Saturday, November 26, 2005

Mr. Belarus at CER-website!

Just got the CER-Bulletin in my mailbox and saw to my delight that one article was written by my favorite Swedish MP, Urban Ahlin (who is also my “mentor” in a way). Urban, chairman of the Riksdag’s Foreign Relations Committee, writes that the EU needs a new policy on Belarus:

"EU policy should therefore focus less on Lukashenka and more on winning the hearts and minds of Belarusians. The EU cannot for now hold out the carrot of potential membership. But it should make clear that it would like Belarus to join its 'neighbourhood policy' as soon as the circumstances change. Belarus could then benefit from the trade concessions, cooperation programmes and EU funds available to other EU neighbours. The EU should start off by publishing a draft 'action plan', spelling out both the reforms that Belarus would be asked to undertake, and the benefits that would flow from the plan."

I think Urban’s arguments make a lot of sense, but I also detect another bottom line here. The Swedish social democratic party has had a very high profile when it comes to issues related to Belarus for a long while, dating back to the 15th of March 2000 when Urban Ahlin, then deputy secretary general of the party, presented the campaign Stop Luka! (still up and running, check Today the Social Democratic party has more than ten projects in Belarus supporting the opposition against Lukashenka, one of them is run by Social Democratic Students.

Therefore, many social democrats laughed when the leader of the Conservative opposition, Mr. Reinfeldt, tried to deliver a speech on foreign relations some weeks ago. In his speech, Mr. Reinfeldt underlined how close Belarus is to Sweden, saying that the capital of Minsk is closer to Stockholm then the northern city of Luleå. Unfortunately for Reinfeldt, he was wrong about that, mixing up the distance to the cities in northern Sweden where nobody votes for him anyway. However, Minsk is closer to Stockholm than the northern city of Kiruna, just as the Social Democratic party wrote in a campaign leaflet already in 2000…

Bottom line: I am happy Sweden has a chairman of the Foreign Relation’s Committee that gets an article published in a leading think-tank’s newsletter. And I was not impressed by Reinfeldt’s speech on foreign policy (I was there and listened to it, read all about it here). But it is somewhat amusing when the Conservative party pretends to care more about the outside world than we social democrats do. They want to slash foreign aid, they do not support the Make Poverty History campaign, and I would be very surprised if their party has more than ten projects supporting democracy in Belarus.


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