Letter: Get Europe's foreign policy act together

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The Independent Online
Sir: Whatever the disappointments of the Common Foreign and Security Policy in recent years, viewed in a proper historical perspective, substantial progress is being made. Twenty years ago, Europe's inability to act together in foreign policy was not regarded as surprising or culpable. Ten years ago we felt guilty about our failure. Five years ago aspirations and rhetoric had been developed, but there were no ground rules and no institutions. After Maastricht, we had some mechanisms, but were not good at using them. Most worrying is the impact on the European electorate of our failures in the wars of Yugoslav succession. We raised expectations about our ability to save life and then dashed them.

At the Amsterdam summit meeting we need to learn the lessons of past failure. We need a single person to be the face of our foreign policy, working in a stronger "troika". We need better planning. Above all, we need the ability to intervene militarily as a last resort. The policy needs a parliamentary dimension, both national and European.

Such a policy needs to be rooted in public awareness of the need for a common policy capable of responding to global threats. Foremost among these in the coming decades are the impacts of environmental and public health issues on our foreign policy. Civilisation can drown in the population shifts consequent on environmental disruption. It is anticipated that within 20 years we will see 120 million refugees from the consequences of climate change alone. These are the "wretched of the earth" driven north by economic failure, population growth and political collapse. This is a tide of misery that could create terrorist states and semi-states equipped with cheap rocketry and stolen nuclear technology.

The need for a true common foreign and security policy is real and urgent and can be communicated to the people of Europe because the need for it grows from the genuine fears and perceptions of our citizens. It is not a just game for diplomats. It is about trade and jobs, and drought and hurricanes.

TOM SPENCER MEP

(Surrey, C)

Chairman, Foreign Affairs, Security & Defence Policy Committee of the European Parliament

Churt, Surrey

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