Angry Euro MPs blast EU inaction on Libya

AFP , Wednesday 16 Mar 2011

European Parliament members charge the EU with being weak in dealing with Muammar Gaddafi following military attacks on civilians in Libya

Angry members of the European Parliament on Wednesday blasted a weak, divided EU for failing to stand up and act against Muammar Gaddafi, saying Europe was repeating the errors of the past.

As one after another MEP stood up to lament the EU's refusal to back a bid by Britain and France to win UN approval for a no-fly zone, a former Belgian prime minister said to repeated rounds of applause: "This makes me sick!"

"In Libya we can change the course of events," said ex-premier Guy Verhofstadt of the Liberals group.

"There are thousands of heroes," he added. "We know who they are but Gaddafi knows as well. He knows their names and their families. If he takes Benghazi it will be nothing more than a massacre, a new Srebrenica, a new Rwanda, a new Darfur.

"This makes me sick of the EU," he said to applause. "We have learnt nothing at all from history.

"When Gaddafi is back shall we say business as usual? Are we going to close our eyes again? Will we add one black page more to European history?

"I count on France, on Britain, on the US to take action — not on the EU!" he added

As Britain, France and Lebanon — on behalf of the Arab League — tried to rustle up support for a UN Security Council no-fly resolution, European Union members Germany and Italy again rejected the use of military might.

"We have no wish to and we cannot take sides in a North African civil war," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told MPs to applause in Berlin's parliament.

"We do not wish to start down a path which would eventually lead to German soldiers taking part in a war in Libya," he added.

Yet even the pacifist Greens slammed the EU for failing to opt for action at a crisis summit on Libya last Friday that wound up with a loosely-worded pledge to protect civilians "by all necessary means" and to "examine all options".

Taking the floor, German Greens MEP Rebecca Harms said Europe's leaders should have supported the no-fly zone option. "It wouldn't have been war-mongering to do that," she said.

"We are refusing to line up on the right side, on the side of the just, and the Arab world will not forget or pardon this weakness from Europe."

British liberal Edward McMillan-Scott said EU "impotence" was behind "a man-made disaster in our neighbourhood" causing refugees to flood in to Egypt.

But the head of the European Commission, Jose-Manuel Barroso, countered that the blame lay on the union's 27 member states.

"You cannot ask the EU to come up with a common position when member states don't have a common position," he told the parliament.

But new French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on his blog that "only the threat of force can stop Gaddafi" and added that several Arab states were ready to assist Western military intervention.

"It has often happened in our recent history that the weakness of democracies gives dictators free rein. It's not too late to break with this rule."

EU President Herman Van Rompuy told parliament that the bloc was continuing "to work up international support to stop the leaders of Libya."

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