Shame on Europe
EU's passivity to the dictatorships in Egypt, Tunisia and Uzbekistan violates its treaty
Any power's foreign policy is organized around a combination of values and interests. Without the latter, it becomes mere naive rhetoric; without the former, it ceases to be policy and turns into mere opportunism. The European Union's attitude in recent months, in the face of systematic human rights violations on the southern shore of the Mediterranean and in the Caucasus, has been a passive and complacent one. This indicates that it has lost all its traditional predilection for the values that it claims to represent, and any sensible notion of what its real interests are.
Since in any case of controversy we have to refer to the foundational texts, it is pertinent to recall that the Treaty of Lisbon (in article 21) provides that "the European Union's action on the international scene will be based on the principle that lay behind its creation," such as "the universality and indivisibility of human rights." And the European Security Strategy of 2003, an executive doctrine for foreign policy, establishes what the Union's interests are. Among other points, it states that: "It is desirable for Europe, that the neighboring countries be well governed."
Instead of holding to these principles, the EU has remained silent in the face of long-continued abuses in the North African autocracies. Fearful of a possible Islamist takeover of the mechanisms of power, it has stubbornly disregarded festering situations which constitute precisely the breeding ground of Islamism. The unwritten consensus that the former colonial powers must enjoy primacy in their respective zones of influence has given France a special preponderance in the North African region. So shameful is the result that, in the very midst of the so-called "Jasmine Revolution," Paris was still offering the Tunisian dictator help to contain "the public order situation."
With equal brazenness, though more discreetly, Italy and Spain have washed their hands of the question of human rights violations in the region, presumably in the interest of anti-immigration cooperation and good relations. The EU's high representative for foreign policy, Lady Ashton, has repeatedly dodged the issue, while occasionally uttering some inane statement, whether on the popular revolt in Tunis or in connection with the Uzbek dictator's recent and shameful visit to Paris.
This unconcerned attitude should be compared to that of the United States (or of certain single governments in the Union), which have called on the armies of the countries now in crisis to respect the rights of civilians, and pressed the authorities in the nations concerned to launch meaningful reform processes. While the United States appears to have recovered its role as a liberal power, the European Union seems well on the way to losing the role it used to play in support of human rights.