Sunday, August 29, 2004

The row about Burma continues

In an effort not to scuttle the forthcoming summit between the EU and ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) over the presence or otherwise of Burma, a compromise has been suggested: instead of sending Prime Minister Gen. Khin Nyunt, Burma could make do with a junior official, said some Western diplomats.

This was immediately rejected by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as being unacceptable.

In the past, ASEAN demanded that Burma be a full member of the event or the new, East European members of the European Union be discarded. More recently they have taken on the EU’s own vocabulary, talking of the need to “engage with Burma constructively”. That is likely to be as successful as the EU’s own “constructive” engagement with, say, Iran.

In the meantime the row within the EU continues. As we have reported before, although the EU has in the past called for all sorts of sanctions on Burma (Myanamar) and made all sorts of statement, when it came to summit, most of the member states decided that well, after all, what does one more tyranny matter. (They have a point. The EU routinely genuflects to all tyrannies – why should Burma be singled out?)

Britain, however, has persisted in what was supposed to be EU policy and has refused to allow Burma to take part in the summit. France has, on the other hand announced that the summit was more important than its component parts (or something like that) and, given the many things Europe and Asia had to discuss, the minor detail of Burma should not be used to undermine the meeting.

Clearly, human rights will not be one of those many issues, despite the fact that the European Union is always proclaimed to be the bearer of freedom, democracy and, yes, human rights in the world.

The Foreign Office seems to have become very undiplomatic and called the French attitude “craven”. Surely not.

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