A clear rift between a two-speed European Union was again apparent in Gent as the mini-summit between Blair, Jospin, and Schroeder irritated some other member states.
Although the mini-summit was a brief meeting to discuss the finer details of the military action in Afghanistan, it provoked another scene of evident discord within the union, with Italy and Portugal expressing their dissent moderately but firmly.
Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres said that the EU should “only accept to take decisions by all the 15 member states because only in this way does it make sense to express a European opinion."
The mini-summit did not affect the objectives of the summit, the result of which was five documents covering the political, military and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the financing of terrorist organisations and the world economic climate.
Regarding the political situation in Afghanistan, the legality of overthrowing the Taliban regime was raised and the wording was changed to the “elimination of Al Qaeda," which is led by Osama Bin Laden.
The second point, covering the military situation in Afghanistan declared support for the legitimacy of the military operations to be carried out under the auspices of the United Nations Organisation during the current campaign and in a post-Taliban scenario in Afghanistan.
The importance of humanitarian aid programs in Afghanistan was the subject of the third document, which stated that “the EU will continue to do everything within its reach to reduce the number of innocent victims to a minimum." It was declared that the first priority is humanitarian aid to Afghanistan itself and to other countries in the region. The United Kingdom has already donated 4.4 billion USD for aid programs inside Afghanistan.
The fourth document expressed the determination of the European Union to cut financing to terrorist organisations. A common EU arrest warrant order for terrorists is expected to become law on the 7th of December.
Finally, regarding the world economic climate, the summit tried to transmit a message of confidence in the economic situation in the Union, declaring that its solid bases will see the momentary downturn in the aftermath of September 11th reach an upward trend in the near future. This point also included discussion about the change to the Euro as national currencies are abolished in 12 member states on January 1st 2002.
As usual, the summit was accompanied by anti-globalisation movements.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL