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European Union
Belgian President Louis Michel
Report on the Troika Mission to Muslim Countries
European Parliament
Strasbourg, Germany
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 targeted.

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 period.


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 rights.

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 be reduced.

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 or religion.

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.

END