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End of Year, 2009

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2009 was certainly not a year of triumphs for mankind nor human kindliness. The world economic crisis is neither diagnostically nor therapeutically on the way to a solution. The theatres of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the caves of Waziristan and the bitter feuds in the Middle East between Israel, the Palestinians, the terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah are still in the headlines. The Iran crisis is the most serious trial of strength for the 'open society'. Were a peaceful solution to fail a costly war might be inevitable. Yet left unresolved a bloody day of judgement later on would exact much greater casualties.

For Europe, 2009 was in a certain sense a year of limited success, since the Lisbon Treaty became at last a reality. Yet the old continent is far away from being capable of acting in unison. The old triangle, Germany, France, Great Britain, has once again shrunk to a strengthened axis: Berlin-Paris. Though Frau Merkel and Monsieur Sarkozy might not be temperamentally ideally suited their closer collaboration is influenced by the uncertain political situation in London which limits the effectiveness of Gordon Brown's leadership. Elections next May will very probably bring David Cameron's young Tory crew to power. The governing Labour party is far too preoccupied with its own future. The Conservatives have unfortunately no constructive foreign policy and their relationship with the United States is incomparably cooler than it was with Tony Blair. Republicans mistrust Cameron's critical attitude to the Bush regime and the Democrats feel that the Tories are still ideologically far from Obama's position.

As for Europe, the Tories' uncompromising Euro-scepticism and their exodus from the Conservative bloc at the Strasburg parliament, where they joined forces with radical Right Poles and Balts, embittered influential conservative groups, notably Germany's CDU and CSU.

Tony Blair's failure to become President of the European Union harmed Great Britain because he, more than any other candidate, had, through his charisma and energy, been an influential British voice in Europe. The election of a pale Labour lady from the British House of Lords as Europe's Foreign Minister with increased powers as successor to so weighty a personality as Spain's Javier Solana was certainly no compensation. All the more so as the French, through Michel Barnier's appointment as Commissioner for Europe's Internal Market, will now have a decisive influence on the important financial sector and the trading of the City of London.

In southern Europe we may expect critical developments next year. Silvio Berlusconi's Government seems to be more firmly anchored than many assumed. The assault on the Prime Minister, which has been compared to a similar bodily attack on Mussolini, has helped more than damaged his public image. His Opposition offers few alternative leaders and is less than united. In Greece, unrest and street demonstrations presage a serious political crisis. The gulf between rich and poor has never been greater. Poles and Czechs were aggrieved when President Obama rescinded his earlier decision to establish a system of rocket launchers on their territory against attacks from Iran, which openly boasted that the range of their missiles would now reach the whole of central Europe. America took this step as a concession to the Russians, who regarded it as unquestionably directed against their country. Although Moscow reacted positively to Obama's gesture the Kremlin also made it clear that so far the young American President has in no way convinced them that he is genuinely and decisively prepared to change his policy towards Russia. In fact Obama, in spite of all his calming, self-critical and friendship-protesting speeches and gestures, has failed so far to rally America's enemies to his side.

The disappointing results of Obama's missionary work in the field of climate change was the failure of the Copenhagen conclave. Best case result might be a delay of a year until a further marathon conference in Mexico City. Worst case result would be a clear demonstration of how divided rich and poor - including newly rich and seemingly unrescuably poor - nations have become, even when the future of the planet is in question. Significant cry of fury from a Sudanese Deputy, who accused the great powers of culpability for a second Holocaust. This quotation is all the most interesting as it comes from a State, the Sudan, high on the list of Holocaust deniers.