Letter: Balkan ethics

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Sir: British insensitivity to the abuse of human rights abroad ("Serbia retreat is the latest in Cook's tour de farces", 17 September) is hardly confined to diplomats of the Foreign Office. For three years most of our leading politicians and journalists railed against the folly of military intervention in Bosnia, while our television networks offered a largely uncontested forum of respectability to Radovan Karadzic, now under indictment for war crimes.

The lack of an "ethical dimension" to European foreign policy under the tutelage of David Owen owed much to a chauvinistic notion of the rule of law that identified its limits with those of national sovereignty. Officials who sanctioned atrocities committed outside the borders of the United Kingdom were appeased, while others were denounced for crossing political frontiers and interfering in the internal affairs of separate states.

If Mr Cook's avowed priorities had been evident earlier, it just might have been possible for Europeans both here and abroad to aspire to an identity commanding greater respect throughout the world than that afforded by the Common Agricultural Policy or an independent central bank. Since the end of the Second World War, there was never a better time for moral authority in international affairs to pass across the Atlantic.