EU ministerial meeting on Afghanistan: like collective trauma therapy


Status: 03.09.2021 6:34 p.m.

The EU is still a long way from digesting the shock of the defeat in Afghanistan. The EU ministerial meetings in Slovenia were like a kind of therapy. At least the EU is apparently ready to learn lessons.

A comment by Stephan Ueberbach, ARD-Studio Brussels, currently Ljubljana

Crisis meetings in New York, Brussels and Ljubljana, hectic commuting and telephone diplomacy: with demonstrative activity, the international community is trying to save what can be saved after the hasty and chaotic withdrawal of troops and the sudden takeover of power by the Taliban. Militarily, politically, morally – the West has failed all along the line in Afghanistan and is now faced with a huge pile of broken glass.

The European Union is still a long way from overcoming the shock of defeat. The general perplexity is palpable. No wonder, after all, the debacle in the Hindu Kush relentlessly exposed Europe’s weaknesses – above all, its total military dependence on the United States. This is anything but new – but not even being able to secure the airport in Kabul on its own was a humiliating experience for the EU.

At the conference of European foreign and defense ministers, which to a large extent was more likely to have been a kind of collective trauma therapy, there was therefore talk of a wake-up call and a deep turning point, which should not remain without consequences. But whether the old idea of ​​a rapid reaction force of 5000 men can really help to make the European Union “more independent” and “more capable of acting”? Doubts are in order.

How to deal with the Taliban?

In Eastern Europe in particular, there is a reason to fear that the EU will thus enter into unnecessary competition with NATO and could even be weakened in the end. In addition, there have been two European combat units in the event of a crisis for years, but they have never been alerted. Obviously, the EU does not lack soldiers or material, but rather the political will to deploy its own troops in the event of a crisis.

There are also more questions than answers when dealing with the Taliban in the future. The EU imposes a number of conditions on them for cooperation – for example, integrating other political forces into the government, upholding human rights and freedom of the press, or combating international terror groups and drug trafficking. But who should make the appropriate commitments in Kabul and how all of this can be checked is completely open.

The fear of the “pull effect”

In any case, the main goal of the EU seems to be to prevent new refugees from Afghanistan from getting anywhere near Europe. At least since the meeting of the European interior ministers it has been clear: The EU is continuing to shut down and is relying on the help of questionable regimes in neighboring Afghan countries for fear of a so-called pull effect, which might first give people the idea of ​​moving in this direction On the way west.

So what remains after this remarkable week of crisis diplomacy? First, that the long-term consequences of the dramatic events in Afghanistan are by no means foreseeable. Second, that refugee policy is and will remain Europe’s Achilles heel. And third, that the EU is ready not only to accept the new situation, but also to learn lessons from it for the future. Anyway.

Editorial note

Comments generally reflect the opinion of the respective author and not that of the editors.

Comment: The EU & the attempt to overcome the Afghan trauma

Stephan Ueberbach, ARD Brussels, 3.9.2021 4:55 p.m.

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