It’s not ‘whataboutism’, to recognise that there are two sides to any conflict

Who do people like Roberta Metsola and Ursula von der Leyen think they’re actually ‘representing’, when they speak (so unilaterally) ‘on Europe’s behalf’? 

I don’t know about you: but I’m beginning to detect a certain pattern in the way that European politicians tend to respond to international events, as they unfold.  

To be perfectly honest, I have Roberta Metsola in mind, specifically – even if she is very far from being the only example - so I may as carry on with her, for now.  

Consider, for a moment, how the President of the European Parliament responded to both the major global crises, which erupted during her brief tenure of office so far (in chronological order: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; and the Israel-Hamas conflagration). 

In both instances, Roberta Metsola’s reaction was to simply reach into a magical ‘hat-on-a-stand’, and pull out what she evidently thought was the most appropriate ‘sound-bite’, for the occasion.  

Nothing intrinsically wrong with that, you might be thinking: after all, isn’t it exactly what all other world leaders do, all the time? (including the likes of US President Joe Biden, and even Pope Francis)?  

The problem, however, is that – unlike those other examples I just mentioned – Roberta Metsola never seems to take stock of her own actual position, on the world stage, before uttering any of those ‘grand declarations’. Nor does she even pause, it seems, to consider what the rest of the European Union might actually have to say, about the matter…. before committing the entire bloc to adopting certain positions that it may well later come to ‘regret’ (if not ‘sheepishly retract, altogether’.) 

Examples, I hear you ask? Let’s start with her initial reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, back in March 2022. In a speech to the EP, Metsola defiantly proclaimed: 

“This must be our ‘Whatever-it-Takes’ moment” […] “We have declared that Russian aircraft and oligarchs’ private jets are no longer welcome in our open skies. We have moved for Russia to be disconnected from the SWIFT system. We have banned Kremlin propaganda tools” […] “Europe has to redouble efforts to diversify energy systems that are not reliant on Kremlin gas, and […] move towards a real security and defence Union….” Etc. etc. 

In other words:  

  1. She unilaterally ‘declared war on Russia’: without bothering to check if any form of consensus actually existed, to that effect, among the EU’s 27 member states (SPOILER ALERT! It didn’t… and still doesn’t, to this day); 

  1. she committed the rest of the EU to a policy of ‘unwavering support for Ukraine, no matter what’… which, unsurprisingly, Vladimir Zelenskyy interpreted to mean: ‘The EU will provide Ukraine with a limitless supply of weapons, and logistical support… FOREVER!’ (And oh, look: he’s still trying to hold the EU to that ‘promise’, all this time later), and; 

  1. She tried (unsuccessfully, in the end) forcing member states to ‘diversify’ their supply of gas away from Russia… once again, without pausing to ask herself if certain countries (like Germany, for instance) would even agree, to a policy which only cause instant instability for themselves; or even whether it was logistically POSSIBLE, in the first place, for those states to simply ‘reinvent’ their entire energy infrastructural model, from one day to the next… 

The upshot? Almost two years later, there is still no consensus among European members, to provide Zelenskyy with the promised ‘unwavering support’ (so much so, that countries like Poland are now starting trade-wars of their own, with Ukraine)…  

Already, then, the pattern I mentioned earlier should be vaguely discernible. Metsola’s reaction, to any given crisis, is not entirely unlike that of John Wayne (and later, Clint Eastwood) in any classic Hollywood Western:  

‘Shoot first, ask questions later…’  

… with the predictable pitfall, that: well… some of those ‘unasked questions’ were actually rather important, you know (and I have a nasty feeling that ALL of them will return to ‘bite the EU on the bottom’, sooner or later.) 

To be fair, however: while Roberta Metsola may have lacked any support from the rest of the EU, when she made such (hopelessly miscalculated) declarations about the Ukrainian war… she DID, at least, have the full backing of European public opinion: which, as confirmed by the latest Eurobarometer survey, remains highly supportive of both Ukraine, and the EU’s response so far. 

I very much doubt, however, that the same could be said for the Israel- Hamas conflict. But first, let’s look at Roberta Metsola’s reaction to that one, too: 

“They [Hamas] do not offer solutions. They offer bloodshed. This is not the time for ‘whataboutism’. This is terror in its worst form […]” Metsola said during a solemn vigil in Brussels last week; adding that: “This is Europe. We stand with you [Israel].” 

A few days later, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted the same line: “We are friends of Israel. When friends are under attack, we stand by them….” (See? What did I tell you earlier, about Metsola not being the only one?) 

And… well, do I really need to explain why all this is just another case of ‘deja-vu’ (from the same two people who have already botched Europe’s response to one other major crisis, over the past year alone)? 

Oh, well: I guess I probably do. So here goes: 

Once again, we have a case where the Presidents of both the European parliament, and the Commission, have between them decided to: 

  1. Unreservedly (and inexplicably, if you ask me) ‘take sides’, in a millennial conflict that is BY NO MEANS as ‘clear-cut’, as they themselves evidently seems to think; 

  1. They have committed - or tried to commit, anyway - the entire EU to policy of ‘total, unwavering support’, for only one of those two sides… (despite their existing commitments to also provide Palestinians with aid, in the form of EU funding);  

  1. They have tried - and failed - to change the European Union’s existing policy on ‘external aid’, so that it suddenly reflects their own, new, arbitrarily-chosen position on the entire Israeli-Palestinian question… to the extent that one EU Commissioner even threatened to ‘cut all EU aid to Palestine’ (before being promptly contradicted by another). 

And they did all the above, without bothering to so much as even ‘consult’ any of the other institutions that supposedly make up the rest of the EU: including, in this instance, Europe’s Commissioner for External Aid, Josep Borrel (who is imparting a decidedly ‘different’ – if not ‘contrasting’ - view of the situation, than either Metsola or von der Leyen). 

Even worse, however: they evidently didn’t bother to check whether any form of ‘consensus’ exists, for this new-found policy of theirs, among the wider population of the ‘Europe’ they are supposed to actually be representing… 

To put that another way: Roberta Metsola and Ursula von der Leyen have (without any form of ‘popular mandate’, of any kind whatsoever) unilaterally committed the European Union to actively supporting Israel, in its ongoing hostilities with Hamas [Note: and as with Ukraine, the question of HOW they intend to provide all this support, remains unanswered]… 

… at a time when surveys (and all sorts of other indicators) consistently show that the overwhelming population of Europe does NOT support that kind of foreign policy, with regard to the Middle East; and nor, for that matter, do most of the 27 countries that actually constitute the ‘European Union’, to begin with. 

I’m running out of space, so I’ll keep this part brief… but in July this year, a ‘YouGov’ poll conducted in six EU members states – Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, and Spain (and, separately, the UK and USA) – asked respondents two specific questions: 

  1. Which side of the Israel-Palestine do you sympathise with, more? 

  1.  Which side of the Israel-Palestine do you think your government sympathises with, more? 

With only one exception – Germany (where a slender majority supported Israel) - all the other five countries were more or less unequivocal, in expressing more sympathy with the Palestinians, than Israel. (And also, in declaring that they do not feel represented by their own governments, on this issue). 

Now: I’m the first to admit that this does not add up to foolproof evidence, that the EU’s position is going to be unpopular, with huge segments of the European population. After all, the poll was conducted months before Hamas’ latest attacks… which, in turn, were certainly heinous enough to have altered popular perceptions, since then (perhaps quite drastically, too.) 

All the same, however: it does add another teeny-weenie little question, to all the others that remain thus far ‘unanswered’. Who do people like Roberta Metsola and Ursula von der Leyen think they’re actually ‘representing’, when they speak (so unilaterally) ‘on Europe’s behalf’? 

Because in this particular instance: it doesn’t look, to me, as though they’re representing either ‘the citizens of Europe’… nor even, for that matter, the rest of the EU, that they themselves are supposed to be ‘leading’. 

No. To me, it looks a lot more like one of two other possibilities. They have either decided to simply represent the USA’s position, in the Israeli-Palestinian question (in which case, we may as well just demote the EU to the status of ‘American satellite state’, and get it over with)… 

… or else, they are concerned only with how they themselves ‘look’, and ‘sound’, as they ‘strut and fret their hour on the [international] stage’ (and to hell with the possible consequences: which, incidentally, could also extend to a whole new wave of future terrorism, targeting Europeans…] 

One thing, however, is certain. They are NOT talking on my behalf; and in all likelihood, not on behalf on any ‘European majority’, either…