European Council on Foreign Relations

In praise of dignity

Yesterday Finnish foreign Minister Alexander Stubb gave a speech at LSE expanding on his idea of a ‘dignified’ EU foreign policy.  Far from signalling a departure from confronting difficult issues in the EU’s relationship with third countries - which many in human rights circles feared was what he was about in his first references to this idea a few months back – he was in fact arguing for an approach to foreign policy which equips us better to achieve what we want to from it. Respect for human rights and the rule of law is a core part of what Europe wants, but it is currently not particularly savvy at getting it.

For those of us working on these questions at ECFR, much of his speech is music to our ears: not least because it chimes very much with the three part strategy which we put forward in our recent policy brief Towards an EU human rights strategy for a post-Western world.


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The diplomatic corner: The G20 in the shadow of North Korea

Like many other world-viewers, I watched the G-20 unfold in beautiful settings in Seoul. World leaders passing down red carpets, handshakes and smiles. Yet all the expensive stage setting for a get-together of so many world leaders makes one ponder the costs. Apparently, Seoul shouldn't have been as expensive as the Toronto G-20. Still, it conveys even greater responsibility for this new global forum to provide solutions that make a difference for ordinary people's lives and genuinely improving global governance.

And one intractable trouble spot is looming just 70 kilometres away from the ultra-modern setting of Seoul. Here is the frontier with North Korea, heavily guarded with hundreds of thousands of soldiers lined up in Cold war confrontation style. I have visited the border area several times (also coming from the North side). The short drive from Seoul makes it feel like a quick

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Burma’s elections - a glimmer of hope?

After months of speculation about the potential or lack thereof of the Burmese elections, Sunday 7th November came and went, and what votes were cast are now all in and being counted. The main military party - the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)  report that they have 'won' 80% of the votes, even before the 25% guaranteed for the army. Turnout was certainly low - although there is hardly a trend to compare it with, given that the last election was twenty years ago - and there were widespread reports of intimidation of voters at the polling stations, and coercion in advance of polling day. Many ethnic minority groups were disenfranchised anyway as their regions were deemed too unstable for a polling station. Foreign journalists were not authorised to go into the country and report, but those who did so anyway, undercover, described a very subdued atmosphere. There are no

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