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Interview: EU doesn't learn from its mistakes: British MEP

Xinhua, November 24, 2016 Adjust font size:

While the European Parliament voted this week on two resolutions in favour of setting up a "European Defence Union," a British Member of European Parliament (MEP) slammed the idea as "ridiculous and dangerous", and pled for deepening cooperation between the European countries and the North Atlantic Trade Organization (NATO).

In an interview conducted by Xinhua, Geoffrey Van Orden MBE, Vice-Chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament, delivered his conception of defence policy which is entirely different from some of the European elites.

"The EU decided that the solution to peace in Europe was to get rid of nationalism, get rid of states, get rid of borders. Well we see where that's taken us," said Geoffrey Van Orden MBE, who is also founding president of New Direction -- The Foundation for European Reform.

The British MEP does not mince his words when it is time to blast the EU.

"The EU doesn't learn from its mistakes. I think the problem is, you know, we've got different ideas of this word -- nationalism. Instead of the word nationalism, insert patriotism. It's a lot nicer word. What is wrong with pride in one's country?" he exclaimed.

As the spokesperson for the European conservatives on defence and security issues and a former British army officer, Geoffrey Van Orden said he fundamentally disagree with the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the direction it's taking.

"I think it's disingenuous, on the part of the European Union, to say in one breath that it doesn't want to duplicate NATO, it wants to be complementary to NATO and respect NATO and all that, and at the same time say that it wants strategic autonomy -- what on earth does that mean?"

Supporters of the "European Defence Union," which Europeans have debated for decades, have moved to the foreground this week at the European Parliament.

In a resolution adopted on Tuesday, the Parliament called for 2 percent of GDP to be dedicated to defence and to create a European headquarters with the objective of intensifying cooperation, especially against terrorism.

Wednesday, in a separate resolution, MEPs proposed to "radically overhaul the Common Security and Defence Policy and to launch a training operation in Iraq to support member states involved in the coalition against the Islamic State."

"These resolutions are, to my view, driven by the political ambition for European integration and for the EU to play a role as an actor on the world stage. That's the driving motive, not military capability," commented the British MEP.

"The CSDP sees the European Union as being responsible for the full range of response to crisis management, to crises, going from the softest end to the hardest end. It sees the European Union, specifically, being responsible for the defense of those countries who are not members of NATO," expounded Geoffrey Van Orden.

"It's dangerous for this reason: all the time that the European Union talks about strategic autonomy, by definition it weakens NATO, it takes the mind off NATO, and it encourages those people who want to create a division between Europe and the United States. And particularly at this time is when we need absolutely solidarity and dedication to NATO," argued the MEP from the United Kingdom, which maintains close and historical relationships with the United States and NATO.

Questioned on the possible risks of an isolationist American foreign policy following the election of Donald Trump in the United States, Geoffrey Van Orden tried to be reassuring.

"I've always believed that whoever became President of the United States would demand that European allies do more, and contribute more, after all they've been asking for this for the last 50 years. We've, meanwhile, lived happily in peace and security, and we've run down our armed forces. Now we see the gathering storms again, and we're not prepared to do what is necessary," he lamented.

"We should be increasing our defense expenditure, we should be strengthening our capabilities, and we should rededicate ourselves to the NATO alliance," advised the Conservative Defence Spokesperson.

Concerning the potential effects of Brexit, Geoffrey Van Orden responded: "There was no question of Britain separating herself from the security of Europe -- we are the leading European member of NATO and we continue to do that."

Asked about the means being used in the fight against terrorism, the parliamentarian regretted that "The European Union will always find a reason why it has to be more involved as an institution. Why on earth would we want the institutions of the European Union involved in this process? It would be sheer madness. What needs to happen is in many countries they need to sort out their own internal security structures," he exclaimed.

On the subject of Turkey, Geoffrey Van Orden strongly lamented the position chosen by the European Parliament which has suggested this week to "freeze" negotiations with Ankara related to EU accession.

"What signal will that send to Turkey? It will confirm their worst suspicions. They will feel that they have been shut out of this Western club. If we continue talking about Turkey in this way, don't be surprised if they head off in some other direction. That would be a catastrophe, for European security," affirmed the British MEP. Endit