Monday, May 17, 2004

Another dubious engagement

During his press conference after the World Economic Forum, held this year in Jordan for some reason, Secretary of State Colin Powell explained that the USA had not consulted the EU before imposing sanctions on Syria for harbouring terrorists, developing weapons of mass destruction, and generally creating mayhem in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Indeed not. As readers of the blog may remember, the EU has decided not to back the American action, explaining that it believed in positive engagement. Well, of course, it does. The EU and, particularly, France and Spain, happen to do a great deal of business with Syria, presumably not unconnected with oil. What they might be selling to that country remains shrouded in mystery for the time being.

In fact, Loyola de Palacio, European Commission Vice President, in charge of energy and transport visited Damascus very soon after President Bush’s statement and assured the world that the EU was “determined to boost relations with Syria” and hoped that the association agreement, long time in the making, will be finalized soon.

Given that the aim of the EU common foreign and security policy is to spread the ideals of democracy, liberty and human rights around the world (except when there is a deal to be done with some nasty dictator), we may expect oblique references to the need for reform in Syria and praise for what had already been done, though the attitude of the Damascus government to human rights has not been particularly positive.

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