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French Version

European Union position about Iraq

Speech by The Rt Hon Chris Patten, CH - European Parliament Iraq Debate, Brussels, 20 March 2003, SPEECH/03/148 - Check against delivery.

This debate takes place against an extremely sombre background. Whatever the outcome of the war that has started in Iraq and we must all pray that the military phase will be short and as bloodless as possible there can be no denying that this has been a very bad passage for the Common Foreign and Security Policy; a very bad passage for the European Union as a whole; a very bad passage for the authority of the UN; for NATO; and a very bad passage for transatlantic relations.

I just pause to make one point about transatlantic relations. Most of the things we want to achieve as Europeans, we are more than likely to be able to achieve if we are able to work with the United States. It is equally the case that most of the things America wants are more likely to be achieved if America can work with the European Union, and finally I think that it is unarguably the case that the world is better served in terms of prosperity, in terms of security, in terms of stability when America and the European Union Work together. So the future of transatlantic relations is a matter of real concern to all of us and it was of course entirely appropriate that the Foreign Minister referred so eloquently to that issue during his own remarks.

The Presidency made heroic efforts to maintain a common position. The European Council's declaration of 17 February was well judged. Member States agree about the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; they agree on the need for full and effective disarmament of Iraq; they agree that the UN must remain at the centre of the international order; they agree, indeed, that force should only be used as a last resort; but they disagreed all too publicly about when that point had been reached.

How can we now pull things together again? How can we emerge not just healed but strengthened from the trials of the last few weeks?

We should remind ourselves how closely and effectively we are co-operating not just within the European Union but across the Atlantic on a host of international issues. And we should redouble our efforts.

In the Balkans, for example, we are working flat out for economic and political stabilisation. I was in Serbia last week and I witnessed their determination to ensure that that the fragile stability that prevails should not be set back by the despicable murder of Zoran Djindjic. I hope that at the European Council later today and tomorrow, Heads of Government will renew their pledge to maintain the momentum of development, and of association between these countries and the European Union.

We must maintain unrelenting concentration on Afghanistan, on which we had a Donors meeting here in Brussels at the beginning of the week, a recognition of the part we are playing under the auspices of the UN in that country and which still faces appalling problems. After the fighting of 2001 the European Union pledged that it was there for the long haul, to help deliver stability and sound government and this House helped to ensure that we put resources behind that pledge. We must remain true to it.

I repeat what I said to this House last week, that we must also maintain the momentum of our own enlargement. The decision to bring in ten new members is not some whim, which might be called into question by unrelated events. It is a strategic choice for our continent. And it is a choice of historic proportions. We must press forward undaunted…

…just as we must press forward with the work we announced in our paper last week on Wider Europe. That Communication set out a vision about how our neighbours, not just to the East but to the South, too, can expect to share in our prosperity and stability if they are ready to align themselves on our values and on EU legislation. Our proposals for 'Wider Europe' mean the creation of a common economic and social space where all countries enjoy full membership of the internal market and, potentially, share in the four freedoms.

We must press forward, too, with the Middle East Peace Process. It is encouraging that President of the United States is now ready to proceed with the Road Map towards a two-State solution that was prepared, I have to say, several months ago within the international Quartet. But we must ensure that this means the urgent implementation of these ideas, not a long discussion with the parties about their validity. Such discussions have proved endlessly frustrating in the past, as the parties have sought to impose incompatible conditions upon their co-operation. We really can't allow this peace process, once again, to be subject to conditional sequencing so that in practice there is no peace but more bloodshed.

More immediately, the whole European Union must strive to build on what we share in our approach to the conflict now beginning in Iraq. The Commission has been working hard behind the scenes, in co-operation with international agencies, to contribute to the humanitarian assistance that may be needed. I have discussed these issues myself in Jordan, Turkey and Iran in recent weeks.

I have discussed these matters in Jordan, Iran and Turkey in recent weeks.

ECHO, the Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office, has reinforced its presence in the field. There are now five permanent expatriate technical assistants in the Amman Regional office covering Iraq and the whole of the Middle East; an additional expert based in Jerusalem; and a seventh one on standby in Amman. ECHO has also kept regular contact with the main humanitarian organisations such the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Since January this year, ECHO has carried out three missions to Iraq itself to assess the situation and prepare for possible operations, and several missions to neighbouring countries, too.

Besides the €15m that had been earmarked for humanitarian operations in Iraq in 2003, the Commission has delegated authority to approve fast track aid for a further €3m in less than 72 hours. If there is a crisis in a neighbouring country, it would be possible to agree another €3m for that purpose, too.

Depending on the scale of the needs we may need to apply for additional funds for humanitarian purposes from the Emergency reserve.

On the basis of previous experience and ECHO has been providing humanitarian aid to Iraq since 1992 we expect that the Commission's contribution is likely to be focused on health, on water and on sanitation. Some international organisations and NGOs are also predicting food shortages, with disruption of the Oil For Food programme. That is something we may need to look at in due course, if the problem emerges.

In all this effort, ECHO will work closely with UN agencies, and will participate in on-the-spot information exchanges. I want to add one point, nobody in this House, I'm sure, under-estimates the courage and commitment of our humanitarian aid teams in the field. I think all of us have good reason to be proud of them, proud of the work they have already done in that region and proud of the work which, alas, they have to do in all too many parts of the world.

We must do all that we can, too, to help Turkey to cope with the political pressures generated by recent events; and to help Iraq's other neighbours, too from Jordan and Syria to Iran. I had a chance to gain a better understanding of the impact war on Iraq could cause to these countries during my recent trips to the region. The Commission will continue monitoring and assessing the situation closely and would look, with the Council, at possible EU responses.

I'm bound to say that I am extremely pleased that we have taken the initiative to develop our relationship with Iran, not in an ill-informed way, not overlooking the disagreements we have with that country, but I think, in present circumstances, trying to develop our relationship with Iran makes considerable sense.

In an article earlier this week a respected newspaper columnist reminded us that after plagues and misfortunes had streamed from Pandora's box, Hope remained behind to assuage the afflicted. So let us hold onto:

hope that the war will be over quickly, and with minimum casualties a point, I think felt especially strongly, whatever your views on the conflict, by all those with fellow-countrymen and women engaged in the fight;

hope as well that it will be possible to deliver humanitarian aid quickly and effectively, under international auspices, where it is most needed;

hope that the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq can begin soon again under international auspices, guaranteeing Iraq's territorial integrity and providing for Iraqi ownership of the process and that they are wrong who believe that the real choice in the Arab world lies between pro-Western despotism and anti-Western democracy. If post-war Iraq is managed under a UN mandate like East Timor, Kosovo and Afghanistan I hope that it will be recognised that part of the credit for that should go to those who insisted from the outset that that should be what happens,

hope that the regional repercussions will be benign or, if they are damaging, that they will be contained;

hope that the current crisis will serve to galvanise the Middle East Peace Process after a desperately bleak period in which things have drifted backwards;

hope that they are right who believe that this war will strike a blow against international terrorism, rather than stoking the flames of it;

And hope as well finally that those many institutions and relationships which have been tested in the fire in recent weeks including the European Union and the Common Foreign and Security Policy will emerge strengthened by a renewed recognition of how badly we need the apparatus of international governance.

This is the last thought that I want to leave with the House: I think the challenge we face, the challenge that we will face in the coming weeks and months, goes far beyond what Winston Churchill once called " the thankless deserts of Mesopotamia". I think we face a very clear choice in the coming months. Are we to go back to the way the world was run in the 19th century, a world of rival national sovereignties and balances of power, or do we try to rebuild the institutions and habits of global governance which have been so painfully constructed in the last half century? That is the clear choice, which is going to face us. I know which side of the argument I come down on.

Additional remarks closing the debate

On humanitarian aid and reconstruction, it has been claimed there is a difference between the remarks on reconstruction that I made last week and what I said today. So I will now read a part of my old speech, which I held in your house last week. "Immediate humanitarian help is one thing, but the demands on us will certainly extend much beyond that. As you are all too aware in this House, Europe’s external relations budget is already heavily committed. It will be very difficult in any circumstances to launch massive new programmes in Iraq and in the neighbourhood of Iraq. But it will be that much more difficult for the EU to cooperate fully and on a large scale in the longer term reconstruction process, if events unfold without proper UN cover and if the Member states remain divided. If it comes to war, it will be very much easier to persuade you, the EU budgetary authority, to be generous, if there is no discussion about the legitimacy of military action that has taken place, about the new political order that emerges thereafter, or about who is in charge of the reconstruction process. I am not making a quasi-legal point. I am simply offering a political judgement of no great novelty or sagacity. It seems pretty obvious".

Since then, others have taken up a similar theme: "There should be a new UN Resolution following any conflict providing not just for humanitarian help but also for the administration and governance in Iraq. That must be done under proper UN authorisation." These are not my words, this was from the speech the British Prime Minister Tony Blair made this week before the House of Commons. But I am glad that these arguments are now taking off. I wonder if they would have come up if we had not put them in the first place.

On EU relationship with the United States, let me say a few words. Criticising the US is not the same as having a European foreign policy. It is equally the case that to disagree with the world view of Richard Pearl or Robert Kagan is not automatically anti-American. There are a lot of Americans who do not agree with Mr. Pearl and Mr Kagan and I don’t think anyone accuses them of being anti-American. Do we accuse the last Democrat administration of being anti-American? Do we accuse a lot of Republicans of being anti-American? If it is a necessary price to pay to demonstrate that one is a passionate believer in the transatlantic relationship to agree with Richard Pearl, then you better put in a call to Brent Scowcroft and many leading figures in previous Republican administrations. I am not prepared to be judged on my relationship with America by whether I agree with Mr. Pearl or not.

There have been many discussions in the Convention, many discussions about the future of CFSP, discussions in which I have taken part myself – on the use of QMV and discussions on double hatting. All this and more have been an extraordinarily exciting ride.

But let me remind the house what the Treaty already says on Article 11/2: "The Member States shall work together to enhance and develop their mutual political solidarity. They shall refrain from any action, which is contrary to the interest of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness as a cohesive force in international relations".

Institutional changes, I am convinced, can certainly help to create political will, but you cannot create political will just through institutional change. And you cannot substitute for political will by institutional change. I am afraid this is a lesson which I have learned in the past 3 ½ years.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Statement on Iraq by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission

IP/03/419 - Brussels, 20th March 2003
Situation in Iraq 20/03/03


This is a sad and sombre day for all nations around the world. The onslaught of war has put paid to the international community's efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis within the United Nations.

Today we must all pray that the war will be short and as bloodless as possible and that it will bring the least possible disruption to the region. We trust that all involved will do their utmost to limit the number of civilian casualties. Iraq's territorial integrity must be preserved.

The Commission is committed to delivering humanitarian aid quickly and effectively, under international auspices, where it is most needed.

The United Nations has played an important role and it will continue to be crucial in the future.

We need to concentrate all our efforts, under the auspices of the UN, on finding a solution that will bring a return to peace as soon as possible.

Whatever the outcome of the war, there can be no denying this is a bad time for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, for the European Union as a whole, for the authority of the UN, for NATO, and for transatlantic relations. In war there are no winners, just losers.

Today the leaders of the EU's nations will meet in Brussels to discuss the situation. The Commission urges all Member States to strive to build on what we share in our approach to the conflict now commencing.

The Commission has worked hard with the Presidency of the Union to seek a common position and it will continue to do so.

These difficult circumstances also show it is time to draw the lessons from this crisis. Europe can make an effective contribution to peace in the world only if its nations pull together within the European Union. We all agree that we owe our wealth and prosperity to the Union. It is not in our interest to continue relying on others when it comes to defending our values militarily.

We must press forward with the Middle East peace process too.

It is heartening to see the United States is now ready to proceed with the Road Map towards a two-State solution prepared several months ago within the international Quartet. We must proceed with the Road Map towards a two-State solution prepared several months ago within the international Quartet. We must now ensure this brings the implementation of these ideas urgently, not a protracted discussion on their validity with the parties. Peace in the Middle East is the key to stability throughout the region.

--------------------------------------------------------------

Statement on Iraq

European Council, Brussels 20 March 2003
Situation in Iraq


With the beginning of the military conflict, we are faced with a new situation.
Our hope is that the conflict will end with the minimum loss of human life and suffering.
Our common challenges are:

As regards Iraq:

The EU is committed to the territorial integrity, the sovereignty, the political stability and the full and effective disarmament of Iraq in all its territory, as well as to the respect for the rights of the Iraqi people, including all persons belonging to minorities.

We believe that the UN must continue to play a central role during and after the current crisis. The UN system has a unique capacity and practical experience in coordinating assistance in post-conflict States. The Security Council should give the United Nations a strong mandate for this mission.

We urgently need to address the major humanitarian needs that will arise from the conflict. The EU is committed to be actively involved in this field, in accordance with established principles. We support the UN Secretary General’s proposal that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people can continue to be met through the "Oil for Food" programme.

We want to effectively contribute to the conditions allowing all Iraqis to live in freedom, dignity and prosperity under a representative government that will be at peace with its neighbours and an active member of the international community. The Council invites the Commission and the High Representative to explore the means by which the EU might help the Iraqi people to achieve these objectives.

On the regional front:

We express solidarity with and stand ready to assist those countries that are faced with problems and risks as a result of the conflict, including possible refugee flows. The EU will actively engage in supporting regional stability.

We call on all countries of the region to refrain from actions that could lead to further instability.

The countries of the region have also a particular responsibility to prevent acts terrorism.

We will continue to work actively towards the reinvigoration of the Middle East Peace Process through the immediate publication and implementation of the roadmap as endorsed by the Quartet.

We will deepen our dialogue and cooperation in all fields with the Arab and the Islamic worlds. We hope that it will soon be possible to use the considerable opportunities offered by the Barcelona Process to good account.

In the international field:

We reiterate our commitment to the fundamental role of the United Nations in the international system and to the primary responsibility of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and stability.

We are determined to strengthen the capacity of the European Union in the context of the CFSP and the ESDP.

We remain convinced that we need to strengthen the transatlantic partnership, which remains a fundamental strategic priority for the European Union; to this effect, a sustained dialogue on the new regional and global challenges is necessary.

We will continue to contribute to the further strengthening of the international coalition against terrorism.

We will also intensify work for a comprehensive, coherent and effective multilateral policy of the international community to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The above objectives are interrelated and complementary. They should be pursued in parallel, through coordinated action of all main international players. In this spirit, the restoration of the unity of the international community is an absolute imperative.

Brussels,03 31 2003
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