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Wednesday, 24 April 2002 - Brussels OJ edition

Meeting of Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers in Valencia of 22/23 April 2002

  Riis-Jørgensen (ELDR).(DA) Mr President, civilisation is no longer present in the Middle East. I wish to echo Mr Patten’s words: Israel is going far beyond the boundaries of what is legitimate in combating terrorism, and the Palestinians are not doing anything like enough to prevent the terrible suicide bombers. We must bring civilisation back to the area. We must have the rule of law and not the rule of power, with the former replacing the latter. That is the principle upon which EU cooperation is based, and something could be learned from this in the Middle East.

The first step must be to give the UN group the opportunity to investigate the atrocities that have taken place there. It is shocking that Israel’s leaders have denied the three high-ranking people access to the area. We are talking here about a former Finnish president, the former president of the International Red Cross and the former High Commissioner for Refugees. Israel must not be given special treatment. It must accept that everyone should be treated equally and that there should be equality under the law. According to the Speaker of the Knesset, with whom I had the opportunity to speak yesterday, 65% of Israel’s population support Sharon but, at the same time, 80% support the Saudi Arabian peace proposal. That is paradoxical, in my view. We see peace agreements between Egypt and Israel and between Jordan and Israel. There is, then, the possibility of peace in the area and, here in Europe, we must therefore preserve optimism and hope.

What can we do? I believe that, as we called for in our resolution, we must have human rights representatives present to see to it that human rights are respected by both parties. Again, it is a question of ensuring that the rule of law replaces the rule of power. Human rights organisations must be there to monitor the situation. At the same time, we must have an international peace-keeping force put in place in the Palestinian region. It is immaterial whether it be the UN, NATO, the EU or the United States, but it must be there to create peace. A guarantee must be given to the international community and, at the same time, Israel must not see this as a hostile act. There is a need for a new peace conference, but there is also a need for new people to take part in this. As a very highly regarded Jew in Denmark said to me: ‘There are two idiots in the region at the moment. One is Sharon, and the other is Arafat’. The rule of law must return to the area.

That is the message from the Group of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party. It must be possible for those of us in Europe who are friends of Israel to criticise the Israeli Government, and it must be possible for citizens of Denmark, which is a true and genuine friend of Israel, to criticise without being attacked for being anti-Semitic. Finally, I wish to assure Commissioner Patten that the ELDR Group will come up with the money when it is asked to do so.

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