European Council on Foreign Relations

Intriguing facts at the G20…

The prize for the most intriguing fact from the G20 in Seoul goes to the BBC's economics editor, Stephanie Flanders, who reports the following in her 'Stephanomics' blog:

"Western officials should have realised this summit would be different when they arrived in Seoul to find their smartphones didn't work. The problem was that Korea's nationwide 4G network was too advanced. On early negotiating missions, key UK officials found themselves communicating with London via e-mail, on rented phones.

"That was never a problem in Pittsburgh, or in Toronto. But as George Osborne liked to point out, this was the first G20 summit not hosted by a G8 country - and, he might have added, the first where G8 countries didn't call the tune."



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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Berlusconi’s way with press conferences

Prime minister Berlusconi does not hold press conferences at the end of European Council Meetings. We all know that by now. But the news is that this time he was the only leader who cancelled his press conference at the end of the G20 Summit in Seoul.

This may be quite a sensible move on his part, given the current situation he his facing in Italy.

I have personally assisted several press conferences in the margins of the G8 or G20 in my former job as an Italian advisor, and unfortunately I have to say that too many times journalists missed the opportunity to ask questions related to the real results of these Summits. Too many questions dwelled on the garbage piling up in the streets of Naples, on internal politics, on potential scandals. Very little about what Italy and the G8 or G20 are doing to combat the economic crisis, poverty in the world or climate change.

Considering the

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Remembrance, Afghanistan and rethinking defence

Several of us in the London office have just observed the two minutes of silence that is traditional in Britain at 1100 on every November 11th, in memory of the country’s war dead. Just a couple of hundred metres away from the office is a field of tiny crosses and paper poppies, laid out in miniature ranks on the grass in front of Westminster Abbey.

By 'London Looks' via Flickr

The fact remains inescapable, in this current climate of defence budget cuts and strategic reviews, that Britain remains a country at war.

One aspiration for this ECFR blog is for it to point readers in the direction of other material – written, spoken, filmed – that we find useful. As part of this I plan to do a weekly draw together of useful podcasts and radio that I’ve heard – and given the fact that it is November 11th, I thought it’d make sense to begin with a look at some useful pieces in connection with Afghanistan and defence.


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