Events will govern Obama

YESTERDAY Barack Obama became the 44th President of the US. Whatever priorities he might have had for his first term in office, they will now be dictated by the pressing international situation.

Geoffrey Van Orden MEP

YESTERDAY Barack Obama became the 44th President of the US. Whatever priorities he might have had for his first term in office, they will now be dictated by the pressing international situation. Indeed, Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan saw “events, dear boy, events” as the greatest challenge for a national leader. But some events are predictable.

We know, for example, that in a few years time Britain will be confronted with an energy crisis similar to that afflicting Eastern Europe unless action is taken now. The immediate crisis stemmed from resurgent Russia and Gazprom's row with Ukraine over gas supplies. The long-term problems remain unresolved. Bulgaria, one of the countries most severely affected by the gas shortages, was previously self-sufficient in energy resources.

But she had been forced to close two nuclear reactors when she joined the EU, in spite of the fact that they had been expertly judged to meet all safety requirements. Bulgaria has had to plead with Russia to turn gas back on before her citizens froze.

With my support, Bulgaria will now try to get the EU to agree that it can restart one of its closed reactors. I believe there are lessons in this for the UK: unless action is taken to revitalise our nuclear energy capacity, we too will face energy shortfalls and be vulnerable to Russian pressure.

We also know that, unless progress is made in finding peace in the Middle East, the effects of turmoil there will be felt by us all. The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and southern Israel has dominated the headlines. We need to take care that our very justified concerns do not distort our view of the situation.

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In Gaza, Hamas has created a terrorist fiefdom. It tolerates no opposition to its views. It has split the Palestine Authority. It refused to stop terror attacks on Israeli civilians. According to Hamas, death is “an industry” for the Palestinian people - he was referring to the use of suicide bombers and the deliberate use of civilian human shields to protect potential military targets. When Israel took non-violent action - such as imposing blockades or cutting electricity - she was castigated.

Now that she has taken military action in reaction to Hamas provocation she feels the weight of international disapproval.

In due course we need a Marshall Plan for the Middle East. But first the terrorist lifeline - weapons, money, political indulgence - must be cut. Then there can be a return to the peace table and perhaps the Palestinians might even get a decent civil administration, free from corruption and thuggery.

Today, our candidates from the East of England are among the dozens of Conservative candidates for the forthcoming European elections gathered in Brussels. We shall continue to oppose the Lisbon Treaty, to seek repatriation of powers from Brussels and fulfil our pledge to form a new political group in the Parliament after the next European elections.

Geoffrey Van Orden is a Conservative MEP for the East of England.