Tuesday 19 January 2010

Should Ashton be in Haiti? (supplemented)

Jean Quatremer has covered the fact that EU foreign minister* Ashton has not been in Haiti and that EPP and the Liberals complained about that today.

I don't agree with these complaints, especially since her people have been working over the weekend as you can see on this special website on Haiti, which indicates the work that has continued over the weekend and the last days even though Ashton was in London.

But the main reason why I don't agree is the following:

The Haitian air space has been so busy lately that the most needed goods and materials could not be transported into the country. The situation of logistics in Haiti is still not solved. International leaders travelling to the country need a special security treatment and are thus slowing down the processes on the ground, which isn't helping the people.

And being there. Ashton could not do anything but have a look and talk into the cameras, maybe getting attention for a topic that has enough attention these days.

In my point of view, our foreign minister should focus on co-ordinating political and financial efforts in the EU from over here. She should make sure that member state and the EU institutions (Council and Commission in particular) organise themselves in a way that is most helpful for the population of Haiti.

I prefer the politics of doing things over the politics of pretending to do something, and flying to Haiti now would be exactly this kind of move. Ashton should go to Haiti in half a year, when most of the international focus might have moved away, honouring those who have worked hard for six month to help as much as they can.

By going there not now but later in the year, Ashton could make sure that European and international attention is kept on this country that will suffer from the earthquake for the next years and thus will need aid beyond the immediate crisis response we see at the moment.

So today, Ashton's place is in the EU and her task is to make sure we do our best to help the people of Haiti, and as soon as her presence on the ground is needed to support these efforts beyond a short-term outburst of help, she should fly there - but only then!

Supplement: The critical remarks on the lack of concrete reactions of the European Union, or at least their delay, by the Bruxelles 2 blog seem more convincing than the Quatremer's article.

*I have decided that, within this blog, I will call Ashton "foreign minister" (without capitalising the two words) as the same post was described in the initial Constitutional Treaty text that became the Lisbon Treaty later. The "High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy" is too long and just "High Representative" is not precise enough.


Alexander said...

Good comment, Julien. I just read Jean's article and had the same immediate reaction you are pointing out here. Politics have become "symbolic", but that is something to deplore, if you ask me.

antyx said...

I agree. The last thing Haiti needs now is dignitaries and entourages.

Julien Frisch said...

Glad you a agree! :-)