Belgian President Louis Michel
Report on the Troika Mission to Muslim Countries
October 2, 2001
Ladies and gentlemen of the European Parliament,
In accordance with the conclusions of the extraordinary meeting of the European
Council of 21 September, I led a ministerial Troika to the Middle East on 24-28
September. I was accompanied by High Representative Solana, Commissioner Patten
and Spanish Foreign Minister Piqué. The latter was replaced during the
tour by State Secretary Nadal.
During our mission we met with the leaders of Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia,
Egypt and Syria. We presented to them the main lines of the European Union's
strategy in the fight against terrorism on the basis of the conclusions of the
extraordinary meeting of the European Council of 21 September.
We stressed and reminded each of the leaders we met that the European Union
categorically rejects any attempt to equate terrorism with Islam, a point that
the extraordinary meeting of the European Council of 21 September 2001 made
unequivocally. We also stressed the need to reject any tendency toward nationalism,
racism and xenophobia in the fight against terrorism.
We made it clear to our dialogue partners that the European Union stands shoulder
to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorism. We noted
that UN Security Council Resolution 1368 gives the United states the right to
retaliate. We pointed out that each EU Member State will be cooperating, according
to its means and the intelligence that the United States provides, in any action
taken to combat terrorism. We also stressed that such retaliation should be
In addition, we indicated that the fight against terrorism must be a multilateral
and global battle. No one country can hope to single-handedly defeat terrorism.
It is only by cooperating with the rest of the international community that
we will be able to defeat it. What is more, we have stressed the need for a
multi-disciplined approach in order to attack all of those things that, to a
greater or lesser extent, help nurture international terrorism. We feel that
the United Nations could provide a suitable framework for implementing this
multilateral and multidisciplinary strategy.
The Troika voiced the concerns of the European Union with regard to the situation
of the Afghan refugees. We indicated that the European Union has the necessary
funds to aid them and prevent the development of a humanitarian crisis. We also
pointed out that the EU is prepared to resume economic, commercial and financial
cooperation with certain countries in order to help them during this difficult
THE REACTION OF OUR DIALOGUE PARTNERS
The Troika's mission was much appreciated by all of the countries visited. The
meetings passed off in a good atmosphere and in a spirit of cooperation.
Our dialogue partners all stressed in particular the need to avoid equating
international terrorism with Islam and Arab nations. They all condemned terrorism
unreservedly and said they were prepared to cooperate in the fight against this
scourge. Like other countries, they view terrorism as a threat to them too.
They fear that terror could lead to destabilisation. Given this, it became clear
to us from our meetings that our dialogue partners are keen to see our civilisations
move closer together to promote better understanding and respect each other's
differences. The idea of staging a conference on different civilisations was
mentioned in this regard.
With regard to an American response to the attacks of 11 September, only Syria
challenged the United States' right to retaliate. However, they did all stress
that any such action should be based on sufficient proof. They also called for
it to be targeted. They warned of the consequences that such a counter-attack
could have for civilian populations. In short, the people we spoke with called
on the Americans to be very careful and patient in their use of force, and to
respond in a reasoned and measured way. If this is not the case then the leaders
of the countries that we visited noted that it would be very difficult for them
to continue to support the battle against terrorism alongside the United States.
Public opinion in their countries would not understand why innocent people were
once again suffering as a result of force.
It was clear to us that the leaders we met are anxious to develop a multilateral
approach in the fight against terrorism. Some of those we talked to stressed
that this fight should be directed by the United Nations. Others mentioned the
possibility of holding an international conference on terrorism. While not rejecting
this idea, the European Troika warned of the political risks inherent in such
an enterprise. It stressed the need for careful preparations before proceeding
with such a project.
On numerous occasions, the representatives we talked to mentioned that the European
Union harbours certain movements which they believe support terrorist organisations.
They asked for Europe's full cooperation in countering such support activities.
They also call on the European Union to cooperate in other areas such as the
funding of terrorist networks. The Troika explained the measures being envisaged
by the EU, in particular the search for a common definition of terrorism and
terrorist acts, the European arrest warrant and efforts to counter the funding
of terrorism. However, the Troika was also quick to stress the importance that
the European Union attaches to the legal instruments used to safeguard human
The countries visited also insisted that a global and multidisciplinary approach
be adopted to oppose and overcome terrorism. They felt that, in addition to
a repressive plan of action, we should analyse the causes which, while not directly
related to terrorism, can nevertheless fuel it. They called for an examination
of the current concerns about the state of and trend in international relations.
This requires us to examine political, economic, commercial and cooperation
aspects of our relations in order to determine how tension and imbalance can
The situation in Afghanistan was mentioned by a number of our dialogue partners,
especially Pakistan which warned that its influence over the Taliban regime
should not be exaggerated. Pakistan has kept diplomatic channels with the Taliban
open so that it can act as an intermediary. Some of the people we spoke with
warned us against any attempt to impose a government on Kabul from the outside.
In their view, this would only increase regional instability. Pakistan feels
that a broad coalition government would be the best solution.
Several of our dialogue partners spoke at length on the Middle East conflicts.
Without explicitly pointing to a direct cause-and-effect link between these
conflicts and international terrorism, they did say that the ongoing failure
to resolve these conflicts risked fanning the flames of terrorism. To their
mind, a solution must be found as soon as possible. They feel that the Arabs
have made as many concessions as they can. The time has come for the international
community to bring the necessary pressure to bear to develop a political solution
on the basis of the agreed principles. While recognising the useful role to
be played by the European Union, they nevertheless expressed the hope that the
United States would commit itself to a greater extent in the future.
A POSITIVE EXERCISE IN EUROPEAN DIPLOMACY
The Troika's mission was very much appreciated by everyone we met. It opens
up new perspectives for dialogue and cooperation with these countries. This
will be a long-term process. We must take it upon ourselves to continue and
strengthen the dialogue that we reactivated last week. By demonstrating its
willingness to lend an ear and engage in a process of persuasion and discussion
in a spirit of mutual respect, EU diplomacy can certainly make a huge contribution
towards fighting terrorism, identifying what motivates it and creating instruments
making it possible to eradicate it.
Our visit only served to confirm our belief that the attacks of 11 September
were not a declaration of war against Western civilisation. It also confirmed
that it is totally irresponsible to equate terrorism with Islam. We must therefore
be very careful not to oversimplify the theme of a conflict between civilisations.
There is no basis for such an approach. It only stirs up feelings further at
a time when we must be guided by reason. It could have highly negative consequences
in the countries we visited, at both international level and in Europe where
large Muslim communities have long peacefully coexisted alongside other communities,
with all parties respecting and learning from their differences. Our dialogue
partners feel just as threatened as we do. We must therefore help each other.
If we are to cooperate with the United States to bring to book and punish those
responsible for the 11 September attacks, we must obtain enough proof to justify
action, and this must moreover be targeted and measured. In addition, we must
not forget that the fight against terrorism will have to be multilateral and
global. We heard this message repeatedly during our mission. We must call on
the United States to ensure that it takes this fully into account in its future
foreign policy: for while we can do little without America, it can do nothing
without the rest of us.
Our interlocutors issued a clear call for concrete measures for cooperation.
while ensuring full respect for the legal instruments safeguarding human rights,
we must focus on coming up with a common definition of terrorism, try to draw
up a list of terrorist organisations as soon as possible and make further progress
towards a European arrest warrant. This will not be easy and will require an
objective and reasonable analysis. We must also take action on the matter of
how terrorism is funded.
This visit certainly consolidated the EU's role on the international scene.
By reacting swiftly to the events of 11 September, the European Union has shown
that it is capable of assuming its responsibilities in serious and delicate
circumstances, especially in the fight against terrorism. By sending a Troika
to the Middle East, the Union has held out the hand of friendship to the Arab
and Muslim world which, for its part, welcomed this move and understood this
approach motivated by the need for solidarity against the blind and unjustifiable
terror that strikes innocent people without distinction of race, nationality
Finally, in this way, the European Union has also shown that it has become an
influential and respected figure at a time when the international community
is being called upon to reassess international relations from top to bottom,
in many different areas, in order to build a fairer and more open world where
everyone has a chance to develop to the full.