Tuesday, July 03, 2007

That travel ban

As we know the European Union needs a common foreign policy in order to have a stronger voice on the world stage. The trouble is, as we also know, that the Single European Voice does not have anything to say because there is no Single European Interest.

No, no, you are wrong, say the armchair euro-warriors, we do have something to say. It has little to do with old-fashioned national interests and everything to do with values and human rights. The last time these arguments were used was in early 1917 after the real Russian Revolution proclaimed the end of all outdated secret international treaties and wars fought for national interests. Come November and the Bolshevik coup the proclamations remained but the reality became a little more grim.

Anyway, back to the European values. Remember that one thing the European Union can do is to enforce a Europe-wide ban on travel by Zimbabwean President-for-life-and-probably-beyond Robert Mugabe and his entourage, though why that ban should not be imposed on several other kleptocratic bloodthirsty African rulers is an interesting point.

Are we keeping to this ban? Sadly, it would seem no. According to the Association of Zimbabwean Journalists:
Portugal is planning to invite Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe to a European Union summit in December - but is hoping that he will not attend.
So we impose a ban, break it and hope that the banned people will stick to it. Is this what they call a value-based policy?

Why exactly do we need to invite Mugabe? Well, it seems that the other African leaders will not attend the planned EU-Africa Summit, which is one of the key policies of the Portuguese Presidency if poor old Mugabe is discriminated against. That says something about the other African leaders to whom we keep shelling out large amounts of aid money, thus keeping them in power and preventing any possible economic or political development in their countries.

Surely the answer to that ought to be: “Oh fine. In that case we cannot have an EU-Africa Summit. What a pity.” Then we can all get on with other issues. Now that would be a value-based policy and so simple, too.

Peter Tatchell is suggesting an alternative in his Guardian blog posting:
Better still, the Portuguese government could lure Mugabe into a trap. It could invite him to December's European-African summit and, when he arrives in Lisbon, arrest him on charges of torture. There is no point in Portugal having human rights laws if it is not prepared to enforce them.
An unlikely scenario but it is good to have someone suggesting it.

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