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[Editorial] The honor of Europe

(B2) While the conflict in the Middle East has shattered the unity of Europeans, Josep Borrell, the head of European diplomacy, is holding the helm of the drifting "Europe" boat. He fully plays his role as coordinator, but also as a driving force when the ministerial engine is failing. Within the limits of its functions, but using all possible resources.

A Europe in disarray

The war between Palestinian Hamas and Israel has exposed the fierce divisions between European governments over the Middle East conflict. With an explosion in mid-flight of the unit. Divisions exposed orally, during visits to Israel and Palestine, and in the eyes of all external partners, at the UN (1).

A common language that is hard to express

Who would have thought that a simple call for a ceasefire or even an immediate humanitarian truce would have sparked so much discussion, as during the last meetings of Foreign Affairs or the European Council? Who would have thought that the simple reminder of the usual parameters (no end to the conflict without a political solution, two States living side by side, end of colonization, Jerusalem as the capital of the two States) would be so difficult to express?

Between personal games and defeatism

Under the influence of the bloody attack by Hamas in Israel on October 7 and the necessary solidarity with the people resulting from the Shoah, certain European leaders seem to have forgotten this language, previously so ritualistic, that we do not hardly paid attention. As if they no longer believed it. Others prefer to play personal music (2). The Franco-German couple is absent. Once again, as at the start of the Russian intervention in Ukraine, Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron went, each separately, to Israel (and Palestine for the second).

A revelation in the crisis

In this European "dog lit", only one character seems to hold the helm of the European raft, Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the EU. The Spaniard, now 76 years old, comes to light in this crisis, trying to bring the 27 back to their senses. His age, like his slightly shady character, considered a handicap to his appointment, proves to be a serious asset here. Just like his experience. The man emerges, solid, and respectful not only of the letter but of the spirit of the Treaties.

Guardian of the European Cape

The High Representative thus fulfills his function, making maximum use of the skills entrusted to him, sometimes forcing consensus which struggles to emerge. This was the case during the meeting of foreign ministers on October 23 in Luxembourg. Exhausting, difficult meeting where the 27 then show their divisions. In front of the press, he fixed a position which irritated the throats of some ministers (the Austrian, the Hungarian, etc.) judging it not faithful enough to their thoughts. Tirelessly, also on social networks, he reminds us of humanitarian law, criticizing the siege of Gaza, calling for a “ urgent pause in hostilities » to deliver humanitarian aid, and to a political solution. At the cost of harsh reviews (3). He doesn't care.

...and consensus builder

For Borrell, Europe must take a position on the golden mean. A balancing act. The facts soon proved him right. The situation on the ground has become critical. The positions of Israel's main allies, such as the United States and Germany, are evolving. The criticisms are more discreet. The common language joins the “consensus” put forward in a somewhat audacious way a few days earlier. The High Representative manages, little by little, to bring the 27 to a more dynamic common language. On November 12, he thus obtained a declaration “in the name of the European Union” (therefore unanimously by the 27) a little more dynamic than the previous ones calling for breaks “ immediate ". The adjective has its full meaning. On November 13, he presented parameters for the post-Gaza period that some members found too unbalanced (Read: [News] The six parameters of the post-offensive on Gaza according to the Europeans. Faced with the emergency, floating bridges in Gaza?). But which turn out to be very correct. A few days later, the United States of Joe Biden publicly displayed a similar position; the American president going even further by threatening sanctions against extremist Israeli settlers (4).

A lesson for the future

This episode justifies, never again, the fact of having a character within the European arsenal, who is responsible for expressing the voice of Europe, of recalling the intangible European position, that it is not the hostage of national positions. This role will need to be strengthened. Faced with external adversity, everyone should also put their egos aside and stop wanting to make media stunts with no future. This is the price to pay so that Europe can exist in the global community.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. Lire: [News] European Unity on Gaza shatters at the UN
  2. Between Commissioner Varhelyi's voluntary misunderstanding on European aid to Palestine (read: [News] Confusion at the European Commission over the suspension of aid to the Palestinians), the deployment by France of Tonnerre as a pseudo-humanitarian mission of a hospital ship by an Emmanuel Macron in need of existence, the ostensible display of the President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen, in the company of B. Netanyahu, or the trips and on-site declarations of the Czech and Austrian ministers there, there is no shortage of examples.
  3. Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg is a particularly vocal critic. He sharply reprimands him for Twitter.
  4. Position that Europeans have never succeeded in expressing (Read: [Alert] Joe Biden launches the debate on post-Gaza. Possible sanctions against Israeli settlers)

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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