European Council on Foreign Relations

Arming Syria’s rebels is a red herring

Yesterday’s focus on the arms embargo issue at the European Foreign Minister’s meeting was something of a red herring. Despite the decision to drop the embargo, there are no plans to consider arming for at least two months, while any eventual arming will be extremely limited and subject to export license and other restrictions that apply to conflict situations. Any weapons flow will also be severely constrained by domestic political caution driven by fears of potential blowback. Given that the impact of such arming will therefore be relatively minor, the meeting was akin to a very public discussion of how best to bluff a weak hand in a poker match – not a good idea.

The West is, quite simply, ill-equipped to win a proxy arming race if its support for rebels prompts Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia to increase their military backing of the regime. And that is exactly what has happened.

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A conversation with Egypt’s new planning minister


On Tuesday 7 May the Egyptian cabinet was reshuffled – and one of the key portfolios for Egypt’s relations with the outside world went to Amr Darrag of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Darrag was named minister for planning and international co-operation. Last Friday, only days before he joined the cabinet, he appeared as a panellist at a Black Coffee Morning event at ECFR in London. Whether or not he had any inkling about his imminent promotion, Darrag’s comments give an insight into the outlook of a man who will now be influential on a series of contentious issues – including negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), relations with the European Union, and rules governing the operation of NGOs in Egypt.

Darrag is certainly a polished and articulate performer, and in that sense, a smart choice for a job that involves making Egypt’s case

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China and Greenland: digging for trouble

Greenland is starting to look forward to a bright future in resource-extraction, based on underground riches that include large deposits of iron ore, uranium and the coveted rare earths. This is already bringing great international interest - in particular Chinese investors and droves of Chinese workers for the mines.

In a dream scenario, such extraction could turn Greenlanders into Polar mineral sheiks providing cash inflows to the benefit of Greenlandic society and prosperity (each proposed extraction project is larger than Greenland’s current yearly gross national income). In a worst case, it could lead to uneven distribution of riches, environmental degradation and in the exploitation of foreign workers - all suggesting that Greenland could fall prey to the ‘resource curse’ of countries such as Nigeria and DR Congo. 

In Denmark, the potential Chinese move into the Greenlandic

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What is the ECFR Scorecard?

On 31st January we publish the ECFR Foreign Policy Scorecard 2013. Here's a short video that I've just put together to explain what the Scorecard project is, and why it should be of interest to everybody interested in European influence in the world...

Sofia view: a Turkish progress report


Turkey enters 2013 with a 270-page report listing its progress towards the EU. Europe Minister and Chief Negotiatior Egemen Bağış used the occasion to lambast, once more, the regular monitoring document issued by the European Commission back in October as “overshadowed by more subjective, biased, unwarranted and bigoted attitudes.” This is the same cabinet member who is fond of clamoring that Turkey was coming to the rescue of the crisis-hit EU.  Among the successes the new report lists is the increase of the number of women in parliament to 14.4 percent (though this happened in June 2011, not in 2012), the higher number of disabled people employed by the state and others. I much prefer the sketch of 2012 my friend Suat Kınıklıoğlu has prepared. It gives you a frank, unadulterated picture.

Unfortunately, the government-prepared report is available in Turkish only which

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