Sunday

13th Oct 2019

Foreign ministers wrangle over cartoon row text

EU foreign ministers on Monday (27 February) changed the wording of a statement on the Danish cartoon row at the insistence of Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot, who wanted to avoid the suggestion of an EU apology towards the Muslim world.

Meeting in Brussels, the ministers issued a fresh statement on the violence that recently erupted in some muslim countries following the publication by Danish paper Jyllands-Posten of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhamed.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Bernard Bot - "freedom of speech has remained upright" (Photo: Dutch EU Presidency)

The statement in its first paragraph says that "The [EU] council acknowledges and regrets that these cartoons were considered offensive and distressing by Muslims across the world."

An earlier version of the paragraph, contested by the Dutch, said that the EU regretted "that these cartoons caused offence."

"I put the first paragraph under discussion and this has been adapted so that freedom of speech has remained upright," Mr Bot told reporters.

"It is now clear that we do not make an apology for the cartoons," said a senior Dutch diplomat.

The Dutch foreign minister also recently lodged a protest with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana objecting to allegedly apologetic remarks Mr Solana made towards muslim countries over the affair.

\"Regret\" - \"Apology\"?

The Netherlands' stance was echoed by the Czech delegation, which was unhappy about any use of the word "regret".

The Czechs gave up only after stronger formulations further in the text were adopted.

Jack Straw, the UK foreign minister, reassured colleagues that the word "regret" in English does not mean "to make an apology" in the text adopted by ministers, Mr Bot said.

Meanwhile, diplomats said that Spain took the other extreme, pushing for a conciliatory tone in the council conclusions.

Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero initiated the "Alliance of Civilisations" project last summer, co-sponsored by prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Poland was also in favour of a more conciliatory tone, with a Polish diplomat saying Warsaw is "pleased" the word "regret" made it to the final conclusions. The diplomat pointed out that the Polish government itself had used stronger language to chastise Polish media which reproduced the images in recent weeks.

Denmark happy

Per Stig Moller, the Danish foreign minister, said he was "pleased" with the declaration and the "unanimity" that EU member states had demonstrated in supporting Denmark.

Copenhagen is said to have been unhappy with the strong words coming from The Hague over the cartoon issue.

Instead, Mr Moller indicated support for the "Alliance of Civilisations" idea, pledging €200,000 for the scheme under a UN-managed fund.

Denmark will also be hosting a conference on "stereotypes" in, amongst others, schoolbooks and media, the Danish minister added, naming the portrayal of muslims as terrorists as one example.

Borrell hard on Russia in EU hearing

The EU should continue to expand in the Western Balkans and maintain sanctions on Russia, its next foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has said.

Ukrainian president burns bridges in Europe

Ukraine's new president gleefully joined US leader Donald Trump in denigrating the EU back in July, a White House transcript of their phonecall has shown.

News in Brief

  1. Italy: EU cannot accept Turkish 'blackmail'
  2. Is a Brexit deal still possible?
  3. EU and UK to 'intensify' Brexit talks
  4. Norway hit by train strike over EU regulations
  5. Macron says he warned von der Leyen on Goulard
  6. France: EU will retaliate in aviation state aid battle
  7. EU considers new rules and agency against dirty money
  8. France against accession talks for North Macedonia, Albania

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us