Wednesday

27th Mar 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.

EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law

The European Parliament backed a law on copyrighted content online. Defenders says it will safeguard right holders from being exploited by big tech firms. Critics say it spells the end of internet freedoms and curtails expression.

Opinion

Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?

Ahead of the European Parliament election in May, the bloc is ideologically split between authoritarians seeking to reduce its sway, and those seeking a moderate track. In essence, voters have to decide if they want to move forwards or backwards.

Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem

Romania will move its embassy to Jerusalem, its prime minister has said, shattering the EU line on the Arab-Israeli conflict while the country holds the EU rotating presidency.

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

Opinion

Russia and money laundering in Europe

After Danske Bank, both the US and the EU need to abandon the principle in bank regulation that it is all right to be a crook as long as you are big.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

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

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us