Monday, July 19, 2004

Mr Solana goes travelling (but what happened to the ethical foreign policy?)

The situation in Gaza is worsening by the hour. There have been kidnappings, attacks, fighting and, even, demonstrations against Yasser Arafat and his friends and relations. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has offered to resign but this was not accepted by Chairman Arafat, who tried to use the chaos to appoint a highly unpopular relative of his, Mussa Arafat as Police Chief. He has now withdrawn the appointment after 2,000 people or so marched in protest to the Palestinian Legislative Council.
While the people of Gaza are protesting against the tyranny and the corruption they have had to live under (and it is the Palestinian Authority they mean) thugs from Arafat’s own Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigade have tried to take advantage of the dissatisfaction to pursue their own rather unsavoury and violent agenda.
The former PA Security Minister Muhammad Dahlan is trying to put pressure on Arafat to implement the long-promised reforms.
In fact, we have reached the point when the UN’s special Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, until now a firm friend of Chairman Arafat’s, has had to make a statement about the latter lacking “the political will” to fight terror and corruption. It’s OK, he was thrown out of the country and declared persona non grata.
Where in all this brouhaha is the European Union? It ought to be present, since they have been the main sponsors of Chairman Arafat, getting the vapours at every American or Israeli (or any other suggestion) that as the man either can’t or won’t control the terrorist groups, perhaps negotiations should be conducted with someone else. Or not at all, as with the decision to pull out of Gaza.
Where is the French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, who repeated last month again that “Arafat is the elected and legitimate leader of the Palestinian people”? As it happens, there have not been any elections in the Palestinian territory since a rather dubious one in 1995 and there is clear indication that the Palestinian people would like to have free elections, a legitimated political process, a free press and a great deal less corruption.
But are they getting any support from the authors of the “ethical foreign policy”? As we keep pointing out on this blog, the purpose of the common foreign and security policy is to spread the “European values” of freedom and democracy round the world. (That’s what they say – don’t blame me.) Should there not, at least, be a few statements? Is the European Parliament going to pass a resolution? It is always passing resolutions about all sorts of places and events that it has no particular business with but, given the amount of money that has been handed over to the Palestinian Authority by the EU, what happens in that place is the EU’s concern.
As it happens, Javier Solana is going to the Middle East. It seems, however, that he is not going to Gaza or any other part of the Palestinian territory. No, not even to find out what is happening to the EU’s money.
He is going to Jordan to discuss the Middle East peace process (shouldn’t take too long) and Jordan’s participation in the European Neighbourhood Initiative, the special arrangement for countries that are reasonably close to the EU but are not on the list of potential members.
Then he is going to Cairo to talk about the Iraqi situation and to press for the bordering countries to help with the security situation there. This is rather a strange idea, as the new Iraqi government has specifically asked neighbouring countries not to get involved.
Solana’s last port of call will be Israel, where he will meet the Prime Minister, Sharon and the Leader of Opposition, Shimon Peres and will discuss the situation in Gaza and the Middle East peace process, as well as Israel’s participation in the European Neighbourhood Initiative. No doubt the wall and the ICC decision will come up.
In the meantime, the member states of the EU seem paralysed as well, waiting for the spokesman on the common policy to pronounce. The Middle East has, in the past, been proclaimed as an area of special interest to the European Union. And now?

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