Politics & Economics

Europe’s immobility towards the ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Middle East

May 2024
By Editorial Staff

“I see more confrontation and less cooperation.” That was the stark assessment that High Representative Josep Borrell made during his lecture at St. Anthony’s College in the United Kingdom. An unflinching remark that underscores how the world is changing its face and Europe must redefine its role on the international chessboard, with two ongoing wars and humanitarian disasters in Ukraine and the Middle East, including a difficult situation in Syria that many seem to have forgotten about.

We live in a world where “dependencies become weapons” and multilateralism has given way to a Cold War-like scenario.  “America has lost its status” and China increasingly asserts its role as an emerging superpower. And according to Borrell, in such a fragmented scenario, Europe has done nothing but leave mixed messages. “We will remain united in the face of Russia. We have not been united in giving you a basic answer condemning Hamas, asking for the freedom of the hostages, asking for humanitarian support, asking for a political solution.”

There is a lack of agreement at the European level to consider neo-imperial Russia a threat to the “European way of life,” something that was not there at the time of the 2014 storming of Crimea. Europe is blatantly unprepared for the prospect of war, and Borrell points this out heavily. “One thing is to wake up, and we have been woken up. And another thing is to get out of the bed. In some cases, we are still on the bed. The wake-up was clear, but do we understand the gravity of the moment?”

The values for which Europe was born and stands are at risk, both in Ukraine and in the Middle East. “In Gaza, where more than 34,000 civilians are dead, most of the displaced children are starving — Borrell remarked — and the humanitarian support obstructed. And the perception is that we care less.” And the general feeling is that European action lacks coherence. “If we call something a war crime in one place, we need to call it by the same name when it happens anywhere else.”

The support and protection from Europe, however, seems not to have left the Syrian people, even though this crisis has stopped being the front page piece of international newspapers. Disappearances, killings, and arbitrary arrests continue, and the effects of this crisis are also spilling over into neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, countries that are also feeling the pressure of the war in Gaza.

It was Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič who took a snapshot of the situation, during the 8th “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” conference, describing the three actions Europe intends to take to alleviate the crisis. “First, we must demand respect for the International Committee and Law and Human Rights Law. This includes a safe, unimpeded, and uninterrupted access for humanitarian operations.” “Second, we need more long-term perspective. Europe continues to call for the sustainable, safe, and voluntary return of refugees to Syria”, but if the conditions are suitable to do so. And, ultimately, more funding. “The EU, together with its member states, has mobilized over 33 billion dollars in humanitarian stabilization. But this alone is not enough.”

As the world grapples with escalating conflicts, Europe finds itself in a state of immobility, torn between the imperative of unity and the complexities of national leanings. The failure to present a unified stance on critical issues such as condemning aggression and providing humanitarian aid underscores a troubling trend of inaction. With lives at stake and the values for which Europe stands hanging in the balance, there’s an urgent need for cohesive action and unwavering commitment to peace and justice in Ukraine and the Middle East.