The moral bankruptcy of European foreign policy

If you want a demonstration of the moral bankruptcy of the European Union’s foreign policy then you need look no further than the statement released by the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton regarding the recent barrage of rockets fired at Israel’s civilians from Gaza; although the first thing you will notice about Ashton’s statement is that it mentions neither the rockets nor the Israeli civilians they were being aimed at. Indeed, when the rocket fire into Israel began on Friday there was silence from the EU; only on Sunday, when Israel’s response intensified, was a statement released:

The EU is following with concern the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and in the south of Israel. I very much deplore the loss of civilian life. It is essential to avoid further escalation and I urge all sides to re-establish calm.

Contrast that with the statement made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Let me also condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel which continued over the weekend. We call on those responsible to take immediate action to stop these attacks. We call on both sides – all sides – to make every effort to restore calm.

Clinton’s remarks stressed Israel’s right to defend itself, starting by condemning the rocket fire from Islamist terror groups. The statement by the EU, however, simply called on “all sides” to “re-establish calm” and “avoid further escalation.”

The sentiment expressed by Ashton is clear: There are simply different sides here, neither having any greater moral legitimacy than the other. The statement does not distinguish between the actions of the terrorists, who began an unprovoked wave of rocket fire at Israeli civilians, and the actions taken by the Israeli Defense Forces to try and prevent the rocket fire. There is a profound equivalence being expressed, so that Israel and the IDF are ultimately afforded no more validity than an Islamist terror group.

Destabilizing the region

Yet, this moral void is now a familiar part of the European worldview. Tune into any British television or radio talk show concerning Iran’s dash for nuclear weapons and you will not fail to hear political analysts and politicians questioning whether Britain is justified in opposing Iran’s aspirations when it allows itself to possess such capabilities. What is so astonishing is that it seems vast sections of the political class in Britain and Europe are incapable of recognizing any kind of meaningful difference between their own democracy and the violently oppressive theocracy in Iran, which shoots its own people in the streets for protesting and funds vast terror networks that stretch from Lebanon to Afghanistan.

Catherine Ashton examines the remains of a Kassam rocket during a visit to Sderot in 2010. (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Catherine Ashton examines the remains of a Kassam rocket during a visit to Sderot in 2010. (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

As if that were not enough, the European Union’s actions express the same degree of moral bankruptcy as its words. Up until the recent blood bath unleashed by the Assad regime in Homs, the European Union was dutifully pursuing a policy of “engagement” with Syria. As part of these efforts, French President Nicholas Sarkozy hosted Assad in Paris in 2008, while in 2009 the then Spanish prime minister made a high-profile visit to Damascus to promote the notion that Syria should be given greater “consideration” by the international community. In all, between 2000 and 2009 the European Investment Bank granted the Syrian government over €1.4 billion in long-term loans. This was done in the name of reaching out to Syria, but it has undoubtedly only strengthened the Assad regime’s grip over the Syrian people.

And while Ashton can call on those in the region to “avoid escalation” all she likes, the truth is that the actions of the EU have undoubtedly only served to further destabilise the region. As was recently brought to light by the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, the EU has earmarked €150 million in grants to Lebanon for the period of 2011-2013. A significant portion of this sum is being directed to the Ministry of Education, which, in a Lebanese government dominated by Hezbollah, has instructed that public schools teach “resistance” — a euphemism for terrorist activities — to pupils. Similarly, wide exposure has been given to how EU “aid” to the Palestinian Authority is being used to fund textbooks that contain the most aggressively racist anti-Jewish incitement.

Europe’s political elites talk at great length about the need for an “ethical foreign policy”; yet it would seem that the European Union has proved completely incapable of making the necessary moral distinctions that are a prerequisite of such a policy. If Western powers are to engage with the rest of the world from a position of principle, they must demonstrate their ability to distinguish between those nations that are free and democratic and those that oppress their citizens and pose a threat to global security. But given the radical relativism that Ashton has adopted in her recent comments regarding the rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, it seems unlikely that Europe will be displaying any recognisable moral clarity anytime soon.

About the Author
Tom Wilson is a British writer and commentator.