Letter: EU must lead on foreign policy

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The Independent Online
From Mr David Bryer

Sir: David Howell's wide-ranging critique of British foreign policy ("Where Britain gets it wrong", 4 September) is justifiably sceptical of the US plan for Bosnia, but does not draw one logical conclusion. The UK must help improve Europe's capacity to sort out coherent foreign policy itself, if we are not to follow Washington's sometimes short-sighted lead.

In the coming weeks, the UK - and other EU members - should indeed press for a different course than that which President Clinton is currently on. The objective should be more than to get the parties to agree to peace. It must be to reach a settlement that provides real guarantees for human rights, and the ability to return for those many tens of thousands of refugees who wish to. This will require sustained pressure upon both Belgrade and Zagreb, and support for the negotiating position of the Bosnian government. A peace which is both just and lasting is essential if the refugees with whom Oxfam works are to see an end to their suffering.

If such a firm course was followed, it is possible that the beginnings of a lasting peace could be seen by the time the EU begins its Inter-Governmental Conference, the successor to Maastricht, next January. And the lessons of former Yugoslavia must be learnt in the IGC as it considers how to develop the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy. It is, in part, the failure of European diplomacy which has allowed the war to go on so long, and now leaves European governments weakly following Washington's lead .

If the UK wishes to avoid this failure again, it must make EU foreign policy work. To do this, it must be clear about its purpose, which Maastricht left so vague. It should set out explicitly that a prime aim of EU foreign policy is to prevent and resolve conflicts, and to uphold the raft of international laws, most particularly the Geneva Conventions, which the "ethnic cleansers" of former Yugoslavia have so brutally ridiculed.

Yours faithfully,

David Bryer

Director

Oxfam

Oxford

5 September

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