Many readers will echo Verhofstadt’s view on the EU: “Once we fought now we talk!”

August 3, 2017


Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: “On this day in 1914, Germany declared war on France. Once we fought now we talk! This is why I am proud to be European!” 

Verhofstadt was once suggested as a candidate to replace Romano Prodi as the next President of the European Commission, but his candidacy was opposed and rejected by a coalition led by Tony Blair and other leaders who had disagreed with Verhofstadt’s uncompromising criticisms of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq the previous year.”

The writer wanted to learn more about this Belgian politician after receiving this link from Felicity Arbuthnot, whose recent audio account of the past and present of Mosul some readers will have heard.

Guy Verhofstadt served as the 47th Prime Minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008. He is the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group and has been an MEP since 2009.

At one stage, he and his party, Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD), formed a coalition with the French-speaking Flemish socialists and Greens in Brussels and Wallonia.

He has been put forward as the possible candidate for replacing José Manuel Barroso as the president of the European Commission by a coalition of Greens, Socialists and Liberals.

In 2015 he supported the European Commission’s proposal to distribute asylum requests for migrants over all countries of the European Union, opposed by UK and France. He also called on governments of France, the UK, and Hungary to stop building walls and increasing border security measures and redirect their efforts to  humanitarian assistance.

There were other subjects on which we would not agree, but his position on migrants seems just and humane. He also fosters progressive political alliances which many in this country advocate.






The cause of peace is not helped by sub-headline sensation-mongering

February 4, 2016

“President Assad’s army cut the last supply line for rebel forces in the northern city of Aleppo yesterday as peace talks in Switzerland collapsed”.

Not so.

alleppo destruction

It was a relief to read in the actual report by the Times’ Bel Trew in Cairo, that the Syrian army said it had broken a three-year rebel siege of two government-held Shia villages and the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, had merely announced a pause in peace talks in Geneva: “I have already fixed a date for the next talks of February 25.”

Most comments were well worth reading:

  • It’s worth remembering that Assad was nominated for an honorary knighthood by Tony Blair’s government, and was a guest of the Queen at Buckingham Palace at the same time. Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have been entirely consistent in where their loyalties lie. It’s “our” foreign policy which is in total disarray.
  • We need a better foreign policy. We are now supporting the insupportable, as the lesser of two evils.
  • The west, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi back the rebels, the rebels fight each other, the Russians, Hezbollah and the Iranians back Assad. Good luck to anyone trying to sort out that mess.
  • And how do you rationalise the behaviour of providing weapons to these so-called rebels which has caused this crisis? Are we humanitarian in our desire to determine the destiny of another nation that is no threat to us?
  • My kids cannot understand why Blair got involved in Iraq and Afghanistan or why Cameron got involved in Libya and Syria. Nor can I. Having correctly predicted the outcome in all four countries, I await any valid excuse for the stupidity of our politicians.

A ten year call for collective effort to resolve the Israel-Palestine impasse

November 4, 2014


oliver milesOliver Miles is a retired British Ambassador serving overseas mainly in the Arab world. He also headed the Near East & North African Department at the FCO in London.

In April 2004, he initiated a controversial letter, with 52 notable signatories, to Prime Minister Tony Blair, calling for a new approach to policy in Palestine and Iraq (extract):

After all those wasted months, the international community has now been confronted with the announcement by Ariel Sharon and President Bush of new policies which are one-sided and illegal and which will cost yet more Israeli and Palestinian blood.

Our dismay at this backward step is heightened by the fact that you yourself seem to have endorsed it, abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts to restore peace in the Holy Land and which have been the basis for such successes as those efforts have produced.

This abandonment of principle comes at a time when rightly or wrongly we are portrayed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as partners in an illegal and brutal occupation in Iraq . . .

oliver miles letter blair
An online search will show that Sir Oliver Miles has continued to search for an effective approach; this week he wrote to the Financial Times, questioning its editorial repetition of the ‘conventional view’ that only the US can change Israeli behaviour – “Time for US to step up on Israeli settlements”.

He points out that some significant moves towards peace in the Middle East have come independently of Washington:

  • President Anwar Sadat’s flight to Jerusalem,
  • the European Community’s Venice Declaration which was the basis of land for peace and the two-state solution,
  • the Oslo accords.

He cites the Israeli reaction to Swedish recognition of a Palestine state, and the vote in parliament for British recognition, as showingi sensitivity to European words. European actions, for example to label, control and eventually ban trade with the illegal settlements in the occupied territories, could give the US a lead. Miles comments that – as the editorial suggested – “the White House at least is probably in the right mood”.

The 2004 letter expresses hopes that major powers will – at last – make a determined and collective effort to resolve a problem which, more than any other, has for decades poisoned relations between the West and the Islamic and Arab worlds.

Defence-related posts on another website

December 30, 2011
Read here:
An open letter to Tony Blair by young Kazakh politicians, youth workers and journalists

Arfon MP asks if the damningly dishonest, purposeless, wasteful and evil Iraq war is at an end

The Secret State 3: closing ranks on the death of Hilda Murrell? Yet another cause for British shame?

Older entries

Two new year’s resolutions for the British government
A call for the resignation of Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, re his investigation of Dr David Kelly’s death – 4