EU speaks with one voice

The leaders of the European Union hammered out their differences late last night and came up with a compromise joint statement warning Iraq that UN arms inspections cannot carry on indefinitely, that Europe would work with the United States to disarm Saddam Hussein but also stressing that war should be used only as a last resort. The summit, in Brussels, had been a high-risk gamble by the EU’s Greek presidency as members were bitterly divided over the issue of Iraq. Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that the four-hour meeting was «a thorough and friendly discussion in which everyone expressed his view and wanted to arrive at a conclusion.» Addressing a joint news conference, European Commission President Romano Prodi said of the conclusion, «This was the right decision at the right time. The demonstrations that Europeans want a European response – we cannot forget the millions in the streets this weekend. So we came together to send a message to the world…» Simitis said: «We managed to turn an informal summit into an official summit which took a decision. This decision highlights two points: first, that in the context of the UN and the Security Council we are making every effort for peace, that war is not inevitable; second, all our members are able to secure a great benefit for the EU – that its members talk to each other and shape a common position.» Simitis then read in Greek parts of the decision, which had been drafted in English. «The conclusion says that the way in which the problem of Iraq will be solved will have a special significance for the world in coming decades. Because we will gain two things: first, peace for the international community, the prohibition through the Security Council of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; secondly, we will be able to secure for the Iraqi people a better future. The third point is that war is not unavoidable and war can be used only as a last resort in solving a dispute. We are waiting for the Iraqi regime to end this crisis by complying with the resolutions of the Security Council. The EU position regarding Iraq is for full and effective disarmament in accordance with Resolution 1441 and other Resolutions. We want this to be achieved peacefully. We believe that the center of international order is the UN. It has the first say in handling the Iraqi crisis,» Simitis said. «We express our solidarity with the UN arms inspectors. They must have the time and the means, as the Security Council decided, to complete their task. But the inspections cannot continue indefinitely without Iraq cooperating. This means that there must be a response to all the issues raised by the inspectors in their reports. We believe Iraq should not be under the illusion that it can drag out this issue. It has to see the light and cooperate fully and immediately. The Iraqi regime will be the only one responsible if it does not take the necessary measures and exploit the opportunity provided by the international community,» Simitis said of the EU’s conclusion. «It stresses the need for unity of the international community, that we are determined to cooperate with all our partners, especially the United States, to disarm Iraq, for peace, for stability in the region and for a future that meets the expectations of nations.»