Monday

16th Sep 2019

Ashton under fire for not going to Haiti

  • Ashton's spokesman said the UN had told her to stay away (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has come under fire from centre-right and Green politicians in the European Parliament for not visiting the earthquake-devastated Haiti.

The head of the centre-right group in the European Parliament, Joseph Daul, said that the fact that Mrs Ashton was not present while her US counterpart Hillary Clinton travelled to the Caribbean island over the weekend was "regrettable."

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

"Just about everybody was in Haiti at the moment when these people are suffering, and Europe was not present," he said. "If it would have been in our hands, we would have sent someone."

The comments were made in a press conference on Tuesday morning (19 January) following the resignation of the centre-right Bulgarian commission nominee, Rumiana Jeleva, after criticism about her suitability for the job as development commissioner.

The centre-left Ms Ashton, who is also to be a vice-president of the European Commission, went through her hearing last week. A novice in the world of diplomacy and foreign affairs, she was widely seen as having performed no better than adequately.

To date, MEPs on the right have held their fire on Ms Ashton, who has the extra backing of the 27 EU countries, which unanimously appointed her to be the union's high representative for foreign affairs. The member states' deal was a careful compromise between left and right which saw the post of President of the European Council, the EU's other main external actor, given to a centre-right politician.

Denying that party politics played a role in his criticism, Mr Daul said: "Of course, we are not going to be calling Ms Ashton into question for this reason."

His attack on Mrs Ashton was later backed up by the leader of the Greens, Daniel Cohn-Bendit.

"I am very sceptical about Lady Ashton," said the French politician. "Her performance vis-a-vis the situation in Haiti has been insufficient and I think that what Mr Daul said in his communication today was not wrong."

Mrs Ashton's job means that she is supposed to be the public face of the EU in the case of an international crisis and to oversee the bloc's response. On Monday, the EU pledged over €400 million in aid to Haiti.

Mr Cohn-Bendit went on: "[US secretary of state] Clinton found it possible to go to Haiti, and I think that the European Union has to be there on the spot. Not just in the sidelines. And if I was the high representative faced with a disaster of this scope, I'd get on the first plane and then come back and tell the Europeans what we should be doing. I think that is the basic minimum."

Keeping airspace free

Ms Ashton's spokesman told EUobserver that the foreign policy chief had deliberated going to Haiti but on the "explicit advice of the UN" decided not to so that she "would not be blocking airspace at this point in time."

The spokesperson noted that Ms Ashton, who also defended her actions before parliament on the issue on Tuesday, "has been working all weekend on Haiti."

Haiti, which suffered a huge earthquake last Tuesday which has killed up to 200,000 people and left around 1.5 million homeless, has tested the EU's new foreign policy set up.

Ms Ashton, who formally took up her duties on 1 December after a surprise nomination, has had to rush to adjust to her new job, whose duties include chairing the monthly meetings of EU foreign ministers and setting up a new EU diplomatic service.

The new president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, also involved himself with the Haiti issue on Tuesday.

The EU chief while on a visit to London proposed that countries create a "humanitarian rapid reaction force" that could be deployed in such a crisis in future. "We have to reflect about a better instrument for reaction," he said, the BBC reports.

Agenda

Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK

Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Boris Johnson for the first time, but no breakthrough is expected in Brexit talks. MEPs are preparing to hear from the commission-designates, while Hungary will be grilled at the EU affairs' ministers meeting.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should the West help the Russian opposition to try topple the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession

Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have demanded to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania this year, as Hungary's man prepares to take over the enlargement portfolio.

Opinion

Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity

Luxembourg will be the first European country to legally regulate the production, sale and consumption of cannabis (the Netherlands has a policy of de facto regulation of sale and consumption only), with all the implications this holds.

News in Brief

  1. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy
  2. Juncker to meet Johnson on Monday
  3. First Hungary 'Article 7' hearing set for Monday
  4. Vestager picks Danish EU ambassador as cabinet head
  5. Commissioner hearings will start 30 September
  6. Italy says EU countries agree to take in rescued migrants
  7. Germany to organise Libya conference on arms embargo
  8. European Parliament to support another Brexit delay

Agenda

Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK

Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Boris Johnson for the first time, but no breakthrough is expected in Brexit talks. MEPs are preparing to hear from the commission-designates, while Hungary will be grilled at the EU affairs' ministers meeting.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  2. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  3. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  4. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  5. Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession
  6. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity
  7. The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?
  8. Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us