The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, has called this Saturday night an emergency meeting of the heads of State and Government of the 27 to address the situation in Gaza and the risks to continental security. will be next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. and by videoconference, just a week before leaders meet again in Brussels for a regular Summit. “Nothing justifies the brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel. We are in full solidarity with the people of Israel. Israel has the right to defend itself in full respect of international law. The unfolding tragedy has many consequences for Europe. That is why I have called a Council Extraordinary European Parliament by videoconference to establish a common position and a clear and unified line of action,” he explained in a message in a statement.
The text may seem generic, standard, but it is not. In those few sentences there are three crucial elements, loaded with meaning, full of reproaches and that summarize the chaos of the last seven days in Brussels, the enormous anger of many governments with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the quarrels between those responsible for the three main community institutions.
In his message, Michel first condemns the savage slaughter perpetrated by Hamas, an organization considered terrorist by the EU and emphasizes that Israel has the right to defend itself. There are no doubts, hesitation or nuances, something on which absolutely everyone in the EU agrees. From there, the problems.
The second message is exactly the one that follows, when he emphasizes that this defense must fully respect international law. It might seem obvious, but it has been the great topic of discussion in Brussels, because the president of the Commission, in an unprecedented case, has acted for days almost completely alone, without coordinating with the capitals, with Michel himself and with its high representative for Foreign Policy, the Spanish Josep Borrell. But above all, she has tried to rewrite, on the fly and on her own, the Union’s position.
Von der Leyen has written and spoken time and again about the bloodthirsty attack and the right and “duty” to Israel’s reply to “protect its citizens”, giving him what everyone has interpreted, in his team and in the rest of the buildings in the Belgian capital, carte blanche. It wasn’t a mistake, a slip. He has maintained the position, barely mentioning the Palestinians, the situation in Gaza and, above all, international law until this very Saturday. And not from his office, but he traveled to Israel on Friday, along with the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, to meet with the president Isaac Herzog, who the day before had flatly stated that all the inhabitants of Gaza bore responsibility for the current situation, rejecting the calls of the international community not to collectively punish two million people for the actions of Hamas.