Diplomacy is an up market kind of politics. It is smart talking paid for by the state and directed by politicians. Today both politics and diplomacy are derided by many, condemned by cynics as lying at the public expense. I want to make the case for them both. Done well they are the means that we reconcile our differences, create and uphold the peace, and make progress as individuals and nations. I would far rather jaw jaw than war war. Diplomacy and politics are much better than civil or international war. The covering of civilisation in any human society rests on the successful conduct of politics and diplomacy. We see in all too many countries what happens when politics and diplomacy break down, as in Syria, Libya, Iraq and the Ukraine today.
I want my diplomats and politicians to do two things above all else. I want them to promote peace and demonstrate democracy. Of course internally a state has to be firm to maintain the rule of law.Those who commit acts of violence against others and the state, or who steal or damage the property of others have to be prosecuted and punished. Externally a state has to show it has the means and the willpower to defend itself should need arise. A large and powerful state like the UK should also be willing to use its power with allies and through the UN to deal with rogue states that disrupt the peace of others, where the use of military force is necessary and can improve the situation. The UK was right to liberate the Falklands, and Kuwait with its allies.
The EU which now presumes to be a state with embassies, a foreign policy and interventions in other countries fails both my tests for diplomacy. It often fails to promote peace, and it does not demonstrate democracy. Its interventions in the Balkans during their period of civil war and war between the emerging states at the end of the Soviet era were far from helpful. More recently its decision to back those who wanted the fall of an elected President of the Ukraine and wished to bring their country closer to the EU started a chain of events which led to the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the civil war in eastern Ukraine.
I am no supporter of the Russian actions nor of rebel violence. The only good news is the most recent statement of the EU that there can be no military solution to the civil war in east Ukraine which mirrors what President Obama is also now saying. When will the EU pursue its interest in the Ukraine by offering to help broker a peace between the Kiev government and the armed rebels? If the EU does not like Mr Putin’s peace proposals, where are their own? Why does the EU seem to think it is acceptable for a European government to be shelling its own people, instead of trying to find a way of restoring peace to its troubled country?
Which brings me to the EU’s main failure, its failure to be democratic or to advance democratic causes. The EU dislikes Scotland having a free referendum on whether to stay in the UK or not. It has intervened in the debate on the side of the Union not because it likes the UK but because it is worried that the Scottish precedent will catch on. The EU which did so much to foment tensions within member states in the early years of its existence by encouraging a Europe of the regions, now wishes to suppress separatist movements. The EU does not want the Catalans to have a free vote on whether to stay in Spain. They do not welcome the idea of Venice or Lombardy voting on whether to stay in Italy. They clearly do not see the need for the UK to have a vote on whether it stays in the EU or not.
The EU has designed a thoroughly undemocratic way of legislating. Deals and arguments between the Council, the Commission and the Parliament, many of them conducted in private, result in a torrent of new laws. In any individual country these laws are in effect immutable, however much they may be disliked or however bad they may be. One of the main principles of UK democracy is that no Parliament can bind its successors. If a Parliament enacts a law which is unpopular or proves to be ill thought through, the people can vote that Parliament out and replace it with people who will change or repeal that law. Now today a new UK government cannot amend or repeal much of the law it inherits from the previous government, because it is made in Brussels.
This is based on a speech I made yesterday to the “EU Foreign Affairs” conference at Europe House.