The EU in a changing Middle East: A lone bystander or positive player?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and EU Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process Susanna Terstal are pictured during an international meeting to discuss the Israel-Palestinian peace process, on September 24, 2020 in the Jordanian capital Amman. [EPA-EFE/KHALIL MAZRAAWI / POOL]

While the European Union is struggling to stay relevant with its self-proclaimed ‘geopolitical Commission’, the United States in the Middle East is at the forefront of geopolitical shifts with its visionary leadership, writes Charlie Weimers.

Charlie Weimers is a Swedish member of the European Parliament for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET).

In August, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Israel decided to normalize relations, a move facilitated by the Trump administration, and resulted in the signing of the Abraham Accords a month later.

The EU’s reaction to the historic decision has been muted at best, which raises the question: is the EU is a player or a bystander in the Middle East Peace Process?

During a recent webinar organised by the ECR Party in cooperation with several ECR Group MEPs, the UAE, Bahraini and Israeli ambassadors to the EU discussed the Abraham Accords and its potential for wider peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East.

The webinar was the first of its kind in the EU bubble to have all three ambassadors with thousands of people watching around the globe.

The statements of all three ambassadors were loud and clear: this historic agreement would not have been possible without US involvement and serves as a great opportunity for the EU to step up and become an active player in fostering peace in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, the EU has mostly remained a silent bystander with policies that run counter to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

The recent signing of the aviation deal between Israel and Jordan, will greatly cut fuel cost and carbon emissions as it allows European and North American flights to the Far East to fly directly over Israeli and subsequently Iraqi, Qatari and Saudi Arabian airspace.

This agreement would have been unthinkable just a year ago and is the concrete result of the ‘Abraham Accords’ success. One would have at least expected a statement welcoming the agreement or even a reaction from Vice-President Frans Timmermans as the agreement serves his pet project, the European Green Deal well.

Moreover, the EU’s positive role in the Middle East can further be questioned whilst the EU continues to embrace the mullah regime in Iran.

The Iranian regime is a major source of instability in the region, with its continuous support for terrorism and open aggression towards Israel and several Gulf countries.

How can the EU say that it stands for Israel’s security if it continues to cooperate and trade with a country that seeks to ‘wipe’ it ‘off the map’?

Furthermore, Iran’s interference in Bahraini and other countries’ affairs, contributes to the region’s insecurity and destabilisation.

Iran’s use of proxies, including Hezbollah, is not only a real threat for the Middle East but also the wider world as its terror activities span across the globe.

The EU has to cease its false distinction between the organization’s so-called ‘political’ and ‘military wings’ if it is truly committed to global peace, security and prosperity.

How can the EU justify its distinction if even Hezbollah’s leaders deny that any such distinction exists?

If the EU truly wishes to become a player in the Middle East, it has to step up and embrace the Abraham Accords, work with Israel and the Arab countries in seeking a more prosperous future for the region by nurturing and supporting initiatives to that avail.

It has to change its current policy towards Iran, and recognize that not Iran, but Israel and its Gulf allies are its true partners.

Only then, would the EU achieve its goals of becoming a positive player in a changing Middle East and in the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The EU’s near silence, however, has been deafening.

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