Elmar Brok on challenges abroad: "The neighbourhood is on fire"

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Every day news about armed conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq and now also in Israel and in Palestine abound. While in Israel one party has agreed to a ceasefire, in Ukraine European leaders are still negotiating a solution with Russia. As all conflicts are situated in Europe's wider neighbourhood, the EU plays an important role as mediator. We asked Elmar Brok a German member of the EPP group who is the chair of the foreign affairs committee, for an assessment of the conflicts.

The conflict in Israel and Palestine is flaring up again. What is going on?

It is always the same: radical people on both sides combat each other. In this case Hamas wants to destroy the peace process. They are succeeding. For this reason a ceasefire is urgently required. Hamas has to agree to the ceasefire proposed by Egypt. Israel has already done this.

Another conflict is raging in the Middle East. Does Iraq have a future and what does the situation mean for the wider region?

I think that there is only a futur, if the Shiite winners of the elections - Nuri al-Maliki and his people - are ready to build an inclusive government.

The Shiites want to establish a majority government, but if they do not include other parties, there will be division.

Furthermore the fundamentalists will be more active, also in Syria. The region could collapse. Iraq would split into three parts. One part would be connected to parts of Syria. The regional order would be totally messed up.

If we do not manage to solve this conflict, it could lead to long-term tensions and even wars.

Moving north, the conflict in Ukraine is now going on for half a year already. What steps should be taken next with regards to the Ukrainian conflict?

We should make sure that Ukraine can implement the association agreement and the negotiation contract. The country has to become economically and politically stable and able to implement necessary reforms.

We have to support Ukraine, so that the separatists cannot progress further. It is important that we expand the OSCE mission together with the Ukrainians, so that the borders to Russia can be controlled and personnel as well as arms cannot enter Ukraine this way.

All these conflicts are located at the eastern borders or in the wider region of the European Union. Do these conflicts have consequences for the way the EU’s foreign policy is organised?

We need an experienced EU foreign minister. We must use the synergy effects of the European Union and agree on one common policy for the crucial issues.

We do not have real policies with regards to Russia; we do not have a real policy in terms of energy and foreign affairs. The member states have to realise that with many of these issues common European action helps to enforce our interests. Now is the moment to understand that.

Over 70 per cent of citizens want to have a stronger common foreign and security policy in Europe. Unlike some national ministries citizens have realised that only by working together we have a chance to survive in this system.

The neighbourhood is on fire. We have to pay attention that we are still able to calm down the situation. Otherwise it could be damaging for us.

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