EU stumbles over UN racism conference

April 21, 2009

The Czech Republic issued a statement on Tuesday condemning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at a U.N. conference on racism in which he called Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime”.

The statement by the country holding the EU presidency was meant to underline the bloc’s unity but highlighted divisions on the issue.

Although 22 member states said they would stay to the end of the Geneva conference, four others have not attended from the start and the Czech Republic has decided to play no further role in the meeting.

The failure of member states to agree on a joint position shows how hard it is for the bloc to reach agreement on a common foreign and security policy now that it comprises 27 countries.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said the decision of some EU member states to boycott the Geneva conference was “no sign of strength in the EU at this time”.

The EU stance has also opened the bloc to criticism from U.N. officials and human rights campaigners over a walkout by 23 EU delegations over Ahmadinejad’s remarks, and also left the EU at odds with the United States, which is not attending. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner criticised the U.S. decision not to attend — something that is unlikely to go down well in all EU capitals at a time when the EU and Washington are trying to improve ties under President Barack Obama.

How can the EU avoid such problems in the future? Many EU leaders say the answer is the Lisbon treaty setting out reforms of the Union’s unwieldy institutions. The treaty is intended to provide stronger leadership and make foreign policy more effective, creating the post of EU foreign minister.

But as on many other issues, the EU is having trouble winning final agreement on the treaty. It is still awaiting approval from states including Ireland, which has already rejected it once. Until then, the EU will remain open to criticism, including from within its own ranks.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said the decision of some EU member states to boycott the Geneva conference was “no sign of strength in the EU at this time”. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the EU’s inability to form a common front “shows the inability …. to find at least the slightest common denominator on a core issue: that of fighting against discrimination.”


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killing children and women with white phosphorous because they are of other races is not racism?

Posted by mjk | Report as abusive

I am glad that President Obama has taken a positive stand in it’s support for Israel by boycotting this event.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

Using white phosphorous against women and children is not racist. Because:1. It was not aimed directly at them.2. It was used to illuminate the battlefield, which is legal under UN conventions.3. It is not being used around Palestinians because of their race, but because they were firing missiles at Israel.Hope this helps.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

What is wrong and unusual in calling a country that starves 1.5 million people because they are of different race “cruel and repressive racist regime”, just to name one aspect of the racist nature of the zionist regime.And the “secular” western world is trying to convence us the land was given to them by G*D.

Posted by cohen | Report as abusive

Three of the five EU countries that stay away from the conference are “old” EU member states (Germany, the Netherlands, Italy). How exactly does that prove that a common foreign policy is more difficult in an EU of 27 members, as this post claims?

Posted by Teekay | Report as abusive

Good point MJK, you see a lot of feet stomping and huffing and puffing from what Ahmadinejad said but you can rest assured you certainly won’t see anyone calling him a liar. It’s like those truths people don’t wanna deal with or hear about, blame the person who dialed 911.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Israel is not a saint of my devotion, this problem of palestine is ongoing for quite some time, and israel is acting on the most perverted, unhuman way.I do not stand either the way palestine are acting. Violence only leads to more violence. EU, US or other countries should take sides in this issue, it is a matter of staying unpartial and arbitriate the issue and find a solution.

Posted by Miguel | Report as abusive

Ahmadinejad is a racist and a liar. He represents the depth and width of racism which exists in many parts of the Islamic world.It is just that diplomats are too polite to say so at the UN conference.And calling him a liar means little anyway. If people are simple minded enough to believe him in the first place, they are unlikely to ever listen to how irrational their entire world-view is.Too busy believing crackpot conspiracy theories, I would guess.Or they simply may have been raised with those beliefs, in which case they simply don’t know any better.

Posted by Bob | Report as abusive

1. Nobody starves Palestinians. According to UN there is no widespread malnutrition in Gaza.2. Israel blockages HAMAS not Palestinians. Don’t equal HAMAS to Palestinians. HAMAS use every resource available to strike Israel rather than care about own civilians. During last conflict when shortages were severe UN reported that HAMAS was stealing.3. The same Palestinian in West Bank don’t fire rocket and don’t face blockage. 1000’s Arabs come to work to Israel every day.4. 1,000,000’s Arabs live in tiny Israel. How may Jew live in all Arab countries combined?5. In 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s Back in mother Russia, we used to see real news from M.East. Something that West News hijacked by liberal never show you. Routinely, all across M.East huge demonstrations ‘Kill Jews’, ‘Kill Americans’, ‘Kill Westerns’ etc, etc. Everyday something new and still the same. Russians call them ‘5 hate minutes’.Huge social engineering machine with single output – hate. You saw no racism.

Posted by SKV | Report as abusive

PM Ahmedinejad’s remarks and his universal support among the Islamic nations – only reaffirms the mainstream Islamic threat against the modern world. It supports the current Israeli’s government’s position that a two state position will not bring peace and security and that the Danish cartoonist’s position that Islam is a threat towards freedom and human rights.

Posted by Stephen Byrnes | Report as abusive

Israel is not a valid country. There should be a vote in the UN to expel this “nation” as a member-state, and a movement should be started to bring about it’s dissolution. David Ben-Gurion said it best: “We must expel Arabs and take their places.” David Ben Gurion, future Prime Minister of Israel, 1937, Ben Gurion and the Palestine Arabs, Oxford University Press, 1985.

Posted by Adam | Report as abusive

we can say we are against racism…but our actions should also show this… Its a shame on the citizens and supporters of a country.. who are trying to justify the killing of innocents by fighterjets for some fire crackers made in middle aged science college lab.(in their hearts they also know what is right, but fake national and racial pride makes it difficult to accept the truth,and the world will have to pay for this).. there is not even a single difference in Hamas and isareal’s government. but we call former a terrorist…the only reason is it is not having jetplanes and well engineered missiles or tanks to come and fight in front.I have read somewhere…i and the public know what school childern learn…those to whom evil is done…do evil in return

Posted by ANKUR | Report as abusive

Those who do not thing that Israel is a valid nation should question whether Mohammed was a valid prophet. Why are those Islamic nations that oppress other religions and ethnic groups such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Indonesia, Sudan, etc not be condemned as racist nations?

Posted by Stephen Brynes | Report as abusive