"People are asking us to be present in the most disparate places and conflicts. They want things done in a European way and with an effective European foreign policy. We want that too." [Javier Solana's statement to the European Parliament last week]
Members of the European Parliament last week (March 29, 2007) debated the outlook for the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy with High Representative Javier Solana. It is said that Mr. Javier Solana aspired to be the European foreign minister. However, this is no longer viable because of the rejection of the proposed European Constitution in 2005.
Javier Solana noted in the speech that a few days ago the Berlin Declaration had marked 50 years of the EU. "It sets down marks for the future development of European Union in all fields and the common foreign policy is one of major challenges EU needs to face." And so did European citizens, said Mr. Solana, according to Eurobarometer surveys. "We need to be up to people's expectations of us in the EU."
Issues from the captured British navy personnel, Darfur, the situation in the Middle East, the final status of Kosovo and the possible US anti-missile shield to be installed in Europe were all raised in the extensive debate. Much has been said in the debate regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict. However, we will concentrate on other parts of the debate, leaving the Israeli-Arab angle to the news section.
Mr. Solana said he had met the Iranian Foreign Minister while he was in Riyadh. He had made very clear, he said, that "the EU cannot accept the abduction of 15 British naval personnel. The EU must show solidarity in getting these people freed." What he failed to say is what the EU is planning to do operatively. On the nuclear issue, he noted that the UN Security Council had now issued its third unanimous resolution on Iran, calling on them to meet its obligations arising from the IAEA resolutions. He also made clear that the aim was a political solution, saying "no other solution is available." Following his meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister, he said he thought the message had been "clearly understood."
On behalf of the Liberal group, Graham Watson (UK) revealed that "HMS Cornwall is from my constituency. Most of these people are my constituents." He asked Mr. Solana to use the Union's influence on their behalf, but once again no clear action was demanded.
Gerard Batten (IND/DEM, UK) on the other end, took a more firm stand proclaiming that "there can never be a common European foreign policy because we all have different histories international commitments interests and allies.
Take Britain, for example. We do not necessarily share with our European neighbors the same perspectives on the international crises we face today. As you will be well aware, Britain faces a very grave situation in Iran which has illegally detained British troops. It would be ridiculous for an EU Foreign Minister to try and negotiate the release of Members Her Majesty's Armed Forces."
Regarding the prospect that his country will do something about the situation, he commented that Britain is now in a ridiculous position as a result of its membership in the European Union. He went to the extreme and clarified that "If diplomatic efforts fail to obtain the release of the British troops, then Iran's illegal actions may have to be met with sanctions. But Britain could not enact sanctions against Iran even if it wanted to because Britain no longer has control over its own trading rules. Trade policy is now under the control of the European Union. This is yet another example if one were needed of why Britain must leave the European Union and restore control of her own affairs."
On the proposed anti-missile defense system, Mr. Solana announced "there is no decision by the EU on this, the EU is not a defensive alliance, but does have external and security policy and can and should debate this subject. We are not the ones to decide on this - that belongs to defensive alliances, but we can talk amongst ourselves in the most open way possible. Any such system can affect our relations with Russia. The treaties in force allocated sovereignty over this issue to the Member States, but this must be compatible with EU's general interest in security," he said, indicating he would be happy to see this discussed in the Atlantic structures.
Speaking for his group, Konrad Szymanski (UEN, PL), announced there was "a danger if the Member States adopt the Russian view" on the missile defense issue as this is "based on false arguments" designed to "divide the EU." He maintained that, "paradoxically, deploying elements of the shield would speed up facilities for NATO."
Roger Helmer (NI, UK) took a more explicit stand telling his fellow members of the Parliament that "I was born in 1944 in the dying months of the Second World War. For the whole of my lifetime it has been NATO and the Transatlantic Alliance which have kept the peace in Europe."
He stated that it was not the European Union or the Commission that defeated the USSR and brought down the Berlin Wall, rather it was the courage and determination of leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. He opposed adding the CFSP and its military posturing threaten to undermine the Transatlantic Alliance. "It is born out of jealousy and resentment and anti-Americanism. It is overweight with strategies and planning papers and staff colleges but desperately light on men and ships and tanks and guns and aircraft. The CFSP threatens the very foundations of security and leaves us all dangerously exposed in an unpredictable world. This is yet another reason why my country would be better off out of the European Union." He said at last.
For the non-attached Members, Jana Bobos (NI, CZ) emphatically welcomed the words of Solana when he said that it was "up to individual states to decide whether or not to take part in a US defense missile system." A US missile defense system is, she said, "the only sensible option right now." Mrs. Bobos ended with a message to those who feared that an anti-missile system would divide Europe, urging them "to reflect on just how the EU was divided in the past and who was responsible."
The author is head of the International Department at Joseph Shem-Tov law firm.