Friday, December 14, 2007

The European Union, which so much likes to take the high moral ground on human rights, is rather agile in finding excuses

For the European Union, which so much likes to take the high moral ground on human rights, it has been a pretty miserable month
writes Judy Dempsey.
Last week, EU leaders and their African counterparts held a summit in Lisbon, the first in seven years. But it was marred from the beginning. Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, was the only leader to take a principled stand. He stayed away after Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president, had been invited by Portugal, the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency.

The rest of the EU seemed to have forgotten that the member states had imposed a travel ban on Zimbabwe's top leadership because of its appalling human rights record. But when African leaders threatened to boycott the summit without Mugabe's presence, the EU caved in and declared that it was more important to have a public dialogue with Africa.

…The EU has been cowardly in demanding the truth over the shooting of hundreds of [Uzbek] protestors in Andijan in 2005. …

[That and other] examples also show just how agile the EU is in finding excuses. …

Take Kazakhstan. Ruled by Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has created a cult of personality equal to North Korea's Kim Jong Il, this Central Asian country has been awarded the annual rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. … EU officials … say that if Kazakhstan had not been given the chairmanship, its foreign policy would shift eastward to China — and so would its vast energy resources and business contracts.

…if Germany and the rest of the EU did not engage Africa in a serious way, then China would set the agenda there. …

If the EU claims that it is competing with China for influence in Africa, the first thing it should do is break down its protectionist trade barriers and then speak up much more forcefully for human rights, which is crucial for civil society.

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