I do not need to underline how critical are the forthcoming days for the situation in Iraq. It has become common knowledge that the time margin is extremely limited and there is an opinion generally expressed that recent developments turned to prevail other political decisions. They tend that is to acquire their own logic, which in perspective could necessarily lead to an open conflict in the front of Iraq.
Allow me to say that I am not in accordance with this position. I believe that nothing and especially war can be taken as a "fait accompli". There is always a margin for the prevailence of a sober view and the safeguard of peace and it is the duty of politics to undertake the necessary efforts to exhaust any possible margin before going to war.
You all know the evolution of the crisis in Iraq and it is therefore of little interest to describe it here in detail. I pinpoint its recent elements only:
- the GAC of 27th January in the conclusions of which we have described certain principles that characterize the policy of the "15" on Iraq, the demarche we effectuated as Presidency to the Representatives of Iraq, Brussels and New York so as to make it absolutely clear that it is imperative for Baghdad to immediately, fully and without conditions comply with the Resolution 1441 of the Security Council. The presentation to the Security Council (15th February) by the American MAF Mr. Powell of the elements implying that Iraq continues to have in its possession and hides weapons of mass destruction. The Declaration of President Bush for a new Resolution of the Security Council that authorizes the use of force. I also underline the recent decision of Baghdad to allow to certain scientists to be examined by the International Inspectors as well as to allow flights in its national airspace. Finally, the contents of the new report of the International Inspectors on the progress of their work which will be submitted in the 14th February.
These elements which I have chosen to present, do not allow for great optimism. Recent decisions and actions of Baghdad however, could, I think, substantiate the idea that if the message is clear, then there are margins for its full compliance to the Resolution 1441. I would like to this point to underline the basic priority of our Presidency that we work for the peaceful settlement of disputes and that it is our desire to see the UN efforts to bear positive results. We believe that Iraq should fully respect and implement UNSE Resolutions and we think that the Iraq crisis is determined by three parameters:
- The respect of the International Legal Order, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each country.
- The respect for Human Rights.
- The consolidation of peace, stability and security in the region.
It is precisely in this context that we strive as Presidency to contribute to the reinforcement of the one single voice of the EU and to undertake every possible effort for the diffusion of the crisis and its peaceful settlement. For this reason, we insisted for the codification of the common principles that underline European Policy in the GAC of the 27th January in the conclusions of which, it is clearly stated that:
- The EU aims at the full disarmament of Iraq from weapons of mass destruction.
- Baghdad should disclose immediately all necessary elements in this direction and cooperate actively and fully henceforth with International Inspectors.
- The work of the latter has our full confidence and support. It should be continued and the inspections should be intensified.
- This is the last chance of peaceful solution of the crisis and Iraq should fully comply with the Resolution 1441.
- The central role of the Security Council for the preservation of the international peace and security should be fully respected.
The nutshell of these conclusions formed the central axis of our demarche to the Iraqi Embassies in Athens, Brussels and New York.
In this way, we had as a result a common approach and a codification the main elements of which are:
- Complete disarmament of Baghdad of weapons of mass destruction.
- The need to exhaust every possibility for peaceful resolution of the crisis.
- Full respect of and compliance to the UNSC Resolutions.
- Active cooperation from the side of Iraq.
- Support of the Inspector's work and initiatives.
- Respect of the role of the UNSC.
There is no need I think, to underline that any further delay coming from Iraq, makes it responsible for the consequences that this will entail especially when everybody has in mind its long time tactics on this matter and the indifference of Baghdad to fully respect the Resolutions of the UNSC.
There arises a question on the meaning and the implications of the crisis related to the internal dimension of the EU in the field particularly of the CSFP. There were recently many discussions, many individual positions of eminent personalities of governments, members of the Commission or of the European Parliament and even of think tanks on the importance of the development of the CFSP. This is the moment when reality will prove if all these ambitious positions have a substantial meaning or if this is not true. We want to believe that the second is not true. We also believe that this is a difficult position and that it needs a long period of time but today Europe should make up its mind and take decisions. It should ensure its unity, assure its role in the international scene, a role not sealed by military force and leadership presence but which for half a century till today achieved formidable results. If we underestimate them, we would then have interpreted wrongly our history.
Mr. Blix and El Baradei came back cautiously optimistic. We wait with great interest their new report to the Security Council in the 14th February which will underline the evolution of the crisis. In this context, the Greek Presidency decided to call an extraordinary European Summit (17th February) so as to evaluate the situation and to bring in the most possible convergence on the Iraq crisis. A lot depends on the contents of this report. If it is positive it will have a positive effect in the whole situation, but if many serious issues remain open it will be necessary then to make a strong effort to persuade Baghdad that what is needed is its full and definite compliance to the Resolution 1441 and the preservation of peace. In any case, however, it is more than necessary that Europe adopts a comprehensive approach of the situation and on the other hand produces a common position that will consolidate its credibility and will permit her to undertake the role she aspires for. Under the present circumstances and in the present conjecture it is not easy, it is however necessary. I want to believe that our common values and principles that unite us will allow and facilitate this effort.
What are our expectations for the Summit. We expect much:
- A sober evaluation of all the elements and positions that will be in our disposal.
- A balanced approach of the implications of the one or of the other decision on Iraq.
- A confirmation of the fact that within the EU diplomacy and political approach are not put away as tools for the Resolution of the international crisis and before exhausting every possibility.
- Clear support for the role of the UN as fundamental institution of the International Relations.
- A clear and determined stance for the implementation by Iraq of the UN Resolutions.
- Courageous decision that Europe as a conception and our common CFSP policy should not be marginalized in the first serious test of their credibility.
A decision permitting any possible initiative to any direction which will contribute decisively for the instauration of peace, the disarmament of Iraq and the avoidance of any victims.
- In general, a hope that Europe can create with its own approach so as to persuade its Atlantic partner, the public opinion, the peoples of Middle East and to install a bridge to the circle of growing tension which creates uncertainty, insecurity, anxiety in important sectors of world economy.
In completing, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have to answer to the question if we can or not succeed in our efforts for a common approach between us. My answer is that I do not know if we can but that we have to try. And, in any case, we have to make any possible effort to arrive to such a result. Around the Iraqi crisis there are not only the issues concerning this country that are at stake. Neither the danger of using weapons of mass destruction nor the balance of the region. At stake is the credibility of the EU, its interests, its role, its perspectives. The Greek Presidency believes that these elements constitute an achievement and should be safeguarded and reinforced. This concerns not only the 15 but the 10 member states as well.
In the EU we need our unity. Behind or on the side of this unity there is solidarity. And solidarity is not only the Structural Funds it has also an horizontal meaning. If it is undermined the repercussions for everyone within the EU will be critical not only individually for every country but also collectively.