Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-47)
MP AND MR
WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL 2002
40. Do I take it from that that the aid that
is required will not be forthcoming until there is a cease-fire,
a peace settlement and suicide bombings stop?
(Peter Hain) I do not think it is as clear-cut as
that. No decisions have been made on rebuilding the Palestinian
Authority's infrastructure, as we want to do, because it is simply
not practical at the moment. Inserting development projects in
the middle of war zones is not practical. We have strongly condemned,
as Commissioner Patten especially has in very strong terms, the
destruction or the waste of tens of millions of European funds,
that is in sterling, European funds just blasted to smithereens
by the conflict there.
41. You may have heard the Today programme
this morning in which there was a response to these tragic circumstances.
(Peter Hain) I did.
42. I think it was either the Israeli Ambassador
or a very senior Israeli spokesman clearly indicating that they
regard this as a fight for their survival and the history of this,
which goes back centuries, is not a new problem. What concerns
me, to come back to the question of the involvement of the European
Union in this, is you said Solana was a respected person, and
I am not going to argue with your description, but what I am going
to say is that he was given pretty short shrift and some newspapers
reported it as a humiliation. Is not the problem really that the
truth is that Europe is completely split on this subject, there
are splits all over the world on what position people should adopt
and who they think should be supported? If I may say so you put
a very balanced response just now when you pointed out about the
problems of suicide bombers. Nonetheless, is not this huge problem
connected, as far as Europe is concerned, with this constant ambition
to be involved and to take a position as a European Union? Is
that not part of the difficulty that we now face, that there are
these ambitions which cannot be fulfilled because of the genuine
splits for very, very profound and historic and political reasons
in an historic landscape, and that all this talk of legal personality,
for example, in the European Union, which I have been following
very closely in my capacity, is in fact highly dangerous because
if, in fact, there was a legal personality in this kind of area
in the European Union it would be a total disaster and Europe
would actually get an extremely bad result from interfering in
these matters on that basis. Could you please comment on that
(Peter Hain) I will happily do so. First of all, I
think from my recollection of the newspapers the words "humiliation"
and others were used about Secretary of State Powell's visit,
so if that was used, and I did not see those reports, about Javier
Solana's visit, he was not alone, was he? If I may say so, I think
in your embittered stance on Europe you should be a little more
rounded about these matters. This is a desperately difficult situation.
If you are saying to me that Europe should simply turn its back
on the situation as the richest part of the world with strong
historic ties to the region and have nothing to do with this because
it would fit your agenda of saying that Europe should have nothing
to do with pretty well everything, I do not think that is a responsible
position to take.
43. But that is not what I am saying and you
(Peter Hain) I am just responding to your question.
I think Europe should continue to do all that we can. Europe is
evolving, the development of Europe in global affairs is in its
infancy but in my view it should increase. I think the world is
evolving into a multi-polar world with America the dominant super
power but China is going to be much more important later this
century and Russia wants a partnership with Europe. Why does Russia
want a partnership with Europe? Because Europe is seen as an increasingly
important global force.
44. Can you answer my question on legal personality.
Is it the Government's intention to give credence and/or encouragement
to the idea that the European Union should be given legal personality
in the context of Common Foreign and Security Policy and matters
of that kind?
(Peter Hain) It is my view and the Government's view,
happily they coincide, that Europe should have a more powerful
Common Foreign and Security Policy. Yes, I think we should shoulder
our burden of responsibility in areas like the Balkans for peacekeeping
purposes and the trouble spots in our own backyard.
45. Who is going to decide on matters like the
Middle East as to which position should be adopted if you have
a legal personality in the European Union?
(Peter Hain) It depends what you mean by a legal personality.
If you are suggesting that this becomes a Community competence,
that is not our policy. That should not be meant to imply, as
I think you are doing and have conflated into an argument, that
High Representative Solana should not be trying his best to put
Europe's weight behind a solution to the Middle East peace process.
I think we have a duty to do what we can and I think his role
is very important. It is respected in Washington and it may not
for the moment be particularly respected by the Sharon Government,
but then who is? But I thought what was very important at the
Sharm el-Sheikh discussions under Prime Minister Barak, the then
Prime Minister of Israel, was Solana was part of those negotiations
in 2000, was respected by the Israeli Government and that is the
way I think Europe should be moving.
46. I think I should say I am not in any way
super critical of what is happening in the European Union because
I understand how difficult it must be and I wish Javier Solana
very well, and like you I hold him in high regard, but I think
the point has to be made when you see him treated with such contempt
as he was when he visited the region it does not fill you with
any comfort at all. I think sooner or later the European Union
has to play a hard ball game instead of, as it appears to be,
trying to sweet talk the Israelis out of these terrible tragedies
that are occurring.
(Peter Hain) I would agree with you, Chairman, but
I would just say one other thing. As a member of a Government
that is strongly committed to an independent Palestinian state
co-existing in peace and in co-operation with the State of Israel,
I really do think that those Palestinians, whatever their frustrations,
and goodness me they must be monumental, those Palestinian leaders
who are encouraging suicide bombings are actually blocking the
development of that independent state that I know you have supported,
Chairman, Mike Connarty, and probably many other Members of the
Committee, as I have over the years. We need a better strategy
from the Israeli Government but we need a better strategy from
the Palestinian leadership, however difficult it is for them,
and the Arab world as well or this situation is just going to
go from a nightmare into something worse, if that is possible.
47. To return to the declaration at the Barcelona
European Council on the Middle East, it states in the fourth paragraph
"As the legitimate authority, the Palestine Authority bears
the full responsibility for fighting terrorism with all the legitimate
means at its disposal." You did refer earlier obliquely to
the fact that what authority is at its disposal is constrained
when the leader of the Palestine Authority, Yasser Arafat, is
basically surrounded, cut off without telephones, without food
and water at times, completely unable to communicate from Ramallah
to Jenin. I have been to the area a number of times and know that
in terms of Israeli blockades Jenin to Ramallah is a very, very
long road to get in contact with Jenin or any other part of the
Occupied Territories. You are talking about a very diminished
authority. I would condemn, and I am sure you would, extra judicial
killings of people who are accused of collaboration or whatever.
In terms of control of suicide bombing, it is quite clear that
there are other forces in that area, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbullah,
who want to see peace fail for their own reasons, they certainly
want to see the Palestinian Authority and Fatah fail for their
own reasons. You are talking to one group on one side who have
very little control. It is like asking Sinn Fein to stop the Continuity
IRA or the Real IRA from bombing and shooting when they have got
no control over them. On the other hand you have a state that
is recognised, that is funded in particular by the US and is in
a relationship with the European Union and other countries yet
is perpetrating acts, some may say, of state terror. Some may
just say acts beyond the bounds of legitimacy. It appears to me
that the European Union should be focusing on how it can influence
or pressure the Israeli state to withdraw and then help build
up a legitimate authority of those on the Palestinian side who
want to see the Islamists and the Fundamentalists being defeated
as much as they want to see the establishment of a Palestinian
state. If that is a correct analysis, what is our Government going
to do to strengthen the hand of the European Union in pressuring
or whatever they have to do to bring Israel to a more realistic
(Peter Hain) There is a General Affairs Council due
to take place in a couple of weeks which will review policy. I
do not have an easy answer to that. As a Minister it would be
wrong for me to pretend otherwise. The truth is the Israeli Government
is not open to influence and the actions of the suicide bombers
are discouraging it from adopting a more constructive policy in
its own interests. I am sorry, it sounds very weak but it is desperately
Chairman: Minister, we fully appreciate your
point. I would like to thank you for your usual candour and for
your contribution during this evidence session, in particular
on the last point which we are all very, very concerned about.
Minister, thank you very much.