Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The many faces of a news item

/ huh? /
OK, so Finnish Unions took a Finnish ferry company, Viking, to court because it replaced the crew on one of its ships with Estonian workers and relocated to Estonia to achieve this. The court ruled. The essence of the court's decision however is a highly subjective matter, at least if one judges by the title of the relevant stories in various international publications. A brief selection:

- BBC: Blow for unions in EU labour row

- The Guardian: EU court backs unions on business relocating in EU

- EUBusiness: EU court defends right for firms to move abroad to save costs

- EUObserver: Unions may take action over cheap labour, EU court says

- Jurist: European Court of Justice limits right of labor unions to strike

- EurActiv: EU court upholds right to strike but sets limits

- Maritime Global Net: International Transport Workers Federation WELCOMES VIKING JUDGEMENT

So what's up? Who won? I must suspend judgment on this, although I hope the ITF wouldn't be welcoming the judgment if it really was a "blow" for unions. People just try to understand what's happening, the media's point however is to spin it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rushing Kosovo

history repeating itself

So let me get this straight: In 1991 the EU hastily recognized Croatia and Slovenia, in a move that, rather undoubtedly, contributed (and I'm putting this rather mildly) to igniting the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Yesterday, Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband, advocating immediate EU recognition of Kosovo's independence said that:

...European nations must decide whether they want to "take a lead" on Kosovo and prevent a return to the bloodshed of the 1990s, when Yugoslavia broke up in a series of wars.

... neglecting to mention that, in fact, the EU's "lead" in the 1990s, helped the create the "series of wars" he refers to, in a process precisely described by NPR's Sylvia Poggioli, in a lecture back in 1995.

In fact Jonathan Steele writing in the Guardian a year ago, bizarrely acknowledged a need for haste, while suggesting that:

...As current president of the EU, Germany has a chance to show leadership on a major European issue. Many Europeans charge Germany with helping to precipitate the Balkan wars of the 1990s by hasty recognition of Croatia. It would be ironic if Germany over-compensates now by delaying the recognition of Kosovo, and thereby precipitating Balkan violence again.

Thus, drawing historical lessons is a form of over-compensation. The fact that hasty recognitions, in the name of "stopping the conflict" or "not precipitating violence", in the past led to all-out civil war in the same damn region, somehow is deemed as irrelevant and in fact it is claimed that a delay (that would include say some sort of UNSC deal, or even - God forbid - some sort of mutually tolerable solution) would prevent violence. As long as no-strings-attached independence id guarantied, the Kosovar Albanians don't have anything to negotiate about, no reason to make the slightest concession. The talks were theater, with deadlock as their foregone ending.

Nowhere is there even the slightest mention of the domino effect that might ensue and the precedent that this unilateral recognition will establish. The fact that Cyprus steadfastly rejects a EU recognition of Kosovo, is exactly because this would set a legitimizing precedent that might open a future recognition of the "Republic of Northern Cyprus" and half the world in fact. It will bolster bellicose separatism in Europe and certainly the Balkans, creating instability in the region that bodes ill for its future. The wheels that might be set in motion by such a recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, don't have to start immediately, nor are they inescapable. But they will be moving, and they might roll out of control in the event of any serious crisis in the Balkans, Caucasus and beyond. Awkward prevarications such as "In every case, it must be made clear that the case of Kosovo is legally unique and must not create a precedent which will have repercussions in the respect of the borders", are to be used as alibis in the event of an avalanche of resurgent secessionism, in the wake of widespread recognition of Kosovo as an independent state. Note that the affected areas will be as distant to Mr. Miliband as Bosnia was to Mr. Genscher.

I still insist on my Regional Conference idea.