Saturday, August 26, 2006

The EU are now big players in the Middle East

EU: It's so cute to see people thinking they have gone from the little kiddie table to the grown up table.

"With nearly 7,000 soldiers pledged for the UN force in Lebanon, Europe's commitment marks an "historic opportunity", said Spanish Foreign Minister Miquel Angel Moratinos, himself a former special EU envoy to the region. "The time has come for European efforts to relaunch peace in the Middle East," he said Friday after his EU counterparts met in Brussels with UN chief Kofi Annan. "Europeans are gaining more in credibility, in presence and engagement in the future of this region, which is our region," he said Saturday. Italy, which will be the the force's biggest contributor with up to 3,000 soldiers and which will take over its command next February from France, was hopeful that the commitment would mark a new era of EU influence in the region. "It's the first time that Europe assumes such a strong responsibility in the region and we hope there will be a change, not only for the stabilisation of the border between Israel and Lebanon, but also to push peace in the whole region" said Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema. European countries promised at the meeting of the 25-nation bloc's foreign ministers on Friday to provide not only the core of the expanded UN force, which is due to total up to 15,000 peacekeepers. Until now, the EU's role in the Middle East has largely been limited to providing aid and trying to play the honest broker in the volatile region's many conflicts. But the Centre for European Reform's foreign policy director, Mark Leonard, said that the presence of a large number of European troops not only reinforced Europe's credibility with regional players, but could also mark the beginning of a new "strategic" role. "The EU has not behaved in a very strategic way in the past, it has not used the resources that it's put into the region toward political goals and increasing its leverage," he said from London. "But if several members states are directly exposed and have troops on the ground, the EU will have both more credibility but will also behave in a more strategic way," he added."
But lets get the real reason out there.
Europe's new found role comes as the United States standing in the region takes a battering due its staunch support for Israel, its difficulties in Iraq and Iran's defiance to back down on its nuclear ambitions. "For us, the Middle East is a question of stability, our stability. We are so close while for the Americans it's different," said Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. The head of the French Institute for International Relations' Brussels branch, Pierre Defraigne, said Europe's new commitment to the region could level out the influence of United States and its ally, Israel, although ambitious new plans were needed if the EU is to help shape peace in the region. "In principle, it gives us leverage with the Americans and the Israelis, but on condition that we have a better idea (than theirs) for peace in the region," he said. "If you don't have grand designs, then you are only filling the leaks," he said, adding that Europe should also focus on improving people's lives in the region if root problems are to be addressed.
If you want an example of EU behavior in the Middle East, just go look at how they acted during the Mohammed cartoon violence. Utter capitulation and groveling that would make any self-respecting person throw up in disgust.

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