A good read

If you understand Swedish I really must advice you to read this excellent editorial in Sydsvenska Daglbladet in which Per T Ohlsson shares his thoughts on the 60th anniversary of the victory over nazism. A short quote (my translation):

”If Churchill and his Spitfire and Hurricane pilots had given up in 1940. If Franklin Roosevelt had turned America into the Arsenal of Democracy and if the Americans, after Pearl Harbour, had focused solely on defeating Japan. If the invasion of Normandie in 1944 had failed. The Red Army in Paris, Copenhagen and Brussels. Perhaps a German-Soviet division of Europe.

Pointing this out is not to lessen the efforts of the Soviet Union. But the Second World War can not be understood simply as a military victory. It must also be understood as a great battle for the future of European Democracy: in 1945 half of Europe got the freedom it took until 1989 for all of it to have.

Victory was won in the East. Freedom, our freedom, was won in the West.”

If you know Swedish, do yourself a favour on this anniversary day and read the piece in it’s entirety.

Victory for Blair

Tony Blair’s Labour Party has won it’s third consecutive general election in the United Kingdom, albeit with a smaller majority than before.

As I wrote earlier neither of the alternatives looked all that inspiring to me – especially considering that when the next election comes Gordon Brown will be prime minister – not Tony Blair.

That being said, Tony Blair has – all in all – done a pretty good job. His principled stand on issues – like the Iraq war – has been inspiring and it’s nice to see that at least one European leader dares to make decisions based on moral considerations rather than short sighted populism.

Also, another period of opposition might be good for the Conservatives. It will give them time to ponder over their policies and hopefully return to a more Thatcherite low-taxes scheme, rather than just being Labour Light, with a touch of xenophobia. Whether that’s the direction they’ll take remains to be seen, but by the next general election, in 2009 or 2010 unless something unexpected comes up, it’s indeed probable that the British people will be a tad tired of Mr Brown raising the tax – in particular if the improvements in public services keep lagging behind the increases in public spending.

Raffarin the Ruffian

Deutsche Welle reports that the French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin expressed his support of the Chinese anti-secession law during his visit to Beijing. As Mr Raffarin is well aware of this law has one purpose – to legalize an invasion of Taiwan.

It has probably been obvious from previous posts on this blog that I’m not a major fan of French foreign policy. Their kind of short sighted realpolitik has always been a gamble and has often led to terrible consequences for the world at large – a fact that should be perfectly clear to anyone who has studied the events of the last century. Combine it with a complete lack of principles and you’ve got a highly dislikable combination.

From the ordinary French “if we give you this will you not by a few airplanes we’ve built?”-policy to expressing support for the world’s largest authoritarian state’s plans to attack a neighbouring democracy with some 23 million citizens one needs to cross lines that one shouldn’t cross.

That the other leaders of the West haven’t clearly stated that this is completely unacceptable is embarrasing, worrying and depressing. The French people must now show that they do not tolarate the abandonment of all things respectable and get rid of their Gaullist government as soon as they can.

In the tough world of international diplomacy compromises has to be struck and one cannot fight all the battles. Even so, some things are never acceptable. This is one of them.

What happens after a “Non”?

As the French referendum on the EU constitution draws closer a “No” seems like the probable outcome. A bit surprising and – to me, at least – most welcome, should it happen. But what will happen afterwards?

Had it been Denmark, Sweden or Estonia (or any other small country) that had rejected the constitution it’s likely that the constitution would have been passed in all the other countries first before another referendum would have been held in the troublemaking country – this time with the pressure from all the other countries to say yes. The pro constitution leaders in Europe wants to do business this way even with a French no, but that seems unlikely to be workable. If the French say no this consitution is dead – in part because France is a very dominant power in the EU but also because the constitution is largely a French product. If not even the French approve of “their own” constitution, why should anyone else?

Swedish blogger Dick Erixon comes with an interesting proposal: Write two constitutions – one gaullist and socialistic (like this one) and one market liberal. Then let the people choose between the two. Mr Erixon doesn’t say whether he wants the referendums to be national, or if he wants to hold one big referendum in the EU (which seems more plausible perhaps).

I think this is a pretty good idea. Instead of getting a debate on the good and bad of the current EU we would get one about what the EU should be in the future. Do we want the focus to be on deregulation and opening up markets, or do we want an EU that hands out subsidies to special interests and regulates the markets to work better for some people (and worse in general)? My position here is hopefully obvious.

However, to me such a referendum should have a third option: No constitution at all. After all, it seems only fair to provide a choice for those who dislike both proposed constitutions and would prefer today’s order of affairs.

Benedict XVI

Joseph Ratzinger – from now on Benedict XVI – has been elected by the cardinals to lead the Catholic Church as their new pope. Without knowing too much about him I think this means that we can expect the church to maintain their position on issues like the use of contraceptives, homosexuality, abortion and other controversial matters.

As a cardinal Mr Ratzinger headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was generally considered to be the most influencial person on the ideological direction of the church during John Paul II’s time.

I’m sure many people knowing a lot more about him than I do will share with us what we can expect from his papacy.

Election time in Britain

The general election in the United Kingdom is drawing closer and it looks like the outcome might be more tight than one would have expected. Anything but a third consecutive victory for Tony Blair and Labour would be surprising but Michael Howard’s Conservatives have mounted a stronger charge than most people (me included) expected.

To me it’s a tough choice. I like Mr Blair. He has shown true leadership qualities that are much lacking on the European scene, and seems like a man who truly believes in what he advocates. He has taken some brave stances, both on Iraq and on Europe, because he beliefs that they are the right position, despite the fact that British opinion has been against him. At the same time there are things in their time at power that has gone in the wrong direction. Under the lead of the chancellor Gordon Brown the labour government has increased spending on welfare services by quite a bit and closed the gap to the too-high European tax pressure average (though there’s still quite a distance to go, fortunatly). For every passing month the New Labour government looks more and more like an Old Labour government, with a careless tax-and-spend policy. It’s an easy trap to fall into as the country is getting richer, and it takes courage to stand against pressure for more public services. Still it’s a long term service to the country to avoid going there. And with Mr Brown poised to take over the helm at some time things aren’t likely to get better.

On the other hand their main rivals, the Conservatives, aren’t as attractive as they should be either. Their tough-on-immigration profiling isn’t at all to my taste, for one thing. Looking at the economy bit they aren’t the small government supporters they were during Thatcher’s time at Number 10. Instead, the more you look at their promises the more they appear to adhere to the same tax-and-spend policies as Labour, only at a slower rate.

Indeed it is true that Mr Howard has promised to cut taxes and Mr Brown has said that he would freeze them. Considering that the Conservatives still wants to increase public spending and reduce borrowing one might wonder whether they can really cover everything with cutting bureaucracy. The same thing goes for Mr Brown and Labour. And worth noting is that Mr Brown has only promised to freeze direct taxes like income tax and VAT. This does not mean that he can’t raise other taxes.

Hopefully the debate will sharpen the arguments and provide some answers. Neither choice would be disastrous in any way. But things could be better.

A step in the right direction?

When Swedish prime minister, the Social Democrat Göran Persson, telephoned opposition leader and Conservative Fredrik Reinfeldt from Brussels last December and asked him to lend his support for dropping the EU ban on arms sales he got it. I’ve written several times on this blog arguing against such a decision.

Now, the Conservative Party seems to retract their support. According to Sveriges Radio the party spokesman for foreign policy says (my translation): “We don’t think that it’s time to drop the ban, since the criteria aren’t fulfilled”. Right so.

Many European leaders – led by president Jaques Chirac – wants to drop the ban in June, and if no one’s prepared to oppose it that could well happen. Ms Carlsson now wants to work together with the British and the Czechs to prevent such a decision. That would be most welcome. However she is not prepared to explicitly demand that Sweden should use it’s veto if it comes down to it. Perhaps one should not expect that from a party who earlier supported the decision.

Meanwhile the Swedish foreign minister, Laila Freivalds, is reluctant to say anything at all on the matter, probably meaning that she doesn’t want to be associated with dropping the ban, but she doesn’t want to oppose it either.

Worth pointing out is that all the Conservatives say is that they don’t want the decision to be made as early as June. Considering the fact that it’s highly unlikely that China will change in a relevant way anytime soon that’s not a very impressive opinion. The EU shouldn’t even consider dropping the ban until China has changed dramatically.

On Pope John Paul II

Hundreds of thousands of people have come to Rome to mourn the loss of Pope John Paul II and millions and millions around the world miss him deeply.

I am not a religious man, and the words and deeds of the pope didn’t interest me that much during his time in the Vatican. Now that he is gone my feelings towards him are mixed.

John Paul II did a lot of great things. Born in Poland he saw the terrors of both nazism and communism – the two great evils of the 20th century. His role in the fall of the Soviet Empire was important; his visit to Poland in 1979 set the wheels in motion and is one of the finest moments in the history of the Catholic Church.

He also condemned the anti semitism that the Church had previously always embraced and did a lot to reach out to people of the other large religions in the world. Hopefully something the next pope will continue to do.

His traditional views on homosexuality and the use of contraceptives does not go down quite as well, on the other hand – especially not in a time when the HIV virus seems likely to bring down a thunderous strike on the poor people in Southern Africa (and in other places too).

His view on abortions is unmodern but consequent, and in this particular issue one should perhaps remember that the pope devoted himself to the realm of ethics, not legislation. Though there is a connection, these two things are not the same.

All in all the world at large benefits from a thinking pope, and John Paul II seems to have been that. Not because his opinions were always agreeable – often they were not – but because a thinking pope forces people to personally consider the ethics of different issues and make up their own minds. And that is always a good thing.

johaneriksson.se is back

johaneriksson.se is back. As you can tell I’ve made some changes to the look and feel of this blog and I hope you like them. Feel free to let me know what you think – after all since it’s you I want to make think about what I write, it’s important that the presentation doesn’t get in the way.

There’ll be changes to the content as well, the main one being that this blog will be bi-lingual from now on. In the future some of the posts will be in Swedish, the reason being that I want to be able to take a more active role in the Swedish domestic political debate. However this does not mean that the amount of articles in English will become fewer – I know many of you don’t speak Swedish (after all, it isn’t the biggest of languages) and anything that isn’t of a purely domestic interest will be written in English.

Also, for those of you who reads the blog through an RSS reader the technical solution I’ve chosen prevents me from naming the rss-file myself. This means that you will have to change this information in your readers. The feed will now be found at http://johaneriksson.se/wp-rss2.php. I’m sorry for the inconvinience.

If you have any opinions on either the new look or the content itself – feel free to contact me. I’ll try to answer every mail I get as fast as I can.