EU Parliament on Afghanistan: A touch of the Bundestag election campaign in Strasbourg

EAn “inclusive and representative transitional government” – that is one of the five “benchmarks” that the EU foreign ministers have set for the Taliban. The extent of future cooperation should depend on how far the Islamists meet the West. There was hope that at least one woman would be promoted to a prominent position.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

But on Tuesday, the EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell drew a disillusioned interim balance in the European Parliament: The previously known Afghan government is neither inclusive nor representative, said the Spaniard, “and it includes people who are on UN sanctions lists”. You know what to expect from them. Nevertheless, there is “no other option than to talk to the Taliban,” added the Spanish socialist.

Disillusionment, that was the basic mood among the MPs who discussed the situation in Afghanistan for the first time since the Islamists came to power. The EU had high hopes for the country, it was the biggest donor – from the common budget and especially if you add the national contributions.

Difficult questions now arise. They concern further cooperation with a government that rejects Western values, the acceptance of migrants, but also the concept of nation building, which is a fundamental conviction of the European Union. Borrell was skeptical: there are lessons to be learned, everything is much more difficult than expected. Reinhard Bütikofer from the Greens put it more clearly: “We tried to impose nation-building on the Afghans, that was a mistake,” he said. Nevertheless, he defended the operation in the Hindu Kush against the criticism from the left and right on the outside that was heard on Tuesday: You had to defend yourself against international terrorism.

General settlement with NATO

Sometimes it seemed as if the federal election campaign played a role in the debate and the prepared resolution texts. Why else would the left-wing parliamentary group, in which the German Left Party plays the leading role and provide the parliamentary group chairman, use the dispute in the EU for a general settlement with NATO?

The US and NATO are responsible for the “aggression” in the Hindu Kush, it said in their motion for a resolution. He regretted that 21 EU countries were members of the alliance and twice called for “dissolving NATO” and “pushing back the military-industrial complex”. The German MP Özlem Demirel said: In the Hindu Kush the freedom of the West and Afghans was not being defended, “but war was waged for geopolitical interests, money poured into the throats of a corrupt government and by Western companies”.

The pro-European parliamentary groups, on the other hand, adopted a moderate tone. It was evident that the Greens, Social Democrats, Liberals and Christian Democrats share the pragmatic stance that the EU foreign ministers have agreed on. This applies particularly to development cooperation, which has been suspended so far – only emergency aid is still flowing into the country, it will be increased significantly. The EU Commission is now looking for ways in which development projects can be financed again.

Which activists should be included?

You have to check “on a project-by-project basis”, “whether it is possible to work with the remaining cooperation partners,” said Michael Gahler from the CDU. The basic idea: As long as the money does not go to the Taliban, but to independent project partners, you can turn the tap on again – to have a lever against the Islamists, but also to prevent the collapse of public services, which could lead to the next wave of refugees .

Gahler, for example, can imagine projects in agriculture again. He is also in favor of reopening schools, even if girls and boys are taught separately there. He drew the line to the FAZ like this: “What is not possible is that curricula are Islamized and we end up spending money on madrasas.”

There is also a consensus among the moderate groups that the EU has a duty to take in Afghan activists who are threatened by the Taliban in addition to local staff. While the Christian Democrats define this group rather narrowly, Social Democrats and Greens insist on generous “gestures of solidarity” and “humanitarian visas”. In the end, this will be decided by the states. EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson wants to convene a conference by the end of the month, at which the governments should promise concrete quotas for resettlement.

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