Friday, December 18, 2009
Ashton said what had to be said
Well, finally some firm words from a European dignitary, in this case the newly appointed European Foreign Minister Jane Ashton baroness of Upholland. (Upholland !?). She said it in her maidenspeech for Members of the European Parlement on Tuesday in Strassbourg.
The baroness called Israel's recent decision to temporarily freeze settlement growth outside Jerusalem a 'first step', a cooler qualification than the EU foreign ministers who last week took 'positive note' of the move.
She also said that 'we're deeply concerned about the daily living conditions of people in Gaza', and added that 'Israel should reopen the crossings without delay' in order to let food and other much needed goods through.
On top of that she had some veiled criticism of Tony Blair, the special representative of the Quartett (consisting of the US, EU, UN, and Russia) to Israel and the Palestinians, who has not achieved anything in the two years or so that he is active in this function. 'The Quartet must demonstrate that it is worth the money, that it is capable of being reinvigorated,' se said. ' I have talked about this with both sides in Jerusalem, to Mr Blair and the [US] secretary of state.'
Ms Ashton's office said that she plans to travel to the Middle East to meet leaders in late January or early February, with Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iran also high on her agenda.
So, what is so remarkable about these words? That nobody expected this from her, who previously was a minister of Commerce in the Commission and was considered to be rather inexperienced as far as 'big' politics were concerned. That she said what should have been said much earlier by the EU and this same clear way. And that she left out niceties towards Israel like it being the only democracy, threatened by terrorists, that the Palestinians should immediately return to the negotiating table, and so on Had not she, but someone like our Dutch minister Maxime Verhagen been sitting in her chair it would have been otherwise, be sure of that. So let 's rejoice that it's Upholland and not Holland (as Anja Meulenbelt today more or less suggested on her blog).