Friday, December 12, 2008

EU Force Decision Put off as UK Balks

The on-again, off-again decision to send EU troops to the Congo appears to be off, for now. According to EuropeanVoice.Com, the Dutch and Swedish foreign ministers have said the EU is very unlikely to commit a peacekeeping force this year.

Speaking before a definitive conclusion had been adopted at a two-day EU summit in Brussels, Sweden's Carl Bildt and the Netherland's Maxime Verhagen said it was already clear that there was insufficient backing for a Belgian proposal that the EU should swiftly despatch a peacekeeping force to the country.

“It is unlikely that it will be an EU mission before the New Year,” Bildt said. “I would never rule out anything but it would be unlikely.”

Instead, the two ministers suggested that any effort by EU states would be undertaken within the framework of the UN's force in the country, Monuc. This is said to be the preference of the UK and Germany.

The decision enraged human rights activists in the UK, where Gordon Brown was accused of hypocrisy. Human rights activists pointed to the gap between his rhetoric about the plight of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his leading opposition to the deployment of a European force to protect civilians in the country.

From The Guardian:
Britain maintained its stance in Brussels yesterday [against sending an EU force] less than 24 hours after the prime minister delivered a speech to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN's universal declaration of human rights. Brown had called for urgent international action to help the people of eastern Congo, and other civilian victims of crises.

"Freedom, if it means anything, means the supremacy of human rights everywhere and we must not waver in our support for those across the world whose human rights are threatened or denied," Brown said in his speech.

Addressing the oppressed, including the "women and girls of Kivu", the prime minister said: "The world will not abandon you. We must not, and will not, turn our backs and walk away."

Astonishing. I can understand the reluctance to take action, but then why the high rhetoric? It's a species of cruelty, really, to tell the most victimized people on earth that you won't turn your back on them--and then to do so the very next day. It beggars the imagination.

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