.

“In Greek, in our culture, it is a bit rude to ask for a woman’s age. So if you insist that much, I would suggest that you do some research on Google and you will find the CV of the commissioner and there you can find her exact age,” commission spokesperson Nina Papadoulaki said.

She added: “Honestly, I don’t have her age.”

Only later did the commission provide media with the required information that Ms Vassiliou’s birthday falls on 30 November 1943 – making her 64.

The spokesperson insisted, however, that her secretive tone was not a result of lack of transparency, but only a question of cultural perception. “In general, we neither mention nor publicise the age,” she said.

In fact, even the Cypriot would-be commissioner’s profile on the official commission website falls short of mentioning her birthday. Similarly, the free encyclopedia Wikipedia also cites only dates related to her legal and political career.

At the same time, eight other female commissioners make no effort to hide their age, with this piece of personal information available on each of their official websites.

The ‘rude-question’ kerfuffle comes just one day ahead of a vote in the European Parliament on the nomination of Ms Vassiliou as a new member of the commission.

She is to be put in charge of the health dossier, replacing Markos Kyprianou – who left the commission to take on the foreign minister post in Cyprus.

Turkey set to pass key freedom of speech reform.

09.04.2008   By Elitsa Vucheva
The Turkish parliament is next week likely to pass a bill softening a law which sets limits on freedom of the speech by criminalizing insults to “Turkishness”.

One article in the country’s penal code – article 301 – currently imposes up to three years in prison for such an insult.

Many Turkish intellectuals and writers have been tried under the article, including Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk.

“I believe we will push the amendment to Article 301 through parliament next week,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday (8 April), according to press agencies.

Late on Monday, the Turkish government submitted its draft proposal for amendments to the parliament, suggesting, among other things, that the country’s president should give his consent before prosecutors can launch cases in that field.

It also proposes that the vague term “Turkishness” be replaced by “Turkish nation”, and the prison time envisaged be decreased from three to two years while the sentence could be suspended or converted to a fine, AFP reports.

The move comes just days before a visit to Turkey on Thursday and Friday by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn.

The EU has repeatedly called on EU candidate Turkey to “repeal or amend without delay” the controversial article as a prerequisite to join the bloc.

The article has mostly been used against those who refuse to follow Turkey’s official line on the killings of Armenians during World War I, by for example referring to the events as “genocide” – a term Ankara categorically rejects.

The amendment is expected to be adopted without difficulty in the country’s parliament, as the governing Justice and Development (AKP) party maintains a majority of 340 deputies in the 550-seat parliament.

Turkey has been an EU candidate country since 1999, and launched accession talks with the bloc in October 2005. Progress has been slow and it has so far opened six out the 35 chapters needed in order for the accession negotiations to be closed.


Posted on on March 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

Thursday, March 6, 2008, The European Union Studies Center of The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, with the help of the Alexander S. Onasis Public Benefit Foundation (USA), had the great opportunity to hear from one of Greece’s important political figures – Dr. Yannos Papantoniou.
Dr. Papantoniou currently serves as an Onassis Foundation Senior Visiting Scholar at the University of Athens. In 1981, he was elected as a member of the European Parliament and in 1984 became adviser to the prime minister on European Economic Community affairs.

Since June 1989, he has been an elected member of the Greek Parliament. He served as deputy minister of National Economy, then variously as minister of Commerce, minister of National Economy and Finance, and minister of National Defense under the Socialist, or Pasok, government.

On February 27, 2008, Greece Named Yannos Papantoniou As its Candidate To Lead the the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development , (EBRD). He has also been Governor of the National Bank of Greece in 2000.

Over the 12-month period in 2002-03, when Greece held the presidency of the European Union’s Council of Defense Ministers, Dr. Papantoniou helped to coordinate the policies that led to the creation of the European Military Force and its engagement in international peacekeeping operations as well as the establishment of the European Defense Agency.

Dr. Papantoniou studied economics at the Universities of Athens and Wisconsin, history at the Sorbonne (France), and obtained his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Cambridge (U.K).

The topic at the CUNY presentation was: “Regional Security in Southeastern Europe.” We got obviously an explicit Greek point of view.

At first we got a tour of the European expansion from 15 to 27 States and we saw how this was possible. The Three Baltic States were adopted by the Scandinavian States and this helped their economic integration into the EU. Poland was helped by foreign investment and its relations to US Poles. The Central Europeans were helped by Germany and Austria (Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians – also Slovenia and the future accession of Croatia. The Creation of a partnership for peace at NATO helped Bulgaria and Romania.

So now we are left with the remnants of the Balkans. The situation came to an edge with Kosovo declaring unilaterally independence on February 17, 2008 and being by now recognized as an independent State by over 100 countries. Obviously Serbia and Russia do not recognize Kosovo – neither does Greece. We found in effect, on the internet, a 2007 official statement from Greece saying that they do not agree to an “imposed’ solution for Kosovo. They think of the old concept of Sovereignty under which you cannot dismember Serbia, this because if that succeeds, North Cyprus will also want to become an independent Turkish State …

Turkey? As an attached State to the West would be an important role player to stabilize the Middle East – that gave me a reason to think that one should also ask the Turks what they think.

“The EU is an economic organization with political ambitions.”

The requirements for accession are: a. Democracy; b. A market Economy; and c. Adaptation of EU law into National law.

“Turkey is a strong regional power. If it were to come into the EU it would come in as a 100 million bloc that would change the balance of power in the EU. They might have more power then Germany and the UK combined, and this is unacceptable. The EU would prefer a special linkage to be offered to Turkey. After 12 additions the enlargement may have reached a limit. The EU has already become less homogeneous and less coherent.”

For the Balkans, joining the EU gives them the best motivation to normalize their society and economy. The speaker would like this to happen eventually, but not immediately.

Here, Professor Hugo M. Kaufmann, Professor of Economics at Queens College and at the Graduate Center, who chaired the event, opened up for questions, and there were many very interesting questions. I will bring up mainly our own question that came about because of the suggestion of having special relationships between the EU and countries like Turkey, that want to join the EU, but are rebuffed – then offered a special compensation that looks good to some at the EU, but which they cannot accept. Internally their governments will look like losers, and they will become losers indeed because of internal politics.

My question was why look at special arrangements with single countries, while a special arrangement with a large group of countries would be much more palatable to these outsiders – and I named three such groups: The Mediterranean Group, The Black Sea Group, and the Turkic Group.

The Mediterranean group does exist in effect – this as a result of the Barcelona Process. It started as an alliance to clean up the Mediterranean Sea – as such it had to include the Southern States of the EU – those reaching the sea shores – the North African States, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey etc. It includes countries that do not have good relations with each other – but they have to cooperate – and you know what – it works and gives results.

The Black Sea International Council started out as an environmental organization with Greece as the only participating EU member. Now after the EU accession of Romania and Bulgaria, a new Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation was created. This group that obviously also includes Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, has been extended to include the ‘frozen conflicts’ in Georgia, Moldova and between Armenia and Azerbaijan. (To others this reminds of the GUAM countries) This is indeed also an economic power house that can deal with quite a few oil and gas pipelines as well.

The Turkic group includes obviously Turkey and the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia. It could include also Azerbaidjan and Georgia. In effect it could be an oil backyard of the EU.

The bottom line of all this is that Turkey is a central part of all these three groups – it could in effect come in with all this dowry and thus be welcome in its special arrangement as leader of outside EU alliances. This – rather then thinking of Turkey as the EU opening to a Middle East where Turkey is indeed not welcome to the Arab feast – surely, even less, then its welcome to the EU table.

I had also a short question – what about Albania? Why actually not putting it ahead of all this talk about Turkey?


The respected Greek speaker said that Albania was one of the poorest countries in the world and he did not think Germany will want to finance Albania. (I clearly could not reopen this point – if I could I would have reminded him that the Kosovars are also Albanians, so are some 15% of the people of Macedonia. Nobody speaks now of a greater Albania, like nobody speaks now of rejoining the present Greek part of Cyprus with Greece. The latter came about because some sort of solution was found, but leaving Albania dangling brought once Mao to this country, now it could be Al Qaeda. This is just unsound policy.)

On the Barcelona process the answer was again money. The process does not go forward because of lack of money. Again I do not think that this is the case – it seems to be rather a jelousy of North EU not wanting to fund deals that favor the South States of the EU – sort of shooting themselves in the feet in the process. The speaker did not pick up the other two groups beyond saying that these are interesting ideas.

On the other hand, to a question about the name dispute between Greece and Macedonia, the speaker explained that the problem was that it worries Greece if later Macedonia would put claim to the areas in Turkey and Bulgaria that carry that name. He recognized that you cannot restrain people from naming themselves what they wish, but for international relations purpose they will have to pick for themselves some neutral name because even the temporary name of FYROM is not acceptable to Greece. Because of this – in our eyes total nonsense – Greece is vetoing Macedonia’s entrance to NATO – thus in effect hurting more NATO then Macedonia.


After all of this, when the meeting was called to end, in overtime, a Turkish Consul in New York asked for his right to say also a few words. He said flat that for 200 years Turkey is part of Europe. Turkey’s per capita income is now 1/5 to 1/4 of the average of the EU, but when Spain and Portugal entered the EU they were only 1/10. It is already 45 years that Turkey is trying to get recognition for its potential.

With the final end of the meeting I had the chance to talk to Mr. Basar Sen the Turkish Consul. He explained to me that the expectation of joining the EU has created its own logic and the government is now trapped by it, and turning away will have internal consequences. Surely I remember that starting with Ataturk and his “Young Turks,” a secular new Turkey was created out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire – a secular Turkey that wanted to be recognized, already then, as part of Europe. How can the speaker try to push them back into the Middle East from where these military men tried already then to escape?

But, sensing a friendly person, I followed up with a question I posed years ago to the Turkish Ambassador to the UN. Something that I think was the cardinal sin of Turkish thinking of last century. The question of the Kurds.

The Young Turks wanted to create a homogenized people out of the remnants of the Empire. They still had many – many different ethnic groups in the large piece of land that became Turkey – some say 154 ethnicities with language differences. But even if this was the case, there was only one minority that counted – these were the Kurds. What Turkey feared was that the Kurds will seek independence for their part of the land – so the Turkish government pursued them vehemently and turned them into real enemies. But even if the Kurds might have dreamt of having a larger Kurdistan to include also parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Azerbaijan, those other Kurds where not yet convinced that they, themselves, were ready to go for such a frame, with all this uncertainty hanging over the heads of their Turkish brethren. On the other hand, had Turkey realized that there were tremendous benefits in turning Turkey into a bi-national Turkish-Kurdish State, they could have indeed lured into their sphere of influence the Kurds of Iraq – the oil world would have looked differently, and the chances of having created an EU interest in their future would have helped more modernize Turkey, then the way they ended up fighting the greater majority of their people without showing for real economic results. We hope now that the Consul will find a way to provide us with think-tank material to help explain the the thinking of the Turkish leadership – past and present.


Posted on on March 4th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

EU woos western Balkans with initiatives for citizens.

03.03.2008 – 17:20 CET | By Honor Mahony for Euobserver from Brusells, March 3, 2008.

The European Commission is on Wednesday expected to publish a series of proposals aimed at binding citizens of the western Balkan states to the EU, as the bloc’s politicians are increasingly concerned about the threat to stability in the region.

The draft paper, seen by EUobserver, outlines a number of initiatives that would have the ultimate effect of keeping the EU relevant for the citizens of Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia even as progress towards actual membership of the bloc remains slow, and in some countries endangered by the recent unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo.

The document says it wants to make the “prospect of membership visible and concrete for the citizens of the countries of the western Balkans.”

While stressing that EU membership progress continues to mean meeting certain criteria – for Serbia and Bosnia this includes cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) – the paper points to the importance of “people-to-people” contact.

The European Commission is promising to maintain the political will for achieving visa liberalisation in all of the countries. Only Croatians are currently not obliged to obtain a visa to travel to the EU.

It is also proposing to offer more scholarships to students of the region and aiming to double its current annual contribution of €10 million by 2009/10, enabling “several hundred additional students to receive a scholarship.”

The draft paper also says that Brussels will later this year suggest that potential EU membership candidates will take part in EU programmes on research, culture and competition on the same footing as those already on the EU membership list (Croatia and Macedonia).

Additionally, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and trafficking “will be stepped up”, says the paper, which also says that by early 2009, “a fully fledged regional school of public administration” should be established. Corruption is highlighted in the document as a problem affecting the whole region.

The commission is also highlighting the importance of economic reform, drawing attention to the importance of EU funding for small- and medium-sized businesses as well as security of energy supply, and is proposing closer co-operation on developing infrastructure in the region, as well as more cooperation in fighting natural disasters.

The paper notes that the western Balkans “will receive around €4 billion (…) for the period 2007-2011.” This amounts to €30 per capita per year – “by far the highest amount provided by the EC to any region in the world.”

The commission’s publication comes as the EU is increasingly worried about the prospect of instability in the Balkans, triggered by Kosovo’s move to independence from Serbia last month.

Pristina’s declaration has already caused EU dialogue with Serbia to all but dry up, has prompted secessionist talk in Bosnia and has seen a European civilian mission deployed to Kosovo, with fears that the small new state will in effect become a protectorate of the bloc.

Meanwhile, the EU has over the past few months been trying to tread a fine line between giving the Balkan states enough political cherries to keep them and their publics interested in the European Union while at the same time using the leverage of eventual membership to press for internal reforms and encourage stability and good neighbourly relations.

Also:     Macedonia to be set tasks to ensure opening EU negotiations.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is later this week to be told by the European Commission to undertake a series of tasks in order to guarantee that it can open membership negotiations with the EU later this year.

In a draft paper on the western Balkans, due to be published by the commission on Wednesday (5 March), Macedonia is to be told that the “pace of reforms has, on the whole, been slow during the past two years, [but] there have recently been signs of reforms gaining momentum.”

The Brussels paper, which may yet be altered, calls on the small Balkan country, an EU membership candidate since December 2005, to carry out further reforms and points to a list of priorities adopted by EU member states last month.

“These cover the commitments undertaken under the SAA [the stabilisation and association agreement], dialogue between political parties, implementation of the law on police and anti-corruption legislation, reform of the judiciary and public administration, as well as measures in employment policy and for enhancing the business environment.”

The paper says that when these priorities are met, Macedonia will have demonstrated “its readiness to undertake accession negotiations” – something Brussels believes can happen in 2008 with “sufficient political will and cross-party cooperation.”

In its annual progress Western Balkans report late last year, the commission did not give the green light for starting accession talks as Macedonia had hoped, citing political shortcomings for the delay.

Meanwhile, of all the countries in the region lining up to join – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and recently Kosovo – Croatia is the most advanced in terms of developments.

The commission says that in order for 2008 to be a “decisive year” for the country, which is hoping to join the EU by 2011, it needs to make further progress with judicial reforms, fighting corruption, minority rights, return of refugees and the restructuring of heavy industries.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has already initialled an SAA agreement, which is seen as the first step to EU membership. The country is encouraged in the paper to adopt state-level legislation on police, with Brussels saying that the key agreement may be signed “in the next few months”, provided there is enough political will.

Both Albania and Montenegro are told to strengthen the rule of law, especially in the fight against corruption and organised crime, and to properly implement the SAA.

Serbia, whose relations with the EU have cooled in the run-up to and since the declaration of Kosovo’s independence last month, is told that it has “a crucial role to play in ensuring stability, good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation in the western Balkans.”

The Netherlands recently blocked Serbia’s attempt to sign the SAA agreement with the EU saying it must cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

But an interim political deal was subsequently blocked by Belgrade’s nationalist prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, earlier this month. He argued it was being offered by Brussels as a trade-off for the independence of former Serb province Kosovo.

As regards Kosovo itself, where the EU has recently deployed a civilian mission, the paper says it has a “clear and concrete EU perspective.”

It warns the fledgling state that major challenges include fighting organised crime and corruption, supporting economic development, improving conditions for the return of refugees and enhancing dialogue and reconciliation between communities.

The EU is expected to spend over €1 billion between 2007 and 2010 supporting Kosovo’s political and economic development.


Posted on on February 14th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The following is the Monday February 11, 2008 UN Trusteship Council / UN General Assembly President’s Thematic Debate On Climate Change that was supposed to address what the UN is doing on that topic, and what “The World” – as represented in the UN thinking by the UN Member States, the NGOs, Academia, and the Media – are doing to have now real actions needed to remove this threat from over humanity’s head.

Monday there were also two panel discussions with leading questions from other guests and UN representatives. This was then followed up on Tuesday and Wednesday by 5 minute presentations from two thirds of the UN Membership. There were also several press conferences – some very poorly attended. Some of the material was also on UNTV – but the UN DPI did little to turn this into a service the UN provides to interested parties.
One of my complaints relates to the fact that the presentation by Chen Ying was transmitted on UNTV in its original Chinese – a language I did not muster yet. I know it is my fault, though I got to my credit that I was able to grasp the presentation in French by Youba Sokona. Oh yes – those gentlemen have no title of Ambassador – but I have suspicion that they did say something valuable that was lost on me – specially, as Mr. Akasaka, the UN Undersecretary-General in charge of communications and Public Information, did not answer the e-mail I addressed to him.

So, let me say this one more time – some in the UN staff will always be found ready to undermine what some top UN brass considers important. The UN has lots of space for improvement, and the need is much more then for swtching from incandescent bulbs to flurescence bulbs. The last comment is just one little thing that the UN HAS NOT DONE YET if it where to attempt to provide a demonstration that the words of top brass are more then just words.



Posted on on February 7th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The future of Serbia and Kosovo lies in the EU – Saryusz-Wolski
External relations officer for the European Parliamment.

February 5, 2008. Saryusz-Wolski: “EU is ready to absorb Serbia.
With the pro-European Boris Tadić just elected Serbia’s President, all eyes are now on Serbia’s relations with the EU and the future status of Kosovo. We spoke to Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, the Polish centre-right MEP who Chairs Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, about the possible future relationship of Serbia and Kosovo with the EU. He believes that both could one day be members of the Union – providing their people want it and they fulfil the rules for membership.

Boris Tadić has been re-elected as President of Serbia. What is your interpretation of this result?

First of all the elections have been executed according to all international standards and have expressed the free democratic will of the people. From the EU point of view it is good news: a newly re-elected president that shares European values and sees the future of Serbia within the European family. This gives the perspective of (European Union) membership to Serbia, hopefully in the not too distant future. So we are optimistic at this stage and looking forward to cooperating with the new president and his administration.

EU ministers recently decided to postpone the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), considered as the first step towards EU membership. How do you see the future of the relationship between Serbia and the EU?

The SAA is ready for signature, there are only minor reservations linked to the cooperation of Serbia with International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). So, as soon as these reservations disappear, the whole process of signing and then implementing the SAA can proceed. I certainly see Serbia’s future in the EU. The election of a president with the will to join the EU means that the Serbian people want this option. So now it is a question of technicalities, of finalising the SAA, implementing it and then achieving full membership.

Do you think that the EU is ready to “absorb” Serbia?

Yes, the EU is ready to absorb Serbia as all other states of Western Balkans, provided that the difficult and demanding conditions are met (the EU’s “Copenhagen criteria” membership requirements – democratic government, respect for human rights and a functioning market economy) – as for everybody who has joined so far. But first we need peace and stability in the Western Balkans and then we can negotiate membership.

The election seems to show Serbs deeply divided over a possible EU future for their country (Mr Tadić won slightly more than half of all votes). How can the EU win them over?

Once the SAA is signed and put into practice, the Commission and Parliament will monitor that process. Given time, once relations between Serbia and the EU have intensified and the association process has moved forward – then it is likely the attitudes of Serb citizens will be more and more in favour of EU integration.

Kosovo is expected to declare independence soon, a prospect that was opposed by both Serbian presidential candidates. How will this affect relations between the EU and Serbia?

We know that the Kosovo problem is very difficult and painful for Serbia but we are looking towards integrating into the EU the whole of the Western Balkans. So once all those countries are in all those borders will disappear. We are looking forward to establishing good relations throughout the Western Balkans, but especially between Serbia and Kosovo.

What is important now is that if there is a unilateral declaration of independence, as many Member States as possible recognise Kosovo.

Will Kosovo join the EU?

I think that this is the future for Kosovo provided obviously that this is the will of its citizens – their future lies also in the Union.


Posted on on February 2nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

January 31, Thursday Text | video-4.gif


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UN Briefings archive

31 January 2008


Spokesperson’s Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.
{as provided by the UN.}
{We, at will insert into the material names of people that asked questions as per what we saw on UNTV. The attached webcast will validate that we do not make mistakes. We will also point out a couple of significant differences between the UN transcript and the original webcast – as we believe that “doctored” transcripts do not make for honesty! We will highight or underline important points.}

Briefing by the Associate Spokesperson of the Secretary-General

Good afternoon

**Secretary-General in Addis Ababa:

The Secretary-General today addressed the opening session in Addis Ababa of the African Union Summit, and he drew attention to the alarming developments in Kenya, calling on the gathered African leaders to urge and encourage the leaders and people of Kenya to calm the violence and resolve their differences through dialogue and respect for the democratic process.

He later told reporters at a press conference that he would travel tomorrow to Nairobi to give his full support to the Panel of Eminent African Persons, led by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He said he would meet with Raila Odinga, some civil society leaders and visit UN staff as well. And he urged the Kenyan people: “Stop the killings and end the violence now, before it is too late!”

We have his speech to the AU and his opening remarks to the press conference upstairs.

Following the press conference, the Secretary-General met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, and encouraged him to move toward a quick resolution of the crisis. They discussed the humanitarian situation in the country and the situation of internally displaced persons, as well as the Secretary-General’s trip tomorrow.

Earlier, the Secretary-General had spoken by phone with Kofi Annan to commend his role in the negotiations. They talked about the serious impact of the violence on Kenya’s economy.

The Secretary-General also had bilateral meetings with several other leaders gathered for the African Union Summit. He met with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and said that he was encouraged by the arrangements agreed to between Algeria and the United Nations for the forthcoming investigative panel looking into the 11 December Algiers attack.

He later met with Prime Minister Guillaume Soro of Côte d’Ivoire, with whom he discussed the Ouagadougou Accords and the elections that are to take place this June, which the United Nations will support.
In a meeting with President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, the Secretary-General talked about the President’s nomination to head the Economic Community of West African States, as well as Burkina Faso’s role in the Security Council and the situations in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea.

The Secretary-General also has meetings scheduled today with the Prime Ministers of Somalia and Guinea, and the Presidents of Benin and South Africa.

**Security Council:

The Security Council, after receiving a briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo yesterday afternoon from Associate Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Dmitry Titov, approved a resolution that authorizes the UN Mission in that country to provide assistance to the Congolese authorities in the organization, preparation and conduct of local elections.

In a presidential statement, the Security Council also congratulated President Joseph Kabila and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as the organizers of and participants in the Goma Conference for Peace, Security and Development in North and South Kivu, on the success of that event.

The Security Council also adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea by six months, until the end of July.

Council members yesterday also discussed Kenya in their consultations, and afterward, the Council President, Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi of Libya, said that Council members deplored the continuing violence following disputed elections there. They welcomed the convening of a national dialogue under the mediation of Kofi Annan and urged both sides to engage fully and constructively to secure a political solution.

Today is the last day of Libya’s Council Presidency, and Panama will assume the rotating Presidency of the Council tomorrow.

** Chad:

A series of armed attacks on the UN refugee agency and other aid organizations has forced UNHCR to evacuate most of its staff from its office in Guereda in eastern Chad.

In the last 72 hours, five vehicles belonging to UNHCR, its non-governmental organization partners and Médecins Sans Frontières Suisse were stolen at gunpoint. The UNHCR compound in Guereda was entered by armed men two nights in a row — on Wednesday and Thursday.

Tensions between opposition forces and the Chadian National Army have been mounting since Monday, leading to increased security incidents, especially in Guereda, about 165 km north-east of Abeche.

There is a UNHCR press release with more details.

Meanwhile, the UN Team in Chad is concerned over the looming shortage of food aid in Chad. The UN is expecting that, due to the logistics reasons, there will be shortcomings of food supplies to refugees and internally displaced persons over the month of February.

**Meeting of Troop-Contributing Countries

This morning, as planned, a meeting of troop and police contributors to three UN missions — UNAMID in Darfur, MINURCAT in Chad and the Central African Republic, and MONUC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — was held.

General Per Five, the military advisor for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, briefed on all three missions.

On UNAMID, he flagged the shortfalls in military aviation assets, namely helicopters, and underlined challenges to timely deployments in Darfur, including cross-border raids into West Darfur.

Associate Secretary-General and Officer in Charge of the Department of Field Support, Jane Holl Lute, noted the importance of moving ahead on the successful deployment of UNAMID and its linkage with the neighbouring mission in Chad and Central African Republic, saying that the mission in Chad will not succeed if the mission in Darfur does not succeed.

** Gaza:

The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, or UNSCO, reports that yesterday more than 70 trucks went into Gaza from Israel through the Karni and Sufa crossings. But all supplies in Gaza are still dwindling, UNSCO says.

At 11 last night, the UN Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, and the World Food Programme (WFP) were told by the Israelis that they could bring trucks into the Kerem Shalom crossing today. WFP only had time to prepare one truck, but UNRWA managed to get 12 trucks, containing milk and rice, ready to go. However, when they arrived at Kerem Shalom this morning, it was closed, and all 13 trucks had to return to Ashdod. Returning the trucks cost UNRWA more than $8,000.

{ The Transcript was “doctored” – originally the Spokesperson made the mistake of saying that it was $8,000 per truck which he later corrected to $8000 total. This is petty – but a transcripts calls for verity and hype creates a nurturing atmosphere for bigotry. In Effect at this point the spokesperson, as per webcast, said clearly $8000 per Truck – and we feel that this is like throwing Fuel on a fire.}

UNSCO also reports that fuel is going through as planned. But electricity cuts continue and approximately 40 per cent of the Gazan population still doesn’t have regular access to water.
** Myanmar:

The Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, Ibrahim Gambari, today concluded his consultations in New Delhi in the context of the Secretary-General’s good offices mandate for Myanmar.

During his trip, Mr. Gambari met with Indian Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari; Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, in continuation of earlier consultations to explore how India could, in concrete terms, support the Secretary-General’s good offices. Mr. Gambari is encouraged by these consultations and by India’s support for the Secretary-General’s good offices on Myanmar.

** Nepal:

Over in Nepal, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kang Kyung-wha, today visited Nepalgunj, where she met with civil society organizations, lawyers and representatives of the Nepal Police in the city.

In the meetings, she discussed issues of gender and discrimination, which are the focus of her visit to the mid-western region.

The Deputy High Commissioner also visited the National Human Rights Commission’s regional office to discuss cooperation between the two organizations, and she is expected to meet with representatives of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN).

**Climate Change:

Out on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s report on UN activities in relation to climate change. It was prepared in response to a General Assembly resolution requesting a comprehensive overview of such activities ahead of its upcoming debate on that topic, which is scheduled for 11 and 12 February.

In the report, the Secretary-General reviews recent developments in this area, including the December high-level meeting in Bali, as well as ways to support global, regional and national action and make the UN itself climate-neutral.

In order to place the world on a sustainable energy path, global investments of between $15 and $20 trillion may be needed over the next 20 to 25 years, the Secretary-General says {sayd}. He notes that, if those choices are based on a solid economic rationale and sound scientific evidence, they can unlock a huge potential for change and put the world onto a sustainable energy path.

{This is obviously the most interesting topic for our media outlet – and the fact that we were excluded from room S-226 clearly interfered with our coverage of this subject in particular, and of the UN in general. We already posted February 2, 2008 on the A/62/644 UN document.}


Environmental and economic damage caused by the alarming loss of mangroves in many countries should be urgently addressed, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today. In that context, FAO called for better mangrove protection and management programmes.

FAO added that, if deforestation of mangroves continues, it can lead to severe losses of biodiversity and livelihoods, in addition to increased salt in coastal areas and the build-up of soil around coral reefs, ports and shipping lanes. Tourism would also suffer.

And we have more on that upstairs.

And right after this, we will have Janos Tisovszky, the Spokesman of the President of the General Assembly, who will talk to you. Are there any questions before that?
**Questions and Answers:

Question from Benny Avni of The New York Sun: On those trucks, do you know first of all whether that incident happened after the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision or before?

Associate Spokesperson: That would have happened afterwards. They were informed at 11 p.m. yesterday. In other words, considerably after the Supreme Court’s decision.

Follow-up Question: Do you believe that it is related to the Supreme Court’s decision?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t think that we have made a connection. At this stage, all that we have done is prepare for the opening of the crossings. And when the crossings did not open, the trucks went back, and, like I said, that did entail waste.

Follow-up Question: And to follow up on this, is there any thinking about one more time trying to get those trucks through the much wider opening now in Rafah?

Associate Spokesperson: At this stage, we are trying to use whatever crossings are available to us.

Follow-up Question: Rafah is available to everyone.

Associate Spokesperson: I mentioned the crossings through Israel that we have been working on and we will continue to explore all options to get aid into the country.

{Benny Avni was trying to say that with the walls around the Rafah crossings down – there is no problem geting UN provisions – milk and rice into Gaza – just go from the other side. But this probably would have invalidated this reason on banging on Israel’s reluctance to do business with Hamas.}

Question from Masood Haider, Accredited to the UN for the Daily Dawn of Pakistan, and UN Correspondents Association President During The Years 2005 and 2006: I mean, in remembrance of the Holocaust, there is an exhibition going on here and all the condemnation of atrocities that happened to the Jews. What is happening at this point in time is tantamount to genocide and what have you, and the Secretary-General, all of the United Nations and the Security Council has been totally unable to do anything about it or to call for action. If the Secretary-General offers, can do something to alleviate the suffering of the people in Gaza, is there something that he can explore?

Associate Spokesperson: We are doing all that we can concerning Gaza. I just mentioned the humanitarian efforts.

{ the webcast has here further – “just to note on these trucks, the $8,000 figure is for the total and not per truck.”}

But to get back to your question: The Secretary-General has been in touch with a number of leaders on this. In fact, just this morning, I didn’t highlight this, but he had also talked with Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, and one of the topics they discussed was the situation in Gaza. He has been in touch, as you know, just a few days ago with President Shimon Perez and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of Israel. He is continuing to press on all sides to make sure that the desperately needed humanitarian aid can be sent into Gaza. He has been pressing on that daily.

There was, by the way, recently, within the past couple of hours, a teleconference by the principal members of the Quartet, that is to say: the Secretary-General; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; Dimitrij Rupel, the Slovenian Foreign Minister who represents the EU presidency; Javier Solana, the European Union High Representative; European Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner; and Quartet Envoy Tony Blair. So they have all been discussing issues in the context of the Quartet, and one of the topics clearly that came up with that was the situation in Gaza.

{“Benny Avni asked out of turn – Was There Anything on Genocide here?“} And Masood Haider followed up: There was also a report by Human Rights Watch that also mentioned this. Does he have any response to that?

Associate Spokesperson: We don’t have any direct response to this. Like I said, the basic point is that we are doing everything we can to make sure that the humanitarian conditions in Gaza improve.

{Now, Masood Haider’s bigotry is not the issue that stood up our hair when we watched these exchanges on TV. As we shall see – it did not stop with his throwing the words Holocaust and genocide at Israel not letting milk and rice from his side of the border into Gaza. As we shall see further – it was eventually the incomprehensible lack of appropriate reaction of UN employee Farhan Haq – that has become the issue.}


Question From Mr. Abdelkadder Abbadi, a former UN employee, accredited now for The Independent: The current situation in Kenya with over 1,000 people have died. And the Secretary-General said he would not let the situation evolve to genocide. Francis Deng, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the Prevention of Genocide spoke loud a few days ago. And a US diplomat says that there is now ethnic cleansing. And yet, when the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs was here a few weeks ago, and when I asked him a question about the possibility of the situation sliding into violence like in Burundi and Rwanda, he did not want to hear that. My question: Is Humanitarian Affairs underestimating the situation in Kenya? And two, are all the Departments going to put into practice preventive diplomacy, or is this [inaudible] exclusively for the Political Department?

Associate Spokesperson: As far as those questions go: No, I don’t believe that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is underestimating the problem. They are there, as a matter of fact, on the ground trying desperately to provide humanitarian aid to the tens of thousands of people who have been dislocated by the recent violence. So they are well aware of what the nature of the problem is. As Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe said to reporters at the stakeout yesterday — he was asked about whether what was happening was ethnic cleansing or something else — his basic point has been: it doesn’t matter now how you label it. What is important is to get pressure to bear on all the sides to alleviate the situation right now. What we are trying to do is prevent worse things from happening, to prevent mass atrocities or anything worse than that. Beyond that, we are not characterizing what the nature of the situation is, and when the Secretary-General is on the ground tomorrow, he will have a chance to see first-hand for himself what the situation is like and also to be in touch with Kofi Annan, who is the person who is currently in charge of the diplomatic efforts that the international community is bringing to bear.

Follow-up Question: If I may, I was not asking about the dimension, I was asking about the possibility of anticipating the situation turning onto massive violence such as in Burundi and Rwanda. And the second question was: are all the Departments of the United Nations going to implement the policy of preventive diplomacy, or is this reserved exclusively for the Political Department?

Associate Spokesperson: To the extent that they can, all of the UN offices are doing what they can to prevent the situation from worsening, yes. As far as that goes, they are all committed to making sure that we can prevent the crisis from spiralling out of hand. Whether it involves deploying humanitarian assistance to parties on the ground, whether it involves supporting the diplomatic efforts, including the one by the Eminent African Personalities, we are trying to do what we can to prevent, indeed, something worse from happening. And the Secretary-General, in his comments today, made it very clear that he will not tolerate another Rwanda happening.

Question from Jonathan Wachtel, from Fox TV News: Louise Arbour found herself in a bit of a stir over seemingly lending her support to what appears an Arab initiative to try to equate Zionism to racism. And I am just wondering, is there any talk of that, what exactly is her position on this?

Associate Spokesperson: Louis Arbour actually put out a statement yesterday. We can provide you with that statement when you go upstairs. But it makes very clear that there was language in the Arab Charter {the webcast shows Arab Covenant on Human Rights} on Human Rights that had to do with Zionism that she did not support. She did not endorse that language, which is in contradiction with the relevant resolution of the General Assembly. And we have more details, like I said, in a press release upstairs.

Follow-up Question from the Correspondent: One of the things that people have been complaining about this issue is that she has not reprimanded those individuals who allowed it to get as far as it did. Even that something like this would come to the surface…

Associate Spokesperson: No, no, her position on this is very clear and you can see it in the press release. She does not support that language.

{Now, that is plain cover-up on the part of the UN Spokesperson. Ms. Arbour did nothing until serious proding came from UN Watch. In effect she is not the person that should deal with this sort of questions of Human Rights. There is already a decision on UN books that it is forbidden to equate Zionism and Racism. Sure, some Arabs find ways to come back and try to reintroduce the subject under guises of democratic institutions that are nothing more then operations set up by bigots. We wrote about the Louise Arbour flap on January 30, 2008.}

Question from a lady correspondent for Saudi Press: I know I have asked this several times during the briefing, but any update on the UN investigation into the Algiers bombing — the negotiations between the UN and the Algerian Government [inaudible] not being consulted?

Associate Spokesperson: As far as that goes, the Secretary-General, among leaders he met with today, did meet with the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and they did discuss the panel. And the Secretary-General is encouraged by the progress that has been made on this. I hope that we will be able to tell you a little bit more about the panel sometime hopefully next week. But certainly, the Secretary-General has been encouraged by his discussions.


A different lady correspondent: My question is about Western Sahara. A few days ago Marie said that Peter van Walsum will be making a trip to the region before the next round of talks in Manhasset. Do you have any more information on that? When is his trip going to be and what the agenda is?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t believe we have the dates announced yet. But it should be happening sometime in February. We will try and get you some more details on that.


Question from Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: Is this report about the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) peacekeeping mission there finding that peacekeepers had vandalized longstanding art in Western Sahara? I wonder, can you tell us what battalion or what contingent the peacekeepers were from, and what the UN is going to do about it?

Associate Spokesperson: As far as that goes, I can tell you that the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has launched a formal inquiry into this matter and has taken action to prevent any further vandalism.

While not all the damage appears to have been done by UN peacekeepers, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has requested UNESCO’s assistance in evaluating the damage to the two sites and recommending what, if any, repair measures can be taken. UNESCO is currently putting together a group of qualified experts to travel to the area as soon as possible. UNESCO is also prepared to provide material for peacekeeping training programmes on the protection of cultural property.

And just to let you know also that the UN remains committed to maintaining the highest standards of conduct among peacekeepers and to respecting fully the local customs and property of the territory in which they operate.

Follow-up Question: What action is being taken to prevent this? Are there gates being fenced off? When you say actions are being taken, what is being done?

Associate Spokesperson: They are taking remedial measures, and like I said, they are also putting into place an inquiry to find out who precisely has done this and what needs to be done. They will take whatever follow-up measures are warranted.

Question from Hans Janitchek from the Austrian Kronen Zeitung: Now that the attention has shifted from Gaza to Kenya, the UN has been mobilized, while at the same time the Security Council failed to take any action in that regard to the crisis in the Gaza, there are stories or reports that this may be shifted to the General Assembly, may be talking about a resolution. Is there any truth to that?

Associate Spokesperson: At this stage, I don’t have anything to say. However, my colleague from the General Assembly may speak to you about this after I am done.


Question from Jonathan Wactell of Fox TV News: George Clooney mentioned a need to get the UN more engaged in Darfur and resolve the crisis there. Is Ban planning any sort of trip soon or any discussions with Bashir to get things rolling?

Associate Spokesperson: The Secretary-General spoke with President Bashir just yesterday. I think we gave you a readout about that and I can give you that. One of the things that they emphasized was the need to move forward on UNAMID deployment. Meanwhile, Mr. Guéhenno has been in Khartoum and also in Addis Ababa recently, trying to move forward on the status-of-forces agreement. We are hoping that will be signed very soon. So we are doing all we can on the peacekeeping front, and of course, our humanitarian efforts also continue.

Follow-up Question: What was the response from Bashir that was not shared, in terms of whether he is now going to follow through with some of the things that he had agreed with?

Associate Spokesperson: What I got from Michèle was in fact that he agreed with the Secretary-General on the need to move forward as quickly as possible with the deployment of UNAMID.

Follow-up Question: You mentioned, George Clooney did, that he was scheduled to speak before the troop-contributing countries meeting and he seemed somewhat miffed. He said, “I was going to do it but now I am not, so I am briefing you.” Can you explain to us what — I know yesterday — Marie said he was going to speak to the troop-contributing countries meeting — what happened between yesterday’s noon briefing and today?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, due to procedural issues, Mr. Clooney did not attend the briefing, and instead he went directly to the press conference. The troop contributors’ meeting continued as scheduled, as we mentioned. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations says it is continuing to look for opportunities for Mr. Clooney to continue to engage with the peacekeeping community, including the troop-contributing countries and the police-contributing countries, as far as they can arrange these things in the future.

Follow-up Question: What were the procedural issues? Did any member of the Council object to his participation?

Associate Spokesperson: As you know, any time individual experts, people who will speak under their own expertise, meet with Member States, there have to be consultations with Member States. This was something that was part of the whole effort to get Member States consulted. I am not aware of what the precise problems were, but ultimately, you can only speak once the consultation stage with Member States has been carried out.

{Pitiful – not many people were saved in Darfur because of talks at the UN – we reported this week on the Cloony flap. The man has good intentions and wil not let the UN misuse him.}


Question fromm Benny Avni of The New York Sun: Two questions. One, is there a shortlist on the independent committee on Algiers, and who will lead it?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have anything to say on the names of people on Algiers right now. Yes, we are gathering people together. I do hope, possibly early next week, to be able to tell you something about it. We are moving very close. I think we are actually close to figuring out who will head that, but we are still a few days away, I think.

Follow-up Question: Okay, one more question. Since the word was mentioned here. In the consultations you mentioned among the Quartet and all those involved in the Gaza thing, did anybody mention the word genocide in this context?

Associate Spokesperson: I am not aware of that, but I would still have to wait for any readout or communiqué following the Quartet.

Follow-up Question: Is that the word the Secretary-General supports in any way?

Associate Spokesperson: You know, the purpose of this briefing is not to settle disputes between different journalists. You and Masood can talk about your differences outside of this room.

Follow-up Question:
[inaudible] by Security Council members, so I need to know whether the Secretary-General supports that. One member of the Security Council in a speech said it was genocide, and then he said it was a crime against humanity. I have to ask whether the Secretary-General supports in any way those characterizations.

Associate Spokesperson: That is not a term we have used. At the same time, these definitions tend to be made by Member States or bodies of Member States, and we leave it to them to make the call.

{ Now this is a very weak answer by the UN Spokesperson – he seemingly does not know about UN General Assembly Resolutions that recognize Holocaust as a very special event that happened to the Jewish people and forbid the denial of the holocaust at the UN. It is not enough to hide behind groups of states that may throw around the word genocide with impunity. The Spokesperson, like Ms. Louise Arbour, have the obligation to reprimand anyone who makes allusions to these terms for factional reasons – this includes the correspondent Massod Haider – sitting in front of him}

Follow-up Question: I wanted to ask for some detail on the trucks with the milk and the rice. When you said there was some waste, does that mean that … did the milk spoil? I assume, with the rice, they can bring it back another time. Is that the case with the milk?

Associate Spokesperson: Some of the things hopefully can be brought back. Certainly there was some spoilage that resulted from the fact that they were sent back from the closed border crossing.


Question from a correspondent: I need some clarification. What exactly is the difference between a “Messenger of Peace” and a “UN Goodwill Ambassador”? Is the Goodwill Ambassador just for agencies, or…?

Associate Spokesperson: The Messengers of Peace are people who are appointed by the Secretary-General for different causes. Different agencies do have their own Goodwill Ambassadors. There is a wider network of that. But the Messengers of Peace are selected by the Secretary-General.


Question from Masood Haider accredited by The Dawn of Pakistan: The Amnesty International today issued a report saying there were crimes against humanity committed by Israel in the war against Lebanon, against the Hizbullah in Lebanon. Is there any comment on that?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have any comment on that. There are a number of reports on Lebanon, including one that was released by the Winograd Commission in Israel itself. We would need to study those before we comment on any of them.


Question from Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: I guess this is a question about UN policy. In this issue where UN officials or staff of the UN are not supposed to take benefits or housing subsidies from Governments, what safeguards are in place to ensure that by payments or housing subsidies to spouses of UN officials or staff, that that is not an indirect form of subsidies? What review is done by the Ethics Office, and what policy do you have in place on this?

Associate Spokesperson: The Ethics Office does review, not just senior officials, but also the monies and properties that their spouses own. So they are vetted. There is a vetting process.

Follow-up Question: Does that include rental property? They seem to list property they own, but if a Mission to the UN pays rent…

Associate Spokesperson: I believe someone from the Ethics Office might talk to you about this in the future. But I don’t go into all these details of how the vetting process is conducted, but there is a vetting process.


Here there was a question from Mr. Abbadi about UNCTAD that was left out from the transcript.


Question from Mr Abdelkader Abbadi: Concerning Myanmar, there are indications that some restrictions have been lifted around the residence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Can you confirm that?

Associate Spokesperson: As far as that goes, we do welcome the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to meet again with the Executive Committee of her party, as well as with Liaison Minister Aung Kyi. However, the concerns that have been expressed underline the need for the authorities to seize every opportunity to engage in a meaningful and time-bound dialogue that produces substantive results, as called for repeatedly by the Secretary-General and by Mr. Gambari. And of course, one of the things we have repeatedly called for in that regard is the lifting of all restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Question: Is there any sort of communication from NLD or Aung San Suu Kyi after the meeting was over?

Associate Spokesperson: We have not seen the full statement attributed to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We have only seen press reports quoting an NLD spokesperson. However, Mr. Gambari looks forward to returning to Myanmar as soon as possible in order to follow up on this and all the other issues which he has discussed with all concerned.

Question from Matthew Russell Lee: Is Mr. Gambari coming back, or is he going to China?

Associate Spokesperson: He is coming back first to New York. He will go back to China in the coming month, but the dates have to be arranged around the Chinese New Year.

Question: There is a report by the Tamil Tigers, which I am sure you can pronounce better than I, have written to Ban Ki-moon, raising issues about a bombing of a school bus, but also a request saying that “we urge you to reconsider recognizing Tamil sovereignty”. Has he received such a letter, and also what steps would he take on a hybrid letter that both alleges Government responsibility for a bombing and asks for sovereignty?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, first we have to wait to see whether we have received the letter before we can determine a response. So we will have to check on that.


Question from Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press: The construction that is taking place on the North Lawn is supposedly for a concert next week? I would like to know what is the admission charged to that event and what percentage of the funds are going to something called “Raising Malawi”, and is it the UN’s understanding that it is in fact a non-profit? All of the funds will go to Malawi?

Associate Spokesperson: As far as that goes, I will refer those questions to UNICEF. UNICEF has been involved. Some of the arrangements are made by the US Committee for UNICEF. They do have a press release that we have upstairs that has some details on this for you. But beyond that, I think you should communicate with UNICEF directly.


Question from Mr. Hans Janitchek of the Austraian Kronen Zeitung: Mr. Norbert Darabos, the Austrian Minister of Defence, a conscientious objector by the way, would be visiting the UN next week. I understand that a meeting has been scheduled with the Secretary-General regarding the Chad mission, in which Austrian troops will participate — a highly controversial matter in Austria. Would you mind commenting on the significance of an Austrian contribution to this effort?

Associate Spokesperson: Not of any particular country’s contribution. Certainly, we appreciate the contributions that all countries have been making, trying to help stabilize the situations both in Chad and the Central African Republic, and we encourage Member States to step forward and do so.


And with that, Janos? Here Mr. Farkhan Haq from the office of the Spokesperson to the UNSG, turned the proceedings over to Mr. Janos Tisovsky – the Spokesman for the PGA (President of the UN General Assembly)
Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President.

Thank you very much. Good afternoon, good to see you. I promised I would come as often as I can, or rather as often as I have something to say. To give you a little bit of an update on what is going on — and today happens to be a day -– even though there are a lot of things happening -– that I do have something to say as far, as the General Assembly is concerned, and also give you a little update on what will be happening.

Let me start with the President.

General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim sent a message to the African Union Summit, which –- as you all know — opened this morning.

In that message, President Kerim noted that the African Union, and all its member States, had an impressive history of constructive participation in the General Assembly’s work. The sixty-second session of the UN General Assembly had been marked by a more responsive, cooperative and substantive approach to the five priority issues on its agenda: accelerating achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; reviewing implementation of financing for development; addressing climate change; counter-terrorism; and advancing United Nations reform.

He stressed that the strong emphasis on development served the cause of a more comprehensive multilateralism, where the African Union had a crucial role to play. He added that, in particular, he was looking to the AU leadership for a way forward on the pressing need to make progress on Security Council reform, including in the form of intergovernmental negotiations.

And the full text of the message is available for you upstairs. {And} Before you ask me on Security Council reform, which I just mentioned in the context of this message, let me say that I have no new developments on that to report, as consultations are ongoing. According to the way it was discussed when the Open-Ended Working Group first met, I think it was on the 14th of December. And the President’s timetable is still the one that will be followed, according to which, there is supposed to be focused debate of the Open-Ended Working Group sometime in late February or early March, then possibly in April, and then in June.

Let me go back to something that Farhan flagged for you already, and that is the Secretary-General’s (report on) climate change {report}. It is an overview of UN activities in relation to climate change. For those of you really into the symbols and numbers, it is A/62/644. And Farhan noted that this was based on a request by the General Assembly in a resolution that was adopted on 19 November. That resolution is 62/8, and it is a resolution proposed by the President of the Assembly.

As I have said many times, of the main priorities — the five priorities that I have mentioned in the context of the message to the AU — one of the (“key” – the webcast does not have this word) priorities for President Kerim, one that he calls his flagship issue, is climate change. It is in this context that the Secretary-General’s report was requested to give an overview to Member States on the UN system response to climate change -– and assist the General Assembly as it will discuss this issue on 11-12 February in an informal thematic debate, which was convened by the President.

I think I have mentioned this also before to you, but I will reiterate it again, that the programme and background for this two-day meeting — which could go {in the webcast it says drag-on}into a third day based on already what we hear from Member States as far as their interest is in addressing this issue — is available to you on the President’s website. Next week we will have a little bit more information in the form of a media advisory for you. On the day of the 11th, we will also try and get some kind of stakeout or some kind of a press briefing for you. Some of the key people who will be coming include Sir Richard Branson and also Mayor Michael Bloomberg {will be here}.

This will be the second thematic debate on climate change within the General Assembly. Some of you will remember that the first was in July and August last year. That was convened under the sixty-first session and that basically focused on awareness raising and reviewed national strategies. This (upcoming) {summary} February debate is about triggering collective action on all levels: Member States, business, NGOs, UN system, not just individually, but also collectively.

The whole idea of this informal thematic debate is to {gain synergy} give support to the Bali road map process and also to stimulate the UN system to create synergies and create institutional support for the Bali road map negotiations.

The idea is to bring in various stakeholders. On the first day of the debate, on the 11th, there will be two panel discussions. The first one will bring in participation from business, NGOs, media, regional organizations, civil society. The second panel in the afternoon will bring in various UN system actors. The second day, the 12th {will have Membe States Presentations} — and maybe the 13th — will have Member States addressing this same issue.

Let me finally just say one word on something that already came up in the briefing that Farhan had, and something that is in the news. The so-called General Assembly Special Session or emergency special session in the context of what may happen as far as the Gaza issue is concerned. I am going to address it just from the procedural perspective, so I am not pre-judging anything on this.

But what you must know is that, in addition to the normal regular sessions that the Assembly has, it may also meet in special and so-called emergency special sessions. So far, there have been 27 special sessions held by the Assembly and ten emergency special sessions. The rules on this are pretty well stated in the General Assembly rule book, they are from rule 7 to 11 on how they are supposed to be convened.

However, there is also a possibility, and this is what we are talking about most likely in this context, or at least, this is what the news has been about, is that Member States also have the possibility to choose to request the resumption of the so-called tenth emergency special session, which was temporarily adjourned in July 2004. The General Assembly then decided to authorize the President of the General Assembly to resume the session upon request from Member States. A request from one M ember State should be sufficient to do this. It would then be up to the President to accede to the request. Please note, however, that the tenth emergency special session is to consider the following topic: “illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.

Originally it was convened in 1997. Since then, it had several meetings and, as I said, in 2004 it ended without formally closing, but with the possibility to resume. In fact, during the sixty-first session, it was resumed twice, as some of you may remember. And the last related resolution on this issue, which is –- again for those of you who are into numbers –- it is A/RES/ES-10/17 (for emergency special session)-10 (for the tenth)/17 (that is the seventeenth resolution concerning this special session) -– concluded with the following last paragraph. It says it: “Decides to adjourn the tenth emergency special session temporarily and to authorize the President of the General Assembly at its most recent session to resume the meeting of the special session upon request from Member States.” So again, that is the legal basis for you.

Please also note that any decisions taken in the course of that emergency special session would require two thirds majority of Members present and voting, as they would be considered as decisions on “important questions” within the meaning of so-called Article 18 of the Charter –- that relates to international peace and security.

Let me also mention again — although some of you who cover this issue may remember — that the last time when this emergency special session was resumed, it was based on a request from one Member State on behalf of the League of Arab States and another Member State on behalf of the members of the Non-Aligned-Movement.

Again, still on procedure, if the President receives such a request, it would be up to him, as I said, to accede to the request. In the event that he decides to resume the session, he would then send a letter to the entire membership informing them of his decision and notifying them of the date and time of the resumed meeting.

That is what I have on that as far as procedure is concerned.

And a little bit of update of what may be happening and what has happened.

The last time I talked to you I did mention that the Assembly did continue with its so-called informal briefings, which it had in November and December. In November, it was the Secretary-General who briefed, in December it was Ibrahim Gambari on Myanmar. On 29th of January, so two days ago, the Chair of the PBC, the Peacebuilding Commission, did an informal briefing.

As regards next week: there is going to be a resumption of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on General Assembly Revitalisation. That is going to have its first meeting in the framework of the sixty-second session, most likely on 7 February. That is a closed meeting.

The President is expected to brief NGOs on a variety of different issues as far as the work of the General Assembly is concerned. That should be also on 7th February.

I did mention already to you that there is a meeting on system-wide coherence with the idea of general stock taking, looking at the report emanating from the sixty-first session on 8 February. That is also a closed meeting.

So, that is what we are looking at as far as the Assembly is concerned. As I said, the big event, the first big event, upcoming, open and important, is the 11-12 –- and possibly 13 — February informal thematic debate on climate change.

That’s what I have. Mr. Abadi, please.

**Questions and Answers:

Question from Mr. Abdelkader Abbadi: Thank you. You mentioned five priority areas that the President listed for the General Assembly. There is an important subject, that is, disarmament that we don’t hear much about. Since disarmament would potentially release a lot of financial resources for financing development, does the President of the General Assembly consider that disarmament is a priority area?

Spokesperson: I think he definitely does, especially, as you mentioned, as it relates to financing for development, or as it may relate to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But I think disarmament may also come up in the context of this part of the work of the Assembly -– the second so-called major part as opposed to the main part of the session where disarmament was part of the First Committee deliberations. In the second part of the session, I think where disarmament may feature is amongst one of the topics that the President of the Assembly is taking up and is going to carry forward in the form of another thematic debate, and that is human security. In that context, I’m sure that disarmament will feature.

Follow-up Question: So he doesn’t consider disarmament as a high priority area?

Spokesperson: He does consider it as a very important topic, yes, as a continuously important topic of the Assembly.


Question from Mr. Hans Janitchek of the Austrian Kronen Zeitung: Thank you so much for explaining the procedural aspects of the General Assembly’s involvement with the Council issue. I just have a procedural question in that context. There has been no request so far, obviously, although one country would suffice.

Spokesperson: That’s correct.

Follow-up Question: As far as the President is concerned, of course, it’s his decision, under all circumstances, or does it depend on the number of Member States that request an emergency session? Is there any regulation in that respect?

Spokesperson: If we’re talking about requesting an emergency special session — not the resumption of the tenth emergency special session, but another one -– that is convened by the majority of Member States or through the Security Council. That would be a new one; that would be the eleventh (emergency special session). If we’re talking about the resumption of the tenth, then the request from one Member State should be enough to trigger the process. It would be up to the Member States. Obviously the President would consult and would work with other Member States, etc., and then would make his decisions. Matthew, it’s not about “sole source”, right?


Question: No.

Spokesperson: Just kidding. Go ahead, it can be about it.

Question from Matthew Russell Lee of The Inner City Press: It’s about the Fifth Committee, though. I’ve heard the Bureau of the Fifth Committee is meeting to determine the agenda for March.

Spokesperson: That is correct. Yes. The Bureau is meeting to determine the agenda for the March resumed Session.

Follow-up Question: The question I wanted to ask is whether the proposed restructuring and increased funding to the Department of Political Affairs is on the agenda or is it contingent on similar restructuring being to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs? Has it already taken place or is it yet to take place?

Spokesperson: My understanding is, I think, that it is actually happening today, that the Bureau is meeting. In regard to your question, we can only be sure after the Bureau meeting to see exactly what happened.

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesperson: I knew that you’d be asking so I’m tracking the process, and whatever I can extract and I’m at liberty to reveal, I will definitely make available to you.

Question: And the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, is this on your bailiwick?

Spokesperson: I don’t have anything on that. I can certainly follow up and see what….

Question: They’re supposed to have deferred action on something called the Democracy Coalition Project. It’s a US-based NGO that fell under a lot of questioning about what democracy is and whether democracy is consistent with the UN. I don’t know if you can get a read-out on it. It says deferred, but I don’t know if that means that it’s….

Spokesperson: I’ll try to find out something and see what we can get you. I’ve not been following it.


Question: On the activities of the President of the General Assembly. He met with the Albanian Foreign Minister Monday?

Spokesperson: That is correct, yes.

Question: On Balkans…

Spokesperson: It wasn’t Monday, it was Sunday. We put out the statement Monday morning.

Question: Given that the topic was Balkan stability, did the issue of Kosovo come up and, if so, in what context, and what’s the President’s view of the Kosovo situation?

Spokesperson: Well, first of all, regional stability came up in its broad context. It was a very brief meeting. The President has known the Foreign Minister for some time, actually, because, as you may know, the President in his previous capacity did function as Foreign Minister of his country. That’s the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. So they knew each other from the past. It was a brief meeting, but I think, as the press statement mentioned, apart from regional stability, one of the key topics there was system-wide coherence and delivering as one, since Albania is one of the pilot countries in that process. You may remember, there are eight of them and Albania is one of them. And the President is pretty keen on this issue of system-wide coherence -– delivering as one -– to see how that works. That is also one of the issues on his agenda amongst the management reform issues. So that was more of the focus of attention. On Kosovo, the President has always maintained that he would like to see a solution that is acceptable to all sides soon, that would be very good for regional stability and, in turn, that would be good for international stability.

He knows that this issue is with the Security Council and with the Secretary-General, so he’ll leave it at that. Mr. Abadi, yes.


Question from Mr. Abbadi: I know you have said that there is nothing new to report on the reforms of the Security Council and that the Ad-Hoc Working Group will meet [inaudible] sessions in February, April and June.

Spokesperson: That’s the plan; let’s see how that actually works out.

Question: In the meantime, I have a question: Has the President of the Assembly received any concrete propositions [inaudible] regarding the reforms of the Security Council?

Spokesperson: I’m not aware of any new proposals apart from what emanated from the meeting that was held on 14 December, and I think we gave a pretty good, detailed background on that. He himself talked afterwards; he had a press briefing on the 18th. There’s nothing more on that.

Thank you very much.

* *** *…

January 31, 2008, Thursday video-4.gif

{The text makes it obvious that the Spokesperson’s job is difficult. Even though most Correspondents are in that room in order to get information for their reporting, nevertheless, there are people in that room that are propaganda-people for the interests that sent them to the UN. The UN DPI is yet to look at what those people produce based on their questions at the UN. With more objectivity, the DPI staff could improve the UN atmosphere by weeding out these propagandists – but this would assume that the staff does not side with their point of view – and we just witnessed that this might not be the case.}


Posted on on February 2nd, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

January 31, 2008, The UN Noon Briefing to the Press was an astonishing event and we will have much to report. Here we will just present something that gives us an optimistic feeling – this despite the general attitude in that room on that day, and despite the unforgivable UN institution.

What we will be reporting in this article is a UN General Assembly Plenary discussion on Climate Change set for February 11-12, 2008, with “spill-over time” reserved for February 13, 2008.

This event is an outcome from the September 24, 2007 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s “high-level” event that was held September 24, 2007, still under the 61st GA Session, but resulted in a resolution of December 13, 2007 – the short A/RES/62/8 which we include herewith:


So, what happened at the Thursday, January briefing was the announcement that the document that was supposed to be submitted by January 25, 2008 is now available on the shelves at DPI. We watched that Briefing to the Press at home – on Channel 78 in Manhattan – UN TV.

We clearly wanted to get our teeth into this document, but as Messrs. Fawzi & Fowlie still refuse to have us in the press area of the UN, I resorted to sending an e-mail to Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka, The UN USG for Communications and Public Information, and to Mr. Ahmad Fawzi, New and Media Division Director, and among other things I asked to be sent the two documents that we will be dealing with now. They did not show me the courtesy of reply. Furthermore, that same evening I saw Mr. Akasaka at the viewing of the Holocaust Documentary on the “Kindertransport” operation that saved 10,000 Jewish children by transferring them to Britain. As head of UN Outreach it is seemingly part of his job to chair such events. I mentioned to him that I wait for a reply to an e-mail to him which he said he did not get yet to see. Anyway, I got the documents from friendly journalists, and I will now review them.

The A/62/644 document has the January 10, 2008 date. It is 52 pages long and titled: “Overview of United Nations Activities In Relation To Climate Change.” We find this document to be a compilation of “boiler plate” material – talking about 15 different UN associated offices tripping upon each other and having coordinating meetings. The best we can say about the document is that it shows the depth of these entanglements, and what we knew for a long time, that at this pace the UN is not going to provide the needed solution. There is nothing in this document that can be taken to this February 11-13 meeting that can lead to a resolution that includes a decision to act.

We will delve into the document, and for those that would like to enjoy it in full – please – we include the link:

A/62/644 of 10 January 2008…

With above in front of us, so why am I optimistic?
This because of the present President of the UN General Assembly whom we got to see several times during the last 10 days – this because of the UN commemorations of the Holocaust. We wrote about Dr. Srgjan Kerim in articles of January 28 and 29, 2008. He is a former Foreign Minister of Macedonia – a country that he cannot even call by its name, and must refer to it as FYROM. Already in his Acceptance speech of May 24, 2007, upon election as President of UNGA, he enlarged on the topic of global warming/climate change. He will want to see something happening – so we trust him that he will march the dignitaries that will come to make their country presentations, at paces such that he can ask them for concrete proposals. Will he be able to come up with an innovation on the road to Copenhagen 2009? Nobody can bet on this – but if there is a UN high official these days that can be trusted to honestly try – this is him! We wish him luck, and we wish that the UNGA understands that when they finally land a good President – it would be imperative to keep him busy on the job for the full allowable four sessions. The last one to chair 4 sessions was Dr. Han Seung-soo from Korea, the mentor of Ban Ki-moon (2001-2002).

The document does the obvious laudatory to the Bali so called “Road Map and Action Plan.” The September 24, 2007 New York Session was supposed to provide the message to Bali, and the January 2008 event will have to explain what practical results were obtained in Bali. We expect the US to say something about what went on this past week in Honolulu – and then someone will have to ask what can be achieved at Poznan in December 2008, with a US outgoing President, and the new President not being able yet to take over leadership reins? So, The Road to Copenhagen could be made more productive by moving the Poznan meeting to March 2009. Will someone have the freedom to say so at the February UNGA meeting?

The document has 3 pages of the Report of the UNSG, then 20 pages of Annex I – deemed: Overview of Current UN System Activities On Climate Change.” and 29 pages of Annex II – “UN System Chief Executives Board For Coordination: Coordinated UN System Action On Climate Change.” We looked hard for actions in the “overview” and in the “Coordination” parts. We finally found: “Moving Towards a Climate-Neutral UN.” Now that is something the UNSG could do by himself – NO! “The UN system recognizes the need to explore ways of making the UN more – climate friendly and environmentally sustainable…..blah! .. blah! So – does that mean that the Secretary-General of UNEP from Nairobi, will have to come to New York to tell the staff to change the bulbs?

One more thing: The cover of the document says that it is in answer to Agenda items – 48, 54, 116. To the uninitiated there is translation:

“Integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major UN conferences and summits in the economic, social, and related fields,”

“Sustainable Development,”

“Follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit.”

Everybody who reads our website could rightfully anticipate that we will comb the document for SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – but we found no other mention of this concept beyond the title page.
If we are allowed back to discuss issues with the participants at the February sessions, we would have wanted to know if the UNGA is ready to move to save the Commission on Sustainable Development for future use in the implementation of the resolutions to be taken in Copenhagen. At this point in time, the CSD has no head and the UNSG does not seem to mind.

To be fair, there are nuggets of achievements in those pages i.e. developing a process of National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs). But then when WASH is also lumped into the climate change issue – it really detracts.

The last 12 pages of the document list proposed areas of potential UN system support. But let us say that starting out by throwing money around is NOT the way to start action on climate change. We know that what is needed is the will to act even if it may hurt initially. Yes, some will have to accept that mitigation starts from replacing the reliance on oil – so those that made a bundle from depleting their oil resources will have to learn to live with smaller markets and nobody has the responsibility to give them prize money for doing so. This is obviously high diplomacy – will Dr. Kerim stand up to pressure groups? We shall see. We hope he lets them make their case and ask them – OK – What now?


Posted on on January 28th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Extermination Camp at Auschwitz Was Liberated By The Soviet Army on January 27, 1945.

That date was now generally accepted as the memorial date for the Holocaust. This in part as thanks for the Soviets having ended this Nazi killing machine, and in part in deference to the Western allies’ contention that until faced with the reality that became visible with the opening of the Auschwitz gates by the Soviet Army, supposedly, the atrocities that were happening inside were not known to the Western leaders. Nevertheless, something had to be learned from this reality – the fact that the world stood still and did not try to destroy the camps by bombing them or bombing the railroads that were used to transport the human fodder to this killing machine.

Thus, from the ashes of the Holocaust was born the UN – a body intended not to allow such inhuman behavior as shown possible by the Nazi extermination machine – a behavior, that with our respect for animals, we will not dare to call on these pages as beastly.

Today, Saturday, January 26, 2008, 63 years later, at the Park East Synagogue in New York City, the President of the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Minister Dr. Srgjan Kerim, from a country that the UN has not had yet the courage to call by the name its people chose to call themselves, Macedonia, and in UN jargon is called The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), made the following observation:

“Dear Friends and members of Park East Beit Knesset,

The United Nations was founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, when the world was in need of hope for a better future.

It was created to embody that hope as a promise to humanity. However, most disturbingly, since the Holocaust there have been genocide and serious crimes against humanity in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Yugoslavia.

That these atrocities occurred is not necessarily the failure of the United Nations as an organization; but rather, represents the lack of collective will of its Member States to take the decision to act or intervene.

Even while we gather here, there are places – like Darfur – where people suffer from the very crimes, which, time and time again, we vowed would never again happen.”

Further, President Kerim comments included the observations that “terrorism, violence, rape, murder, poverty and discrimination on the rounds of race or religion continue to be part of everyday lives of many people. He reminded the people assembled at the Synagogue of the 2005 UNGA resolution on the “Responsibility To Protect” – this as the commitment that all nations took upon themselves to hold themselves accountable for their responsibilities to their peoples. He concluded then with Reverend Martin Luther King Jr’s saying that: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere . . . . Whatever affects one directly, affects all directly.”

Above are surely great statements, but we also believe that for an institution that professes to act according to consensus, the fact that there is no “collective will of its Member States to take decision to act or intervene,” reduces significantly its practical value as a tool of making good.

A very appropriate example of what we have in mind is the fact that it took full 60 years to get this institution that was created from the ashes of the Holocaust, to even recognize within its wall the Holocaust with a special memorial.
It was only November 1, 2005, as part of its 60th years anniversary, that A/RES/60/7 – RESOLVES THAT THE UNITED NATIONS WILL DESIGNATE 27 JANUARY AS AN ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL DAY OF COMMEMORATION IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST. So, the first such commemoration was held in 2006, and this year there will be the third commemoration. In effect there is this year a whole week-long series of commemorations.

It started on Monday this week with an exhibition arranged by the Russian Mission to the United Nations with the presence of some heavily decorated warriors from among the troops that are WWII veterans. Then this coming Monday, January 28, 2008, there will be the release of a special UN stamp to honor the Holocaust, with the Minister of Communications of Israel, Mr. Ariel Atias, present, and in the evening, in the Hall of the General Assembly, there will be a Memorial Ceremony and concert with the participation of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Zubin Mehta. Interestingly, the launching of the UN postal stamp is within an agreed joint release of a National Holocaust remembrance stamp of the State of Israel. Also, before the evening concert, US congressman Tom Lantos, himself a Hungarian Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, will lecture the UN on: “Civic Responsibility and Preservation of Democratic Values.”

Now, why did it take 60 years for the UN to realize that it owes its own existence to the Holocaust? That clearly has something to do with the Arab States opposing any attention to be paid to Jews and to Israel, and the rest of a large majority at the UN not having had the courage to stand up as a matter of principle. At various times – Saudis, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Malaysians, Syrians, Iranians … made derogatory statements and Israel was left in limbo at the UN.
Things may change now for the Member State Israel, but will it change in what relates to Jews being able to live freely in a country like Saudi Arabia? If that does not change, so how can life for folks in Darfur change within Sudan?
What about the second anti-semitic/anti-Israeli UN sponsored conference at Durban? So far as we know, only the US and Canada said – No! Thank you!

The UN is very far from ideal – it is just as good an organization as its lowest common denominator allows it to be – but individual States, and individual people, that is a different matter – and some of the best showed up, today, Saturday January, 26, 2008, at the Park East Synagogue, where part of the service, there was the following event:




Present were about 25 survivors of concentration and extermination camps – including some survivors of Auschwitz. The Rabbi himself, originally from Vienna, Rabbi Arthur Schneier is a survivor of Auschwitz. Besides the President of the UN General Assembly, present was the Foreign Minister of Australia – Mr. Stephen Smith, the Vice Mayor of Vienna – Ms. Renate Brauner, 16 Ambassadors to the UN, including Albania, Austria, and Turkey, many Consuls General and other members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Going over the biographical notes of the Honorable Dr. Kerim and his speech before the Congregation at Park East Synagogue, I found that his father helped amidst the terror of the Nazi occupation of the Balkans, his school friend Isac Sion and his family, subsequently, the father and Isac Sion joined Macedonian freedom fighters and the National Liberation Movement to fight alongside the Allies. Isac survived and had then important positions in Yugoslavia’s economy.

Addressing the survivors in the audience, the Minister said: “Not only have you survived, but you have rebuilt communities all over the world, become stronger, and enabled future generations to thrive. You just have to look around at all the people gathered here today to recognize this fact.

The recognition of this day of Holocaust remembrance by the international community heralded a change of tide at the United Nations; and, a step forward in the collective memory and conscience of our world.”

He also read an excerpt of a poem “Temple” that he wrote after having visited the Park East Synagogue for the first time – five years ago:

“I’ve always believed
There’s nothing greater in a temple
Than the final sounds meting
In the concluding Amin
Until I heard the word
Of a great friend of mine
Who walked in the steps of Moses
And is called a Rabbin.”