23/01/2009

A fragmented Europe in the Middle East

Since the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, Europe is finally waking up. Since Sunday, many initiatives of the Union or its members have been proposed to strengthen the cessation of hostilities, yet fragile, between Israel and Hamas: a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday, a German plan for strengthen the cease-fire, a French proposal for a peace conference, the visit of Tzipi Livni in Brussels. And yet nothing is clear.

Nothing is clear first about the actor on stage : is it the European Union that speaks, is it France or Germany or even the presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean? To this list, it must also add the European action in the Quartet and its representative for the Middle East, Tony Blair. The difficulty of understanding of the EU foreign policy took this week a scale never seen before. The press has noted a European Union remaining on its positions towards Hamas, while France said they want to start a dialogue with this movement. Nicolas Sarkozy has also mentioned a possible peace conference in Paris, which would be based primarily on the Franco-Egyptian efforts, but without mentioning the Union for the Mediterranean that the two countries are co-chairing.

Secondly, it seems certain that the Europeans want to provide humanitarian assistance to the population of Gaza, the political positioning of the twenty-seven is not yet out of the “fog”. Refusing to open dialogue with Hamas, they call up to the formation of a national unity government bringing together Hamas and Fatah to rebuild the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, the European Union intends to use the upgrading of its relations with Israel as a « carrot » but no longer has any « sticks » to get the Hebrew state to open the crossings with the Gaza Strip .

Inconsistent, divided and weak, as is the image that let us the external action of the European Union in the Middle East at the dawn of the new American presidency. In these conditions, it won’t be able to hold a role facing the administration of Barack Obama, already busy on the case three days after the inauguration.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée