Haiti has stirred more discord over how the European Union works. Critics in the European Parliament complained of a missed opportunity, a squandering of reform efforts to boost Europe’s stature as a major international player.
In an address to MEPs to present his country’s programme as EU presiding nation for the next six months, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took steps to answer for the absence from the earthquake zone of the EU’s new top diplomat. In an address to MEPs to present his country’s programme as EU presiding nation for the next six months, he said:
“We have attempted to give a response to the tragedy in Haiti. I am deeply convinced that the response of the international community is strong and shows solidarity and that the EU will meet expectations in the circumstances.”
The circumstances now include the biggest group in the Parliament — the centre-right EPP — calling it “regrettable” that designated foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton spent the weekend in London. The Greens added their scepticism about the centre-left Lady Ashton.
Ashton’s office said she had worked all weekend on Haiti and had refrained from going in person (as the public face of the EU) on UN advice. Ashton’s American counterpart, Hillary Clinton, did go. The world’s foremost giver of aid to poor countries, the EU has also in the past been criticised for not putting its mouth where its money is.