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« Reply #210 on: October 24, 2008, 12:29:37 AM »

Solana seeks 'vital role' for EU in Middle East peace process
Written by Chris Perver   
Thursday, 23 October 2008

Javier Solana, the High Representative for the European Common, Foreign and Security Policy, has arrived in Damascus on the second leg of his five day tour of the Middle East. His latest tour is expected to include visits to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where he is likely to discuss issues such as the Iranian nuclear crisis, the Middle East peace process, and broadening relations between the European Union and the Arab world. In regards to the Middle East peace process, Solana stated that the European Union has the persistent aim of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East, and that the Europeans are seeking to play an instrumental role in the process.

Quote: "'We have a long-standing position that aims at reaching a comprehensive peace process in the region, the Europeans would like to have vital role in this process,' said Solana, whose last visit to Damascus was in March 2007. 

His remarks follow similar statements made by French President Nicholas Sarkozy during a recent visit to Jordan, in which both Sarkozy and Jordanian Monarch Abdullah II agreed the centrality of the European Union in the Middle East peace process. It is also not the first time Solana has called for Europe to play a "significant role" in resolving the Middle East conflict. His comments come as Israeli President Shimon Peres embarks on a state visit to Egypt. Israeli politicians, including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, have been discussing the possibility of abandoning the unfruitful Palestinian track in favour of achieving a broader peace agreement with the Arab world. Peres is expected to discuss the possibility of Israel negotiating with the Arab League on the Saudi Initiative, an plan which promises recognition for Israel in return for all land captured during the Six Day War and a "just solution" for the Palestinian refugees. The Saudi Initiative was originally backed by the European Union when it was first presented, but the Israeli leadership feared the plan could result in the demographic destruction of the Jewish state through the influx of millions of Palestinian refugees. Some Arab ministers have stated that the Saudi Initiative could be modified, with Israel only having to provide compensation for Arab refugees.

Quote: "At the summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the two leaders will "discuss, inter alia, advancing the peace process between Israel and its neighbors, strengthening ties between Israel and Egypt" and "a variety of other state and security issues," said Peres' office in a statement. In a more explicit manner, local daily Ha'aretz reported Wednesday that Peres is expected to present Mubarak with his proposal for reforming the way Israel and its Arab neighbors negotiate peace agreements.

Could this Saudi Initiative, which is backed by the European Union and the Arab League, be the one which the Antichrist will strengthen for a period of seven years (Daniel 9:27)? Could the division of Jerusalem and the disengagement from Judea and Samaria be the outworking of this plan (Zechariah 12:2, 14:2, Revelation 11:2)? I don't know the answer to that. I feel that the covenant that will be agreed with many must pave the way for the Jewish people to rebuild their Temple and recommence the sacrificial system. Until we have all the pieces in place, its difficult to see how this could all come about. There needs to be a Red Heifer to sanctify the Temple area before the sacrifices can commence. The Temple Institute claim they have cracked the DNA code for genetically producing a Red Heifer. There needs to be agreement in the Arab world to permit Israel to rebuilt the Temple (2nd Thessalonians 2:4). If Israel tried to rebuild now, there would be a third world war. There needs to be a benevolent European dictator in place (Daniel 9:26), who will unite the world under his authority and bring about peace in the Middle East. I personally feel that we are still some way off from all of this happening. But we can see the pieces of the puzzle falling into place. The question is, where do you fit in? When Christ returns for His Church, will you be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, or will you be caught out, without hope and without God in the world? God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2nd Peter 3:9). Why don't you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation today (Acts 16:31). He will not turn you away (John 6:37).
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« Reply #211 on: October 28, 2008, 02:44:44 PM »

Europe on the brink of currency crisis meltdown
The crisis in Hungary recalls the heady days of the UK’s expulsion from the ERM.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Last Updated: 10:52AM GMT 26 Oct 2008

The financial crisis spreading like wildfire across the former Soviet bloc threatens to set off a second and more dangerous banking crisis in Western Europe, tipping the whole Continent into a fully-fledged economic slump.

Currency pegs are being tested to destruction on the fringes of Europe’s monetary union in a traumatic upheaval that recalls the collapse of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992.

“This is the biggest currency crisis the world has ever seen,” said Neil Mellor, a strategist at Bank of New York Mellon.

Experts fear the mayhem may soon trigger a chain reaction within the eurozone itself. The risk is a surge in capital flight from Austria – the country, as it happens, that set off the global banking collapse of May 1931 when Credit-Anstalt went down – and from a string of Club Med countries that rely on foreign funding to cover huge current account deficits.

The latest data from the Bank for International Settlements shows that Western European banks hold almost all the exposure to the emerging market bubble, now busting with spectacular effect.

They account for three-quarters of the total $4.7 trillion £2.96 trillion) in cross-border bank loans to Eastern Europe, Latin America and emerging Asia extended during the global credit boom – a sum that vastly exceeds the scale of both the US sub-prime and Alt-A debacles.

Europe has already had its first foretaste of what this may mean. Iceland’s demise has left them nursing likely losses of $74bn (£47bn). The Germans have lost $22bn.

Stephen Jen, currency chief at Morgan Stanley, says the emerging market crash is a vastly underestimated risk. It threatens to become “the second epicentre of the global financial crisis”, this time unfolding in Europe rather than America.

Austria’s bank exposure to emerging markets is equal to 85pc of GDP – with a heavy concentration in Hungary, Ukraine, and Serbia – all now queuing up (with Belarus) for rescue packages from the International Monetary Fund.

Exposure is 50pc of GDP for Switzerland, 25pc for Sweden, 24pc for the UK, and 23pc for Spain. The US figure is just 4pc. America is the staid old lady in this drama.

Amazingly, Spanish banks alone have lent $316bn to Latin America, almost twice the lending by all US banks combined ($172bn) to what was once the US backyard. Hence the growing doubts about the health of Spain’s financial system – already under stress from its own property crash – as Argentina spirals towards another default, and Brazil’s currency, bonds and stocks all go into freefall.

Broadly speaking, the US and Japan sat out the emerging market credit boom. The lending spree has been a European play – often using dollar balance sheets, adding another ugly twist as global “deleveraging” causes the dollar to rocket. Nowhere has this been more extreme than in the ex-Soviet bloc.

The region has borrowed $1.6 trillion in dollars, euros, and Swiss francs. A few dare-devil homeowners in Hungary and Latvia took out mortgages in Japanese yen. They have just suffered a 40pc rise in their debt since July. Nobody warned them what happens when the Japanese carry trade goes into brutal reverse, as it does when the cycle turns.

The IMF’s experts drafted a report two years ago – Asia 1996 and Eastern Europe 2006 – Déjà vu all over again? – warning that the region exhibited the most dangerous excesses in the world.

Inexplicably, the text was never published, though underground copies circulated. Little was done to cool credit growth, or to halt the fatal reliance on foreign capital. Last week, the silent authors had their moment of vindication as Eastern Europe went haywire.

Hungary stunned the markets by raising rates 3pc to 11.5pc in a last-ditch attempt to defend the forint’s currency peg in the ERM.

It is just blood in the water for hedge funds sharks, eyeing a long line of currency kills. “The economy is not strong enough to take it, so you know it is unsustainable,” said Simon Derrick, currency strategist at the Bank of New York Mellon.

Romania raised its overnight lending to 900pc to stem capital flight, recalling the near-crazed gestures by Scandinavia’s central banks in the final days of the 1992 ERM crisis – political moves that turned the Nordic banking crisis into a disaster.

Russia too is in the eye of the storm, despite its energy wealth – or because of it. The cost of insuring Russian sovereign debt through credit default swaps (CDS) surged to 1,200 basis points last week, higher than Iceland’s debt before Götterdammerung struck Reykjavik.

The markets no longer believe that the spending structure of the Russian state is viable as oil threatens to plunge below $60 a barrel. The foreign debt of the oligarchs ($530bn) has surpassed the country’s foreign reserves. Some $47bn has to be repaid over the next two months.

Traders are paying close attention as contagion moves from the periphery of the eurozone into the core. They are tracking the yield spreads between Italian and German 10-year bonds, the stress barometer of monetary union.

The spreads reached a post-EMU high of 93 last week. Nobody knows where the snapping point is, but anything above 100 would be viewed as a red alarm. The market took careful note on Friday that Portugal’s biggest banks, Millenium, BPI, and Banco Espirito Santo are preparing to take up the state’s emergency credit guarantees.

Hans Redeker, currency chief at BNP Paribas, says there is an imminent danger that East Europe’s currency pegs will be smashed unless the EU authorities wake up to the full gravity of the threat, and that in turn will trigger a dangerous crisis for EMU itself.

“The system is paralysed, and it is starting to look like Black Wednesday in 1992. I’m afraid this is going to have a very deflationary effect on the economy of Western Europe. It is almost guaranteed that euroland money supply is about to implode,” he said.

A grain of comfort for British readers: UK banks have almost no exposure to the ex-Communist bloc, except in Poland – one of the less vulnerable states.

The threat to Britain lies in emerging Asia, where banks have lent $329bn, almost as much as the Americans and Japanese combined. Whether you realise it or not, your pension fund is sunk in Vietnamese bonds and loans to Indian steel magnates. Didn’t they tell you?

Europe on the brink of currency crisis meltdown
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« Reply #212 on: November 04, 2008, 12:52:42 PM »

Solana seeks 'vital role' for EU in Middle East peace process
Written by Chris Perver   
Thursday, 23 October 2008

Javier Solana, the High Representative for the European Common, Foreign and Security Policy, has arrived in Damascus on the second leg of his five day tour of the Middle East. His latest tour is expected to include visits to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where he is likely to discuss issues such as the Iranian nuclear crisis, the Middle East peace process, and broadening relations between the European Union and the Arab world. In regards to the Middle East peace process, Solana stated that the European Union has the persistent aim of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East, and that the Europeans are seeking to play an instrumental role in the process.

Quote: "'We have a long-standing position that aims at reaching a comprehensive peace process in the region, the Europeans would like to have vital role in this process,' said Solana, whose last visit to Damascus was in March 2007. 

His remarks follow similar statements made by French President Nicholas Sarkozy during a recent visit to Jordan, in which both Sarkozy and Jordanian Monarch Abdullah II agreed the centrality of the European Union in the Middle East peace process. It is also not the first time Solana has called for Europe to play a "significant role" in resolving the Middle East conflict. His comments come as Israeli President Shimon Peres embarks on a state visit to Egypt. Israeli politicians, including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, have been discussing the possibility of abandoning the unfruitful Palestinian track in favour of achieving a broader peace agreement with the Arab world. Peres is expected to discuss the possibility of Israel negotiating with the Arab League on the Saudi Initiative, an plan which promises recognition for Israel in return for all land captured during the Six Day War and a "just solution" for the Palestinian refugees. The Saudi Initiative was originally backed by the European Union when it was first presented, but the Israeli leadership feared the plan could result in the demographic destruction of the Jewish state through the influx of millions of Palestinian refugees. Some Arab ministers have stated that the Saudi Initiative could be modified, with Israel only having to provide compensation for Arab refugees.

Quote: "At the summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the two leaders will "discuss, inter alia, advancing the peace process between Israel and its neighbors, strengthening ties between Israel and Egypt" and "a variety of other state and security issues," said Peres' office in a statement. In a more explicit manner, local daily Ha'aretz reported Wednesday that Peres is expected to present Mubarak with his proposal for reforming the way Israel and its Arab neighbors negotiate peace agreements.

Could this Saudi Initiative, which is backed by the European Union and the Arab League, be the one which the Antichrist will strengthen for a period of seven years (Daniel 9:27)? Could the division of Jerusalem and the disengagement from Judea and Samaria be the outworking of this plan (Zechariah 12:2, 14:2, Revelation 11:2)? I don't know the answer to that. I feel that the covenant that will be agreed with many must pave the way for the Jewish people to rebuild their Temple and recommence the sacrificial system. Until we have all the pieces in place, its difficult to see how this could all come about. There needs to be a Red Heifer to sanctify the Temple area before the sacrifices can commence. The Temple Institute claim they have cracked the DNA code for genetically producing a Red Heifer. There needs to be agreement in the Arab world to permit Israel to rebuilt the Temple (2nd Thessalonians 2:4). If Israel tried to rebuild now, there would be a third world war. There needs to be a benevolent European dictator in place (Daniel 9:26), who will unite the world under his authority and bring about peace in the Middle East. I personally feel that we are still some way off from all of this happening. But we can see the pieces of the puzzle falling into place. The question is, where do you fit in? When Christ returns for His Church, will you be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, or will you be caught out, without hope and without God in the world? God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2nd Peter 3:9). Why don't you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation today (Acts 16:31). He will not turn you away (John 6:37).

Hello DreamWeaver,

Brother Bob, this is a fascinating article and represents some interesting possibilities that pertain to coming Bible Prophecy that will most definitely be fulfilled. It's fascinating to consider that we have numerous threads on the forum that already contain the name of Solana. The STARTING GUN could be fired soon. Regardless of the hard days ahead, Christians should keep their eyes open in joyous anticipation of seeing our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST. We are already in his hands, and HIS Will be done!

Love In Christ,
Tom

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« Reply #213 on: November 04, 2008, 12:53:35 PM »

Ezekiel 38:14-23 NASB  "Therefore prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it?  15  "You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army;  16  and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog."  17  'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them?  18  "It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel," declares the Lord GOD, "that My fury will mount up in My anger.  19  "In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.  20  "The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse and every wall will fall to the ground.  21  "I will call for a sword against him on all My mountains," declares the Lord GOD. "Every man's sword will be against his brother.  22  "With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone.  23  "I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD."'

Ezekiel 39:1-7 NASB  "And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal;  2  and I will turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north and bring you against the mountains of Israel.  3  "I will strike your bow from your left hand and dash down your arrows from your right hand.  4  "You will fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you as food to every kind of predatory bird and beast of the field.  5  "You will fall on the open field; for it is I who have spoken," declares the Lord GOD.  6  "And I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the LORD.  7  "My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

Ezekiel 39:17-22 NASB  "As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD, 'Speak to every kind of bird and to every beast of the field, "Assemble and come, gather from every side to My sacrifice which I am going to sacrifice for you, as a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood.  18  "You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, as though they were rams, lambs, goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan.  19  "So you will eat fat until you are glutted, and drink blood until you are drunk, from My sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you.  20  "You will be glutted at My table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all the men of war," declares the Lord GOD.  21  "And I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them.  22  "And the house of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God from that day onward.

Ezekiel 39:25-29 NASB  Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name.  26  "They will forget their disgrace and all their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid.  27  "When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations.  28  "Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer.  29  "I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel," declares the Lord GOD.

Isaiah 2:1-5 NASB  The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.  2  Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it.  3  And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  4  And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.  5  Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Isaiah 9:2-7 NASB  The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.  3  You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.  4  For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.  5  For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.  6  For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  7  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Isaiah 65:17-25 NASB  "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.  18  "But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing And her people for gladness.  19  "I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people; And there will no longer be heard in her The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.  20  "No longer will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, Or an old man who does not live out his days; For the youth will die at the age of one hundred And the one who does not reach the age of one hundred Will be thought accursed.  21  "They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  22  "They will not build and another inhabit, They will not plant and another eat; For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people, And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.  23  "They will not labor in vain, Or bear children for calamity; For they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD, And their descendants with them.  24  "It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.  25  "The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent's food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the LORD.
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« Reply #214 on: November 04, 2008, 03:43:32 PM »

Barcelona chosen as headquarters for Mediterranean Union
Written by Chris Perver   
Tuesday, 04 November 2008


Foreign Ministers from the European Union and Mediterranean states have finally agreed on a location for the headquarters of the newly established Union for the Mediterranean. Members of the 43 nation body met in the French port city of Marseille last night to discuss on the issue. The Spanish city of Barcelona, in which the Barcelona Process commenced in 1995, has been chosen as the headquarters for the new union. The decision comes after weeks of wrangling by EU and Mediterranean states, seeking to be the host of French President Nicholas Sarkozy's Roman renaissance. France, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan had also offered to host the Union for the Mediterranean, but doubts arose over Tunisia's human rights record, and my guesses are European leaders were not keen on France having the pre-eminence in the new body. It seems that Spain was chosen for its neutral status and historic affiliation with the Barcelona Process.

Quote: "Foreign ministers from the 43 countries overcame one hurdle at a meeting in the French port of Marseille, deciding to base the "Club Med" in the Spanish city of Barcelona. "I'm very happy (with) that," said the EU foreign policy chief, Spain's Javier Solana. "It is a great joy for me."

There have also been disputes over the insistence of the Arab League at being represented in the Union for the Mediterranean. Only a few Arab states are members of the Barcelona Process, but the Arab League has been granted Observer Status in the body. Israel objects to the Arab League taking part in the Union for the Mediterranean, for they have always opposed the Jewish state in everything they have become involved in. According to reports, this issue has largely been resolved, although details of the agreement have yet to be made public. In other news, the European Union is planning to send a letter to the winner of the US Presidential election, calling for a 'partnership of equals' on global issues with the next American administration. The letter will call for increased co-operation between the EU and US on foreign policy matters, including the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, relations with Russia and other global issues.

Quote: ""Both candidates have their eyes turned towards Europe and have shown their interest in seeing both sides of the Atlantic working together," [French Foreign Minister] Kouchner said, predicting a new era of multilateralism. "The time is past when people asked what Europe was for. What we want is for our initiatives to be understood and shared." "The European Union has become more resolute," he argued, referring to the bloc's role in negotiating a solution to the Russia-Georgia conflict in August and its leadership on the global financial crisis. The French minister said it would have been "unthinkable" until recently for a united Europe to reach out to an incoming U.S. administration "as friends but especially as partners, to say here is what we could do together." "The world has changed, because we have realized that a great country, which will remain a great country, is not the only one concerned by the world's problems," he said.

Whoever gets into the White House, it seems that the European leaders are seeking to make sure the US avoids the mistakes of the past, in dictating the global agenda in the Middle East. In the past few months we have seen Europe demanding a greater say on global issues, including the Middle East peace process and global financial reforms. Prophecy scholars have long debated as to whether America is mentioned in end time prophecy. Apart from in Zechariah 14:2, I believe America is not mentioned in Bible prophecy. I believe America is destined to follow the fate of the British Empire. We were once called 'Great Britain'. Unfortunately this country no longer deserves that title. And as Kouchner says, America will remain a great country, but like the British Empire that went before it, they will no longer enjoy that place of prominence in global affairs. I believe this letter from the leaders of the European Union to the next US Administration is representative of this shift in world dominance.

As you can see, everything that the Bible has predicted concerning the last days is coming to pass. The Bible states that the "wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God", Psalm 9:17. Sad to say that our nation has largely forgotten God, and America is following in our footsteps. You may not be concerned about the downfall of your nation, but what about your own downfall? Are you not concerned about that? The verse also speaks of "the wicked". The word "wicked" means 'morally wrong', 'condemned', 'guilty', 'ungodly'. Does that sound like you? I know it sounds like me. The Bible declares that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God", Romans 3:23. But praise God that just as "all have sinned", so God's salvation is also offered to "whosoever will". If you are condemned, guilty and ungodly, then there is good news. Jesus Christ died for you! The Bible says that "when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly", Romans 5:6. Jesus Christ bore God's punishment for your sins upon the cross, and all who believe on Him for salvation can have everlasting life in heaven (John 3:16). Turn to Jesus Christ for salvation today. 

Barcelona chosen as headquarters for Mediterranean Union
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« Reply #215 on: November 04, 2008, 03:46:58 PM »

European Union draws up letter to new U.S. leader
By Crispian Balmer Crispian Balmer Mon Nov 3, 3:39 pm ET

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) – The European Union has prepared a letter for the next U.S. president, seeking more involvement for the 27-nation EU in resolving world problems, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Monday.

The six-page document will be dispatched after the winner of Tuesday's election emerges and Kouchner said the EU hoped for close ties with the new administration.

"There is a need to open a new chapter in global harmony, global balance, global change," Kouchner said following talks with his EU counterparts in the French port city of Marseille.

France's foreign minister said the letter focused on the need for multilateral solutions to world problems, including seeking peace in the Middle East and developing relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Times have changed. I think unilateral decisions that try to resolve the problems of the world will be more difficult to take," Kouchner said.

"I know that the two candidates have turned their gaze on Europe and have shown their interest in seeing our two sides of the Atlantic working together," he said, referring to Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

GLOBALISATION

Transatlantic relations suffered a severe crisis in 2003 over U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, backed by Britain, Spain, Italy and central European countries but strongly opposed by old powers, led by France and Germany.

Kouchner said the rapidly evolving nature of globalization coupled with the financial crisis showed no one nation could impose its will on the world.

"The United States will remain a very important country. I don't say a dominant power, but a great power," he said.

European leaders are looking to assert themselves following the leading role played by the continent this year, including decisive action to ease the financial turmoil and directing negotiations to end the fighting between Russia and Georgia.

"We have said it is important to work where we have shown leadership and offer this leadership also to the United States," said the EU's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

"We have to be an outward looking partnership. Not only with the United States, but also looking to China, to India, to Brazil, to the important big players," she added.

Public opinion polls show a clear preference among Europeans for Obama, seen not only as a clean break from Bush but also as more attuned to European concerns on human rights and dialogue with Iran.

McCain's tough rhetoric toward Iran and Russia and his military demeanor frighten some Europeans, while his choice of Sarah Palin, who has virtually no international experience, as his running mate has also raised eyebrows.

The EU ministers gathered in Marseille refused to be drawn on who they would prefer to deal with next in Washington.

"It is for the American people to elect their president. We will then work with whoever is there," said Ferrero-Waldner.

European Union draws up letter to new U.S. leader
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« Reply #216 on: November 05, 2008, 09:28:49 PM »

European Union draws up letter to new U.S. leader
By Crispian Balmer Crispian Balmer
Nov 3, 3:39 pm ET

MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) – The European Union has prepared a letter for the next U.S. president, seeking more involvement for the 27-nation EU in resolving world problems, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Monday.

The six-page document will be dispatched after the winner of Tuesday's election emerges and Kouchner said the EU hoped for close ties with the new administration.

"There is a need to open a new chapter in global harmony, global balance, global change," Kouchner said following talks with his EU counterparts in the French port city of Marseille.

France's foreign minister said the letter focused on the need for multilateral solutions to world problems, including seeking peace in the Middle East and developing relations with Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Times have changed. I think unilateral decisions that try to resolve the problems of the world will be more difficult to take," Kouchner said.

"I know that the two candidates have turned their gaze on Europe and have shown their interest in seeing our two sides of the Atlantic working together," he said, referring to Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

GLOBALISATION

Transatlantic relations suffered a severe crisis in 2003 over U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq, backed by Britain, Spain, Italy and central European countries but strongly opposed by old powers, led by France and Germany.

Kouchner said the rapidly evolving nature of globalization coupled with the financial crisis showed no one nation could impose its will on the world.

"The United States will remain a very important country. I don't say a dominant power, but a great power," he said.

European leaders are looking to assert themselves following the leading role played by the continent this year, including decisive action to ease the financial turmoil and directing negotiations to end the fighting between Russia and Georgia.

"We have said it is important to work where we have shown leadership and offer this leadership also to the United States," said the EU's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

"We have to be an outward looking partnership. Not only with the United States, but also looking to China, to India, to Brazil, to the important big players," she added.

Public opinion polls show a clear preference among Europeans for Obama, seen not only as a clean break from Bush but also as more attuned to European concerns on human rights and dialogue with Iran.

McCain's tough rhetoric toward Iran and Russia and his military demeanor frighten some Europeans, while his choice of Sarah Palin, who has virtually no international experience, as his running mate has also raised eyebrows.

The EU ministers gathered in Marseille refused to be drawn on who they would prefer to deal with next in Washington.

"It is for the American people to elect their president. We will then work with whoever is there," said Ferrero-Waldner.

European Union draws up letter to new U.S. leader
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« Reply #217 on: November 05, 2008, 09:38:11 PM »

New "Euro-Med Union" takes a step to reality

Nov 4, 4:50 PM (ET)

By COLLEEN BARRY

MARSEILLE, France (AP) - Countries bordering the Mediterranean edged closer to establishing their "Euro-Med Union" on Tuesday by finessing an Israeli-Arab dispute over the role of the Arab League.

The union - a pet project of French President Nicolas Sarkozy that is more ambitious in symbolism than content - is envisaged primarily as a forum for cooperation and dialogue. Unlike the similarly named European Union, the 43 countries from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa probably will not have open borders, common regulations or truly interlocked economies.

Still, the group is important to the participants as a bridge between Europe and its poorer neighbors.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, the host, declared the two-day meeting a success even though thorny issues, like the naming of a secretary-general, remained unresolved.

"People said this wasn't going to be a success. It has been," Kouchner said.

Under the agreement, the 22-member Arab league will participate in the new union as an observer but will not have voting rights, a condition sought by Israel. Israel and the Palestinian Authority will each hold deputy secretary general posts, giving them a stake in the success of the venture.

For a Europe that fears unchecked immigration from Africa and hostility from the Muslim world, the new organization is an important outreach program. And for some Europeans, by including Israelis and Palestinians - which both border the Mediterranean - it also offers a forum for European diplomacy.

Sarkozy, the founding force behind the organization, and his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, will decide on the secretary-general and the allocation of five to six deputy posts before the end of the year, Kouchner said.

The expanded union is expected to focus on mostly development-oriented projects, such as cleaning up the Mediterranean, creating new maritime and land highways and solar energy.

Kouchner's comments reflected the sense of diplomatic breakthrough, however modest and unrelated to the grander territorial disputes still unresolved.

"The Israelis finally accepted the presence of the Arab League," Kouchner said. "Israel will be accepted as deputy secretary-general of an international organization for the first time in history." 9Barcelona was chosen as the headquarters of the fledgling union over Tunisia and the Mediterranean island nation of Malta.

France and Egypt will continue as co-chairs of the union for its first two years, with the Czech Republic joining during its six-month EU presidency beginning in January.

New "Euro-Med Union" takes a step to reality
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« Reply #218 on: November 08, 2008, 11:58:56 AM »

Mediterranean Union agrees on Barcelona as headquarters, Arab-Israeli role
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Foreign ministers from the new Mediterranean Union struck a deal Tuesday for Barcelona to host the forum's headquarters and for Israel and the Arab League to take part side-by-side.

The Union's 43 member states held two days of talks in the port of Marseille to end a four-month deadlock on the two contentious issues, which threatened to hamstring the fledgling organisation.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit, whose countries currently co-chair the forum, announced the breakthrough at a joint news conference in the southern French city.

"It wasn't supposed to work, and yet it did," said Kouchner, adding: "The essential points were accepted completely and without reservation by all 43 states" in the Union for the Mediterranean.

Ministers from the Mediterranean's mainly-Arab southern rim agreed to back the Spanish city of Barcelona's candidacy to host the Union in exchange for the post of secretary-general going to a southern member.

They also clinched a deal on granting the Arab League a full-time seat at the forum -- a key demand of Arab members, strongly opposed by Israel which feared the pan-Arab group would try to block its involvement.

"The Arabic participation will take place in every meeting with the right to speak at all levels," said Abul Gheit, although it will have no right to vote.

Israel agreed to the Arab League's role in exchange for one of five deputy secretary-general posts for an initial three-year period, possibly renewable.

The deputy posts will rotate between three European members and two southern ones, and will initially be held by the Palestinian Authority, Greece, Malta and Italy, alongside Israel, according to the final declaration.

The text -- with likely technical amendments -- still has to be formally ratified however by the two co-presidents of the Union, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak.

Launched at a Paris summit in July, the new union brings together EU members with states from north Africa, the Balkans, the Arab world and Israel in a bid to foster cooperation in one of the world's most volatile regions.

An Israeli diplomat said it agreed to the Arab League "compromise" on the basis it would be able to play a front-seat role in setting up the fledgling Union, and hopefully build bridges around the Mediterranean.

But she warned "the Barcelona Process can never replace direct bilateral negotiations" to resolve Israel's conflicts with Arab nations.

A spokesman for the Arab League also warned that its participation would not lead to normalisation with Israel, Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was "delighted" by the accord on Barcelona, while EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner called it a "logical choice."

The Mediterranean capital of Spain's Catalonia region, Barcelona lent its name to the 13-year-old Barcelona Process, a previous EU regional initiative that stalled in part over Arab-Israeli disputes.

In exchange for hosting its headquarters, Spain also agreed to drop the tag "Barcelona Process" from the name of the new forum.

France, which championed the Union, hoped that by basing it on modest regional projects, such as cleaning up pollution in the Mediterranean, it would be able to sidestep the trap of regional disputes.

Priorities set out in the declaration include fighting pollution in the Mediterranean, solar energy, building land and sea highways and cooperation on higher education and research.

The Marseille accord, clinched after months of tough negotiations, rescues the forum from the threat of looming deadlock, but it also amounts to formally recognising tensions over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And the highly-political compromise to create five deputies to the secretary-general is a far cry from the slimmed-down, nimble governing structure at first envisaged for the Union.
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« Reply #219 on: November 21, 2008, 11:07:55 PM »

EU developing 'militarised' space policy which could trigger 'arms race'
The European Union is developing a military space policy which has the "potential for an arms race", a report has claimed.
Urmee Khan
21 Nov 2008

The European Space Agency is accused of developing technology to dominate the "high ground" of space, including a multimillion pound EU Satellite Centre in Spain.

The Transnational Institute, a Dutch think-tank, said: "EU-financed communication and spy satellites are slowly becoming reality and in the long term the inclusion of space-based missile defence and other more offensive uses of space are real options for an increasingly ambitious EU military space policy."

The report said French ambitions for the "militarisation of space" have led to arguments with Britain - particularly over Galileo, the much-delayed European global positioning system.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who currently holds the Presidency, said in June that space agenda was one of his priorities.

Next week, ministers from all ESA member states will meet in The Hague to implement a new European space policy which identifies military "security" as a priority.

Galileo would be vital in any European deployment of the sort of GPS-guided artillery now being used by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2002, the EU approved the £2 billion satellite network to break strategic dependence on America and seize the lead in space technology.

Galileo was designed to end dependence on America's Global Positioning System, a network of 24 satellites controlled by the American defence department which can be cut off in war or even used as a tool of pressure.

At the time, it was said that Galileo would create 150,000 jobs, generating £7 billion in annual revenue for European companies from 2008.

British demanded a statement in 2002 to describe Galileo as a "civilian" project that would not threaten the cohesion of Nato.

However, author of the new report Frank Slijper, an economist and arms trade specialist, said: "While Galileo is generally presented as a genuinely civilian programme, it now appears highly militarised.

"The public denial of these important capabilities shows how much Brussels and many European capitals are afraid to tell the public that Galileo is to become an extremely important tool in future warfare by European military forces," he said.

EU developing 'militarised' space policy which could trigger 'arms race'
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« Reply #220 on: November 22, 2008, 06:17:17 PM »

Obama's victory matters to Europe

PETER SAIN LEY BERRY
07.11.2008 @ 10:42 CET

EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - After Barack Obama's sensational victory in the US presidential election, I replayed the recordings of the speech he made in Berlin, a little more than three months ago. At the time, some 200,000 people (or so it was reported) flocked to the Tiergarten to hear Mr Obama express sentiments that many Europeans had given up ever hearing again from an American leader.

Mr Obama's words, addressed to the people of Berlin, hit all the important European buttons. The world needed a strong European Union, he said. It was imperative that we took action on climate change and that we stood up to, and faced down, threats to democracy and freedom wherever they surfaced. He promoted messages of inclusivity to the world's races and religions, of human rights and of hope in ending the running sore of tragedies such as Darfur. He wanted to revive and enhance the transatlantic alliance.

"Partnership and co-operation between nations is no longer a choice," he said. "It is a necessity."

After the rough ride of the Bush years (to which Obama made not a single direct reference), this was music to European ears: rationality and concord repatriated to the European shore. "I come before you as a citizen of the world," declared the senator from Illinois, knowing that we Europeans, perhaps more so than any other people, also see ourselves through that very prism.

And the man, whose roots lie on two continents, one rich, one poor, and who was born on an island speck in the broad ocean, did indeed deliver in Berlin a world view and a global leadership perspective that was multilateral and unifying and above all re-assuring.

No wonder he has been embraced by Europeans. Had we had the chance to vote -Democrat or Republican - Obama would have won, so surveys tell us, by a massive four to one.

The reason appears in the result of another survey. Gallup found that two-thirds of Europeans believe that what an American president does will affect their country.

It is only when we listen to Obama speaking that we realise just how uncomfortable Europe has been under the Bush presidency. The confrontational, unilateralist stance, the murky underside of the ‘war on terror' - Guantanamo, waterboarding, extraordinary rendition - above all the illegal invasion of Iraq, have left us all discomfited and feeling unwashed.

Europe has split apart in the last eight years, with some countries uncomfortably following the Washington lead as loyal allies or seekers of influence, while others, equally uncomfortably, have stood aside.

Now Obama's election has brought with it hope that that this internal European rift may be healed. We can embrace the transatlantic alliance again with hope in our hearts rather than fear for the world.

So his election will change Europe too, as well as the United States. This was why it mattered to us who won last Tuesday. And herein lies our problem.

For in the 21st century, the American president is much more than just the president of the US alone. He, and to date the incumbents have always been male, is also the leader of the 'Free World.' This includes the transatlantic alliance and beyond it all those countries that espouse liberty and democracy. We are a global community that plays by similar rules and shares the same values. And yet the majority of our citizens are disenfranchised from any say over who leads us.

The Free World has to live with and pay for the consequences of America's actions around the world, but has no vote to influence those actions.

We are, indeed, in much the same position as the American colonists who rebelled against the British parliament in 1775, crying 'no taxation without representation.' They denied the right of the king to levy taxes when the colonies themselves were not represented in parliament.

The wider community of the Free World is equally devoid of representation in American councils, but we are taxed nonetheless. Not, of course, with a monetary levy, but in this global age we pay all the same. We have paid these last years for US belligerence. We have paid for US pollution and for US trade policies. And now we are also paying for the collapse of American finance.

Let me assure our American cousins that I readily acknowledge the debt that Europe owes to America in blood and money. We also ought to pay more towards our own defence. This does not however alter my point - which is that the election of an American president affects far more people than just those living in the 50 states.

How this democratic wrong might be redressed I do not know. Indeed, I don't believe it is even perceived in the USA. For all Mr Obama's rhetoric, America still sees itself as a land in splendid isolation, hardly aware of a world beyond its shores. Looking at the headline policy positions on the domestic websites of the two presidential contenders, Mr Obama mentions Europe only once; John McCain mentions Europe not at all.

This would not be the case here. Were we, in Europe, to have candidates for a European presidency, they would certainly be dwelling extensively on the USA and the transatlantic alliance.

Indeed, we remember the fawning letter composed just a few days ago by European foreign ministers and addressed to the US president-elect, before even the election had taken place, so eager are we to insist that Europe should not be forgotten in the presidential councils. Such is the imbalance of the transatlantic relationship.

So we have here a paradox: By and large, Americans are citizens of the US alone, little interested in events on the other side of their protective oceans. Nevertheless, their president speaks for the whole 'Free World.'

Europeans have far more of an informed global view. But of course we do not have a president. Nor could any European leader reasonably expect to attract 200,000 people to the Tiergarten for a speech on global issues. So there remains a transatlantic mismatch: they have the world president, we have the world citizens. Sooner or later we shall have to find a way of marrying the two.

President-elect Obama will have many problems to contend with when he takes office on 20 January. I don't want to add to them. One day we shall return to this wider democratic point. Meanwhile I send him my congratulations and best wishes.

Obama's victory matters to Europe
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« Reply #221 on: November 22, 2008, 06:18:38 PM »

France 'overstepped mandate' on missile shield moratorium

RENATA GOLDIROVA
17.11.2008 @ 09:13 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Prague and Warsaw have poured cold water on French calls for a moratorium on a planned US missile shield in Europe, with both capitals saying that president Nicolas Sarkozy overstepped his mandate.

"I don't think that third countries, even such good friends as France, can have a particular right to express themselves on this issue," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Saturday (15 November).

The Polish leader described Mr Sarkozy's comments as his "own point of view, [with] no impact of the future of the project," according to AFP, adding that "The question of the anti-missile shield is governed by an agreement between Poland and the United States."

A similar message came from the Czech republic, with the country's deputy prime minister Alexandr Vondra saying he was taken by surprise.

"France did not discuss its viewpoint with us ... As far as I know, the French presidency mandate for the EU-Russia summit did not contain a position on the US missile defence system," he said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy - currently chairing the 27-nation EU - had spoken alongside his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on Friday (14 November), following the top level EU-Russia meeting in Nice.

He suggested that the EU, Russia and the US meet in mid-2009 in the framework of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in order to lay foundations of future pan-European security. "Until then, please, no more talk about deployment of missile and anti-missile systems," the French leader said.

His remarks no doubt pleased the Russian ear.

Moscow sees US plans to place components of a missile shield in Poland and the Czech republic as a direct threat to its security and the broader military balance. Earlier this month, the Kremlin threatened to deploy short-range missiles in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave between Lithuania and Poland, if the shield gets up and running.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev defended the standpoint by saying at Friday's summit that "All [Russian] decisions were in response to the behaviour of nations in Europe, which without consulting anyone had agreed to deploy new systems on their own territory."

"It is better to have a global anti-missile system in which Russia also participates," he later suggested.

According to Mr Vondra - speaking to EUobserver - the Russians are currently testing the US president-elect the same way as Nikita Khrushchev once tested John F. Kennedy, while Prague continues to hope that neither the Europeans nor the Americans will fall into the trap.

The Czech deputy prime minister referred to the Cuban missile crisis of the early 1960s - a risky muscle-flexing exercise during the Cold War - when the Soviet Union stationed its weapons in Cuba in response to the deployment of US ballistic missiles in Turkey.

In addition, Mr Vondra pointed to the NATO summit in Bucharest in April this year, stressing that back then the entire 26-nation Alliance, including France, approved the US missile shield project.

The alliance was tasked to "develop options for a comprehensive missile defence architecture" - something that would allow a NATO-designed short and medium range missile defence system to be bolted onto the American one designed for protection from long range attacks.

The fresh comments by France "differ" from the NATO summit conclusions, Mr Vondra said.

Speaking in Washington on Saturday (15 November), French President Nicolas Sarkozy seemed to back down from his previous comments. "Every country is sovereign to decide whether it hosts an anti-missile shield or not," he was cited as saying by AFP.

But it still remains to be seen how the US project in Central Europe will progress under the new White House chief, Barack Obama, who enters office on 20 January. The Democrat is surrounded by people questioning the military efficiency of the system.

"We don't expect, even for political reasons, any revolution but of course, the new president will take a new look and we know what the position of the president-elect is. He told me that he wanted to make sure the thing worked," Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski said last Friday.

France 'overstepped mandate' on missile shield moratorium
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« Reply #222 on: November 22, 2008, 06:19:45 PM »

Sarkozy wants new EU-US-Russia security accord

VALENTINA POP
14.11.2008 @ 18:04 CET

With Russia's backing for the G20 summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a new security and defence arrangement between the EU, Russia and the US to be agreed at a summit mid-2009, calling both on Moscow and Washington to refrain from deploying missiles until that date.

Mr Sarkozy was speaking at a press conference on Friday (14 November) following the EU-Russia summit held in Nice, alongside his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

"As acting EU council president I propose that mid-2009 we gather for instance within the OSCE [Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe] to lay the basis of what might be a future EU security arrangement ...which would of course involve the Russians and the Americans," Mr Sarkozy said, backing an idea originally proposed by his Russian counterpart.

He also expressed his "preoccupation" with Mr Medvedev's threat to deploy short-range missiles in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, on the shores of the Baltic Sea, bordering Poland and Lithuania.

"There shouldn't be any deployment in any enclave until we have not discussed the new geopolitical conditions of a pan-European security arrangement," he told Russia, while also calling on the US to "stop talking" about the missile defence shield which "only complicates things."

Mr Sarkozy seemed to be offering his role "as a potential mediator in Russian-American relations," AFP commented.

Mr Medvedev had threatened on 5 November to deploy short-range Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad if the Americans install their anti-ballistic missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russian-EU entente for G20 summit

Mr Medvedev backed EU proposals for the G20 summit to be held in Washington on Saturday (15 November), calling them "almost identical" with his. The Russian president said he was backing a deep reform of the international financial system, as well as a second financial summit at end of February, after the new US president Barack Obama takes office.

Mr Sarkozy called the Russian financial and economic proposals "of very good quality" and "very close to the EU proposals."

"And I'm very satisfied to see that there is a will on the part of the Russian federation for strong decisions to come out of the Washington summit," he added.

Georgia hardly mentioned

The Russian-Georgian war was portrayed as a somewhat closed affair, with Mr Sarkozy congratulating himself and his team for having brokered the ceasefire agreement, calling for "diplomatic solutions" in the region through negotiations in Geneva and criticising "some prominent leaders" who were against him going to Moscow in August and were now against resuming EU-Russia partnership treaty talks.

He asked the Russians "to make progress" in their withdrawal from Georgia, especially the Akhalgori region within the South Ossetia region and the Perevi village, located just outside in Georgia proper. But he estimated that the Russians fulfilled "the essential part of their agreements."

For his part, Mr Medvedev rejected the idea of not having fully complied with the cease fire agreements, pointing that "the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is our final decision. It is irrevocable."

Mr Medvedev also rejected the EU's accusation that the Russian use of force in Georgia was disproportionate. He said Moscow's military intervention was "limited, necessary and in accordance with international law."

EU-Russia talks to resume on 2 December

The negotiations between Russia and the EU on a strategic partnership agreement, suspended after the Georgian crisis will be resumed on 2 December, a spokeswoman for the European commission told AFP.

The EU and Russian leaders gathered in Nice "agreed to retake negotiations on 2 December," said Christianne Hohman, spokeswoman for external relations.

She added that the December meeting would be at a technical level, between the heads of the negotiating teams.

Sarkozy wants new EU-US-Russia security accord
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« Reply #223 on: November 22, 2008, 06:21:56 PM »

EU preparing to upgrade Turkmenistan relations

PHILIPPA RUNNER
11.11.2008 @ 17:37 CET

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU institutions are preparing to normalise relations with Turkmenistan, laying aside human rights benchmarks in a bureaucratic process marked by apathy and mistrust.

The European Parliament's international trade committee has invited the European Commission to brief MEPs about the political situation in the gas-rich dictatorship at its next meeting on 2 December.

The briefing will pave the way for parliament to decide on approving an Interim Trade Agreement (ITA) with Ashgabat, under a consultation procedure that would make refusal politically awkward for the treaty's future.

The ITA would multiply the number of EU-Turkmenistan meetings and improve prospects for opening a future EU embassy. It would also send the political message that Europe wants to do business with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

MEPs in February said the ITA should stay frozen until Turkmenistan releases political prisoners, gives access to UN experts on torture, lets people travel out of the country and reforms its educational system.

None of the benchmarks have been met. "This is a time when Turkmenistan is looking to the EU for partnership, for respectability. The EU needs to be consistent," Human Rights Watch (HRW) analyst Maria Lisitsyna said.

But the European Commission in December is likely to tell MEPs that Ashgabat has done enough to show it is open to change, highlighting minor reforms such as relaxation of forced teaching of the Rukhnama, a theological tract.

"We need to encourage these efforts and engage more with the country," commission external relations spokeswoman Christiane Hohmann said. "Non-approval of the ITA would risk sending the wrong message."

Mistrust of NGOs

Brussels sees NGOs such as HRW as a nuisance in its attempt to steer Central Asian countries out of the Russian sphere of influence in a grand geopolitical strategy.

"It's almost as if now that Uzbekistan has gone, they are turning all their attention to Turkmenistan," one EU official said, after the EU in October dropped Uzbekistan sanctions despite an HRW campaign.

The commission will be preaching to the converted as far as the largest parliamentary political group, the conservative EPP-ED, is concerned.

"If we don't talk to the Turkmen, they won't learn about democracy and human rights from Russia or from the Chinese government," German conservative MEP and ITA rapporteur Daniel Caspary said.

The deputy cast doubts on the reliability of HRW analysis, saying that in the past, Russian proxy groups have fed mis-information to Western NGOs.

"HRW, which I very much like, gets information from different channels and some of those channels - they don't know who is behind them."

Apathy also a force

Few MEPs take a strong interest in Turkmenistan, risking a situation in which a handful of pro-ITA deputies lead parliament decision-making.

The head of the Central Asia delegation, Lithuanian Liberal MEP Ona Jukneviciene, in April cancelled a delegation visit to Ashgabat because she was too busy with other things. Just one MEP turned up to a commission briefing on Turkmenistan to the human rights sub-committee in October.

The commission's geopolitical rhetoric also masks smaller bureaucratic objectives and gives an exaggerated impression of Central Asia's importance on its own agenda.

With Turkmenistan as the only one of the five Central Asia states where EU treaties still date back to Soviet times, some EU officials are keen to conclude the ITA to tick a box in their programme.

Senior EU personnel have in the past allegedly said that EU-Russia relations top the EU's foreign policy priority list, with EU-Central Asia relations way down the line. But the European Commission denies this is the case.

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« Reply #224 on: November 26, 2008, 03:34:49 PM »

Faltering EU deal strengthens Islam
November 26, 2008

WASHINGTON - Turkey's bid for eventual European Union membership is likely to fail and this will further boost Islamist and nationalist tendencies already strong in the society.

Faltering EU deal strengthens Islam "Over the next 15 years, Turkey’s most likely course involves a blending of Islamic and nationalist strains, which could serve as a model for other rapidly modernizing countries in the Middle East," said the "Global Trends - 2025" report published Thursday by the National Intelligence Council, or NIC, which brings together all 16 U.S. spy agencies.

Mathew Burrows, NIC counselor and principal organizer of the report, speaking at the Foreign Press Center here a day later, was asked how the U.S. intelligence community predicted that Turkey would be more Islamic and nationalist over the next 15 to 20 years.

"We base this on quite a few talks we have had with experts both here and abroad, and our observations of trends happening now in Turkey," Burrows said. "What we see in Turkey today is the development of an Islamist, modernizing tradition that is very strong and successful, combined with what has always been a very strong nationalist tradition," he said.

About Turkey's EU prospects, Burrows said, "we are cautious, I mean, and somewhat pessimistic, I would say, about whether Turkey will ever be in the EU."

"And we are worried about that relationship going sour," he said. "We would expect that to reinforce some of this nationalist thinking and Islamist traditions and tendencies."

Turkey's pro-secular state establishment, including the military and the ruling Justice and Development Party whose roots are in political Islam have been bickering over secularism-related matters in recent years.

The party's votes in legislative elections have climbed from 36 percent in 2002 to 47 percent in 2007.

Secularism to decline
The NIC said it expected secularism in the Middle East to decline, in line with the Turkish example.

"In the Middle East, secularism, which also has been considered an integral part of the Western model, increasingly may be seen as out of place as Islamic parties come into prominence and possibly begin to run governments," NIC said in the Global Trends report. "As in today’s Turkey, we could see both increased Islamization and greater emphasis on economic growth and modernization."

The NIC report also said it expected to see the political and economic power of Indonesia, Iran, and Turkey, all non-Arab Muslim countries, increase over the next couple of decades.

Faltering EU deal strengthens Islam
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