Saturday, February 05, 2005

Appeasement revisited

It seems a tad ironic that we should have to go to the Pakistan Daily Times to read a condemnation of the EU’s attitude towards dictators,

But there you are, in today’s issue we read an article called "Appeasement revisited" by Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic.

He is railing against the decision, instigated by socialist Prime Minister José Zapatero of Spain, whereby EU member state embassies in Havana have acceded to the wishes of Fidel Castro to vet their guest lists, excluding any dissidents.

"I cannot recall," writes Havel," any occasion at that time when the West or any of its organisations (NATO, the European Community, etc) issued some public appeal, recommendation, or edict stating that some specific group of independently-minded people — however defined — were not to be invited to diplomatic parties, celebrations, or receptions." He continues:

But today this is happening. One of the strongest and most powerful democratic institutions in the world — the European Union — has no qualms in making a public promise to the Cuban dictatorship that it will re-institute diplomatic apartheid.

I can hardly think of a better way for the EU to dishonour the noble ideals of freedom, equality, and human rights that the Union espouses — indeed, principles that it reiterates in its constitutional agreement. To protect European corporations’ profits from their Havana hotels, the Union will cease inviting open-minded people to EU embassies, and we will deduce who they are from the expression on the face of the dictator and his associates. It is hard to imagine a more shameful deal.

Today, the EU is dancing to Fidel’s tune. That means that tomorrow it could bid for contracts to build missile bases on the coast of the People’s Republic of China. The following day it could allow its decisions on Chechnya to be dictated by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advisers. Then, for some unknown reason, it could make its assistance to Africa conditional on fraternal ties with the worst African dictators.

Where will it end? The release of Milosevic? Denying a visa to Russian human rights activist Sergey Kovalyov? An apology to Saddam Hussein? The opening of peace talks with Al Qaida?

It is suicidal for the EU to draw on Europe’s worst political traditions, the common denominator of which is the idea that evil must be appeased and that the best way to achieve peace is through indifference to the freedom of others. Just the opposite is true: such policies expose an indifference to one’s own freedom and pave the way for war. After all, Europe is uniting in order to defend its freedom and values, not to sacrifice them to the ideal of harmonious coexistence with dictators and thus risk gradual infiltration of its soul by the anti-democratic mindset.
One must admire Havel, for his optimism if nothing else. But where does he get the idea that "one of the strongest and most powerful democratic institutions in the world" is the European Union?

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