Since the Lisbon Treaty was signed, the EU has assumed a new role acting as if a sovereign power in the realm of foreign affairs. The first manifestation of the EU acting in this way was the effective ‘colonisation’ of Kosovo in February, where the EU facilitated and gave full support to the declaration of ‘independence’ by Kosovo from Serbia, despite strong opposition from Spain, Holland, Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria.
Previously unanimity would have been required for the EU to act in this way, and it would have been unable to ignore any internal opposition. Since Lisbon this is not the case, and a majority of countries can commit the EU on an interventionist course of action.
EU COLONISATION PROGRAMME
(Picture above – Jose Rizal – Philippine National Hero whose writing inspired the actions that brought an earlier era of colonisation to an end)
The EU now finds itself able to use trade bargaining to make political demands on countries that wish to gain access to the EU’s internal market, which with the rising Euro is now bigger than the USA. If Kosovo was the first ‘experiment’ of the use of the EU’s new powers gained at Lisbon, and Serbia in turn is now being coerced to comply by the threat of exclusion, then amazingly the Philippines is becoming the next EU target for partial colonisation – (which is where I am living).
People who imagined that EU power stops at EU borders are getting a rude awakening.
The Philippines has many problems, the biggest of which is undoubtedly corruption which runs all the way from the bottom where police fine motorists a few dollars for infringements without issuing any paperwork, all the way up to Malacanang Palace where the President is suspected of taking multi-million backhanders from Chinese government-owned commercial operators. It is corruption which hinders investment, and keeps the country’s growth rate down, with poverty and hunger at shocking levels.
The EU however, has chosen not to prioritise corruption, but human rights. There is evidence that a number of extra-judicial killings of political opponents are being carried out by members of the Philippine armed services – even though there are far fewer of these than there used to be. The EU wants to introduce an 18 month programme with the rather titillating-sounding name EUJAM – standing for EU Joint Assistance Mission.
Corruption however is as rampant as ever it was, and if the Philippines is ever to provide its citizens with a decent standard of living, it will have to address that issue above all others a priori.
Until recently the airwaves were filled with an investigation into a case where the Philippine government had been about to buy a national broadband system from Chinese ZTE, and the bribes being offered spilled out from behind the curtain when one individual in the know blabbed. They were shockingly large sums.
There have since then been multiple street demonstrations demanding Arroyo’s resignation. Many believed that the President could not possibly survive the resulting enquiries and media interest, and there was hope that at last a President might be made to pay for corrupt practices, which would have had a cathartic effect on all corruption throughout the nation, and signalled the vital sea-change the country needs.
But two events have conspired to save Arroyo. The first has been the spiralling cost of rice, which is the Philippine staple. This has provided Arroyo with multiple media opportunities to be seen declaring war on rice hoarders and profiteers. In a poor country the price of rice assumes far greater significance than government corruption, and it has seized the media’a attention.
But now Arroyo has been granted a second political get-out-of-jail opportunity provided by the good old EU – the chance to be seen as the President fighting to protect Philippine sovereignty against outside interference, which she is seizing with both hands.
From The Daily Tribune April 8th 2008
Malacanang (i.e The President) quickly responded to the EU’s report, as it yesterday warned the EU not to interfere in the laws of the country and for it to respect the sovereignty of the Philippines.
Britain, might I add, is embarrasingly as far as I am concerned, taking the lead role in all this, with Meg Munn, the senior British Foreign Office minister, fronting the EU’s campaign here in the Philippines and arriving next week. Arroyo has agreed to meet her when she arrives, to demonstrate her ‘transparency’, but it seems likely that Arroyo will find the waging of a campaign for Philippine sovereignty will be politically highly expedient. It may well reflect her own feelings on the matter in any case, as she is not exactly a shrinking violet!
As yet, in the local media there is more incomprehension about what the EU is up to than anger or hostility, but I expect that that will soon change. Filipinos are a proud people and they will not take kindly to what will be seen as bullying tactics from an outside power. If Filipinos smell an injustice to their nation, or that they are being patronised, they can react surprisingly strongly. Foreigners wrongly imagine them to be exclusively a quiet compliant lot.
British Ambassador Peter Beckingham (Pictured to right) , when he met with the head of the European Commission Delegation to the Philippines, another Brit Alistair MacDonald this week. On the left is the Czech Ambassador Ludva. (Why is the whole EUJAM programme being run almost exclusively by Brits?)
Beckingham who maintains good relations with all he comes into contact with, now finds himself required to issue instructions to the Philippine government as to how it should be running its own internal affairs, and will no doubt be expected to take the coming flak on behalf of PM Gordon Brown.
To see The Philippine Inquirer report of yesterday, click HERE.
As well as offering the carrot of greater trade links, the EU is also coordinating a move to oust the Philippines from the UN Human Rights Commission, as part of the same political programme, as detailed in today’s Inquirer.