EU has Iraq role to play

By ANDREW DUFFAS the Iraq crisis deepens, it would be simple enough to write the European Union out of the script. There is no agreement, clearly, between France and Britain, Europe's two permanent members of the UN Security Council – the great European dilemma about how to treat with the USA is as painfully exposed as it was at the time of Suez and again at the height of the Vietnam War.

By ANDREW DUFF

AS the Iraq crisis deepens, it would be simple enough to write the European Union out of the script. There is no agreement, clearly, between France and Britain, Europe's two permanent members of the UN Security Council – the great European dilemma about how to treat with the USA is as painfully exposed as it was at the time of Suez and again at the height of the Vietnam War.

Nevertheless, it would be an over-simplification to dismiss Europe's efforts to reach agreement over what to do with Saddam Hussein.

There is indeed an EU common foreign and security policy. Last week, Tony Blair had to come to Brussels for an emergency meeting of the European Council. He had been reluctant to come, preferring to do business with President Bush alone. In Brussels, however, Mr Blair was forced into a compromise with an effective opposition led by Jacques Chirac of France and Gerhard Schroeder of Germany.


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The European Council managed to agree that war must be only a last resort. Any alternative was deemed likely to be better. The European Union's objective for Iraq was confirmed as full and effective disarmament in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The United Nations was affirmed as the central prop of the international order and as the crucial forum to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

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Tony Blair was forced to concede that the UN weapons inspectors needed more time and resources. In return, it was agreed that the inspections could not "continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi co-operation," and that the military build-up was essential to force Saddam to climb down. A renewed commitment was also made to ending the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Such an outburst of European solidarity was not expected to last long. It was neither dramatic nor decisive. But it is a good example of how Britain's European obligations as a member of the EU serve to moderate UK policy for the better.

The fact is that Mr Blair can count on the support of only two or three other European leaders if he joins the US in a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. He is in a small minority in Europe as he now seems to be in his own country.

As the public marches and last week's vote in the Commons have shown, over Iraq Britain is becoming rather European.

ANDREW DUFF is the Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for the East of England.

e-mail: aduff@europarl.eu.int

Internet: www.andrewduffmep.org.

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