Friday

18th Jan 2019

Top EU official defends Bahrain crackdown

A senior advisor to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has defended Bahrain's security forces after they opened fire on protesters with live ammunition last week.

Speaking to MEPs in the foreign affairs committee in Brussels on Tuesday (22 March) after visiting Bahrain, Robert Cooper, Ashton's top advisor on the western Balkans and the Middle East, said the island is normally "a rather pleasant, peaceful place."

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

He went on: "I'm not sure if the police have had to deal with these public order questions before. It's not easy dealing with large demonstrations in which there may be violence. It's a difficult task for policemen. It's not something that we always get right in the best Western countries and accidents happen."

He noted that two policemen were also killed last week.

Referring to opposition roadblocks on the Manama airport road, he added: "The situation had in fact, from the point of view of the management of Bahrain, which is a small island, become almost intolerable ... One should understand the authorities were right to restore calm and order and that's what they've done. But that is only right if it is followed by dialogue."

Bahrain security forces on Friday in a crackdown on protesters in the capital's Pearl Square reportedly killed four people and injured over 200.

Amateur video footage showed heavily-armed balaclava-wearing men shooting at civilians. Shots were also fired into the crowd from convoys of jeeps and tanks were brought onto the streets in a level of violence described by the United Nations as "shocking."

The UN on Tuesday said between 50 and 100 people have gone missing since the crackdown began, two of which have turned up dead. A doctor detained by security forces said he was severely beaten and threatened with rape.

Cooper's endorsement disturbed one MEP at the hearing. "'Accidents happen?' ... I'm sorry this is a funny picture as you describe it," German Green deputy Franziska Brantner said. "What are you talking about? I find this very scary."

For his part, Ashton's top diplomat in charge of the Middle East, Hugues Mingarelli, told MEPs the EU has no clout in the Gulf. "To be realistic, the instruments at our disposal, the opportunities we have, are fairly restricted," he said.

Turning to Yemen, Mingarelli predicted that President Ali Abdullah Saleh is likely to fall in a "few days."

He said: "I don't see how the president can govern when part of the army, several tribal leaders and parts of his own government have distanced themselves from him ... Things are getting out of control. Things are going to speed up in the next few days."

He added that the EU, or EU "eminent personalities" could go to mediate in Yemen if they were invited.

German centre-right deputy Elmar Brok said the EU is applying double standards to Libya and to the Arabian Gulf killings. Speaking of President Saleh's snipers aiming at people's heads, he said: "I really can't see the difference between what is happening in Libya and what is happening in Yemen."

The Arabian Gulf countries are Western allies in the war on terror and in the campaign against Iran.

Cooper, a former British diplomat and a writer, said in an essay in 2002: "The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open co-operative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states ... we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era - force, pre-emptive attack, deception."

Bahrain hunger striker prompts EU response

Entering his 63rd day of hunger strike, Bahraini-Danish activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has finally attracted reactions from EU and Danish institutions.

Putin tests new missile to frighten Europe

Russia has tested a "hypersonic" missile capable of a nuclear strike anywhere in Europe, in what Russian president Vladimir Putin called "a great New Year's present for the country".

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Analysis

China's 2019 growth outlook

As China's growth seems to be slowing, some observers see the country amid what the New York Times called a "severe downturn". As they mistake China's secular deceleration with cyclical fluctuations, they miss the rapid increase in Chinese living standards.

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

Vladimir Putin's nightmare of Petro Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag. Next March's election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief to deal with five more years of Putin.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Germany led way on EU human rights protection
  2. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  3. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  4. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  5. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  6. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  7. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  8. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us