Letter: Absence of debate on how to counter potential conflict in Europe

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Sir: Jacques Santer's challenge to Euro-sceptics everywhere ("Santer scorns the `prophets of doom'", 22 April) has exposed an anomaly in the British election campaign which requires explaining. Namely, the total absence of serious debate on what is arguably one of the major issues of our time: Europe's common foreign and security policy.

While it is generally recognised that the failure to stop the genocidal war in Bosnia represented a massive defeat for Europe's institutions, there is in Britain scant acknowledgement of the need for a co-ordinated and consistent policy within the EU to counter further potential conflict in Europe.

Whilst Europe is divided, the lowest common denominator will continue to prevail. The result of this is already evident in Albania where the heightened political unrest is currently being met by an ad hoc Italian- led mission to escort aid, followed by new elections. But what happens if that is not enough, and the trouble in Albania spills over the borders into Kosovo? Or Macedonia? And what about the rising tensions between two Nato powers, Greece and Turkey, on the Aegean?

In Bosnia, too, there is much unfinished business. Britain has nearly 6,000 troops there and, with America scheduled to pull its troops out of Bosnia next year, is it not in Britain's national interest to join its EU partners in devising a united strategy to avoid a larger conflagration on Europe's south eastern flank - and possibly the eventual Balkanisation of Europe, as new spheres of influence form in the continuing vacuum of political authority?

The EU common foreign and security policy is likely to impact on longer- term peace in Europe, and closer political and military integration is supported by the majority of EU member states. It is surely the right of the British people to know precisely where the parties stand on this important issue, and to participate in an overdue debate.

CAROLE HODGE

Research Associate

Institute of Russian and East European Studies

Glasgow University

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