Stop panting, British intelligence will remain

The Telegraph has another “EU-is-taking-over” story today about how moves to create a European intelligence service will jeopardise the work of British spies.

Improving intelligence cooperation and information-sharing inside the EU is important both to help combat terrorism and to provide the necessary intelligence for ESDP missions, such as the EULEX mission in Kosovo.
A first step towards improving intelligence-sharing was the establishment of the Joint Situation Center (SITCEN) for intelligence analysis within the Council Secretariat. One of its goals is to bring together experts from both the intelligence and security services.

For a while federalist-minded politicians have tried to push the idea further. In 2004, Finnish and Austrian politicians proposed to take this further, creating an EU intelligence service.

But this has gone – and will go – nowhere. Nor is it even clear how such a service would function. Creating trained and experienced staff, investing in technology, networks, agents etc is beyond what the EU can do.

Whilst EU-level bodies may develop their analytical functions, creating a cadre of analysts that may even sit in EC Delegations, no serious analyst believes that the member states will loose full control of operational decisions, information gatheredm their network of sources etc.

But don’t let that stop a story like the one the Telegraph is running.

Globalisation and the death of the hot pot

Having just returned home to the U.S. after a long trip to Britain, I am naturally consoling myself with frequent readings of the expat section of the Daily Telegraph website.  This appears to be designed to lull far-off anglo-nostalgists into believing that the UK is still a green and pleasant land, give or (preferably) take the odd immigrant.  But all is not well: classic British dishes are dying out.

Traditional British dinners are being replaced by ‘foreign quick fixes’ as they take too long to cook. Classic dishes such as toad in the hole, bubble and squeak and hot pots are dying out are diasppearing from the family dinner table, a survey shows.

Researchers found almost one in three people now opt for pizza or spaghetti bolognese at the majority of meal times. And more than a quarter of adults polled named Italian as their favourite type of food.

However, not all British classics are disappearing as the research found that roast dinners and jacket potatoes are still firm favourites.

Kathryn Race from The Potato Council, which carried out the poll, said:

“It’s a shame to see that some of our country’s best loved foods are no longer seen on UK dinner tables – they are our heritage and something we need to keep. We are travelling the world more than ever now, and it seems we are trying to recreate the dishes we sample abroad once we get back home. Foreign foods and the ingredients needed to make those dishes are readily available in supermarkets making it far easier to cook them back at home, although this is, it seems, at a price.”

Zimbabwe veto says as much about US and UK as Russia

The Russian and Chinese veto of UNSC sanctions against Zimbabwe may in hindsight have been predicable, even inevitable, but on day of the vote they came as a clear surprise to many, not least British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who only days earlier told the House the tougher sanctions were in the bag.

Leaving aside whether you believe sanctions are a good idea – I certainly do – what happened? Had Russian President Dmitri Medvedev not signed up to sanctions only days before at the G8 Summit in Japan? Did the Prime Minister simply not take “Njet” for an answer? Bit by bit, the run-up to the vote is emerging. 

It now seems the issue was driven not by No. 10, but from the 7th floor of the U.S State Department, where Jendayi Frazer, U.S Assistant Secretary of State, sits. Even though no U.S interests are at stake, Ms Frazer, an academic colleague of Condi Rice’s from her Stanford days, has focused intently on Zimbabwe, apparently raising the issue whenever she meets African leaders.

Ms. Frazer – who is known to abhor her British opposite number Lord Malloch Brown from his UN days – apparently was in the driving seat on Zimbabwe policy, after having waited in vain for a UK lead. With the US Ambassador to the UN, Zal Khalizaid, she apparently pushed hard for a tough resolution. Better to make a stand, the argument went.

But after the G8 meeting, British diplomats apparently thought that the Russians would balk and became nervous. In fairness, Brown – who had been micro-managing the issue – thought he’d gotten Medvedev on board. But either little thought was given to whether the Russian president could in fact deliver – especially after the British Prime Minister harangued him at his first summit – or the issue was not deemed important enough to merit a Russian rejection.

To be on the safe side, however, the Foreign Office apparently asked Bush to call Medvedev and Rice to raise the issue with her Russian counterpart. None of this happened and things began to fall apart. The Chinese, who diplomats believe would probably have abstained if the Russians had not decided to veto, moved to veto as well.

By then the Prime Minister had already sounded confident in his post-G8 address to the House during PMQs. As a last-ditch effort, diplomats considered tabling a weaker resolution, giving South Africa more time to find a solution and thus putting the onus back on Tabo Mbeki and, ultimately, Robert Mugabe. But the U.S – who chaired the UN Security Council – decided to go for broke, tabled the old text and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the aftermath of the no-vote, the U.S government has been quick to point out that the Russian veto shows Russian cannot be seen as a reliable partner. Russian officials have reacted angrily at this, saying Medvedev never promised support for U.N. sanctions.

But what does the episode say about U.S and UK foreign policy?  That even on an issue of such totemic importance to Britain – and where the Prime Minster has taken a personal interest – the U.S remains in the lead, yet unable or unwilling to do the necessary due diligence to ensure more than declaratory success. 

Still saving global Europe

As European foreign ministers settle down to what must be one of their most uncomfortable meetings this year, my colleague Ulrike Guerot and I try to remind people why the Lisbon Treaty was proposed in the first place. No, not an evil scheme to vanquish long-held British liberties. That role, if you believe the critics , is Gordon Brown’s . But rather, they did it to help deal with Europe’s decline.

If uncorrected, what does this mean in the long-term: a greater diffusion of power and decreased support for a rules-based multilateral system and international norms, such as human rights, at a time when the world is moving to a no-polar set-up.

In the article, we suggest two options are available: a minimalist and a maximalist one.

Minimally, European leaders should think about ways of improving the Union’s foreign policy instruments. Many of the changes could probably be created without a Treaty and through Council and Commission decisions.

But a more maximalist option would be to push ahead with a multi-speed Europe. Multi-speed not in the sense of fast/middle/slow; rather, multi-speed in the sense of overlapping ellipses of cooperation. This is not the same as consigning Europe to fragments – because the key ellipses (e.g. euro, Schengen) expand over time until they come to cover all European countries.