Monday, February 23, 2009

You play, we pay …

The EU is at it again, prancing on the world stage, trying to be important. Its latest pronouncement being that it has a "crucial strategic interest" in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Therefore, "we" should dosh out €350 million to help tide them over their little local difficulties.

Now, there can be no dispute that the fate of these countries is of immediate importance to the likes of Germany and some of the eastern states, not least because of the gas supply and diverse other matters. And, in the general run of things, what happens in these countries is important. But it's not that important … not to the UK, anyway.

Nevertheless, that does not stop EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner declaring that the EU's so-called "Eastern Partnership" has "gained urgency" and we must drop everything and rush to its aid. Problems in Eastern Europe, she says, "affect us directly".

Therein lies our problem. They don't "affect us directly". Our prime minister has – or should have – far more important things to concern himself about, and we have far more important things on which to expend our dwindling pile of cash.

But there it is in a nutshell. If the EU says it's important, then it's important, whether we think so or not. And when it plays, we pay, all to help the little old lady in Kiev cross the road, between the high-priced SUVs (pictured) – AP's way of illustrating that there is a crisis in Ukraine.

The trouble is, we really cannot afford these diversions. We need to be able to address our own priorities, and deal with what is important to us - not wasting our efforts and resources dancing to the EU's tune.