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Embassy Barometer – Embassy 3 – December 2007

The Diplomatic Year in Review

According to Embassy's Diplomatic Barometer, it has been an interesting year for diplomats. There have been highs and lows, but thanks to some fine negotiating, the year ended better than it began.

Diplomats can pat themselves on the back this festive season.

You all wrote in to tell us your highs and lows of 2007 and, on balance, it seems diplomats have come out on top.

The year started well for Europe as it welcomed two new members, Romania and Bulgaria to the EU fold, while Slovenia joined the Eurozone. The year continued in this vein with an agreement on the Reform Treaty in June, which was signed in Lisbon in December. Transatlantic ties warmed thanks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the election of French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

But unpleasant spats with Russia did spoil the party. Bad tempered rows over energy and trade broke out between Russia and its neighbours. Relations with Britain were plunged into the deep freeze when Russia refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, leading to tit-for-tat expulsions. Russia also refused to play ball over the status of Kosovo, and the December deadline for reaching an agreement was missed, casting a cloud of unease in the Balkans.

For Asia it has been a bit of a see-saw year. It started with some unexpected good fortune as North Korea announced in February that it was going to shut down its main nuclear reactor.

Hopes were raised that Burma would be liberated as Buddhist monks took to the streets in protest, only to be crushed by the military regime.

There was also political turmoil in Pakistan, with General Musharraf sacking judges, jailing the opposition and imposing emergency rule. But by the end of the year, things were on the mend, with elections promised in January and emergency rule lifted.

The year did not start well in the Middle East: trouble in Gaza, sabre-rattling over Iran's nuclear programme, violence in Iraq and the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But by mid-year, things were looking up. The US 'Surge' in Iraq started delivering results, the conference in Annapolis promised a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the US and Iran actually started talking to each other over Iraq.

It was a mixed year for Africa: the Sudanese government relented to give the green light to a UN hybrid force for Darfur; CHOGM, in Uganda, was a success; but a fractious EU-Africa summit stirred up bitterness between the EU and Africa. The meeting was boycotted by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown due to the presence of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, who was criticised by EU leaders.

It's been a noisy year for Latin America. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez loudly taunted the US and its allies was only hushed momentarily when the King of Spain told the president to "shut up".

The UN did a good balancing act this year, knocking heads together over Darfur and pulling off a historic, if watered down, climate change deal in Bali but tragedy struck when UN headquarters were attacked in Algiers.

Will the upward trend continue? With some watershed decisions to come in 2008, let's hope so.

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