Sense and sensitivity

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.35, 27.9.01, p11 (editorial)
Publication Date 27/09/2001
Content Type

Date: 27/09/01

The attack launched on External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten by the respected Willy De Clercq and four other MEPs over his supposedly complacent attitude towards terrorism seems mystifying on the face of it.

Patten has worked ceaselessly since the attacks on America to help build a broad-based coalition against the likes of Osama bin Laden and his ilk, robustly expressing his aim of 'draining the swamp in which the mosquitoes live'.

So far this week he has been to Pakistan and Iran. Along with High Representative Javier Solana and Belgian minister Louis Michel, he is also visiting Saudi Arabia, Eygpt, Syria and Jordan. It is a mission that demands the highest skills of diplomacy - and sensitivity. Unfortunately, De Clerq's letter to Romano Prodi suggests that such sensitivity was in shorter supply during his appearance before the European Parliament earlier this month. The MEPs complain that some of his responses gave rise to "profound indignation".

To European Voice, most referred to come across as merely honest and frank. Perhaps too honest and frank. However, the MEPs' complaint that Patten gave "indirect, evasive answers to precise questions" demands a response.

It is to be hoped, though, that his actions this week will speak far louder than his words that caused offence.

Countries / Regions