President. The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the situation in the Middle East.
Erkki Tuomioja, President-in-Office of the Council. Mr President, the latest Middle East crisis in the summer is the first in which the European Union has become the international actor on which the greatest hopes and expectations have been placed, in particular by the Lebanese people and government but also, more widely, throughout that region.
I am pleased to say that the EU has managed to live up to those expectations and to play an important, and even leading, role in putting a stop to the hostilities, in keeping the ceasefire and in the efforts made to move forward the political process needed to consolidate the peace.
In August, the General Affairs and External Relations Council held two extraordinary meetings. In our meeting on 1 August, we managed to reach an agreement on the conclusions. This was done in a very constructive atmosphere, contrary to some totally misleading press reports. The substance of those conclusions subsequently became the basis for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 which brought a ceasefire, outlined the political agreement needed to restore the full integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon and created the new UNIFIL Mark 2 force needed to ensure implementation of the resolution.
It was not the EU’s fault that it took so long for the resolution to be passed, while every day the conflict brought more unnecessary civilian casualties, suffering and devastation without anyone coming any nearer to fulfilling either the political or military goals for which they were fighting. Indeed, the central lesson to be learned from this conflict is that there are neither military nor unilateral solutions to any of the outstanding issues and conflicts in the Middle East.
The role of the EU Member States has remained central since the adoption of Resolution 1701. At our second extraordinary Council meeting on 25 August, in which the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan also participated, we were able to ensure that UNIFIL can and will be brought up to strength and deployed as the EU Member States responded to the United Nations request by contributing up to 7000 troops. Also at that meeting it was confirmed that France, and from next February Italy, would have responsibility for leading the operation.
UNIFIL is not an EU operation and it is important that other members of the United Nations, including, in particular, many Islamic countries, are contributing to the operation. Already, the first Italian and additional French troops have been deployed.
There is a need to move troops into the area quickly in order to avoid a security vacuum while the IDF withdraws and the Lebanese armed forces gradually deploy into southern Lebanon. In order to restore peace and security, UNIFIL’s mission is to ensure the withdrawal from southern Lebanon and to help the Lebanese Government and army to extend their authority to that area and to all of Lebanon. While the Lebanese Army is to carry out the disarming of Hizbollah, UNIFIL will also have an important task in ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid, monitoring the ceasefire and being ready to respond if anyone tries to break the peace.
The ceasefire has, notwithstanding some deplorable incidents, been respected. The Lebanese Government remains united and all the political parties, including Hizbollah, have pledged their support for Resolution 1701 and the political agreement it incorporates.
The role of the European Union in terms of humanitarian aid and the early recovery and reconstruction of Lebanon has been remarkable. The Donor Conference in Stockholm last week was a major success. The European Union’s humanitarian aid response has been swift and significant. The total humanitarian aid pledged or effectively granted by the European Community and Member States is approximately EUR 330 million, i.e. over a third of the total pledges made in Stockholm. We are already in a position to focus more on early recovery and strengthening local capacities.
All our efforts – the political agreement, reconstruction and support for the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon with the presence of a strong UNIFIL – are vital for peace and stability in that country. It is also crucial that outside actors and neighbours support this. For that reason, we must be prepared to engage Syria, which can either be a constructive partner or a spoiler. That will also determine the future of the EU’s relations with Syria. In my own contacts with Syria, as in meetings with others, we have welcomed Syria’s stated intention and readiness to respect Resolution 1701 and lend support to its implementation and, moreover, also to be constructive in a comprehensive Middle East peace process.
For all of us in the Council, it has always been clear that there cannot be any sustainable stability and peace in Lebanon, or elsewhere in the region, without a return to the peace process between Israel and Palestine that is based on the roadmap and its goal of the two-state solution, with Israel living in peace and security with an independent and viable Palestinian State as its neighbour.
Unfortunately, many aspects of the roadmap have, and continue, to come under attack. Deadlock has existed since the Palestinian elections in January, which our election observers, led by your colleague, Ms De Keyser, unequivocally assessed as free and fair.
In order for the peace process to continue, it is vital that the people and constituent parties of Palestine remain committed to non-violence, the recognition of Israel and to putting a stop to all terrorist activities. We have had an uncertain situation in which the international community has had to suspend its direct assistance to the Palestinian Administration while trying to ensure that the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians are met and their access to education and medical services is maintained. That has been the difficult task of the Temporary International Mechanism set up by the EU at the request of the Quartet, and it has not been made any easier by Israel’s refusal to the release tax and customs receipts now amounting to over USD 500 million that are due to the Palestinian Administration.
However, as its name suggests, the Temporary International Mechanism is only an interim device. We need to break the deadlock. We need to have all the abducted Israeli soldiers, the arrested Palestinian legislators and members of the Government, unconditionally released. We also need, above all, a broad-based Palestinian Government that is fully committed to respecting all the commitments entered into by the Palestinian Administration and which can act as a credible partner with which no one can refuse to negotiate.
We do not need to reinvent the wheel for the peace process. All the requisite elements are well known and are to be found in the roadmap and other documents. But putting these in the right order remains a challenge.
At our discussions at the Gymnich held in Lappeenranta last week we were in full agreement that the EU must now take an active role in initiating a return to the peace process. However, no matter in how united, cohesive and effective a manner the EU acts, it is obvious that we cannot achieve peace through our efforts alone. We need to work closely with all our partners in the Quartet, and in particular with the United States, as well as with the Arab league, whose renewed determination to engage in the process is to be welcomed. Above all, we need, of course, to urge the parties themselves to come to the table and seriously engage in negotiations.
For a long time people in the region have wanted nothing more than peace and security, and they have become increasingly frustrated by their leaders’ inability or even unwillingness to deliver this, thus fostering a climate which has allowed extremism to thrive. It is therefore necessary for the EU and others to entice, cajole, push and pressure the parties and to be prepared, where and when necessary, to engage on the ground as well. The EU is already doing that, with the approval of the parties, in the EU BAM Rafah mission and the EUCOPPS mission in the territories. Unfortunately, the Rafah and Karni border crossing points have effectively been closed for the past few months and Israel has not responded to our repeated approaches to have them re-opened.
In the future, we may also need to take on other new responsibilities as part of the quest for peace. The need for a new international conference on the Middle East has been put forward by many. There is much support for that idea in the Council, but there is also recognition that this is not something that can start immediately, before the parties have agreed to come to such a conference and before there is the prospect of such a conference bringing positive results that can further the peace process.
The Council will stay centrally engaged in the Middle East peace process. We have made it clear that the High Representative, Javier Solana, has the full support and mandate of the Council, working together with the Presidency and the Commission, to do what needs to be done and to meet with whomsoever is appropriate in order to get the Middle East Peace process working and keep it working until we have reached a comprehensive peace settlement.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, the conflict in Lebanon, the violence in the Palestinian Territories, the suffering of civilians in northern Israel: these past months the prospect of a comprehensive peace has seemed further off than ever, and yet, paradoxically, these conflicts – especially the misery suffered by ordinary Lebanese, ordinary Israelis and ordinary Palestinians – have once more highlighted the need for a negotiated regional solution. They are a stark and cruel reminder that security and stability cannot be imposed unilaterally without dialogue or diplomacy. This is a moment of distress and suffering in the Middle East, but I believe it is also one of opportunity, and we have to seize that opportunity.
It is specifically by mobilising the very considerable resources of the European Union, from the political and security to the technical, economic and financial, and by deploying them in close cooperation with the rest of the international community, that we may be able to put the peace process back on its feet.
As the President-in-Office said, the European Union is playing an unprecedented role. Europe is fully engaged with Lebanon and determined to play a strong role in supporting the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 and in finding lasting peace for the region. EU Member States are making a decisive contribution to the expanded UNIFIL peacekeeping force in support of the rapid extension of the Lebanese Government’s authority throughout Lebanon. The European Union is at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to remove the continuing air and sea blockades of Lebanon.
From the outset of the conflict, the European Commission has been very active on the ground, supporting our partners and their people when they most needed us. Over the past six weeks, the Commission has mobilised and coordinated a very important European response to the urgent needs caused by the conflict. From the second week of the conflict onwards, we provided rapid humanitarian assistance. I was glad and grateful to learn that Parliament had agreed to our request to mobilise further resources from the emergency reserve. This will allow ECHO to continue its action in support of essential early recovery, notably for water, sanitation and housing, thus bringing our total humanitarian support to over EUR 50 million.
The Commission also helped to coordinate and support evacuation efforts, providing EUR 11 million in support of the evacuation of third-country nationals caught up in the conflict, in response to a request from the Foreign Minister of Cyprus to provide urgent assistance to help launch this operation quickly.
On the ground, the Commission also played an important role in assessing the situation and setting up the first coordination exercise among donors. We are already working with the Lebanese Government, as well as with the United Nations and the World Bank, to ensure that in this post-conflict phase this coordination will be led and informed by the Lebanese themselves – it is a question of ownership.
The Commission has also responded to the environmental disaster and has supported the Lebanese Government through the Community Civil Protection Mechanism in order to tackle the huge environmental damage. Now we are working to assess and to address the needs relating to the reconstruction of Lebanon with a view to restoring its infrastructure, and promoting economic recovery, social development and political cohesion.
Last week at the Stockholm Conference, I announced a package of EUR 42 million to support early recovery until the end of the year. This brings the Commission’s contribution so far to just over EUR 100 million. I believe the European Commission has shown that it is ready to act and to act quickly.
The European Union’s contribution to meeting specific and immediate needs is crucial in order to support the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 and to support a lasting settlement to the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah that has for too long destabilised Lebanon and also threatened Israel. The Middle East needs a strong, sovereign, unified and politically independent Lebanon, able to consolidate the fragile peace that has returned and to contain the very real risk of spill-over of tension that remains.
The Lebanese population must also feel the tangible benefits of the cessation of hostilities. A Beirut-driven reconstruction process will help to strengthen the role of the Lebanese Government. For this, and in order to really start the reconstruction phase, the lifting of Israel’s air and sea blockade is crucial. I join again with Secretary-General Kofi Annan in calling for its immediate removal.
Over the longer term, the international community must remain engaged, with a focus on supporting institutional recovery and promoting Lebanese state-building efforts, including those undertaken via the national dialogue. That means pursuing the political, social and economic agenda already outlined in the EU Lebanon Action Plan. It is not an exaggeration to say that the measures we identified together before the conflict are now more important than ever.
We must also work collectively with our Lebanese counterparts to ensure that conditions for long-term stability are met, including removing the ambiguity surrounding the disarming of Hizbollah – which can only realistically be achieved as part of a process of political integration – and clarifying the status of the Shebaa farms.
We must not lose sight of the broader picture across the region. While international attention was drawn to Lebanon, the violence and suffering continued in the Palestinian territories and Qassam rockets continued to fall on Israeli towns and villages. I was in Israel with the Finnish President after the Rome Conference. We went to Haifa, where there was constant danger from rockets.
In the Palestinian territories, in order to avoid further escalation we need a return by the Palestinian militants to the ‘calm’ that held for most of 2005, the release of hostages, detainees and prisoners, as well as progress on basic issues of movement and access, which, as we know hold the key to Palestinian economic recovery and to the creation of a viable Palestinian State. This should start with the rapid re-opening of the Gaza crossings, in particular the Rafah border, supported by the EU border assistance mission. The Commission is, in principle, ready to take further action to upgrade the infrastructure and strengthen capacity on the basis of the access and movement agreement of last November.
The context must be our long-standing aim of building up the institutions of a future Palestinian State, working with the Palestinian Authority, which in turn means that the EU should be ready to respond pragmatically to the formation of a Palestinian national unity government. I repeat that we will engage with any government ready to work for peace through peaceful means.
We must not and we do not forget the plight of the Palestinian people. We have, as you know, via the temporary international mechanism, ensured access to clean water and sanitation in the Gaza Strip. We kept hospitals and healthcare centres going through the summer and we have now also provided social allowance payments that have benefited more than 600 000 Palestinians directly and many more indirectly. But with the continued political stalemate, closures and also frozen fiscal revenues, the TIM can only provide temporary relief. We cannot go on much longer like this. We must seek ways to improve access and movement to get Israel to unblock the withheld Palestinian revenues that now amount to EUR 500 million and to get the Palestinian Authority to ensure public order and security. We owe it to the parties and they owe it to their own people.
The rapid escalation of violence this summer produced no victory, only victims. We see once more the failure of military action to resolve the long drawn-out conflicts of the Middle East.
Yet the status quo – which includes the slow chipping away of the credibility of a two-state solution, continued occupation and endemic violence – is itself a recipe for instability. It is also a recipe for interference by third parties and radicalism, fuelled by injustices, either perceived or real.
There is, then, really only one choice: we need to renew the political perspective upon which the peace process depends, including for example our position on the primacy of the 1967 borders. We must do everything possible to bring all the parties back to the negotiating table. By focusing on some concrete and pragmatic measures that can bring about some positive and tangible results, we can help to create the appropriate climate and facilitate a re-engagement between the parties.
Decisive action is needed to get the parties back on track towards a negotiated peace. I have called for an early meeting of President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. I hope they can address the issue of hostages and detainees, as well as other pressing questions of violence, access and finances.
It is time for Israel and Lebanon to establish channels for dialogue, and for Syria to be brought back into the equation, as they show readiness to play their part in the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions. Iran must also take its responsibility and demonstrate its readiness to contribute to peace and stability in the region.
Many ideas have been floated on a comprehensive approach to peace in the Middle East. The Arab League initiative in particular deserves our full attention. At the Gymnich meeting last weekend, many voices called for greater EU leadership in the Middle East. I believe they are right. We have to turn the tragic events of this summer into an opportunity for a long-term settlement of the still open conflicts in the region. Our credibility, and that of the Quartet and the UN, is at stake.
Hans-Gert Poettering, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, none of the world’s regions has had so much suffering to endure, and over so many decades, as the Middle East, and those who bear the brunt of it are the people who want nothing more than to live in peace. Terrible consequences ensue from the abduction and killing of soldiers; innumerable civilians fall victim to the bombardment of real and supposed military targets. For decades, the violence has been spiralling out of control in an unending vicious circle.
I would like to say, Mr President, how grateful I am to you for calling the group presidents to two meetings over the holiday period, and I would like to thank you, Mr Tuomioja, and you, Commission Ferrero-Waldner, for what you have done, as well as the High Representative Mr Solana for his own.
We, in the European Union, know that a military solution is impossible in the Middle East, that any solution must be political if it is to bring peace, and that peace must first be established in the minds of those who exercise responsibility. At the same time, though, we affirm that a military presence can help to create the conditions for peace. Here in this House, we have for many years been debating European security policy, and those who can remember back twenty years can recall wishing – while, at the time, thinking it impossible – that we could, by now, have moved on from asking ourselves whether we would intervene militarily to thinking about how we would do it. Europeans such as ourselves can derive some encouragement from this, as we proceed down the road of taking on responsibility; it can confirm to us that this is the right way to go, that we must accept this responsibility and that we do want to.
What are we aiming for? What we are aiming for is a sovereign Lebanon; we see it as unacceptable that Lebanon should be subject to control, be it direct or indirect, from Syria or Iran, and, where the part played by Iran is concerned, its influence has to be considered in the context of its nuclear programme. Hizbollah is not only a political organisation, but also a military one. Those who seek democracy in the Middle East must take note of the fact that Hizbollah’s presence in parliament and government is something that has emerged from elections. It is not, however, acceptable that there should be a state within a state, or that a political party should, by maintaining its own militia, interfere with the effectiveness of the government and armed forces of a sovereign Lebanon. That is why the peace process must, among other things, resolve the issue of how Hizbollah is to be disarmed. The primary competence must be political.
Israel’s response has brought it criticism from many quarters, and I admit that I too, at one time described it as disproportionate, but I do also want to say that I very much respect Israel for considering, in a free and democratic debate, the question of where it went wrong, both politically and militarily. I wish those states that are Israel's neighbours would be as self-critical in a debate of a similar kind. If the other states bordering upon Israel can be as self-critical, then the Middle East will have moved closer to democracy.
Perhaps I – as a European, a German, and one born of the post-war generation – might be permitted to say how deeply moved I was to hear the Israeli Prime Minister say that a German contribution to the peace effort would be welcomed. That is something quite utterly novel, the like of which was unthinkable before, and so it is right that the Federal Republic of Germany, too, together with its friends in the European Union, should make its own contribution.
I was deeply moved by that. The people of Palestine are equal in dignity to the Israelis or to Europeans such as ourselves, and they are entitled to live within secured borders. We appeal to all the interested parties in Palestine, to Fatah and to Hamas, to form a real government of national unity and thereby play their part in making peace.
We Europeans find ourselves – and perhaps for the first time ever – in a new situation in that we are not only providing the humanitarian aid that matters so much to people, but are also, as part of the Quartet, helping to shape their future, which is what I urge all those involved with the Quartet to join with the European Union in doing.
Let me conclude by saying that the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, regarding as it does human dignity as the foundation of each and every policy, calls on everyone in the Middle East and in the Arab and Muslim worlds not to exploit young people as so-called martyrs, imperilling their own lives and the lives of others, but instead to enable them to live in their own countries under decent conditions and make their contributions to society, to respect human dignity and the value of human life, and then we can stand alongside these peoples and their governments.
Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to thank the President-in-Office and Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner for what they have said. There lies, I believe, in the crisis and in the attempt at a solution – which they have described and which must now be organised – an historic opportunity for Europeans and for the Member States of the European Union, and not for them alone – as Mr Tuomioja is right to point out – for others, notably Islamic states – must also make their own contribution, but the opportunity for the Europeans who are involved is a unique one.
I would put it in yet another way: there is not only a unique opportunity, but also a unique obligation, to do something practical, now, to bring about peaceful solutions, for it has to be said – and it has to be said here – that the USA’s solutions for the region have failed utterly, and that their failure is one of the causes of the present crisis. That is why we Europeans are under an obligation to make the attempt now to help bring about a solution.
Our contribution cannot be merely military but it must have a military dimension to it, among the various others that are necessary in the region. What is needed is an overall concept, including military action on the basis of international law, humanitarian action and diplomatic activity, which does not overlook the core issue of conflict in the region, that being the need to resolve the Palestinian conflict, which is the cause of instability across the region.
Let me now set out some of the things that we Socialists regard as fundamental and necessary in terms of this overall concept. This is indeed, above all else, about Israel's right to exist. We European Social Democrats are in no doubt about the fact that the existence of Israel is at the heart of our policy, and we oppose all those who jeopardise it.
In the present situation, though, we also have to support Lebanon, which, once its civil war was over, was on the right road towards becoming a stable, secular democracy. Since that has, to a great extent, been brought to nothing, let us help the Lebanese people to get back to where they were before the military conflict, when the whole region had so many reasons for hope.
We also have to build up Palestine, and the primary objective here must be the provision of humanitarian aid in what is a tragic situation. What I can say, on behalf of us Social Democrats, is that dialogue with all the forces in Palestine can no longer be evaded; it is necessary and indispensable.
We must promote and build up the structures of civil society, for it is with them, and with all the forces that favour dialogue – particularly dialogue between cultures and religions – that we must be partners.
What is needed in the region – as previous speakers, including Mr Poettering, have indicated – is not the questioning of one another’s right to exist, but respect: respect for other values, values that may be religious in origin, but are nonetheless constructive and respectful of human dignity, respect on the basis of what we stand for, of our Western values. We should not make Islam into some sort of hate figure; Islam is a religion professed by almost a billion people around the world, and we must not allow them to be seen in the same light as a bunch of crazed terrorists. That would be a fatal error. That is why dialogue between cultures is so important.
One thing I do think is important is that the prisoners should be released, and that must happen now. It is now that the parties to the conflict must keep their word, for what is needed is the sort of action that builds trust, and that is not an empty concept. Right now, in the situation we are in, that sort of action is indispensable – small steps, understandable steps, steps towards trust, and they include the release of prisoners and the involvement of all the forces in the region. All the states – not least, and including, Syria – need to brought in.
I would not wish to deny that there has, here in this House – and, indeed within our group – been much disappointment about the things that have been said over recent weeks in Syria and elsewhere. The thing is that Syria is needed if the problem is to be resolved. If Syria is willing to engage in constructive dialogue with us, then I call upon them to indicate their goodwill by resuming the dialogue that has already tentatively begun, and to make it possible for us to address, albeit perhaps in small ways, with matters such as border issues, and to demonstrate to us their readiness to return to the negotiating table.
Let me point out, with reference to this, that, even when the Cold War was at its height, the two sides, with all their differences, were still able to talk to each other through the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which we had set up. Why should we not resurrect the idea of a Conference on Security and Cooperation in this region, one that would bring all the parties to the table, not only the countries of the road map – by which I mean us Europeans, the United Nations, Russia, and the United States – but also the states in the region, the Arab League, and Syria as well? This is something it would certainly be worth thinking about.
I do agree with Mr Poettering when he says that nothing in the world can justify targeted terrorist acts. Such terrorism, such blind destructive rage, is no more and no less than the outward face of a contempt for humanity that is always destructive in its effects. Nothing can justify any kind of terrorism, and that is why it is our common task to fight against it.
Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, this summer’s conflict has claimed the lives of over 1000 people, the vast majority of whom were innocent civilians. It has reduced much of Lebanon to rubble. If the situation teaches us nothing else, it must teach us to look forward, rather than back.
We should waste no time in deploying the 7000 troops that the Union has pledged to UNIFIL to stabilise the situation in southern Lebanon, to cut off the flow of arms and to support the humanitarian effort. We must, however, clarify UNIFIL’s mandate to turn the UN resolutions into reality on the ground.
And of course we must go further. We must speak with one voice. We must, in the short term, demand the immediate lifting of Israel’s air and sea blockade of Lebanon. We must demand the lifting of the blockade of Gaza and we must help to establish an effective Palestinian Government.
In the medium term, while condemning terrorist acts we must bring Hizbollah and Hamas in from the cold and engage them in a dialogue for the establishment of a democratic framework. We must set up an independent inquiry into the civilian deaths caused by all sides in the recent conflict and, as Kofi Annan has pointed out, it will not be through the barrel of a gun, but thanks to dialogue and compromise that Hizbollah will put down their weapons and negotiate a long-term solution.
We have long-term tasks too. If we are to raise a new generation that is not steeped in fear and intolerance, we must build institutions that will ensure peace in the long term. When he was President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi talked about setting up a Euro-Arab development bank, jointly financed and managed by both sides. We must look, too, at a security organisation along the lines of Mr Fogh Rasmussen’s proposed conference on security and cooperation in the Mediterranean, which Mr Schulz has quoted. We must look at how we can tie in, with a proper immigration policy, all of the countries of the Mediterranean basin. And we must oversee all of this through the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly in which you, Mr President, have invested so much political – and no little financial – capital. Let us learn from Einstein when he told us that peace cannot be kept by force, only achieved through understanding.
Mr Tuomioja, you spoke about the European Union’s remarkable achievement and its major success. I commend the work you have done, but let us not exaggerate. It is a crisis that has driven the European Union to the position it is in, though something Michel Barnier has called the reflexe Européen. The Union does not have the European constitution that it needs and which would have equipped it far better to deal with this situation. We are deploying European forces but this is not an EU force, even if – thank heavens – it is a coalition of the coherent.
In terms of democratic decision-making we are running on a wing and a prayer. After your meeting in Lappeenranta on 25 August, Mr Solana said that this was the most important decision taken by the EU for many years. If that is so, then why is Mr Solana not here, telling us about it and telling us about the conditions surrounding this conflict? He has a mandate, but of what kind?
When we asked we were told that the rules of engagement for the forces were: ‘a matter strictly between the United Nations and the troop contributors’. We were told, therefore, that this was not a European matter. It is absurd that Mr Solana is not here to talk to us about the rules of engagement for this conflict!
The danger is this: the European public at large believe that Europe has responded to the crisis. If things go wrong and we have large numbers of young men coming back home in body bags, people will want to know who in Europe is responsible. Somebody will have to take the political responsibility.
Please, President-in-Office of the Council, get Europe’s common foreign and security policy together so that we are not faced with that kind of situation.
In conclusion, we should give two cheers for Europe: one for Louis Michel’s rapid action and one for Romano Prodi’s courage in coordinating our efforts to deal with this problem. We should thank the Commission, the Finnish Presidency and Cyprus – a new Member State – for the tremendous help it has given. We should also thank Turkey for having the courage to help us in committing troops.
However, we still run the risk of insistence on national sovereignty resulting in global anarchy.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Mr Tuomioja, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to begin with a self-criticism. Who, within this Parliament, a year ago, asked about Resolution 1552? Who, within this Parliament, asked about the disarmament of Hezbollah? We need to discuss this problem because it is currently at the heart of the debates in Israel. For three years, the Israeli Government has not said or done a thing about the disarmament of Hezbollah. We have all been blind and we ought at least to recognise that we too were mistaken. It should be noted, firstly, that we had, that the international community had, a UN resolution. Once adopted, that resolution disappeared into the nirvana of politics without ever being applied on the ground.
Secondly – and this is a real problem – that region, which is a target for all kinds of misfortune, is also a region in which the most political mistakes can be made. Mistakes are made because people think that they have to be the ambassador of Israel or of Palestine. What is the European Union's role now? Certain people within the Union are very attached to Israel – I understand that, and it is justifiable. Others are very attached to the Palestinians – I understand that, and it is justifiable. Yet, being in politics does not come down to that; on the contrary, everything must be done to ensure that there is finally a Palestinian State and an Israeli State in which people can live safely. In order to be in politics, one does not have to be a kind soul or Mother Teresa, one has to be able to succeed in making that region change politically. That is the problem.
It is for this reason that the European Union is sending troops into the region. Mr Watson is right. Some European Union Member States are sending troops.
I woke up one morning having dreamt something. During a meeting, all of the Heads of State or Government had decided that the European contingent would be the largest in number, that it would be the Europeans’ rapid reaction force, that it would no longer be three quarters French, two thirds Italian or a quarter German, but that it would consist of Europeans who, as such, were going to represent Europe in that region. I know that that is a dream, I know that I am being childish, but why not dream such things?
Insofar as we are bound to fulfil our obligations, Mr Fischer recently wrote in an article, ‘Welcome to the real world’: Yes, we are living in the real world; from now on, we have to act politically in that region. Well, the reality is that the Americans present in the region are in Iraq, where they are stuck; they have no political presence. No organisation, apart from the European Union, has the ability to change things and to work alongside the Israelis in examining how the Palestinian issue should be negotiated. Peace will only reign in Israel if there is a Palestinian State that is fit to live in. The best way in which to combat Hamas is to do so by means of the Palestinian State, because Hamas does not give a damn about the Palestinian State. It wants an Islamic area! That is why it is important to stress, firstly, that, if we establish a Palestinian State, then we will weaken Hamas’ influence.
Secondly, we need to settle the problem concerning the borders with Syria and the Golan. Israel must be guaranteed a water supply and it must be guaranteed protection, but protection that does not mean Israel’s occupying the Golan. The European Union must use its influence in order to get negotiations under way. At a time when the European Union is now managing to play a major political role, we will be responsible not only for hardship and failure, but also, in political terms, for a region in which peace is prevailing.
When our children ask us what purpose Europe serves, we will be able to proudly reply: ‘Look at what we are doing in the Middle East’. To do that, however, we need to achieve that objective. We must have the courage to say to all of these governments that it is not Italy – even though Italy has been admirable – that it is not France, and that it is not the United Kingdom, but that it is Europe as a whole that has been effective.
To conclude, I should like to draw your attention to a debate concerning Germany. I have had enough of these political groups! Mr Watson, as a member of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, is telling the German ALDE members that it is outrageous that they are rejecting the sending of the task force to the Middle East. And you, Mr Wurtz, are telling the German Communists that what they are in the process of doing is outrageous, that it is a bartering style of politics, when human beings are dying in the Middle East and when the whole world wants to establish this task force. Have courage as politicians and take action within your political camps!
Francis Wurtz, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, Mr Tuomioja, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, what we have experienced this summer ought to be totally and utterly inconceivable in our time.
Let us recall, firstly, that a State, Israel, is shelling and starving the civilian population of Gaza, is kidnapping ministers and politicians, who are going to join the 8 000 Palestinian prisoners already in detention, and has killed more than 200 people in this small region, which has become, according to the expression used by Mr Jan Egeland, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, a ticking time-bomb. Then, the same army has been pounding Lebanon for a full 34 days, making no distinction, according to Human Rights Watch, between civilians and military targets, causing the deaths of 1 100 civilians, forcing a quarter of the population to move, imposing a total blockade of the country, deliberately targeting – as Mr Annan pointed out – and killing observers from the international peacekeeping force, destroying – according to the UNDP – 15 000 houses and 78 bridges, demolishing the country’s vital infrastructure, ports, airports and power stations, causing a huge oil slick, and using shells that can contain as many as 644 explosive devices, with 100 000 of these devices continuing to blindly kill men, women and children.
Secondly, a superpower, the United States, is supporting its ally’s strategy, both in Palestine and Lebanon, in the name of the war against terrorism, which is already underway in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its Secretary of State compares the suffering of the people of Lebanon to the pain of giving birth to the new Middle East. In the midst of war, she is delivering increasingly sophisticated weapons to Israel and has been refusing, for more than a month of relentless fighting, to call for a ceasefire, something that the Lebanese Government and the United Nations Secretary-General have nonetheless been passionately calling for.
My third and final point is that an institution that is particularly close to us, the Council, has long proved itself incapable of calling for a ceasefire despite the commendable attempt made by the Finnish Presidency and the unanimous appeal launched along these lines by Parliament’s Conference of Presidents. The Council is even finding excuses for the Israeli army’s behaviour by speaking of the right to self-defence. Just as it was legitimate to condemn the initial capture of the Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah, then above all the latter’s serious decision to respond to the bombing of Lebanese towns by launching missiles on Israeli towns, thus in turn committing crimes against the civilian population, the green light that has de facto been given to Israel for many days now to carry out and pursue this terrifying war is leaving people amazed and is fuelling revolt.
We therefore cannot be content today and in the period to come with only talking about European contributions to UNIFIL and to the reconstruction process, as important as these two issues are. By adopting a clear-sighted approach and in a spirit of responsibility, we must learn lessons from this painful experience, beginning with the following: at the heart of all the upheavals in the Middle East, which are becoming more tragic for the populations and more dangerous for international security as each day passes, there is the occupation of the territories that were conquered in 1967 and Israel’s persistent refusal to see the relevant United Nations’ Security Council resolutions applied.
The fact is that the European Union has taken the pressure off with regard to this crucial requirement for peace. What initiative has it taken to relaunch the Quartet’s road map? What did it do to promote the Arab League’s plan in 2002, which was proposing the normalisation of relations with Israel in exchange for recognition of the Palestinian State? What has it done to make the Israeli leaders face up to their historical responsibilities? Instead of doing anything in those areas, it has suspended aid to the Palestinian institutions, delegitimised a democratically-elected government and parliament, shunned the courageous efforts of President Mahmoud Abbas to rebuild a national accord and accepted without any difficulty the closure of the only crossing points between Gaza and the outside, which it was officially controlling.
I hope that the joint decisions taken over the last few days will signal a turnaround for Europe with regard to the entire Middle East. At present, Europe must make the long-term choice between President Bush’s notion of the war against terrorism and a return to the fundamentals of international law. I believe that a fair and lasting peace in the Middle East comes at that price, as does Europe’s credibility in the world.
Cristiana Muscardini, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, what a lot of inaccuracies and intellectual dishonesty has been printed in a good many columns on the Middle East crisis in August and uttered by a great many politicians! The attacker has often been confused with the attacked, and the real motivation behind the provocation unleashed by Hizbollah, with its launching of missiles against Israel and kidnapping of two of their soldiers, has hardly ever been spelt out. It is in fact the same goal that the President of Iran has declared more than once: ‘to wipe Israel off the map’.
If that is the aim of certain governments and of the terrorist fundamentalism that they maintain, we need to have the courage and the loyalty to say that Europe’s primary task is to support and defend the existence of the State of Israel and its people and to demand its recognition by those who still refuse to grant it out of short-sighted folly. It is only on these conditions and by returning to the roadmap that we shall be able to have a Palestinian State that is itself recognised, free and safe, as well as peace in the Middle East.
These are the objectives that we must achieve by means of every possible effort and consensus. They are very different from Hizbollah’s objectives, which are to destroy a democratic state that is recognised by the international community and a member of the United Nations.
Hizbollah is a religious ideological movement represented in the parliament of a neighbouring state, albeit by a minority, but it also has an armed autonomous wing outside the state structure that is supplied with arms and money by two other states in the region, both of which have the destruction of Israel as their primary aim.
How can we maintain equally close relations with these two sides, which are so opposed and different in their objectives? One side is defending its legitimate survival as a democratic state, while the other is the armed wing of the fight against democracy and the West!
We support the UNIFIL force, which must do everything it can to guarantee disarmament and to support the legitimate Lebanese Government, in the hope that the Lebanese authorities will no longer adopt their ambiguous positions of recent weeks. UNIFIL’s only interlocutors must be the Israeli and Lebanese Governments.
The European Union, which is at last acting in unison, must enforce the UN resolutions and commit all its efforts to providing humanitarian aid, restarting the talks and promoting a culture of mutual respect. I still believe that, if Israel were part of the European Union, peace in the Middle East would be assured to a greater extent. Here and now I reiterate my call for the Council to declare that the embassies of EU countries throughout the world will from now on recognise Israeli citizens as European citizens.
Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Mr President, there are reports in the German press today of serious objections being expressed within the Bundeswehr to the conditions that the Lebanese Government has prescribed with regard to foreign aid to protect its 225 km-long stretch of coastline from illegal arms transports. Beirut apparently wants to keep tabs on a strip of six sea miles from the coast, and naval troops from various EU Member States, including my country, the Netherlands, are invited to monitor the area outside of this strip.
The President of the Bundeswehrverband regards these conditions as unacceptable, and so do I, for which EU Member State navy would wish to stand by helplessly while Hezbollah is being re-armed? The decision on this specific mandate now lies with the United Nations in any case.
I should like to hear from this Council and Commission what the UN, and its Secretary-General Mr Annan, intends to do about this, and what their attitude is in this respect, what their position is on this controversial issue, because this has, after all, a direct impact on Europe's involvement in the stabilisation of the situation around Lebanon.
It is in any event significant that even the two Hezbollah representatives in the Lebanese Government have voted against this dangerous compromise proposal. It is therefore only logical that Israel should, for the time being, maintain its sea blockade against Lebanon.
IN THE CHAIR: MR ONYSZKIEWICZ Vice-president
Gianni De Michelis (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to express my support for the European Union’s initiative in the Lebanese situation, which means that we are once again playing a central role in Middle Eastern affairs in a way that we have not seen for a long time, and, of course, it also coincides with the failure of the unilateral initiatives adopted by others.
Everything will depend on the outcome, however, and we have to realise that the military mission and aid for reconstruction are not the finishing line but the starting point, not an end but a means and, it must be said, a means that is liable to be totally inadequate if it is not quickly and promptly backed up with a political and diplomatic initiative aimed at restarting the talks between the two sides.
Our debate here in Parliament should focus above all on that: the context will be the United Nations Security Council, but the initiative must inevitably come from here, from Europe, the European Union, in liaison with the United States and with the Arab League, but the central initiative being ours.
We must debate the implications that such an initiative may have. The experience of recent years and months has shown that unilateralism by itself leads nowhere, that the attempt to solve the problems of the Middle East piece by piece leads nowhere. We need to go beyond the roadmap, beyond the specific individual Security Council resolutions on Iraq or Lebanon, and realise that the time is ripe right now for an all-encompassing approach that can somehow get all the countries involved in the region to sit down around a table for formal talks on all the unresolved issues, crisis points or areas of cooperation.
We in Europe ought to know something about that because, 30 years ago in Helsinki, we succeeded in laying the foundations for that transformation that then astounded the world a few years later. A solution of that kind would be a solution for everyone: for the United States, which would get out of a tight corner; for Israel, which would escape from the unilateralism in which it is trapped; for the Arab League; and most of all for us, for Europe, because in that way we could revitalise the Barcelona process and Europe’s own situation at the same time.
Ville Itälä (PPE-DE). – (FI) Mr President, when during the vacation I watched the news, I felt powerless when I saw the human suffering that went on every day. We do not need to be powerless, however: we can do quite a lot. This is a real opportunity, as many here today have said. The EU has taken some important steps, and one of these was the fact that during the crisis we were able to find consensus – one voice. This ‘one voice’ will be an important factor if we want to have a major international role in international policy in the future.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the President-in-Office of the Council, Finnish Foreign Minister Tuomioja, and to acknowledge the role he has played, because his experience and expertise have played an important role in finding this ‘one voice’. In the future, we should be a powerful political actor, and we should not be content with a role in which we are just paymasters dealing with post-war destruction. We need to be actively involved in a vital political process to help try and establish permanent peace in the Middle East region.
Mr President, I am convinced that we will gain fairly unanimous support for this broadly-based conference. This will be vital for achieving a lasting peace in the region. It is quite clear, as Minister Tuomioja has said, that the conference should not be held immediately, as it will take time for the parties to be prepared for it. Now, however, we need the courage and determination to seize this opportunity to genuinely bring lasting peace to the region.
Pasqualina Napoletano (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, as you have said, the fact that we have succeeded in obtaining a ceasefire is already an important result in a war that, in just a few weeks, has caused a great many deaths, destroyed infrastructure and the environment, and was threatening to engulf the whole region.
This initial result is the outcome of a European initiative in close cooperation with the United Nations. Allow me to mention the active role played by my own country, Italy, and also by the Finnish Presidency and by France, which is to lead UNIFIL during this phase.
The challenge, however, remains much more arduous and requires the whole of Europe to make not just a military effort, but a political and diplomatic one. For the first time, Europe could demonstrate a united political will and the determination to play a constructive role in the Mediterranean and Middle East by equipping itself with the appropriate tools.
It is a question of supporting Lebanon in the difficult process of independence and sovereignty, helping it to continue along the democratic path that raised so much hope during the ‘Beirut spring’. The Lebanese army has to regain control of the whole country, including the south, and it has to exercise a monopoly on military strength to the exclusion of Hizbollah, which in recent times has become a parallel power.
Such an outcome requires everyone to take responsibility, starting with Syria, which has a role in the region, while Israel must be persuaded to abandon the idea of the indiscriminate use of force, because that is not a path that can guarantee its security.
It has already been said that the Palestinian issue lies at the heart of the Middle East situation. Europe’s task is to fully accept the responsibility that all the parties in the conflict now attribute to it: to support the Palestinians’ difficult internal process of forming a new government that will enable them to come out of isolation and win back the resources that Israel must return to them. It could be the beginning of a new climate of relations between the two sides, but first of all the spiral of violence needs to stop.
The years of experience that we have acquired show that the two sides cannot do it alone: the international community’s presence is essential, and so we could deploy the peacekeeping troops that are in Lebanon today to Gaza and the West Bank tomorrow. It could be a first step towards restoring that agreement, in the run-up to an international conference that may lead to a stable, lasting solution for the entire area, as the President-in-Office mentioned.
Philippe Morillon (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon will be strengthened, and the European Union will play an important part in it. We are right to be pleased about this.
We must also be aware that, in order to be useful in such a difficult situation, the troops deployed will have to be respected, and, in order for that to happen, they will have to be strong, that is to say, they will need to have the resources appropriate to their mission and to have the right and the duty to implement them not only in the case of self-defence, that is to say, when their own soldiers are in danger, but also when the spirit or the letter of the mission may demand it.
We learnt this lesson in the Balkans, with tragic effect. We must never forget it. Nor must we forget what all the peacemakers in Lebanon, as in the whole of the Middle East, are waiting for: it is not the UN, which has been present for too long and which has been rendered powerless for too long, it is not France on its own, it is not Italy, it is the European Union. You rightly said so, Mr Tuomioja. I bear witness, in this regard, to the effectiveness of the action that has been carried out for weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the European force that was deployed there to support the UN’s action. Without its presence, I believe that I can say – as you know, Commissioner – that Kinshasa would now be torn apart.
That is why I am calling on the Council and the Commission to check whether the European forces that are to be deployed in Lebanon could not be organised in a similar way, thus enabling the European Union to do what is expected of it, namely to exercise its own responsibility.
Thus, if we are not merely indecisive, then why, for example, do we not immediately deploy a European fleet off the Lebanese coast? Euromarfor would give us the means to do this. No, Mr Cohn-Bendit, you are not a childish dreamer, and if you are, then I am even more of a child and more of a dreamer than you.
David Hammerstein Mintz, (Verts/ALE). – (ES) Mr President, the Middle East crisis may teach Europe a very tough lesson, a lesson resulting from disaster, which will force us out of our European crisis. This contact with the real world of the Middle East through our leadership of a multinational force is very important; it demonstrates that the European Union is no longer just a glorified NGO providing humanitarian aid in the Middle East, but that it has a political commitment to the region. That is very important, because it represents a genuine strategic commitment to the Middle East, where peace is fundamental to Europe’s security.
There is no question that, with the courage of countries such as France, Italy and Spain, the future of Europe’s foreign policy in the world is going to be at stake, and to a certain degree, the future of the European crisis will depend on that. It is clear that the unilateralism of the United States has been entirely discredited throughout the Arab world and throughout most of the world in general. Lebanon could be a successful test of a form of international intervention that would guarantee peace in Gaza and the West Bank and a peace agreement.
We welcome the Commission and the Council’s position on the Palestinian government of national unity and its pragmatic reaction, and at the same time we are concerned about what is happening on the ground: the maintenance of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the announcement the day before yesterday that 700 new homes are to be built in those territories, which goes against the roadmap.
Miguel Portas (GUE/NGL). – (PT) Welcome to reality! If there has been a shift in Europe’s position, it is because a people has managed to resist. My respect and admiration goes out to Lebanon. Resolution 1701 arrived late and failed to make a distinction between the aggressor and the victim, but it did achieve a cease-fire and is providing an opportunity for peace. The UN mission is purely and simply the right way forward. Reconstruction must be supported, it must be made difficult to restart the war and time must be allowed for dialogue among the Lebanese, because this is the only way in which the problems of defending the country will be resolved.
There are other priorities, too. The European blockade in Palestine sent out the wrong message to Washington and to Tel Aviv and is punishing an entire people for believing in democracy. In Tehran, ultimatums and threats only serve to speed up the nuclear arms race. The time has come to relaunch peace in the Middle East. Only the weapon of politics can beat the politics of weapons.
Brian Crowley (UEN). – Mr President, I should like to thank the President-in-Office of the Council and the Commissioner for their contributions so far.
Obviously this most recent war has brought home to us the horrors of conflict and the toll that it takes on human populations and human infrastructure. Rather than reinventing the wheel and coming up with new ideas, we should reinvigorate the whole idea of the roadmap that was agreed between the EU, the United Nations, the US and Russia. That charted the way forward in terms of bringing about peace and stability not only between Israel and Palestine, but also amongst their neighbours, including Syria, Jordan, Iran, Egypt and Lebanon. If we have seen anything over the last few months, it is the inability of the European Union to speak with a single voice; it is the failure by certain Member State governments within the European Union to agree with the majority of other Member States that has allowed this problem to continue and to get worse. At least now, late in the day, we have agreed to head the UN peacekeeping force that is going to Lebanon.
However, now is a time for us to be braver, to look at new ideas and new ways of engagement. If our own history in Europe has taught us anything, if our own experience of conflict resolution within the European Union or indeed in the wider world has taught us anything, it is that only through negotiation and dialogue can we actually achieve a lasting and just settlement. There is now perhaps an opportunity for us to re-engage with the elected representatives of the Palestinian people – Hamas, with the Lebanese Government, with Israel and with the Governments of Syria and Iran to try to come forward with a deal.
With regard to the Middle East, the most important lesson for us of the last six months has been our failure to speak properly, with a single voice, and to give a clear message to all those countries – whatever they try – that if they do something wrong, action will be taken by the European Union against them. By action I do not mean offensive action by the military, but with the strongest weapon we have, which is moral persuasion and the economic support that we give to those areas.
Commissioner and President-in-Office, now is the time to be brave. Now is the time to chart the new way forward and to dust down the roadmap, invigorate it and make it new for the 21st century.
Paul Marie Coûteaux (IND/DEM). – (FR) Mr President, since he has returned to the Chamber, I shall congratulate Mr Cohn-Bendit on his rather passionate speech, which we heard a moment ago. At the risk of surprising and upsetting him, I agree with him on almost all points or, at any rate, on the main ones. It is patently obvious: there is no solution other than a political one. What is more, that political solution is possible, over and above the despair of the different sides, the despair of the extremists from both camps. There is despair in Israeli politics right now, and the State of Israel needs to be protected from itself. I believe that this ‘show of strength’ policy being conducted by Israel is an all or nothing policy that is jeopardising the country’s long-term existence and worrying all those who want it to be secure, as we ourselves do.
We simply differ on two points: no, it is not Europe that will impose this political solution because not everyone in Europe wants it; it took more than three weeks – as you know, Mr Cohn-Bendit – for the Foreign Affairs ministers to meet after the start of the bombings, and that was to voice their disagreements. Let us stop dreaming of a policy based on yet another European army, on a European navy, or on goodness knows what else. We do not agree politically; there will therefore be no true European political choice as such, at least, not as long as we follow Washington’s policy – and that is the other point on which I differ from you – as it basically consists in promoting the extremes of both camps and in destroying the geopolitical balance in the region. By destroying Iraq, by condemning Syria, by forcing Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, an act that weakens Lebanon – the Christians themselves realise this, including even Mr Aoun – we have created the conditions for an imbalance and we are still reaping the rewards of that imbalance, which is war, which is giving a voice to the extremists - from both camps, I might add, from the dominant and the dominated side.
Unfortunately, I believe that it is not Europe that can impose this political solution; I can see no political power other than France that can do so.
Bruno Gollnisch (NI). – (FR) Mr President, woe betide the country in which an emphasis on minorities and ethnic communities prevails over the authority of the State, and woe betide disarmed States. Lebanon, the poor martyr that it is, has just experienced misfortune once again, by providing the motive, albeit reluctantly, for a devastating and disproportionate intervention. The right to self-defence and the right to take follow-up action do of course exist, but not the right to launch an all-out war without negotiating, without issuing an ultimatum, without declaring war and without first referring the matter to the Security Council. I fear, too, that this operation will be counter-productive for Israel, which has not achieved its political objectives and which is now incurring the hostility of the entire Lebanese population.
Mr Tuomioja told us that there would be a cordial atmosphere at the meetings held among the European ministers; what a relief! Those warm meetings did not, however, prevent the devastation of Lebanon.
We are being told today about a European peacekeeping force, but curiously enough, that force involves only seven out of twenty-five Member States. Must I point out that there has been a peacekeeping force in Lebanon for 28 years now? My country, France, has paid a heavy cost there, but that force was totally incapable of preventing the tragic events that we have experienced and, contrary to what the Commissioner told us, it was totally powerless in the recent tragedy and merely supplied a few extra targets for the Israeli bombs.
The settlement is based solely on the recognition of sovereign States with secure and recognised borders. A free and independent Palestinian State is required, something that has not existed for decades – a state of affairs to which most of you seem pretty much resigned. There can be no peace without that. The State of Lebanon, which has recently been freed from Syria’s control, must extend its authority over the whole of its territory. It is only under those conditions that Israel will also be able to experience lasting peace.
Finally, as regards our fellow citizens’ helping in the reconstruction process, we are tired of paying to rebuild what others have demolished. Let each side help repair the damage it has caused; the State of Lebanon for the damage caused by Hezbollah in Israel, and the State of Israel for the damage caused in Lebanon. Let each side shoulder its responsibilities, the rule of law also hinges on that.
João de Deus Pinheiro (PPE-DE). – (PT) Whether one likes it or not, the EU’s time on the international stage has arrived. We must first thank the Finnish Presidency, the Commissioner and the Commission for succeeding in this regard, or for at least enabling this to happen.
This is both an opportunity and a responsibility. We need to be aware that all the ingredients are in place for something to go wrong. The mandate is full of ambiguities, Hezbollah is not disarming, Israel continues to retaliate, there is a lack of security on the Israeli-Palestinian border and Syria and Iran cannot be relied upon. Nevertheless, I feel that it was a good decision for us to take on these responsibilities.
As regards peace-keeping, we must also make sure that the mission is successful. We must ensure there is no discord in the EU and must act quickly if the situation changes. I feel that an informal cell made up of the Commission, the Council and Parliament might be helpful. The most important thing, however, is to develop a parallel political framework. The proposal of an international conference seems very appropriate, given that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon is an essential prerequisite, albeit insufficient on its own. Lastly, we need to mobilise more human and financial resources because the process will take time. We have a duty to ensure that our representatives will be successful. This is our responsibility.
Hannes Swoboda (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, I would like, in this speech, to focus on the security of Israel and Europe’s interest in it, it being something that we, by reason of our history – terrible, tragic, and full of disasters as it has been – are under an obligation to defend.
What, though, is meant by security for Israel? Firstly, Israel needs neighbours that are themselves secure, that can concentrate on their own economic and social development, that are not dependent on their neighbours, that are not themselves under occupation or suffering from blockades. Lebanon, then, needs to be independent, not least from Syria, without military forces occupying it and not under threat of a blockade.
Secondly, if Israel is to be secure – which is the end we have in view – then there are UN resolutions that must be implemented, first among them the first UN resolution which, while bringing about the foundation of Israel, also envisaged the establishment of a Palestinian state. If such a state is to exist and be independent, it follows that withdrawal from the occupied territories will be necessary.
Let me now quote the view expressed by Gideon Levy of the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, who said, as do many other Israelis today, ‘The cancer that threatens us more than any terrorism is the occupation of a foreign country and of its people’, and so you, Mr President-in-Office, have been quite right to make it clear, as you have over recent days and weeks, that we have to get negotiations to a point where Israel’s long-term security is guaranteed. As was shown by the last war in Lebanon, what we seek will be achieved neither by war and violence – which brings forth only more of the same – nor by unilateral withdrawal, particularly when not accompanied by a guarantee from the armed forces or a peace policy that there will be no more atrocities.
Negotiation means engaging in dialogue, and if people are to engage in dialogue with one another, they have to accord each other recognition, so we should not talk too much about conditions, particularly if they are one-sided. We demand, and rightly, of Hamas that it should recognise Israel within the 1967 borders, but then we must also demand that Israel should accept those borders as well, or we can tell them, from the outset, to sit down and talk among themselves, taking as their starting point the relevant UN resolution, after which we can talk about corrections and so on. That being so, there can be only one peace process – one that is based on negotiations.
Mr President-in-Office, I would like to correct you on one point, in that we are not going ‘back to a peace process’, but rather, in fact, ‘forward to a peace process’, since there has not yet been a peace process that was really effective and promised to be successful.
I would like to thank you both – Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office – for having, through what you have done and what you have said over the last few weeks, helped us to get a more realistic picture, so that Europe can now really begin to play a major part in setting in motion a lasting peace process of the kind that is needed for the security not only of Israel but also of the region as a whole.
Alexander Lambsdorff (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, the situation in the Middle East has a direct effect on Europe, and it is unfortunate that it took a war to remind us of this fact, which has become the central focus of diplomatic efforts. We all know that what the Middle East needs is a comprehensive political solution: two states, Israel and Palestine; peace in the region where the three countries Israel, Syria and Lebanon meet; assistance from non-radical Arab states; the pushing back of Iran and of its lackey Hizbollah. We know what has to happen.
It is time to put the pieces of the puzzle together, because people are suffering from the violence. I am very pleased that you, Mr Schulz, brought up the FDP’s idea for a CSCME (Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East), as Kurt Beck has also already done. You have our support in this, and it would be good if this were actually to come about. Hans-Dietrich Genscher will be delighted by this.
Numerous Member States are involved in UNIFIL, the military operation in Lebanon, and units from them form the backbone of this force, but are, unfortunately, national units and not truly European ones. This is not good, since we Liberals share in this dream of an ESDP, which Mr Cohn-Bendit so eloquently shared with us. However, I want to say one thing, my dear Mr Cohn-Bendit: for a party which for a long time wanted to disband Germany’s armed forces and leave NATO, I find it quite remarkable that you now attack poor Graham Watson just because the FDP has, after long discussion, adopted a well-founded position on this matter and for once is not in favour of it. Someone in your position would be well advised to be a little more considerate.
If we had followed your security policy in those days, then Mr Onyskiewicz would not be President of this House today. Just as it is clear that we can be grateful to the soldiers who will do their duty in this difficult region, it is also clear that we as politicians must finally create a Common Foreign and Security Policy, one which proves to be worthy of the name when things get really serious. The difficulties in the Council have already been mentioned. We need to rework existing structures, we need a genuine common decision-making process, in short: we need a big step forward, towards the Common Foreign and Security Policy. This is what we must work towards; Europe has this responsibility and Europe must discharge it.
I would like to add that I believe we should be conducting this debate in Brussels rather than in Strasbourg.
Caroline Lucas (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, eyes have understandably been on the slaughter in Lebanon. However, we must not allow the world to forget the crimes that are being committed in Gaza, which has effectively been turned into a prison for Palestinians. Let us not forget that since the end of June, over 200 Palestinians – at least 44 of them children – have been killed; nor forget that thousands more have been forced to flee their homes; nor forget that when we talk about the Israeli prisoners, who must indeed be freed, there are also 9 000 Palestinian prisoners who remain in Israeli prisons, over half of whom are detained without trial; nor forget that elected Hamas parliamentarians remain under arrest. It is clear that no long-term peace in the Middle East is possible until we see an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
There has been much hand-wringing in this Chamber today, saying, ‘if only there were something more we could do as the EU’. We beg the Israeli authorities to unblock the Palestinian revenues that are being withheld; we plead with them to open the border crossings; we beg for an end to the air and sea blockade; we plead with them not to start building yet more illegal settlements; yet nothing really changes.
I believe that the time is long overdue to echo the recommendation of the heads of the EU mission in Jerusalem and call for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement on the grounds of human rights abuses, as provided for by Article 2 of that Agreement. If we, as the EU, do not take ourselves and our agreements seriously, then we cannot be surprised if others do not either.
Madam Commissioner, you said our credibility is at stake. Yes, it is. As the EU, we have serious influence in the Middle East and we should be using it to greater effect.
Adamos Adamou (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, the invasion by Israel and the flattening of southern Lebanon, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom received the hospitality of the people of Cyprus, the massacre of victims, all this proves the failure of the doctrine of the so-called war against terrorism. It shows that they mean the technical construction of the new Middle East which the peoples of the region reject and both these objectives are based on the power of weapons and the infringement of international law.
The slaughter in the region will only stop if the policy of violence on the part of the strong is replaced by fair peaceful dialogue with full respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states, especially in Palestine and more especially in Gaza, where 70% of the people are hungry and suffering.
The European Union also bears serious responsibilities. President Abbas and efforts to form a government of national unity must be given political support. The Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians must be released, the economic isolation of the occupied territories must be lifted immediately and talks must resume. Nor must we forget that the core problem is the Palestinian question and whether we want lasting peace in the region.
Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis (UEN). – (LV) Ladies and gentlemen, the resolute language heard here confirms the fact that it is necessary to make CFSP decision-making more effective. The resolution here, which we are to adopt, contains many good points, including the requirement concerning the disarmament of Hizbollah. It is strange, however, that this organisation is not on the European Union list of terrorist organisations. That list includes Iran’s opposition movement, the Mujahedin, which we have on several occasions asked to be removed, without success. Why is Hizbollah not included on the list of terrorists? Is it because Hizbollah is represented in Lebanon’s government? Is the provocation of this conflict, involving huge losses, not a reason for speaking openly about these issues? I would like to call on those who are currently responsible for Europe’s leadership not only to devote their energies to the ability to focus resources on reconstruction work and the deployment of peace forces, but also to offer accurate, solid and honest responses concerning the reasons for the conflict.
Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, we have heard several times during this debate of the need for a negotiated settlement and a peace process. But with whom do we negotiate and on what basis? The war in Lebanon was caused by Hizbollah kidnapping Israeli soldiers which, unsurprisingly, triggered retaliation by the Israelis and the escalating conflict we have witnessed.
The leader of Hizbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said that he would not have ordered the troops’ capture and kidnapping if he had known that it would lead to full-scale war. What did he expect? Those are not the words of a political leader but of a political gangster and terrorist. He ordered the kidnappings because he thought he might get away with it. He did not, but he got a war that he could blame on the Israelis anyway.
The Palestinians have elected a terrorist government under Hamas and the Lebanese have two Hizbollah terrorist representatives in their government. These decisions have consequences for the Palestinians and the Lebanese, as we have seen. How does the European Union react to this? By sending the protagonists more money: EUR 435 million so far this year to Palestine and EUR 42 million to Lebanon.
We should let the Hamas and Hizbollah ministers in question renounce their intentions to drive the Israelis into the sea before we consider sending their governments aid. Otherwise such payments amount to nothing more than financing terrorism.
Mario Borghezio (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the message given out when a foreign minister of a founding Member State of the European Union – the foreign minister of my country – walks arm in arm with a top-ranking Hizbollah representative is not a positive message for Europe to send out to its citizens, to people who seriously want peace and want to help solve the dire problems in which that area is floundering, particularly a tormented country like poor Lebanon.
France has the unquestionable merit of having laid the most important issue on the table right from the start, by calling for the UN mandate to include an embargo on arms entering Lebanon across any of its borders, primarily from Syria. In that respect, however, even after Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner’s speech – although I appreciate the fact that she was very clear that Lebanon needs and has the right to go back to being independent and thus not dependent on Syria – we should be critical of the fact that she did not address such basic issues at all clearly.
We want to know, and Europe needs to know, what this force is supposed to do, what its duties are and what resources we shall have. If anyone says, for instance, that disarming Hizbollah means transferring these noble guerrillas to the Lebanese army, we shall reply that that is not the solution to the problem and, above all, it does not correspond to the objectives that Europe, and with it the Member States taking part in UNIFIL, should be pursuing.
Furthermore, many military experts point to the dangers of intervening without a mandate that has been accurately and properly drawn up. On this fundamental point we need to have the courage to speak out plainly and to demand suitable guarantees – this is something that Europe must do – because our soldiers are out there and it is, of course, Europe’s role.
Elmar Brok (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Europe was needed, and it was the nation states that went in at the stumble, albeit in the right direction. This is further evidence that the present structure is getting us nowhere, and it is further evidence that without the Constitution we cannot fulfil our duties to our citizens, because we lack the appropriate structures.
Moving on to the matter in hand, what we are dealing with here is a dispute that must surely be seen in the context of the wider conflict in the Middle East. I can see that there is conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but Hizbollah is not the affected party; the Sheba farms are just a token. What we are dealing with here is a group not directly concerned in the conflict which, spurred on and supported by Iran and Syria, carries out attacks intended to destroy the State of Israel. If we want to arrive at a fair assessment of the situation, we must be clear in our own minds that this is how it started.
Of course it is possible to debate about whether Israel’s reaction to the current situation was exaggerated. I believe it was, but in my opinion we must not forget the basic situation. For this reason there must now be clear commitments from Syria and Iran not to supply any more weapons. It must be made clear that until now Hizbollah has resisted Resolution 1559, and that militias must not be allowed to have weapons. The sovereignty of Lebanon can only be achieved if the government alone has a monopoly on the use of force in its own country and if Hizbollah is not allowed to have weapons.
For this reason there must also be a clear mandate. I understand that nobody today has the power to disarm Hizbollah immediately, but all this beating about the bush – for instance, this current debate about whether inspections at sea should be carried out within the seven mile zone and suchlike - makes me suspect that they are trying continually to create new loopholes in order to make a new rearmament possible, which could then lead us once again into a war.
This UNIFIL force must have more opportunities to achieve better results, so that 15 000 men are not reduced to the position of bystanders in the same way that 2 000 soldiers have been until now, who have seen where things have been hidden but who have been unable to do anything against this concealing of weapons. It is obvious that this must happen in cooperation with the Lebanese Government, but we must face up to this situation clearly.
We must therefore genuinely demand – not just using phrases of superficial compromise - the implementation of resolutions 1701 and 1559. This is surely the relevant point if we are to restore peace in an essential region, a peace that gives us a better chance of tackling the real problems of the Middle Eastern conflict.
I think it is at last high time that the Quartet makes a joint appearance on site and that it occupies the area with the greatest possible number of Quartet troops in order to ensure that its written demands are carried out. Only together can they offer the necessary credibility to back up guarantees of security and to assist in constructing both a secure State of Israel and a viable Palestinian State. No one can achieve this alone; it can only happen if we work together, and this must happen.
We must return to a type of Madrid Conference in order to find a new beginning for the region. I also hope that the terror ceases in Palestine, in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, that President Abbas finds a way to stop it, and that the Israeli actions are halted at the same time. Israel must recognise that its own existence depends upon there being peace now that new weapons with a longer range are available.
The situation has changed: this is what we have learned from the conflict in Lebanon. I hope that this is recognised in Jerusalem and that it is recognised in Ramallah. If both sides want to escape eventual destruction and give their children a chance, then they must now come to an agreement, and we too should make our contribution towards achieving this.
Véronique De Keyser (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Mr Tuomioja, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, we have witnessed a tragic scenario this summer, which has ended in a bloodbath. More than 1 000 Lebanese people have been killed, the majority of whom were civilians, 1 000 000 people have been displaced, a country has been totally destroyed, its infrastructure is in ruins, a sea has been polluted, a farming industry has been poisoned and weapons that are probably illegal are still killing people today. This equates to a disaster for Lebanon and many wounds for Israel, in which there has fortunately been less damage done.
What is more, during this tragedy, a scandal erupted over the UN, paralysed by the United States, being unable to obtain an immediate ceasefire, because Israel needed to be given time to finish its work on the ground. The words have been subverted. A massacre of civilians is from now on called ‘a disproportionate and indiscriminate counterattack’. Invading a country equates to ‘fighting off a militia’. Killing a resistance movement is the same as ‘searching for a kidnapped soldier’, but no one is fooled. The war was brewing. We let it brew. It was planned. It is true that it involved many actors, such as Syria and Iran, but it also involved – sadly via Israel, which is a victim of the war - the United States, which is still experimenting with its disastrous concept of constructive imbalance in order to redesign the Middle East. This concept, which ended in failure in Iraq, has been applied once again and is showing its limitations.
In this instance, the conflict has deep roots. They are in Palestine, which is still under occupation and which is still waiting for a State of which half of the members of the government and of the democratically-elected legislative council are in prison. It is also in Palestine that a ceasefire is needed, and where a peacekeeping force is required. What is more, while the people of Lebanon were dying almost in front of the cameras, 250 Palestinians were losing their lives very quietly, under the occupation.
Nothing will be resolved in the Middle East if no solution is found to this conflict with the support of the entire international community, including the Arab countries, the Palestinians and, of course, Israel and the United States. I am grateful to France and to Italy for having pointed this out and also to the Finnish Presidency for having flown the European flag again, embarked on this path and begun negotiations with all of the actors, including Syria.
We earnestly desire an international peace conference. That is the European response to the US concept of destruction and constructive imbalance and it is, I might add, the only possible solution. We are relieved today, but a page has been turned. Europe will, of course, help rebuild Lebanon, but I defended in my group what you want, Mr Gollnisch, that is to say the notion of making those responsible for the destruction pay, not because we will have to claim back our money, but because this is a notion of justice and responsibility and because, without justice and without shouldering one’s responsibilities, there will be no peace in the Middle East.
Frédérique Ries (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, each one of the civilian victims of this war is a tragedy, both in Lebanon and in Israel, and it is our solidarity with those who are suffering that I should like straightaway to express in this House. This solidarity now features among our main concerns, just as, as has been pointed out, a return to the political process and the road map do, but there is also the release of the Israeli soldiers, support for the democratisation of Lebanon – the history, traditions and culture of which have nothing to do with the terrorist ideology of Hezbollah – the lifting of the blockade of Lebanon, provided that an arms embargo is decreed, and the crucial issue of the disarmament of Hezbollah.
I should like cordially to respond to Mr Cohn-Bendit, who was asking us just now whether anyone was concerned about these issues a year ago. We, Mr Cohn-Bendit – myself and other fellow Members – mentioned Resolution 1559 in March 2005. We, the European Parliament, meeting in plenary, mentioned and voted on – I am quoting from memory because I no longer have the note here - ‘the irrefutable evidence of terrorist acts’. We called for, and voted in favour of, the disarmament of Hezbollah, and also asked the Council to act along those lines. We did do so.
That being said, I quite understand those who speak today before this Assembly of the need to start a dialogue and to resort once again to diplomacy, but I ask the question: how can Sheikh Nasrallah be made to comply with Resolutions 1559 and 1701 when, on numerous occasions, including as recently as yesterday morning, in the Lebanese press, he has rejected all appeals to disarm? I would come back to what the Commissioner was saying: Europe is now more than ever at a crossroads when it comes to finding new paths and preventing a repeat of past mistakes, something that would prove absolutely tragic.
Johannes Voggenhuber (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, for a moment I found it liberating when our esteemed colleague Mr Watson said that we must look forward, rather than back. However, the people killed so cruelly and senselessly, in this cruel and senseless war, oblige us to ask whether this war could have been avoided, and that is a question that Europe, too, must answer.
In March 2005, this Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Hizbollah’s terrorist activities and asked the Council to take measures to deal with them. No such measures were taken; the Council did not comply with this request. As for the UN resolution on disarmament: there was never any initiative on the part of the European Union to ensure its implementation. On the contrary, Hizbollah was arming itself massively for years. Did our secret services not know this? Did we not notice that Hizbollah were setting themselves up with hundreds of rocket bases under the cover of civilian residential areas? Nothing was done about this.
Did we really not see that Iran was using this conflict as a means of gaining hegemony in the region? Could we in Europe really not see the impending danger of war, so that we can now so simply cover up our inactivity by looking forward, rather than back? Every side in this House invokes Israel’s right to exist - quite rightly too, and I am very glad about this - but why do we then look on while those who wish to destroy Israel continually reorganise themselves, until social, political and even military panic breaks out over there? Could it be that in looking back we see our own joint responsibility for these events?
Vittorio Agnoletto (GUE/NGL). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as a pacifist, I have never believed that peace could be achieved by means of arms. I am therefore not overjoyed at sending troops to Lebanon but, realistically, I realise that we are dealing with a damage-limitation intervention, which is the only possible way to get Israel to withdraw from Lebanon. The more neutral the peacekeeping forces remain, however, the more credible they will be.
Therefore Italy and the other nations involved in UNIFIL must immediately break off all military aid agreements with Israel, such as the one signed by Italy two years ago. If the aim is to achieve a lasting peace, troops are not enough, and so I call on the European Union to organise the deployment of civilian peace corps as well along the Lebanese-Israeli border, with their own mandate and managed separately from the military mission.
We should support the call already made by humanitarian groups for a UN committee of inquiry into possible war crimes committed by Israel against civilians, including the use of cluster bombs and the bombing of civilian infrastructure.
I agree with the Council’s assessment that there can be no lasting peace in the Middle East without respect for the rights of the Palestinian people. The European Union should therefore formally propose to send in a buffer force between Palestine and Israel as well, and to demand that Israel comply with all the UN resolutions.
Hélène Goudin (IND/DEM). – (SV) Mr President, the EU is using the conflict between Israel and Lebanon as a pretext for strengthening the common foreign and security policy. Our view is that the Member States should act independently in their respective foreign policy relations and coordinate their efforts and common positions within the framework of existing international organisations. The UN is the international organisation best placed to bring about a lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East.
Complex foreign policy issues require long-term global solutions rather than EU measures often characterised by narrow national special interests. The international community must become better at preventing conflicts and at increasing the UN’s ability to intervene in time. We support the ongoing development of multifunctional efforts to promote peace. This work must take place within the framework of UN cooperation.
James Hugh Allister (NI). – Mr President, I do not endorse every act of Israel, but I am in no doubt that in the recent conflict it was not the aggressor and was, as a sovereign State, fully entitled to defend itself against sustained and murderous rocket attacks by Hizbollah. The fact that Hizbollah, supplied by Iran and Syria, was able to act as it did while part of the Government of Lebanon illustrates the folly of ever admitting to government any terrorist-orientated organisation, be it in Lebanon, Palestine or, indeed, in my own Northern Ireland.
In Israel, the level of sustained assault was such that a powerful response was necessary. Now, a major challenge for the future is to disarm Hizbollah. I trust that critical part of the mandate will not be dodged or diluted; otherwise, we merely store up more trouble for the future. Let us learn some lessons and let us address that critical part of the mandate.
Tokia Saïfi (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, the incredibly violent events that took place this summer in Lebanon are very serious. We are witnessing the speeding-up of the historical process, and the ingredients sustaining this conflict have never been so concentrated: more and more military technology, more and more fanaticism and more and more arrogance. Given these wayward paths that are being taken, we must be fully aware that we are sitting on a ticking time-bomb that is in danger of throwing the Middle East into a state of unrest in the long term and that will affect Europe.
Everyone recognises that the continuous build-up of violence has now reached its limits and that international law must be complied with. Lifting the blockade of Lebanon is now a matter of urgency, but the main priority is to settle the conflict between Israel and Palestine before it is too late. Europe must raise its voice. It must make the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean area based on peace, development for all and dialogue among civilisations of decisive importance.
When it met on 24 August in Brussels, the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly – EMPA – a sovereign assembly that gathers together MEPs, members of the national parliaments of the 25 countries and the elected representatives of 10 Mediterranean countries, decided to send a delegation to Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. As chairman of the political committee of that Assembly, I shall be leading that delegation from 18 September, with our mission being to examine the conditions necessary for a resumption of political dialogue. Through this delegation, which links the two shores of the Mediterranean, we want to pave the way together for a new stage in a genuine Euro-Mediterranean partnership in which Europe has a crucial role to play.
Mr Tuomioja, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, the time has come.
Carlos Carnero González (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, let us be clear: to have been successful in prevention, management and, now, post-war reconstruction, Europe would have required the right tools. We do not have them yet. We do not have a Constitution in force; a Constitution that includes a Minister for Foreign Affairs, allows decisions to be made by qualified majority and enables the Council to call upon a group of countries to carry out the mission which is now going to be carried out by certain Member States.
We are being offered an opportunity, however: an opportunity that follows a brutal war. Italy, France, Spain and other Union countries have committed themselves to participating in a reinforced UNIFIL, the main task of which will be to ensure compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701.
Politically speaking, however, the fundamental issue here is to change direction in the Middle East: change the direction that the United States has tried to impose unilaterally since the Iraq war. What a difference between the soldiers who occupied Iraq and the European soldiers who are now going to enforce international law and restore peace. Let us not forget that that difference is also based on values: the European Union’s values.
We do not have to reinvent the wheel. We have the Barcelona process and we must use it to the full. We must imbue the Middle East conflict with the sprit of the Euro-Mediterranean process, with cooperation, with solidarity, with dialogue between cultures and peoples, in order to establish and maintain peace.
The Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly is part of that process. It will be my honour to take part in the delegation that it is going to send to the region, led by Mrs Saïfi. That is an achievement that we should stress. We must defend democracy in Lebanon and we must also be able to promote a new international conference based on the spirit of the successful Madrid Conference.
Elizabeth Lynne (ALDE). – Mr President, the Council of Ministers’ failure to call for an immediate ceasefire meant we stood back and let the infrastructure of Lebanon be destroyed and led to more than one thousand civilian deaths both in Lebanon and Israel, not to mention the cluster bombs which will lead to even more.
I lay that failure directly at the door of the British Government, and Tony Blair in particular. What has he achieved with his dog-like devotion to George Bush? Apart from wanton destruction of property and life, it has led to further alienation of the Muslim community. He has the nerve to say that he does not believe it will lead to further terrorist attacks. If I am angry – and people like me are angry – over Iraq and now Lebanon, what sort of ammunition does it give to people intent on the indoctrination of alienated young Muslims? Nothing, I repeat nothing, excuses terrorist acts, but Tony Blair must wake up to the fact that his actions make him culpable.
Angelika Beer (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, for the most part I agree with you and I think that you have steered Europe - this Europe which still lacks a Constitution - very well through this crisis. You have said that there can be no military or unilateral solution to any of the continuing conflicts in the region, and, while I agree with you, I would like to add that we also have to talk about Iran in this context.
If we want to prevent Hizbollah from rearming, if we want to prevent Rumsfeld’s threat from becoming a reality after the expiry of the deadline – he thought that there could be a new war – if we want to prevent this, then we Europeans have to recommence negotiations with Iran on solutions to the nuclear conflict and also on ending its support of Hizbollah. I believe that we owe this to Israel, but also to the entire Middle East. This requires the courage to overcome the American barricade and to say, very clearly: the solution is simple, we cannot consider the suspension of nuclear enrichment, at least for the time being, as a precondition, rather it is our goal. However, we cannot demand this as a precondition for talks; rather, we must negotiate in order to achieve our goal. That is the way to proceed. If we Europeans can achieve this together, then I think we will actually have a peaceful solution for the entire Middle East.
Bogdan Klich (PPE-DE) – (PL) Mr President, European public opinion has reacted with satisfaction to the EU’s rapid and un-bureaucratic response to the events in Lebanon. It was the Council’s decision to send a seven-thousand-strong contingent of troops to Lebanon that saved the UNIFIL mission. Similarly, the portions of humanitarian aid that the Commission provided also saved our image in that country. These actions will give us the opportunity to become an important player in the Middle East, rather than standing on the sidelines, as was the case during the Iraq crisis.
For this to be able to happen in the short term, the most important thing, in my view, is to prepare and lead the UNIFIL mission properly. Until recently, this was not a difficult mission and the forces’ mandate was restricted. However, the mission now needs to be significantly extended, meaning it will become dangerous, particularly for our troops on the ground. Tasks such as isolating Hizbollah terrorists from sources of armaments or disarming the group pose a major threat to the military contingent.
Secondly, in the medium term, Lebanon needs financial aid, which needs to flow in on a larger scale. This is necessary to rebuild the infrastructure, to strengthen democratic institutions, and to modernise and develop the Lebanese security forces In order to achieve this, we need to make use of our soft power, in particular the power of EU cash.
Thirdly, in the long term, a comprehensive peace solution for the entire region is necessary. This means entering into serious dialogue with Syria and successful negotiations with Iran concerning its nuclear programme. However, a real agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is also necessary because this is where the key to stability in the Middle East lies. Without it the region will remain a flashpoint.
Jo Leinen (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, we must look forward, but it is also worth looking back to see how the Lebanon crisis was managed.
Although the result achieved by European engagement is acceptable, the way in which this result was achieved is not entirely so. We have seen how there was confusion for weeks, with debates taking place in the national capitals, but not in the European capital, in Brussels. I maintain that it is thanks to the Finnish Presidency and to the Italian Government that Europe has narrowly escaped embarrassment. The crisis zone is in our neighbourhood, and we therefore have a particular responsibility.
It is very nice to hear from Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner that the EU is ready to give humanitarian and practical aid immediately. The chain of responsibility for this is clear, as are the mechanisms and methods for it. When it comes to political and military aid, however, nothing is clear. Here there is a huge gap, a great deficiency, and it took ages for things to get coordinated. I would also say that this crisis has once again clearly demonstrated the price we pay for lacking a Constitution. We need new instruments, a President of the Council who can call upon the Heads of State or Government, a European foreign minister who can make use of this operational level, a European foreign service which can gather information on the ground, and a group of Member States to be able, through enhanced cooperation, to act on the EU’s behalf.
Let us look forward. I would also say: we now have a chance to become not just financial donors, but also political actors in the Middle East. Europe has something to contribute. The CSCE or Madrid Conference must now be the model for the next step. We have put an end to the Cold War: this must also be possible in the Middle East.
Ignasi Guardans Cambó (ALDE). – (ES) Mr President, if many of us see this moment as an opportunity for the European Union, it is not just through Europeanist conviction, but rather also through Europeanist conviction. Only when the European Union speaks and acts as one and in accordance with its weight in the world, and in accordance with its commitments, can it really be effective. If it does not do that, then it is not effective.
We therefore have the historic obligation to make the most of this moment, using the instruments we have, though it is true that we do not have all the instruments we should have. This is a time for politics, for putting all of the European Union’s weight and moral authority behind the search for a solution that guarantees Israel’s security without its neighbours having to pay with their lives and their freedom. This is a time for European unity in order to demand an end to the occupation, in order to support the authority of the United Nations over the State of Israel as well, which, incidentally, owes its very existence to the United Nations. This is a time for united military action within UNIFIL, the legitimacy and political weight of which will increase if it becomes genuinely European, and the instruments are in place to make it so, without the need for a Constitution.
Let us hope that a lasting peace can emerge from this miserable war.
Rodi Κratsa-Τsagaropoulou (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, the recent tragic events in Lebanon and the escalation of the situation in the Palestinian territories have brought the international community face to face with the impasses in this vulnerable region and their repercussions on global peace and security.
This is of particular concern to us as Europeans, because the economic, political or ecological repercussions of the crisis directly affect the Member States of the Union, while at the same time hampering the joint plan for peace, security and prosperity in the region and the creation of a free trade zone by 2010.
Europe therefore has vital reasons for seeking peace and development in the region. Its intervention must start to exert greater influence for a peaceful solution to these problems.
Developments in this region indicate to us once again the complex and multifaceted nature of the situation, something which the European Union, due to its proximity and its historical ties and partnerships with the states in the area, knows better than other forces.
Thus, today, despite its weaknesses, the European Union is less divided than it was during the Iraq crisis and more aware of the need for joint action. It is demonstrating this with its intention to apply the Security Council resolution, the need to clarify the content and the role of the peacekeeping force and its participation in this force.
It must also work for the immediate reversal of the isolation of Lebanon in order for its political, humanitarian and development intervention to become more effective. It must, moreover, support the Lebanese Government, which has been damaged both by recent events and by the long-term Syrian occupation and, at the same time, strengthen the democratic institutions and the evolution of the political system towards a popular system in which the creative forces will be freed from narrow religious confines and will operate on the basis of parties and programming statements.
Such a policy and social development will also bring Hezbollah, which remains a myth and a mystery, closer to 'Lebanisation', transparency and participation in order to resolve the problems.
Béatrice Patrie (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, following the conflict in the summer of 2006, which was a bloodbath for Lebanon, we agree that the European Union has an historic opportunity to play a major role in the complex partitioning of the Middle East. Our road map has several objectives. The first is to convince the international community and all the protagonists in the region that a violent solution – by which I also mean a military solution – cannot guarantee lasting peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East, whether it be in Lebanon, Palestine or anywhere else.
The second is to take the lead in promoting the implementation of an overall political solution for the region and to state clearly that there would be no sense in settling the various regional conflicts separately. In this connection, we recommend an international conference that would necessarily have to bring together all the actors in the region, including Iran – whose nuclear status is a particularly thorny issue – and also Syria, with which we need to resume association negotiations but without giving up our demands for democratic reform. Nor can we any longer ignore indefinitely political forces brought to power through elections, in Palestine or Lebanon, that we ourselves deemed to be democratic.
Where Lebanon, specifically, is concerned, we need resolutely to commit ourselves to its reconstruction, arrange for the embargo to be lifted without delay, rebuild its infrastructure and destroyed houses and remove the mines that daily put the Lebanese in danger and make a third of the country’s land unfit for cultivation. These are not only financial objectives but also political objectives for the European Union. Let us not leave the reconstruction solely to Hezbollah and another Qatar.
Finally, we need, I conclude, to support the democrats and progressive political forces in Lebanon. As in the spring of 2005, let us know how to support the determination of the Lebanese to embrace their collective destiny. This summer, they have shown what they are capable of.
(The President cut off the speaker)
Sajjad Karim (ALDE). – Mr President, I will start by quoting an article by Gideon Levy published in Haaretz on 3 September 2006. He says, ‘Gaza has been reoccupied. The world must know this (...). It is in its worst condition, ever. Since (...) the outbreak of the Lebanon war, the Israeli Defence Forces have been rampaging through Gaza – there’s no other word to describe it – killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling, indiscriminately.
‘Nobody thinks about setting up a commission of inquiry; the issue isn’t even on the agenda. Nobody asks why it is being done and who decided to do it. But under the cover of the darkness of the Lebanon war, the IDF returned to its old practices in Gaza as if there had been no disengagement.’
I turn now to the war in Lebanon. On this, are our hands clean? Did our Council of Ministers not call for a cessation of hostilities rather than a ceasefire? Did they not know that only a bloodbath could only ever ensue as a result? On this, I accept my country’s responsibility. Is it really enough to send blankets and bandages after facilitating the supply of arms that caused the injuries in the first place? Was it completely unforeseeable that Israel would undertake actions against international law by undertaking a policy of collective punishment? Was it really that unimaginable that Israel would seize this as an opportunity to march back into Gaza? Many colleagues speak of terror, but is it not the case that the hand of extremists has been considerably ...
(The President cut off the speaker)
Vito Bonsignore (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful to the President-in-Office of the Council and Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner for all the information they have provided. I cannot, Mr President, hide my frustration as a Member of this Parliament when I have to acknowledge yet again that the European Union cannot move with as much speed, determination and authority as it should in such circumstances.
We have initiated a partnership policy in the Mediterranean region that is not just economic or commercial but must also be political. I support the line you are taking, Commissioner, and the more assertive role that has been adopted.
Italy and France have taken an important initiative: even though the European Union certainly does not yet have its own diplomatic and military capacity, there is still ample room for manoeuvre for it to develop a leading role in many of that region’s affairs.
The European Union needs to be much more assertive if it is to find a solution for the region’s stability, and it must take action to help the Lebanese democratic authorities to strengthen their institutional structure and the organisation of their state. To ensure true sovereignty and real independence, it must supply humanitarian aid and resources, it must ensure that our institutions maintain a top-level diplomatic presence in Lebanon, and it must activate the association agreements with Lebanon and with Syria. On this subject, the Council ought to tell us why the agreement with Syria has never been signed, given that we consider Syria to play a very important role in the region.
The European Parliament too should take the appropriate initiatives to put the EU-Lebanon dialogue into effect. Then there remains the problem that has been left unsolved for many years of the large numbers of stateless refugees in Lebanon, who are living in emergency conditions and constitute a potentially dangerous source of destabilising activities. A political solution needs to be found for them.
Lastly, I must mention the conference proposed by the Council: the peace conference is an important moment that must be seized when the time is right, and the European Parliament will certainly not fail to support it.
Genowefa Grabowska (PSE) – (PL) Mr President, there is no military solution to the conflict in Lebanon. These words in the joint resolution which we are now debating inspire real cheer and hope.
In the past, many countries used war was a means of enhancing their prestige and power on the international arena, but these times have passed. The words of von Clausewitz, a Prussian general, that ‘war is merely a continuation of politics by other means’ now belong in the dustbin of history. This is confirmed by the United Nations Charter, which forbids the use of force to resolve international disputes, the use of aggression and the violation of the sovereignty of another state. This is the reason why the entry of Israeli troops into Lebanon was in breach of international law. It aggravated the existing conflict, and unleashed the armed reaction of Hizbollah.
It is a good thing that the European Parliament is paying particular attention to the human dimension of this conflict, and that it is calling on the warring parties to free hostages, to treat the civilian population humanely, and to observe the Geneva Convention of 1949. The Lebanese conflict is taking place near us, practically on our doorstep. By sending out EU troops and providing humanitarian aid, Europe has already played an important role. As an active player, the EU will have a real chance to make a significant contribution to resolving this conflict. It is through such action that the European Union creates its own Common Foreign Policy, as described in such detail in the European Constitution. It is for this reason, if for no other, that we so badly need a European Constitution.
Vittorio Prodi (ALDE). – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, unilateralism has been showing all its limitations for some time, and the European Union has finally taken the initiative and promoted a bold intervention together with the United Nations. It has thus gained a little time to settle the conflict. The context is of course the entire Middle East, but the priority remains the relationship between Israel and Palestine, and that is where we must start.
The Union has shown the validity of an approach based on positive interaction between different cultures, the primacy of politics and a refusal to use force: these are precisely the values that have enabled us to live without war in Europe for two generations.
The European Union can and must promote the same principles and the same transparent, many-sided approach around the world, aiming at conflict prevention through political dialogue. For all these reasons I am proud to be European at this moment, and still more to be Italian, in view of the role that my country has played in this context.
Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, the recent conflict between Israel and Hizbollah is a tragedy for Israel and the people of Lebanon. For some time, many of us in this House have been campaigning for the EU to declare Hizbollah a terrorist organisation. It is clear that Hizbollah seriously miscalculated the scale of the retribution when it decided to kill eight soldiers and kidnap two from northern Israel. Hassan Nasrallah, its leader, has admitted as much.
Hizbollah has a lot of explaining to do as to why its deliberate provocation has caused so much damage to Lebanese infrastructure, with the deaths of so many Lebanese civilians. This is partly explained by Hizbollah’s outrageous tactic of using human shields to launch its rockets from civilian-populated areas. Israel also seems to have made the mistake of believing that air power alone was sufficient to dislodge Hizbollah, whereas what was required were more boots on the ground. Clearly, Israeli intelligence underestimated Hizbollah’s training and equipment, in particular high-tech Russian anti-tank and anti-ship weapons. Russia must now explain how its weapons ended up in the hands of an Islamist fundamentalist militia.
My main concern now following UN Security Council Resolution 1701 relates to who is finally going to disarm Hizbollah. Madam Commissioner, what safeguards are in place to prevent the millions of euros of EU aid and reconstruction money from being diverted to Hizbollah through one of its so-called charities? We remember in the past all the allegations of graft when there was direct EU budgetary aid to the Palestinian Authority under Arafat. I also want to know what will prevent troops from Muslim countries like Malaysia and Bangladesh, which do not recognise the State of Israel, from turning a blind eye to the rearmament of Hizbollah.
Lastly, I believe the time has now come under the roadmap for peace to prise brutal but rational and secular Syria away from theocratic, fundamentalist Iran. The EU could offer significant trade and aid benefits to Syria to bring it back to the negotiating table with Israel.
IN THE CHAIR: MR DOS SANTOS Vice-President
Richard Howitt (PSE). – Mr President, I should like to begin by responding to the last speech. I wonder what Muslims in Britain and across Europe think when the British Conservatives say that troops from Muslim countries cannot be relied upon to do their job in a United Nations force?
Like others speaking in this debate, I believe that further crises in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region can only be averted by refocusing the debate on a just peace between Israel and the Palestinian people. Whilst the conflict was continuing in Lebanon, international attention ignored the rockets fired from Gaza and the 250 air strikes, 1000 artillery shells and over 200 killings inflicted on its people. Was it justifiable to cut off electricity to half of the inhabitants of Gaza, to close nearly every school, and even to stop fishermen from taking to their boats? The UN has described Gaza as a time bomb whose people are living in a cage.
Sometimes a moment of crisis brings new fluidity: Hizbollah’s statement conceding it had neither planned nor anticipated the conflict, the prisoners’ initiative, the possible national unity government for Palestine and the recognition by Israeli politicians and public alike of the failings of unilateralism must presage a diplomatic drive to return to a negotiated solution.
Today we have a map for the road but no one in the car. Europe, which has done so much in terms both of humanitarian aid to Lebanon and in evacuating innocent people and committing peacekeeping troops, must now relentlessly pursue that political dialogue. We need new dialogue with the Arab world to support UN resolutions and recognise not just election results but also their consequences. We need to use intermediaries, such as Turkey, to help with that dialogue and speed up temporary assistance to the Palestinian people.
Cecilia Malmström, (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, we are much obliged to the Finnish Presidency for having tried to keep the EU united on this difficult issue, but we do have quite a long way to go before we really have a common European foreign policy. If the EU is to have long-term political influence in the region, we specifically need a political strategy, a kind of democratic Marshall Plan for the entire region, which is in actual fact the least free region in the whole world.
We must naturally help demilitarise and neutralise Hezbollah. Damascus and, above all, Teheran have the key to this process, and extensive work needs to be done from those cities. We must get the peace process under way again between Israelis and Palestinians, preferably in the form of the conference that fellow Members have talked about. To have two democratic states side by side is the only way of creating peace and stability in the region. In combination with this, conscious, systematic and long-term faith must also be placed in all the democratic forces in the region as a whole if we are to achieve results.
Antonio Tajani (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Europe has finally made its voice heard and has been able to perform an active, leading role in the Middle East crisis, albeit a little late and not without some difficulty.
That, however, is just a first step on the long road that should lead the European Union, together with the United Nations, the United States and the Arab League, to achieve the stabilisation of a region where all the threats to world security have their origin. UNIFIL is a means; the final objective must be the birth of a sovereign Lebanon free from foreign influences exercised in part through Hizbollah.
I would ask the Council and the Commission what point has been reached in disarming the armed militia that attacked Israel. I should mention that last year this Parliament stated that there was incontrovertible proof of terrorist acts by Hizbollah and, by a very large majority of its Members, called on the Council to adopt whatever measures were necessary to put an end to the group’s activities. In that regard, Syria is called upon to stop shilly-shallying and to take active steps to help stop the flow of arms intended for terrorists. Within the framework of safeguarding human rights, the UNIFIL troops, to whom we send our solidarity and support, must also be entrusted with the task of protecting the Lebanese Christian community: they are not to blame but are caught between the two opposing sides.
Alongside the Lebanese objective, we should set ourselves a broader aim: the ‘two peoples, two states’ solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis will pull the rug out from under the feet of terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists. Achieving this aim will require Europe to play a leading role, but how can the Union be the bringer of peace without a constitution to grant the necessary powers to those who must perform this task?
As a result, the debate on the constitution is thrust centre stage once again. Rather than an exercise for legal experts, this is the central issue, the issue of how to export beyond our borders the most important result of our 50 years of Europe: peace.
Panagiotis Beglitis (PSE). – (EL) Mr President, I had resolved to start my speech differently, but now I shall start by asking Mrs Ferrero-Waldner to read in the magazine ‘Le Point’ the article on relations between Israel and Palestine, especially concerning the serious problem of the water supply to the Palestinian occupied territories due to the practice being exercised by Israel. The magazine refers to the apartheid being imposed by the Israeli authorities on the Palestinians on the subject of water.
What has the Council done over all this time? Last February it decided to freeze financial aid to the Palestinian people, while Israel continues not to pay duty and taxes to the Palestinian Authority without coming under pressure, without some sort of measure having been taken on the part of the European Union.
I believe, and this is a challenge to the Finnish Presidency, that the European Union and the Council of Ministers should take a decision to lift the economic sanctions on the Palestinian people as soon as President Abbas forms the new national unity government in Palestine. This will give an incentive to the Palestinian people, an incentive to the moderate reform forces in Palestine and the Hamas forces to integrate peacefully into the democratic life of Palestine.
Ioannis Kasoulides (PPE-DE). – Mr President, following the hostilities the European Union has been widely called upon to lead and contribute the core of UNIFIL, to implement Resolution 1701, to play a primary role in humanitarian aid and reconstruction and to encourage the parties to take part in political dialogue.
However, prior to the end of the hostilities, we did not punch the weight of a major international player. We may have reached a unanimous decision, but it was not a uniform one and we were not listened to either by the Security Council or by the belligerent parties. If we had been listened to and these events had taken place a few weeks earlier, the military results on the ground would have been exactly the same but there would have been less loss of life, less destruction, less displacement and fewer Katyushas and cluster bombs, along with everything else qualified as ‘collateral damage’.
The lessons are there to be learned: neither military might nor Katyushas or Qassams can solve problems, and nor can unilateralism; the EU and the UN need to talk to all the parties, whether they like or approve of them or not. Finally, Lebanon needs our full support to consolidate its sovereignty, because that country has suffered a war by proxy for purely extra-Lebanese reasons.
Pierre Schapira (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, a lot has been said, but I think that this resolution that has been put to the vote is well balanced. It presents the facts in some detail but without ever pronouncing judgment and so avoids the pitfall of siding with one or other of the protagonists.
I regret that our resolution reduces the causes of the Israeli-Lebanese war to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As General de Gaulle used to say, you cannot go into the Middle East, complicated as it is, with just a few simple ideas, and that is the message that I too want in a way to convey.
Like all of us, I want to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved, but do you really believe that this will reduce tension within Lebanon and put a stop to Syrian interference and Iranian ambitions? Moreover, will Hezbollah be disarmed as a result?
It is the insecurity and the growing suffering of the Israeli population of Galilee that have triggered hostilities against Hezbollah. This state of permanent threat has been fostered not only by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also, and above all, by Hezbollah’s constant firing of rockets into the north of Israel.
Israel’s fears are all the greater insofar as the Hezbollah militias are armed by a powerful Iran whose democratically elected President constantly makes known his desire to wipe Israel from the map. This is a man who must now be taken seriously, which is what I, for my part, do. Consequently, I do not think that the two causes should be confused.
In the north, Lebanon is concerned to regain its sovereignty and put a stop to the interference by its various neighbours, while Israel wants to guarantee its security. In the south, meanwhile, the task is to create an independent Palestinian state within secure borders that is able, over time, to co-exist in peace with its neighbour, Israel.
Jana Hybášková (PPE-DE). – Mr President, my whole life engagement with the Middle East does not lighten my own burden of responsibility. The situation is grave; we are almost engaged in the process of recreating an Islamic Caliphate. In south Lebanon, we are not facing resistance movement militias, but rather special units that are well trained, manned and equipped by Iranian revolutionary guards. They are equipped via Damascus international airport. This army is probably better than any other Arab regular army. Therefore, I suggest we must close and seal the Lebanese-Syrian border, send an EU monitoring mission such as the one sent to Serbia and Republika Srpska in the mid-1990s. We must fully control Damascus international airport. We need clear rules of engagement. I ask you, what precisely does ‘assist the Lebanese army, disarming of armed groups without right to use force’ mean? We have to pull Syria back from its involvement with Russia and Russian interests immediately. What can we offer there? We have to bring back Lebanese businessmen to increase investors’ confidence in their country, and we have to stop Iran from smuggling uranium, otherwise regional war will turn into a global problem.
Proinsias De Rossa (PSE). – Mr President, despite the very welcome efforts of the Commission and indeed of the United Nations, it is difficult to display optimism in this dark period.
Israel, a state that prides itself on its democratic credentials, launched with impunity a destructive war against a neighbouring, struggling secular democracy, destroying its infrastructure and killing its citizens, mostly innocent civilians. It has also used inhumane cluster bombs. How can we describe the bombing of Qana except as a war crime? And yet Israel continues with impunity to maintain an air and sea blockade of its victim while continuing to squeeze the economic and political life out of Gaza, not to mention the killing of 200 Palestinians under the cover of the war on Lebanon.
I do not dismiss the malign role of Hizbollah in all of this, nor indeed – as has not been mentioned so far – the malign influence of the United States in encouraging Israel in its actions.
I believe that Israel must expect to pay for the reconstruction of Lebanon. It must release Palestinian monies and it must face an international inquiry into its actions in relation to Lebanon. I also believe that an international peace conference that does not carry a price for failure for the protagonists in the Middle East will not succeed, nor will it get off the ground. I am talking about a price in terms of money, in terms of trade and in terms of arms supplies. Unless there is a price to be paid, those protagonists will not come to the table and will not make a deal.
Simon Coveney (PPE-DE). – Mr President, it is a time of crisis in the Middle East but also perhaps a time of opportunity. Europe faces three connected challenges in this regard. First, the UNIFIL peace-keeping/peace enforcement mission in Lebanon.
UN forces led by the EU must ensure that United Nations Resolution 1701 is enforced and that, through cooperation with Lebanese troops and political leaders, Hizbollah can be disarmed. UNIFIL II must also ensure that further arms are not smuggled into Lebanon to rearm any groups and that Lebanon’s sovereignty is respected at all times. UNIFIL II must be successful. A lot is riding on that and failure would have disastrous consequences for the region as a whole and for Europe.
On the issue of committing troops to UNIFIL II, some EU countries have been generous to date. However, most commitment has come from larger EU nations and I hope we will see future commitments from smaller countries, particularly those who have significant experience of peace-keeping in Lebanon in the past. In that context, I continue to call on my own government in Ireland to at least make an offer of troops, even if the numbers are small, because I believe they have a positive role to play.
The second challenge is to help rebuild Lebanon after the devastation of the summer. The EU is already responding in this regard, but we should realise that we have an opportunity here, that in rebuilding Lebanon’s infrastructure we can also build the EU’s reputation in the region as a whole, as well as in the minds of the Lebanese people.
The third challenge is the wider political challenge of the need to provide stability in the Middle East generally. In order to do this, we must grasp the difficult nettle of forging a way forward in the Israel-Palestinian problem. The wider political roadmap is still there on paper and so we do not need to reinvent the wheel here. However, we need to play our part in finding ways to create fresh enthusiasm and acceptance for the roadmap as the way forward and, in this regard, the difficult task of engaging with Syria will be necessary.
Libor Rouček (PSE). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, it is with sadness that I have followed the tragic situation in Lebanon over recent weeks. Lebanon has made great strides since the end of the civil war in terms of human rights and citizens’ rights, constructing and strengthening a multicultural and multi-ethnic democracy and civil society. There has also been enormous progress with economic renewal. Unfortunately, though, many of these gains have been diminished or destroyed by the excessive use of military force in the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.
I firmly believe that one of the conditions for sustainable peace in the Middle East is the existence of an independent, strong and sovereign Lebanon, together with the existence of Israel and a Palestinian State. It has been demonstrated in recent months and years, however, that Lebanon cannot achieve this goal on its own. It needs help from the international community; it needs help with economic renewal; it needs help with consolidating democracy; it needs help with the exercise of State authority in all of its aspects, including security and military aspects throughout the whole country. This is the only way in which the elected Lebanese State institutions will be able to disarm the military wing of Hezbollah and integrate the movement into the country’s political life. I should like to call on the Council and the Commission not to backslide in their efforts to help Lebanon.
Patrick Gaubert (PPE-DE). – (FR) Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, fellow Members, on the issue of the way in which we deal with the Middle East conflict, a number of representatives of the European institutions have recently appealed for a structured and overall solution to the region’s problems. Mr Brok recently stated that one of the keys to lasting peace in Lebanon was the disarmament of Hezbollah and the monitoring of the Syrian-Lebanese border with a view to stopping the traffic in arms. Finally, one of my eminent fellow Members said that we were not the Red Cross and that we were to play a positive political role. I agree with all that.
Indeed, no overall solution can seriously be envisaged without returning to the issue that, since 1948, has been at the source of all the conflicts that have caused blood baths in this region. By this, I mean the refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist. It is vital to bear that in mind or otherwise be in danger of confusing cause and consequence. Today, it is Iran, together with Syria – its go-between – and Hezbollah – its military wing – that carry this message of hatred, throwing in the face of the international community their desire to wipe a sovereign state and its people from the world map. We have a duty as human beings to relieve the misfortune of populations taken hostage by Hezbollah’s terrorist action.
Our commitment must be balanced if we are to play the positive political role that falls to us. Balance does not lie in unilaterally and systematically stigmatising a single party to the conflict, in the event Israel. Balance necessarily involves having the warmongers, Syria and Iran, confront their international responsibilities. We owe it to two states, Lebanon and Israel - with which we have friendly relations - and we owe it to two peoples, those of Israel and Lebanon, who are our friends and who aspire only to live in peace.
I would therefore express the wish that the parliamentary mission that will soon visit the region should carry with it this concern for balance and be able to contribute actively to seeking a peaceful solution between people of good will in the region, so affirming our intransigence towards intolerance and messages of hatred while, at the same time, displaying what binds us together as human beings.
Edith Mastenbroek (PSE). – Mr President, I wish to begin by saying that I fully endorse the speech made by my colleague, Mr Howitt.
It has already been said that violence cannot be an answer to the problems of the Middle East and neither can unilateralism. History proves this: Israel withdrew from the Sinai in the context of a negotiated peace agreement and from the Arava in a negotiated peace with Jordan. Israel withdrew from south Lebanon and Gaza unilaterally without agreements. Enough said.
This is the EU’s chance to prove that our approach is right, but it will be a difficult sell.
I could share with you many personal stories of Palestinian friends and their suffering living under violent Israeli occupation, but I want to share the story of a friend of mine in Israel. His name is Renan. He is a DJ. He does not want to fight, he only wants to dance. He is dead set against occupation and walks at the front of every peace demonstration in Israel. However, I was there when he received the call from the IDF to tell him to prepare for the fight. He was shocked and afraid, but he said, ‘What do you expect us to do? Hizbollah has been bombing Haifa and Natanya for years now. How are we supposed to trust Europe if you are not even willing to call that terrorism?’
Our resolution speaks of root causes that need to be addressed. Let me try to define these root causes in the words of Daniel Levy, co-author of the Geneva Peace Initiative. He said that the Palestinian cause, the injustice of occupation, the hypocrisy of the United States and the West are a grievance for millions worldwide. Some abuse and use that and will continue to do so with effect until this conflict is resolved.
In order to be effective in the region we need the trust of ordinary citizens. We can earn this trust only by consistently addressing these root causes, but we can earn my friend Renan’s trust only if we are willing to say out loud that Hizbollah is a radical militant group that abuses the Palestinian cause to strengthen its position as a threat to democracy in Lebanon and as a threat to ordinary Israelis.
Zbigniew Zaleski (PPE-DE) – (PL) Mr President, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, I would like to briefly raise three issues. The first concerns a common assessment of Israel’s reaction to Hizbollah’s provocative and shameful actions. It was a reaction that was vastly out of proportion to the kidnapping of two soldiers and which is reminiscent of the Trojan wars fought over the beautiful Helen. There are many examples of abductions and political solutions in the world. It is difficult to support the reaction of a state whose existence is widely recognised by most of the global community, except for a few fundamentalist states, when this state has shown itself to be a military aggressor. This is difficult even for Israel’s allies to accept, as we have heard from prominent Members of this House.
Secondly, did we really not know that Hizbollah had armed itself with several thousand Katyusha rocket launchers? It was not something that could be done in a week. It must have taken months or even years. Where were the international observers? If the relevant knowledge and the will had existed, I believe it may have been possible to take preventive measures. Now we have started to act by earmarking large sums of money to repair the damage, but is not it too late? After all, we can not bring the dead – the children, the civilians – back to life.
Now for the final matter, Commissioner. This conflict is being prolonged due to the fact that it is part of a so-called social legacy, and may last for a long time yet. In order to create the opportunity for a positive two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, both sides need to be thoroughly prepared for such a solution through appropriate education, from primary school upwards. Such preparation may create a social foundation that will allow political decisions based on compromise to be taken more easily in the future. Perhaps the next generation – the children and young people of today – will reach the decision that we consider to be the only sensible solution for us.
Jamila Madeira (PSE). – (PT) Mr President, 2005 saw the tenth anniversary of the Barcelona process, a relatively lengthy process aimed at establishing sound ties with the other side of the Mediterranean. Previously in this Chamber, I gave you an optimistic overview of its ambitions, of the whole process and of the path of trust that had been trodden up to that point.
Yet, as a Member of this House, a defender of the European project and a staunch advocate of international law, it was extremely difficult to observe without alarm the way in which the majority of Europe’s institutions monitored the events that took place this summer.
Until June, Lebanon was one of the most promising democracies, politically and economically speaking, in the Mediterranean and was capable of continuing that progress. The country was also one of the biggest receivers of EU funds to support its reconstruction and development. Today, however, Lebanon has to start again from scratch, everything has to be done again, everything has to be rebuilt – at least in terms of what euros and concrete are able to redo and rebuild. Is there nothing we could have done earlier? When we saw the conflict between Israel and Palestine unfold, should we not have taken prompt action? When we saw the various international observers at the Palestinian elections having their authorisation removed, diplomatic and parliamentary immunity repeatedly violated and legitimately elected Members of Parliament and ministers detained, should we not have taken action? Is it not the case that our relative indifference at the time and our inadequate response bore some of the responsibility for the whole situation?
I am sure that Europe did not do all it could to prevent this situation and did not take the necessary steps to turn words into real action. We must not make the same mistakes again, and after today’s debate this is absolutely clear to all speakers. The EU’s role in this process is a vital one and demonstrates once again that the political strength of the EU is crucial to the world’s stability and balance.
Vytautas Landsbergis (PPE-DE). – (LT) Mr President, these are not just isolated incidents that we are witnessing in the Middle East, but rather a broad panorama of crises with global impact. When we discuss and even criticise the efforts of the United States to eradicate tyranny and support democracy in Iraq and elsewhere, we must not ignore the games of Russia and China in the region, which may easily end up transforming the region into a burning crater of global terrorist war.
Everything is pointing to this threatening direction. Under the auspices of Russia, Iran is becoming a major aggressive player in a region that is extremely important to humankind. The political expansion of Iran is now targeted at precluding democracy in Lebanon and Syria, stability in Iraq and peace in Palestine. The Iranian regime is easily distracting the attention of the UN and the EU and gaining more time for its key objective – nuclear hegemony in the Middle East. The utopia of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is not likely to ever materialise. The next page in history will be terrorist organisations taking power in elections: Hamas and Hezbollah are already participating in state governments and no one dares to ask Hezbollah ministers in Lebanon to choose between working for either a democratic government or a terrorist organisation. On the contrary, the United Nations is entering negotiations with Hezbollah; negotiations with Al-Qaeda will surely follow.
Many of our problems arise from our reluctance to put up a united fight to defend ourselves against the evil; however, we are late to surrender. Israel is left alone in its desperate struggle. The Western democracies have shown no initiative – they are still defending themselves without any strategy and thus losing. It is time for Europe to wake up.
Antonio Tajani (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should just like to announce that, at the end of the talks with the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, the Israeli Prime Minister has announced that Israel's air and sea blockade of Lebanon will be lifted tomorrow at 5 p.m.
Geoffrey Van Orden (PPE-DE). – Mr President, in recent weeks, amid the appalling loss of life and humanitarian misery in the Middle East, it has been difficult to see any shaft of light. At least the moderate Arab States have now witnessed the catastrophe that can so easily be provoked by organisations such as Hizbollah, and Lebanon has seen the effect of tolerating a State within a State. Perhaps now there can be more sympathy for Israel’s concern to ensure that Palestine is not entrenched as another terrorist State and a base for perpetual war against the Israeli people.
It would be a tragic wasted opportunity if the reinforced UNIFIL merely became a bystander while Hizbollah prepares for its next attacks in the months and years ahead. If there is not the international resolve to disarm Hizbollah – and that is a pity – then at least there should be a requirement to monitor and report on Hizbollah’s activities. The Council should encourage Member States to make representations to this effect at the United Nations.
Resolution 1701 mandates UNIFIL to assist the Government of Lebanon to secure its borders. We would encourage the Lebanese Government to take robust action in this field.
Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE) – (PL) Mr President, the Israel-Lebanon crisis is no longer typical of the conflicts in the Middle East that we have become accustomed to over the decades. It clearly marks the start of a new global conflict between Iran and Syria, Hizbollah and Hamas, the Sunnis in Iraq and Al Qaeda on the one hand and the United States and its allies on the other.
This means we need new political measures to resolve the conflict in this part of the world. Europe now needs to get involved in resolving the conflict in Iraq. In the same way, the European Union must also look at ways of dealing with Afghanistan. The global threat requires a joint response from the European Union, the United States and NATO. Europe needs a common foreign and defence policy. Russia has to decide which side it stands on. And Europe must emphatically demand such a decision, both in relation to Iran’s nuclear programme and arms shipments to Syria. How did Hizbollah manage to arm itself with Russian weapons?
Erkki Tuomioja, President-in-Office of the Council. Mr President, I have to thank the European Parliament for this debate, which has been, as always, very colourful, interesting and pertinent, as well as wide-ranging.
For me, the essential message has been that the European Parliament is appreciative and supportive of the Council’s efforts to end the conflict in Lebanon, to oversee the restoration of full Lebanese sovereignty and to facilitate a return to the Middle East peace process. Indeed, if anything, you want the European Union to do even more; to be more coherent, to be more efficient. As President-in-Office of the Council, I share this desire for us to speak not only with a single voice, but one which will be heard in all quarters and noted by all parties.
Realistically speaking, even in the best of times, there will always be limits to what the European Union can do acting alone. Indeed, as a Community committed to effective multilateralism, that is as it should be. The EU does not seek, in this conflict in the Middle East, to act by itself. In Lebanon, we are working with others and we have to bring others on board to work alongside us. That is the role of the European Union, but we also have to take the initiative and show leadership. It should be remembered, too, that we would never seek to bypass or replace the United Nations. We are there to support the United Nations, to help it to bear its responsibilities. In this respect, the European Union has been able to live up to those expectations.
I have also read carefully Parliament’s motion for a resolution on the Middle East, which I assume and hope will be adopted unanimously. I regard it as a very good resolution, fully in line with what we have been trying to do and will continue to do in the Council. It shows the ability of the European Union, and of the European Parliament, to concentrate on the essentials and give a message that will prompt all those involved in the peace process to engage in it fully.
Paula Lehtomäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, I would once again like to return very briefly to the humanitarian aspect of the question, which has also been discussed here. A few weeks ago, Commissioner Louis Michel and I visited the area, and it was very obvious that there was immense suffering among civilians on both sides of this conflict. It is very important and meaningful that the European Union, that is to say the Commission and the Member States together, should be committed to providing Lebanon with massive volumes of economic aid in this crisis right from the start, both in terms of emergency humanitarian relief aid and early recovery, which is now under way, as well as longer-term reconstruction. In this connection we should recall that we have stressed everywhere that the humanitarian situation is also very serious in Gaza.
It is very important that the Lebanese Government plays a central and leading role in the long-term reconstruction process, one in which it acts as coordinator, and for that reason it is good that a new unit has been set up in Prime Minister Siniora’s office to put this coordination process into effect.
The reconstruction process also needs a thorough needs analysis, and the Union will collaborate with Lebanon on this. It is absolutely clear that a state of peace is also the main precondition for improving the humanitarian situation and, because of that too, we will need a comprehensive and long-term political solution to the whole range of problems that exist in this region.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, first of all I should like to thank everyone for this discussion. It has been an excellent one and given us great support. Nearly everybody said that there can be no military solution to the conflict and that there can only be a political solution.
Now, with the European Union having again undertaken to move forward with an initiative, it is highly important to have gained your support for adopting a broad approach, for looking at the possibility of going to the root causes and for eventually finding a comprehensive solution.
That is the overall picture and I thank you very much.
I should just like to answer two or three specific remarks. Firstly, the Commission believes that we should work together with Israel and not suspend the Association Agreement. We believe it is very important to work with the Israelis in order to exert an influence, and that we must engage with them, not the contrary.
Regarding Mr Tannock's point, no one has ever managed to prove the allegations that the European Union provided the money to others and not to the government.
With regard to Hizbollah, it is clear that our money will go directly to the government or to organisations that work with the government because, as I have said, we want to empower the government and to give the country back its sovereignty.
President. To wind up the debate, I have received six motions for resolutions, pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.
The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Thursday at 12 noon.
Written Statements (Rule 142)
Kathy Sinnott (IND/DEM). – In this Middle East crisis, as in so many before in this area and around the world, the innocent have suffered most for their leaders’ ambitions.
Hizbollah will claim that it is attempting to retake the Golan Heights, and Israel will claim that it is retaliating for these incursions by bombing Lebanon.
The difficulty is that everyone has some justification for taking action, but there is no acceptable justification for displacing tens of thousands of innocent Israeli and Lebanese civilians. When we see the children killed in Qana, all justifications seem petty and shallow.
The Irish army was stationed in Lebanon for many years as a peacekeeping force, and there is a great affinity between the Irish and the Lebanese because of this. We as a country have become familiar with Lebanon through family members or friends or neighbours who were stationed there and we feel the damage inflicted on their country all the more for this.
These people do not want this life; they want peace and safety for their families and a chance to live their lives.
There is no military solution to these problems, only peaceful solutions. And whether that means imposing sanctions on all involved until they end their war or offering advantage to those who end it, we who have the capability must act.
Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL). – (PT) Nobody can turn a blind eye to Israel’s latest war against Lebanon, which was bombed for 34 days, with the support of the USA and the passivity of the Council of the European Union, causing the acknowledged deaths of 1 084 civilians in Lebanon and 41 in Israel, and with thousands more injured. Furthermore, around a quarter of the Lebanese population have been forced to leave their homes, essential infrastructures such as airports, ports and electricity power stations have been destroyed, and a large area of sea off the Lebanese coast has turned black.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, the bombing has destroyed 15 000 homes and 78 bridges and has damaged 630 kilometres’ worth of roads, amounting to a loss of at least USD 15 billion to Lebanon. What is more, bombs have been directed at civilian targets, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.
Our condemnation of this war should also involve calling on Israel to pay the costs of rebuilding Lebanon, to end its occupation of the Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian territories, to end the blockades of Lebanon and Gaza to release Palestinian ministers and Members of Parliament immediately and to negotiate the exchange of prisoners held by Israel for detained Israeli soldiers.
There will be no lasting peace in the Middle East until Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese sovereignty is upheld.
Dominique Vlasto (PPE-DE). – (FR) Broken by 34 days of war, Lebanon – which was, however, enjoying rapid development – is again the hostage and victim of a crisis with which it is unable to deal.
The European Union will help the Lebanese to rebuild their destroyed country and to get back on their feet and resume normal life and, in this connection, our humanitarian and emergency aid is vital. Our role should, however, go beyond that of providing emergency aid. The European Union should act in its own right to bring about peace in the Middle East.
By participating in UNIFIL, several Member States are making a commitment on the ground under the banner of the UN, and they have made a just decision. It is, however, united as Europeans that we should intervene to have Security Council resolution 1701 complied with, help to free prisoners, arrange for the blockade of Lebanon to be lifted, support the demarcation of borders and re-establish political dialogue.
In this crisis, the European Union has shown that its intervention could change the course of events and help resolve a conflict. Reality confronts us with our political responsibilities. It is time for us to carry out the reforms needed by the European Union if it is to be the political actor of our neighbours’ hopes and our own expectations.
David Martin (PSE). – I regret that the European Council did not call for an immediate ceasefire after the outbreak of hostilities by Israel on Lebanon. Israel’s action was disproportionate. Israel should now be asked to help rebuild Lebanon on the basis of ‘the destroyer pays’. There should be a committee of inquiry on war crimes and the EU should revisit its economic and military cooperation with Israel. We should also be aware and condemn the fact that the conflict in Lebanon was used as cover for even more intensive and brutal oppression of the Palestinian people. The EU must work for a peaceful and just settlement to the disputes in the Middle East, particularly by pressing for a secure and independent Palestinian State.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL). – (PT) At the root of the brutal attacks on Palestine and Lebanon is the USA’s plan for Middle East domination. The USA actively pursues a policy of interference and shows scant regard for sovereignty and international law, and its ultimate goal is the geostrategic control of the region and control over the region's ample energy resources.
Within a context of contradictions, there has been broad agreement between the major powers of the EU and the USA, with the process of drawing up Resolution 1701 a prime example of this. The EU has never condemned Israeli aggression, demanded a cease-fire or called for international law to be respected.
The reality of the situation must not be obfuscated by transforming the victim into the aggressor and vice versa. It is Israel that is illegally occupying Arab territories, Israel that fails to honour the many UN resolutions and Israel that actively undermines the creation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian State by means of a policy of State terrorism.
For there to be peace in the region, Israel must withdraw from all occupied Arab territories, dismantle the settlements and the wall and release political detainees; refugees must be able to return, and an independent, sovereign Palestinian State must be created with East Jerusalem as its capital. All States in the region must be guaranteed their sovereignty and security, and the region must be demilitarised and rendered free of nuclear weapons.
Alessandro Battilocchio (NI). – (IT) Exactly five years after 11 September 2001, the current conflict in Lebanon offers the international community a chance to review and correct the clearly inappropriate approach taken to solve the friction between the so-called Western and Islamic worlds.
For five years, in fact, ongoing conflicts (in Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan) and the most serious diplomatic tensions (on terrorist attacks, the Iran issue, etc.) have all revolved around the same point, and therefore they cannot be eradicated just by means of more or less legitimate military missions created ad hoc every time and always under different names.
The opportunity must now be grasped to form a genuinely multilateral force, with the participation and commitment of all the interested parties. Its aim must be to solve the problem that lies at the root of all of these conflicts, which is the clash of ideologies between two different cultural blocks.
We need to seek and find a basis for dialogue as soon as possible, an opening that we, as ‘democratic’ countries, have a duty to pursue. It must address the most pressing issues on which we diverge the most, from political and religious ideologies to economic systems. I hope that the European Union will not miss the opportunity to promote such a dialogue but will sponsor it at an international level.