washingtonpost.com  > Print Edition > Inside the A Section > Opinion Columns

Darfur: Where Is Europe?

By Christian W.D. Bock and Leland R. Miller
Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page A33

On Nov. 8, a U.N.-appointed commission of inquiry arrived in the Darfur region of western Sudan, to determine whether the slaughter of close to 100,000 people over the past six months constitutes genocide. While this three-month mission slowly goes about its business, Darfur continues to disintegrate into a horror zone of killing fields, mass rapes and ethnic cleansing.

For a few brief moments on Sept. 16, the European Union seemed to draw a line in the sand. On that day the European Parliament declared that the actions of the Sudanese government in Darfur were "tantamount to genocide," and E.U. ministers threatened sanctions "if no tangible progress is achieved" in meeting U.N. demands to halt the killings. Yet nearly three months later, two things remain clear: First, Khartoum has done nothing constructive to end the slaughter and, second, neither has the European Union.


_____What's Your Opinion?_____
Message Boards Share Your Views About Editorials and Opinion Pieces on Our Message Boards
About Message Boards

Tragically, "never again" is happening again. The World Health Organization's latest report states that more than 70,000 displaced people have died since March and that an estimated 10,000 people per month will continue to die if adequate relief does not reach those affected. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, more have been victims of brutal, often organized, gang rapes, and almost a million people have been driven from their homes.

Yet on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the world community has again chosen to watch, wait and, so far, do nothing.

Unsurprisingly, the United Nations has epitomized this paralysis. Although it issued two resolutions ordering Khartoum to disband the Janjaweed militias and halt the killings, the Security Council's demands have been roundly ignored, because they fail to include any penalty for noncompliance. The African Union has played a more active role and has had troops in Darfur since August. But both their numbers (800-plus so far) and their mandate (which does not include the protection of civilians) are glaringly inadequate to stop a genocide.

The United States, which in July was the first nation to invoke the term "genocide," has also taken a pass on Darfur. Fresh from its second invasion of a Muslim country in three years, and with little chance of mustering the political capital for leading an intervention into a third, Washington has been distressingly mute in its calls to arms. But with its tarnished image in the Muslim world, and with the Pentagon strained from deploying more than a quarter-million troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout Asia, a bogged-down America is ill-equipped to lead the charge into eastern Africa anyway.

Enter the European Union.

While the United States is hamstrung militarily and politically by its current global commitments, the same cannot be said for the E.U. nations. Moreover, many have maintained a strong presence in Africa for centuries.

Yet Europe's "real commitment" to Africa appears to be a facade. The truth is that not one soldier saluting an E.U. flag is being readied for a trip to the Sudanese desert. With the assets of 25 member states, 450 million people and a quarter of the world's gross national product (over $8 trillion), the European Union does not lack resources, manpower or motive. Rather, the reasons why the European Union has not intervened in Darfur can be boiled down to two.

First, because the United Nations has not authorized an intervention, the European Union has not felt inclined to go in "unilaterally." But, ignoring the fact that E.U. support would almost certainly induce a U.N. about-face, military intervention to confront a serious humanitarian crisis -- even without U.N. authorization -- has traditionally been viewed as lawful by most European governments.

The second reason the European Union has not intervened is even more inexcusable, precisely because it is of its own making. In 1993 the European Union consolidated its disparate foreign policy arms into a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), pledging to finally "speak with one voice" for a united Europe. But "speaking" appears to be all this body is capable of. Under the Maastricht Treaty, CFSP actions require the unanimity of all E.U. member states, an uber-majority that all but eliminates the possibility of collective armed intervention. By defect or design, this allows member states to voice their concerns -- and then excuse their inaction as bowing to the judgment of the whole.

In effect the European Union has fashioned a foreign policy mechanism by which inaction is virtually automatic -- even in the face of genocide.

Christian W.D. Bock is a former legal adviser to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Leland R. Miller, a New York lawyer, is a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company