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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Egypt: Europe speaks but very slowly

"Speaking with one voice" has consistently been the mantra or motto of those in favour of a single EU foreign policy. The EU Foreign Minister post, occupied by Catherine Ashton since it was created by the Lisbon Treaty, is supposed to be the mouthpiece.

So far Ashton's statements have been frequent (nothing seems to occur without some comment, however anodyne). But with events continually unfolding in Egypt, the EU has been called on to say something meaningful.

Compare and contrast:

The Franco-British-German joint letter released on Saturday regarding the ongoing events in Egypt:
The Egyptian people have legitimate grievances and a longing for a just and better future. We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections.
EU Foreign Minister Baroness Ashton, ahead of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council yesterday:
...The legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people should be responded to – their aspirations for a just, for a better future should be met with urgent, concrete and decisive answers and with real steps. There needs to be a peaceful way forward based on an open and serious dialogue with the opposition parties and all parts of civil society, and we believe it needs to happen now.
Still no mention of "free and fair elections" from Ashton, two days after the initial joint letter.

The conclusions of the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting:
The Council urges the Egyptian authorities to embark on an orderly transition through a broadbased government leading to a genuine process of substantial democratic reform with full respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, paving the way for free and fair elections.
And there we have it, the EU is in favour of "free and fair elections".

Is there a better illustration as to why the EU's fledgling foreign policy apparatus can only ever be a decorative bureaucratic exercise in finding the lowest common denominator?

Today's El Pais reads:
The EU popped into the Egyptian crisis yesterday, almost one week after the popular outbreak, to release a communiqué of predictable inanity...Being how the EU always is, it pushed the principle of precaution. There was no reference to Mubarak or his future.
As we noted yesterday, Le Figaro didn't exactly describe the EU's joint-response to the crisis in a flattering way either and Charlemagne notes that the French press is becoming increasingly vocal in its criticism of Ashton and her foreign policy machine.

It seems Europeans are increasingly speaking with one voice, but it's not quite what the people at the top had in mind.

1 comment:

John McClane said...

Ashton doesn't know what elections are, free, fair or otherwise. She's never faced an election in her life. If she hasn't, why should anyone else, that's her reasoning.