Richard North, 12/07/2004  

The EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels today. Well, all except one: Joschka Fischer is travelling in Sudan where he has been issuing strongly worded statements about the situation in Darfur. His view is that the EU is not doing enough to help. That is something of an understatement. The EU, or, rather, two of its member states, Britain and France are opposing even the mild suggestion of UN sanctions. Russia is opposing them, too, arguing that Darfur is an internal Sudanese matter, not for the UN to deal with. And President Putin knows a good deal about internal matters of dubious human rights record.

After a statement by Secretary of State Powell, it is beginning to look that the USA will take a stronger line on Sudan. Whether that will translate itself into direct action and what kind of direct action can be taken, remains to be seen. But as we have pointed out before, the only stated purpose of the EU common foreign and security policy is the introduction of the supposedly European values (give or take a few historical hiccups) of freedom, democracy and human rights.

The other item on the agenda is the third EU peacekeeping job in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where they will be taking over the leadership of SFOR from NATO. The important part of it has already been decided: at the request of the French the operation will be renamed ALTHEA. The rest remains somewhat dubious. As Deutsche Welle reports:

After considerable delay, the international computer deployed a mass number of peacekeeping troops to stop the civil war between ethnic-religious groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The most important event of the meeting will be lunch with the new Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari. The EU, in its usual disregard of everything except superficial structures and the constant desire for one-up-manship over the USA, is crowing about the fact that the first official visit by a member of the new government will not be to the United States but to the EU. (It was going to be the Prime Minister, Iyyad Alawi, but he has decided that the security situation was too tense for him to leave the country.)

Almost certainly, the new Iraqi government does want to display its independence but the visit to Brussels will be combined with another discussion with NATO, presumably asking that increasingly cantankerous organization to come up with some more detailed proposals of the help it is theoretically offering the new regime.

The EU itself, as Deutsche Welle points out, remains divided on the subject of Iraq, not a few senior politicians probably a little worried as to what might come out on the subject of their deals with Saddam, not to mention their involvement in the food for oil scandal.

In the preparations for the meeting with the Iraqi foreign minister, the EU foreign ministers only succeeded in uniting on one front: a generally reserved statement offering Iraq help with its reconstruction and the organization of free elections. The brakes were applied to broader demands from Britain and Poland, which both have troops stationed in Iraq, by war opponents Germany and France, diplomats told Deutsche Welle.
Presumably, Mr Zebari is aware of all these problems and of the historical background. We shall see how much he will be able to carry away in concrete terms.

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