Foreign affairs and defence committee MEPs welcomed the efforts of France and the EU to put a stop to the brutal crackdown in Syria and bring China and Russia on board in these efforts, at a meeting with French foreign minister Alain Juppé on Wednesday. They applauded his acknowledgement that mistakes had been made in the past in tolerating autocratic regimes for the sake of stability and called on the EU to take the lead in reviving the Middle East peace process.
Replying to Spanish MEP José Ignacio Salafranca (EPP), who asked about deploying an international force to Syria, Mr Juppé said military intervention must be excluded and it would have to be a peace-keeping force, with the task of securing humanitarian relief. He warned that Russia could veto this and, picking up Mr Salafranca's question about the position of Russia and China, described their opposition to a UN Security Council resolution as "extraordinarily frustrating, unacceptable and shocking". He said the EU, the Arab League, and the other 13 members of the UN Security Council must work together to put pressure on the Syrian regime.
Responding to Mr Salafranca and others, Mr Juppé said Tunisia seemed to be on the right path but that progress would take time. Morocco and Jordan were also making efforts to reform, he said, though it was important to help them avoid economic collapse. Libya had serious problems but it was a rich country. French Green MEP Hélène Flautre welcomed Mr Juppé's comment that autocratic regimes should not have been tolerated in our neighbourhood in the past for the sake of ensuring stability and countering terrorism and this was the lesson of the Arab Spring. Now the EU must do everything to support these countries and their aspirations for democracy.
Middle East Peace Process
Mr Juppé's view that the EU could play a key role in attempts to revive the deadlocked peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, given that the International Quartet was not sufficient, was echoed by Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck (ALDE, BE), who wondered how the EU could do this, and by Robert Atkins (ECR, UK) who called the Quartet "a waste of space, despised by everyone in the Middle East, including the Palestinians".
Security threats and European foreign, security and defence policy
S&D MEP Ana Gomes, from Portugal, and Sabine Lösing (GUE/NGL, DE) asked Mr Juppé about the future of EU foreign policy and its security and defence operations, intrigued by his statement that "soft power is not enough". Mr Juppé said the EU must be able to assert itself in today's globalised world and compete fairly with the emerging powers. It faced security threats which included the Iranian nuclear dossier, and cyber crime, as well as instability in neighbouring countries. The EU must move forward with its security and defence policy, including progress towards a permanent planning and conduct capacity for EU operations. Though the Libyan intervention had demonstrated the limits of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy it had also highlighted Europe's leadership within NATO and, moreover, the EU was moving ahead with new missions in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa.