A year after the end of official occupation, there continues to be a military presence in Iraq in the form of western peace-keeping forces. The tension caused by the implications of withdrawing troops and the moral obligation to help the Iraqi people makes the European presence in the country a political hot potato. café babel discusses this with Professor Mercedes Bresso, the new president of the Union of European Federalists (UEF), an independent, non-governmental organisation for the promotion of a federal Europe.
How do you assess the current situation in Iraq, a year after the handover of power? And how much influence has Europe had in its development?
It is difficult to give a judgement on the current situation in Iraq. I have a feeling that the war is now about getting information - everyone is convinced that the truth is not being told, certainly not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This makes me think that the situation is not exactly what the coalition had envisaged creating when the conflict started: in short, it didn't pay off. As for Europe, if the war caused division amongst its member states, peace has brought unification amongst its people and in public opinion. Europeans played a key role in reducing the burden and the negative consequences of the conflict.
The Iraqi elections at the end of January and the high turnout were greeted with enthusiasm by Europeans. How do you feel about this advance in democracy?
Personally, while appreciating the fact that elections took place, I'm not going to get carried away. Elections in an occupied country can never truly be free. It is not easy to gauge what the outcome of the current situation
Could the withdrawal of Italian and Polish troops lead to more and even worse terrorist acts?
I don't believe that the withdrawal of Italian troops would cause bloodier or more frequent terrorist attacks.
During her visit to Europe in February, Condoleeza Rice urged the allies to “work together”. What impact did this speech have on Europe's position on Iraq?
I don't think Condoleeza Rice's speech had much influence on Europe's position on the Iraq war. Public opinion remains sceptical about the consistency of the objectives and the methods used to obtain them. In other words, people in Europe continue to think that war is not the right way to combat terrorism.
But do you not think that the EU needs to take responsibility for its actions by staying in Iraq alongside America?
Perhaps with America but not under American control. A peacekeeping force under the control of the United Nations could be a solution.
What alternatives can Europe offer in comparison to those offered by America?
The European way is more realistic. Eradicating terrorism with bombs and "never-ending" war is an illusion. A terrible illusion that seems to blind American political leaders. However, Europeans believe - more realistically - that war does not defeat terrorism; it feeds it. And they believe that only dialogue with the Arab world and the Third World can stop the bombs that so many fear.