EU leaders seek harmony at a virtual summit after cacophony over response to the Israel-Hamas war


BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union leaders are trying to overcome the cacophony of different opinions and voices over the Israel-Hamas war into one single political hymn in an attempt to have a bigger diplomatic impact on the global stage.

Even if their summit on Tuesday is by virtual video conferencing only, the attack in Brussels that left two Swedes dead last night further underscored the need to show a unified stance in the face of common threats.

Ever since the attack of Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7, the EU has shown it is a group of 27 different nations and even their common institutions have sent out different messages, sowing confusion about the bloc’s intentions and reaping international criticism.

Many member states feel that EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen overstepped her authority by visiting Israel on Friday without a pre-agreed political message and then toed what many saw as an excessively pro-Israeli line.

“Foreign and security policy remains a responsibility of the member states,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday ahead of the the virtual summit.

Von der Leyen’s executive Commission maintains she is free to travel as she wants and express solidarity with a nation in need as she pleases, and will do so again if need be.

Still, the unease was compounded because, for some, an EU insistence that Israel respect international law in its fight against Hamas was not expressed explicitly enough by von der Leyen.

“The position is clear: Israel has the right to defense, but this defense has to be developed in compliance with international laws and in particular humanitarian laws – because war also has its laws,” Borrell said.

He insisted that it would be the main common message coming out of the summit.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz traveled to Israel for an impromptu visit. French President Emmanuel Macron said that he will travel to the region “as soon as I consider that we have a useful agenda and very concrete actions to drive forward.”

Few other international crises divide the bloc like the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Just last week in the wake of the Hamas attack, a commissioner at the bloc’s executive branch announced that development aid meant to help the Palestinian Authority reduce poverty would be immediately suspended. Hours later, the European Commission’s position changed. It announced an urgent review of the assistance to ensure that no money is being misused. Since it is listed by the EU as a terror group, Hamas does not receive any such funds anyway.

Then on Saturday, the commission said it was tripling humanitarian aid to Gaza – money meant to be used in times of crises or disasters.

Macron, a key player in Tuesday’s summit, said that beyond supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, he also has been able “to pass on warning messages calling for respect for humanitarian law, international law and civilian populations in Gaza and the West Bank, and for non-escalation of the conflict in Lebanon.”

“We remain extremely vigilant and committed,” he added.

EU Council President Charles Michel said in announcing the summit that “the conflict could have major security consequences for our societies.”

He said that the leaders would look at ways to help civilians in Israel and Gaza caught up in the war and to work with other countries in the Middle East and Persian Gulf regions to try to prevent the conflict from spreading.


Associated Press writers Samuel Petrequin in Brussels and Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed to this report.

Source: post

No posts to display