The EU is not the superpower it claims to be

Friday 01/05/2015

Beirut - There is a naive, almost endearing, enchantment about how so many organisations and individuals con­demned Brussels for the 900 immigrants who died recently in European waters.
How could such a revered organisation as Human Rights Watch (HRW) be so off the mark? Why can’t its chief Kenneth Roth understand that the European Union is nowhere near a super­power that it claims to be? That, despite handing out billions in relief operations, it is an em­bryonic foreign policy test tube experiment that, barely able to create, let alone regulate a single telecoms or energy market, is hardly able to muster up battle ships and helicopters?
It is a widely held belief in Middle East countries that the European Union has a foreign policy, largely due to the charade of orchestrated public relations stunts assisted by a constellation of despots who are happy to play along with the party tricks.
Yet the European Union doesn’t do concrete foreign policy initia­tives; it doesn’t even have an EU army.
For years, this has been debated but when EU members can’t even agree on Israel, say, or even what category Hezbollah should be, the result is that the grandiose idea remains just that: An idea.
But does that stop Brussels wheeling out the clowns and the lions when a performance is needed to create the aura of a foreign policy being in place?
Moreover, the recent tragedy of deaths, while merely outlining the patent racism in Europe, also throws the spotlight on another murky aspect of the European Un­ion that perhaps HRW might not like the broader public to know about or understand: the corrupt and unsavoury relationship be­tween most of these governments in the Middle East and Brussels.
In reality EU apaches all know what is the heart of the mat­ter and what is to blame for the migrants in the first place. Failed states which the European Union pumps full of non-governmental organisation (NGO) slush money allow these sorry individuals to pass through their countries — or in some cases emulate from the ashes of war and despair, created by despots who will never face the cold shoulder from Brussels.
But why? Put simply, the European Union’s credibility on the foreign policy circuit among its own leaders is pathetically low. And so, to counterweight what is an embarrassing deficit, the European Commission uses poor countries to boost its own foreign policy status shamelessly in return for turning a blind eye to dictators’ abysmal human rights abuse.
When MEPs from the European Parliament’s foreign affairs com­mittee visit any Middle Eastern country, they get the full inter­national superstar status from the despot, which usually means bulletproof limos, motorcades and helicopters in the sky. These countries, which no doubt HRW writes scathing reports on, know the deal all too well which is why when EU mandarins fly in, a show is put on. It’s all about media cov­erage via a press pack in Brussels which is basically bought and in the pocket of the European Union.
But it’s not just the 1,200 or so pressroom wasters in Brus­sels who are in the pocket of the European Union. It’s also the NGO industry made up of around 150 outfits that all have offices in the Belgian capital and receive fund­ing directly from the EU budget.
When you begin to unravel what it takes for dictators to not only sustain their fiefdoms but actually thrive with EU help, then a clearer picture of where this redundant human cargo of mainly middle class migrants emanates from.
Roth was right to point the fin­ger at the European Union but he should hold his own organisation to account much more for failing to draw attention to how the EU bankrolls most of the failing regimes in these countries.
If we are to have a serious debate about the immigrants’ deaths, then the European Union has to be held much more to ac­count, perhaps by HRW. Or would that be rocking the boat?