Foreign affairs

news: Foreign affairs

THE EUROPEAN Union has been in the forefront of foreign affairs in recent weeks. On issues as varied as democracy in Ukraine, human rights in Darfur, and the possible accession of Turkey, the EU has been speaking out.

The elections in Ukraine have received wide publicity in the European press, mainly because the outcome directly affects Europe. The two Presidential candidates offered starkly different visions of their country – one favours close ties with the EU, whilethe other wants to return to Mother Russia. It is not in the interest of Europe, or the free world, to see a revival of Russia’s influence in our continent, especially if this flows from a rigged election.

As a member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, I supported the call for election observers to be sent well ahead of the event. I was delighted when, straight after the election, the Dutch Presidency of the EU condemned the obvious fraud.

The week before, I had been in the Hague to vote as a member of the joint Afro-Caribbean-Pacific EU Parliamentary Assembly on a number of key resolutions. The most critical concerned Darfur. Until now, the African members had supported the government of the Sudan in rejecting proposed EU ‘interference’ into a local African problem. As a result of detailed discussions at this meeting, a common position was finally established. The vote was unanimous in calling for the Sudanese Government to take a series of defined measures without delay. A potential problem had been flagged earlier when we were advised that one of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe henchmen was planning to turn up and vote. Some of us said that, if he came, we would walk out. The message got through. He did not come.

Finally, this month has seen intense argument over the suitability of Turkey to become a candidate for eventual EU membership. This is worth a separate article in its own right. In summary, such membership would have a fundamental impact on the development of the EU for better or for worse depending on your point of view. The debate among MEPs has been thorough and intense. The parliament has produced its own report for voting on during December. There have been a record 459 amendments tabled, including some from me. Meanwhile, existing Member States in the European Council will come to their own collective view.

The proposed new EU Constitution declares that “Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union’s common foreign and security policy”. When the EU speaks and acts as one in the world of foreign affairs, it can indeed speak with great authority. But this should be by vote and by choice, not by Brussels’ command.

Every good wish,

Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP

(West Midlands Region) Conservative Spokesman for Employment & Social Affairs