The European Union “strongly condemns” the “indiscriminate” fire into Israel from Gaza, and “deplores” the causalities caused by Israeli retaliatory fire, a spokesman for the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton said in a statement released on Tuesday.
The complete statement reads:
“We are following with grave concern the rapidly deteriorating situation in the South of Israel and the Gaza Strip.”
“The EU strongly condemns the indiscriminate fire into Israel by militant groups in the Gaza Strip. The EU deplores the growing number of civilian casualties, reportedly among them children, caused by Israeli retaliatory fire. The safety and security of all civilians must be of paramount importance.
“The EU calls on all sides to exercise maximum restraint to avoid casualties and re-establish calm. To this end the EU calls on parties in the region to do their utmost to achieve an immediate ceasefire.”
The statement is typical of Ashton and her €789m (£628m) a year European External Action Service (EEAS), which acts only on “consensus” among members. In forming policy, Ashton must first seek opinions from the 28 member states and frame a response which will be acceptable to all.
However, interest in Israel and Gaza in Brussels is at a far lower level than in the United States. It is notable that Euractiv, a Brussels online journal with close ties to the EU establishment, has not been covering the attacks this week by Hamas and the strikes by Israel.
Foreign policy head Ashton, a British socialist who was an official with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1970s and 80s and who has never been elected to any public office, will step down from the EU foreign affairs post later this year.
Last month she was criticised by the EU’s own Court of Auditors, who said her management style at the EEAS was wasteful and inefficient.
The establishment of the EEAS itself was “rushed and inadequately prepared, beset by too many constraints and vaguely defined tasks.”
The auditors noted notes Ashton has “23 direct reporting lines” to her office, instead of delegating. Her staff often submitted documents “late” and at “short notice” before high-level meetings.
Ashton’s EEAS has never drafted a strategic framework for EU foreign policy. Instead each new foreign development prompted “intense debates” in Brussels.
According to EU Observer, “The auditors said that before any document went out ‘the [internal] validation process took an average of four days and included up to five validators (deputy head of division, head of division, director, managing director, member of the corporate board) before reaching the cabinet, where there is a possibility that the text may be redrafted.'”
The Daily Telegraph, reported last month that Ashton “will be entitled to £400,000 at the taxpayer’s expense over three years for doing nothing after finishing her five year term as the EU’s foreign minister at the end of 2014.”