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#QuestionsToCandidates: Wars and foreign policy

Why does the European Union consider concerns for Ukraine more important than those for the Gaza Strip?

4 June 2024

As war returns to the doorstep of Europe, the European Union's foreign policy and humanitarian priorities are under intense scrutiny. We continue to pose questions to candidates ahead of the upcoming European elections: in this piece, we explore the EU's prioritization of Ukraine over the Gaza Strip, examining the perspectives of various candidates and their proposals for a more balanced approach, with Italian candidates offering insights into this disparity and proposing changes.

Silvia Panini & Marcello Saltarelli (Volt Italia - Partito Democratico - S&D) criticize the EU's selective humanitarian response. "European governments mobilized for Ukraine under the banner of human rights, yet neglect similar issues in Palestine," they argue. They attribute this disparity to geopolitical interests, a colonial past, and Islamophobia. They propose a unified EU voice on international issues, with a Parliament-elected government to ensure consistent and effective responses to all humanitarian crises.

Cristina Guarda (AVS - The Greens/EFA) points to geographical proximity and security concerns as reasons for prioritizing Ukraine. "The crisis in Ukraine is a direct threat to European borders and the international order," she explains. Guarda also highlights the fragmented EU response to the Gaza Strip due to differing historical and political positions. She calls for addressing the double standards and ensuring consistent support for all humanitarian crises, regardless of geopolitical implications.

Brando Benifei (PD - S&D) has a different viewpoint on the matter: "I do not believe that the EU prioritizes the events in Ukraine over the crisis in the Middle East. These are two incomparable situations: in Ukraine, we are witnessing a conflict caused by Vladimir Putin's military invasion of a European country aspiring to become an EU member, while in the Middle East, the current events are Israel's response to the Hamas attack on October 7. An immediate, unconditional ceasefire in Gaza is urgently needed to stop the ongoing massacre and to allow for the release of hostages still held by Hamas, which, without hesitation, I state is a ruthless terrorist organization". Benifei also adds that the EU should have played a more centrale role in the peace process for both conflicts, and proposes to promote an international peace conference and a UN mission in Gaza among the "cacophony of voices among European leaders in the Council and within the institutions themselves, with dissonant statements from President von der Leyen and High Representative Borrell, not to mention the division among European countries in the UN votes". 

Candidates highlight various factors behind the EU's prioritization of Ukraine, including geopolitical interests, security concerns, and historical biases. They advocate for a more balanced and consistent approach to humanitarian crises. As the elections approach, these discussions will shape the EU's future foreign policy and humanitarian commitments.