Graham Watson MEP
Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for South West England and Gibraltar
A local champion with an international reputation
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News from the Lib Dems in Government
Published on Saturday 15th March 2003
Liberal Democrats in Europe place immense value on Europe's relations with the USA. Our commitment to shared values, our economic and cultural ties, reflected in our military alliance, are things we hold dear. We shared America's pain at the events of 11 September 2001, and not simply because Europeans were killed in the terrorist attacks. Yet we do not share the current U. President's view that war against Iraq is justified at present, any more than we share the moral certainty of the man in charge in Downing Street.
Our question to George Bush and Tony Blair is this. Would not the cost of continued vigilance, resilience and patience be less, far less, than the cost of war and reconstruction?
Tomorrow's meeting in The Azores will be the biggest happening in Horta since Columbus was arrested there on his way back from the new world. The pressure will be so great it will give a new meaning to what the weatherman calls the 'Azores High'. If our leaders decide to go to war without the backing of the United Nations and in the face of opposition from the international community it will indeed be a recipe for regime change: not just in Baghdad, but also in London, Madrid and Washington DC.
Never has the need been greater for a common foreign and security policy for the European Union.
The EU is a union of small states. The problem is that while the smaller among them recognise that they are small and therefore see the need to work together, the others do not. Diplomacy is a drug: its pomp is addictive, be it the private jets, the military salutes or the engraved fountain pens. European countries need to kick the habit.
The EU is already a super-power. We are the largest aid donor to Palestine: the largest aid donor to Iraq; we have the largest single market in the world, with a currency to rival the dollar, and a single trade policy which allows us to punch above our weight in trade negotiations. If these attributes were combined in a single foreign policy and a credible defence policy our world view would prevail - at the International Criminal Court, in the chemical and biological weapons conventions and over Iraq.
The battle at the UN Security Council is a struggle about the exercise of American power. Europe's troubled tribalism means that Washington wins. Despite having four seats on the security council, the EU is powerless. If we had but one vote, France, Germany, Britain and Spain would have to agree. And there's much we agree on: for example, that the UN charter gives a member no right to change the regime of another country and no right to wage war on the basis of a possible future threat. Europe does not need to defend the UN so much as the concept of world order laid down in the UN Charter.
To challenge that world order at a time when the tectonic plates of the world's monotheistic religions are rubbing up against each other is to play with fire among powder kegs..