A sad constant of European foreign policy

, by David Neuwirth

A sad constant of European foreign policy

A few days ago, the European Union condemned the death sentence that has been passed on Saddam Hussein. The Italian prime minister Romano Prodi stated, that “however ferocious a crime may be, our traditions and our ethics distance us from the concept of a death penalty.” Yet is it really that clear, what kind of tradition Prodi refered to? In some European countries, the death penalty has been abolished very recently.

In France for example in the year 1981, and about half of the population is in favour of its return. And what is ment by „our ethics“ ? During the large part of the 20th century, Italy lived under a massive influence of the mafia in politics, that were marked in particular by the lack of „ethics“. So where is the point?

Regrettably it appears that Europe only found another topic about which it can indoctrinate the world with - especially there where it would not be risky. To critise China, where executions are on a daily schedule, the Union does not do.

And what about Saddam’s „ferocious crimes“? Well, Europe condems them, of course. As it condemned, that Russians deport children with Georgian names from Russian kindergartens to Georgia. But it would not be realistic to await some further steps. This is a sad constant of the Union’s foreign policy.

The mistakes made by the US in Iraq cannot be overseen, and – yes – the EU is right that the whole proccess proceeded in an odd way. The exchange of judges, kidnap and murder of advocates etc. Neverthless, this by itself does not impeach the death penalty for Saddam Hussein. The brutal dictator was sentenced by the court of his country, and according to the law of his country, because he is responsible for torturing and murdering thousands of his own people. If he is going to be put in prison in the middle of a civil war, with a number of supporters behind him, there would always be the chance, that he will escape.

A reasonable argument why to abolish or not to carry out a death penalty would be a judicial error. But it is more than obvious that this is not the case with Saddam.

Your comments

  • On 17 November 2006 at 23:08, by David Replying to: A sad constant of European foreign policy

    I hope this article will bring some of us federalists to critically review some European politics and also our federalist attitude towards these. However the situation in Iraq appears, the western european politics are with their comments on Saddam’s death sentence beneficial in a similar way, as the Greenpeace activists, that once got on their boat to one Soviet Gulag camp on the North Sea coast, and unfolded a transparent in front of the prisoners with the notice “Save the whales”.

  • On 18 November 2006 at 09:13, by Valéry Replying to: A sad constant of European foreign policy

    I agree with you about the weird sense of priorities of the Union (and its member states) in the matter.

    While most western countries failed to condemn the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and still support undemocratic regimes around the world, it is outrageous to heard the same governments express reluctance against this sentence.

    I am myself opposed to death penalty in Europe on a basis of principle as a State should not have a right of life and death on its own citizens. However it is clear that Saddam Hussein deserves the fate of Mussolini and Ceaucescu.

    Obviously the liberation of Irak has been badly dealt with by the US administration. The Pentagon had clearly warned that the means to commit were severely underestimated by the government. As a result, Irak in in a chaos that threatens the march towards democracy and the US is now unable to prepare further actions against Iran and Syria. This situation does not mean that Euroep should step away from the region but on the contrary that it should get involved more in order to help bring stability.

  • On 18 November 2006 at 11:49, by Peter Matjašič Replying to: A sad constant of European foreign policy

    I see your point and agree with your statement that Saddam was sentenced by an Iraqi court according to Iraqi law for the crimes he committed against the Iraqi people.

    But there are a few things that bother me in your provocative and in my opinion rather exaggerated comments.

    Firstly, it’s already difficult enough to talk about a common European foreign policy (not the mention the Single European foreign policy we as federalists are fighting for), but to say the different reactions of European leaders (correct me if I am wrong, but there hasn’t been an official EU position on the matter) to Saddam’s death sentence are a constant of European foreign policy is simply wrong.

    Secondly, I find it actually refreshing to hear most European leaders (Merkel, Zapatero, Prodi to name but a few) have expressed their opinion about it and do stand behind their values (forget the past, the important fact is that the death penalty is illegal in EU25 today), even if this can be seen from a critical angle like yours.

    Of course the European leaders and the EU as such are no angels and in several cases do have double standards. It’s called realpolitik, in which certain things (e.g. energy supplies) have priority over others (e.g. Human rights). This is something I’d like to see changed, so in that respect it maybe a positive sign to see European leaders defending one of the European values such as a strong NO to the death penalty. Let’s hope they do this on every occasion and not selectively.

  • On 19 November 2006 at 11:57, by Tomáš Ruta Replying to: A sad constant of European foreign policy

    “A reasonable argument why to abolish or not to carry out a death penalty would be a judicial error. But it is more than obvious that this is not the case with Saddam.”

    Agree absolutely with this conclusion. The unpronounced question hanging in the air is thus following: should Europe reconsider its stance on death penalty in its own backyard? Why should not Europeans, who beyond any doubt committed terrible atrocities, also be hanged? Or should they?

  • On 19 November 2006 at 17:36, by ? Replying to: A sad constant of European foreign policy

    I am glad you see my point, although it actually appears, that you do not really see it. The aim of my article was to be provocative. I am afraid you did not get, or maybe did not want to get the point. You are asking me to correct you, if you are wrong, so I will do so. To cite the statement of Finnland, in the position of EU presidency:“The EU opposes capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances, and it should not be carried out in this case either.” Later, french and italian foreign ministers met to state the same. Consequently then Tony Blair, Romano Prodi and Zapatero. So what we have are all the main western european countries, and Finnland speaking in the name of EU. For me, this justifes the usage of the term “European foreign policy” in this case, as it does for most of the newspapers and TV broadcasts that dealed with the issue.

    Where did I say that DIFFERENT positions to SADDAM’S DEATH SENTENCE are a constant of European foreign policy ?? I was refering to the fact, that European Union behaves itself inadequate when it comes to most of foreign politicy’s issues. And that the position to Saddam’s death sentence is just one of many examples. In particular the China strategy unveiled by the Comission quite recently, that has been critised by a number of human rights activists, should come into account - the picture of Brussel talking tough on trade, but not about its other values, ignoring the existence of concentration camps in China and reaching a dead end with the call for Beijing to sign up to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (a conclusion made already 7 years ago). Or its attitude towards the Russian “gas democracy”, and the xenophobic practics towards Georgians, where Europe limits itself to a statement, which is nice but will not in any way help the affected ones. Not mentioning the scandal last year at the UN Human rights comittee, where EU did not came out against the fact, that due to Human Rights Watch thousand of people in Chechnia disappear without a trace, voluntary ingoring that a crime against humanity proceeds in the region. Or, the absence of political sanctions against Cuba, and a very slow approach to a position, in which EU would categorically stand against the human rights abusemenet at the island.The case with Uzbekistan and EU giving priority to energy issues rather then human rights is a very actuall too. What appeared to me as the prior tragicomical example of the weird EUs foreign policy was the proof of EU-funding Palestinian terrorist organizations through the Nobel Price holder Arafat in 2002 (indirectly maybe even today). So, you may of course think , or have the opinion that it is not correct to assume EU behaves itself often inadequate in the foreign policy, but I have a different point of view, and I share it with a number of people. Even though I am a federalist, I do not have a problem with regarding Europe critically. Hope we can agree at least on that. I am against the death penalty in civil cases, of courses, because of the judicial error, and because of the argument Vallery mentioned. But, concerning war tribunals, and war criminals such dictators, I am for the death sentence. In Saddam’s case in paticular, we could await that within a few months of his imprisonment he would eventually be freed by his supporters. To what Tomáš Rùta mentioned, there is no such question my article implies concerning a hanging of person. It implies that if Hitler would survive the war and be captured, he should have been sentenced to death.

  • On 19 November 2006 at 18:10, by Peter Matjašič Replying to: A sad constant of European foreign policy

    Thanks for the correction and further explanation. You are right that I didn’t check all the statements to verify your use of European foreign policy and am glad that you did:). When using the phrase“different positions to Saddam’s death sentence” I didn’t quote you but rather the article, of which I attached a link to my comment. And I am completely with you on the point that the EU behaves ’inadequate’ (to use your wording) in several cases, until the point you make about the Palestinian Authority, where we do have very diverging views - but that’s another topic of discussion.

    For this discussion here both you and Tomáš pose a valid question - what to do with the death penalty and when to apply it? I am glad to hear that you are not in favour of re-introducing the death penalty in Europe, but that you understand and support its use in cases like the one of Saddam. That’s something a part of me very much agrees with as well, but on the other hand I see a problem in double standards for the use of the death penalty - either you have it or not. But am eager to hear/read more about your view on this particular matter.

  • On 19 November 2006 at 22:24, by ? Replying to: A sad constant of European foreign policy

    Hi, thanks for your kind answer, we can agree on more points than it appeared previously. Sorry for the grammatic mistakes, did not pay attention. Considering the death penalty passed on a dictator - another argument could be for example giving priority to the rights of those who are or could potentially be affected by the crime, at the expense of the offender’s rights. As I have mentioned a few mistakes made by the EU in foreign affairs, I have forgotten the most serious one - that is Bosnia i Hercegovina, Kosovo and the inability to stop atrocities at Balcans (it was the in Europe hated America that prevented the expulsion of nearly two millions Kosovo Albanians, according to my sources).

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