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Towards More Principled European Union and Canadian Foreign Policies

Notes for Talk by Hon. David Kilgour, M.P.

(Note: Delivered in his  absence)

Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont 

European Parliament Building


October 18, 2005

 Fellow parliamentarians and guests,


This talk will argue that the European Union (EU) and Canada should both be offering more principled and more energized leadership roles internationally. I’ll attempt to justify this viewpoint through references to our respective current policies primarily towards Sudan, China and Russia.


Having been privileged to visit many capitals in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean over the past two decades, I was often struck by how many of their leaders from parliament, government, civil society, business, labour, diplomacy and academe were privately unhappy with Canada’s overall contribution to building a more peaceful world with better opportunities for all to lead more fulfilled lives. The consensus among most of those I spoke with would today no doubt be disappointment at the continuing refusal of the current prime minister of Canada even to commit to raising the current 0.26 % of our GDP going to official development assistance to the 0.7% proposed by Lester Pearson in the 1960s. Virtually all of your EU members have now committed to reach that level within a specified number of years-or are already at or above it. Many Canadians want our country to do better as well.


The interim report earlier this year of the External Voices Project for the Canadian Institute of International Affairs appears to have come to the same general conclusion. Forty knowledgeable persons from nineteen countries and ten Canadians were interviewed in the second half of 2004. Their consensus included the following:


  • Canada’s international performance and reputation have fallen significantly over the past fifteen years, including our roles in development and global security.


  • Between 1989 and 2004, Canadian taxpayers spent almost a quarter of a trillion Canadian dollars on diplomacy, defense, and international development, but several interviewees could give no examples where Canada had made a significant difference during those years. Most of the fifty, however, praised Canada’s effective leadership role in achieving majority rule in South Africa in the 1980s, on land mines and the human security agenda, in laying foundations for global and regional trade agreements and in balancing closer economic interdependence with political independence.


  • The interviewees indicated that Canada can  make a real difference internationally by: “putting muscle behind the human security agenda; acting as a ‘global think tank’ on international issues and governance challenges; drafting the next North American agenda; providing renewed leadership in development; and using education to build relationships with a new generation of decision makers around the world.” In short, a return to the vigorous optimism of the Pearson period of internationalism.


Vaclav Havel


Let me quote some relevant thoughts of the former Czech president Vaclav Havel, who is still admired across Canada as much as any European.


From his address to members of the European Parliament in February 2000:


 “(R)espect for human life and human liberty…can in an extreme case necessitate interventions outside the borders of the European Union…there may be unfortunately conceivable situations in which a UN mandate may not come, even though attempts on interventions will clearly be in the interest of many people; of the whole of Europe; and of humankind as such.”


 Havel speaking to Canada’s Parliament in April 1999:


“…there is a value which ranks higher than the state. This value is humanity. The State, as is well known, is here to serve the people not the other way round…human rights constitute a higher value than State sovereignty. In terms of international law, the provisions that protect the unique human being should take precedence over the provisions that protect the State.”


These words lead to a number of international applications, but permit me to suggest some implications for the EU and Canada with respect to our relations with only three members of the international community: Sudan, China and Russia.




Like all of you, many Canadians are appalled by the continuing catastrophe in Sudan’s western province of Darfur. With an estimated minimum of 3.2 million “conflict-affected” and probably more than 400,000 Darfuri now dead from unnatural causes, most of the survivors are now languishing in camps which the Government of Sudan (GoS) continues to control and terrorize, primarily through its Janjaweed militias, who carry out a similar role to that of the Interhamwe in Rwanda during the April-June1994 period. What the statisticians term “excess mortality” in those camps now appears to be exceeding 6,000 a month. The UN’s former Human Rights Coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, who observed what occurred in both Rwanda and Darfur, noted in March, 2004, as you’ll recall, that “the only difference between Rwanda and Darfur is the numbers involved.”

Some of you might be saying, “But we’re told that things are better in the camps now.” If so, and there’s no doubt that the GoS has succeeded in reducing  foreign media coverage, why was the UN last week removing its non-essential staff from one region of Darfur out of fear for their safety. One of the closest observers of Sudan, Eric Reeves, noted this week that the “developments in West Darfur (are) broadly symptomatic of a security crisis throughout Darfur.” Why as well in an unprecedented press statement earlier this month did the spokesperson for the chair of the African Union (AU) Commission on Darfur say:


“(On September 28th) some reportedly 400 Janjaweed militia on camels and horseback went on a rampage…(in three villages) in West Darfur…GoS helicopter gunships were observed overhead.”


and,  “(In) our experience in the past 14 months, we must conclude that there is neither good faith nor commitment on the part of any of the parties,”


Responsibility to Protect


The issue of commitment applies equally to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the sixth round of AU-sponsored peace talks in Abuja. It seems clear to those who pay closest attention to the dominant NIF majority in the new national unity government in Khartoum that they know only too well that as long as they feign good faith about the CPA they can continue to do as they like in Darfur.  A just-published book, Darfur-The Ambiguous Genocide, by Gerard Prunier of the University of Paris, sets all this out in detail, (A review of his book will be available on my website next week – - and any comments are most welcome.) Too many governments, including some in the EU, Canada and the US, continue essentially to ignore Darfur, naively hoping that the GoS will not return to do in the South what it continues to wreak in the West. What about our responsibility to protect the Darfuri now and for the past  many months?


Canadians acknowledge warmly the humanitarian contributions of the EU and its member nations to the Darfur situation thus far, particularly those of the UK (US $100 million), ECHO (European Commission) (approx $75 m), Netherlands (approx $50 m), European Commission (approx $40 m) and Germany (approx $20 m). According to the UN, Canada has committed to date about $20 million for humanitarian purposes.


The urgent need is for all of us finally to accept that Darfur is more than another humanitarian crisis. The ongoing GoS-created devastation there-regardless of what one wishes to term it-is so appalling that it shrieks to the entire world as a summons to action immediately.


As you know, the International Crisis Group (ICG, based here in Brussels, this past summer was already saying that NATO must provide additional bridging help to the AU in “force preparation, deployment, sustainment, intelligence, command and control, communications and tactical  mobility, including the deployment of their own assets and personnel to meet capability gaps as needed.”


With the recently escalating GoS-Janjaweed violence and the indication, albeit perhaps only a hint, that the AU would like a larger NATO role in Darfur, is it not time for us EU and Canadian parliamentarians to pressure our respective governments to act? As the students members across North America in STAND put it, “Let’s make ‘never again’ mean something!” 




On China, with its one fifth of humanity, let me say immediately that I think the real friends of the Chinese people around the world should engage continuously on a host of issues, but always making it clear that we want to see the Middle Kingdom transform itself peacefully into a democratic and open society with the rule of law. In short, a rising country which no longer persecutes, locks up and tortures a wide range of its citizens. By kow-towing to the government of China, as my own and some EU governments so often do these days, I believe we’ll gain neither respect nor more responsible conduct from any government in China.


The range of EU-China relations is deep and growing. For example, your trade with China grew fully 25% in 2003 and was up nearly 40% again in 2004.You are each other’s largest trading partners, with your total exchange of goods soon to exceed US$200 billion. Yet have your governments, businesses and civil societies considered such factors as these:


  •    When China goes after a specialty sector of virtually any country, the businesses in it and their employees suffer severe consequences. Take your Czech Republic: in December 2004, its unemployment rate rose to 9.5% from 8.9% in November- 541,675 jobless in a population of about ten million. Even the world famous Bata shoe factories in the republic are suffering because imported shoes from China are cheaper. Its textile industry – like Canada’s and virtually every one else’s – is also under enormous pressure primarily because the economic system in place there-which would probably embarrass any 19th century robber baron in North America- exploits the  work force egregiously.


  •     The Canadian trade deficit with China continues in the $17 billion range; this phenomenon could by some estimates be costing Canadians more than 50,000 jobs yearly. This is good for fighting inflation in our respective countries, but at what other human costs on all sides? Which economist in Brussels or Canada or anywhere thinks this is a sustainable or prudent trade policy over the longer term?


  •     What about work safety? In the first half of 2004, according to official counts, industrial accidents in China killed approximately 350 human beings daily.


  •     Have parliamentarians and other policy makers in the EU and Canada asked whether our respective investments in China are exacerbating existing social inequalities there?  In the case of the rural-urban disparity in incomes, a recent World Bank project discovered that in 35 poor rural areas four in ten children aged 7-15 received no schooling whatsoever.


Basic Human Rights


Is anyone in Europe or Canada raising in a serious and sustained way with the government of China our joint concerns about basic human rights within the country? The annual human rights dialogues in some of our countries-and the larger international one annually in Berne- appear now to be essentially empty rituals.


Independent watchers of human rights of all kinds across China, including Amnesty International (AI) Canada, have concluded with much regret that since Hu Jintao became president in 2003 the overall situation has deteriorated significantly. Falun Gong, Uyghurs, democrats, Christians, Tibetans, Muslims, Buddhists, internet users—all and many others have felt the CCP wrath. To save time, I’ll offer only a couple of thoughts about repression of the Uyghurs and the Falun Gong (FG).


 Uyghurs ( / reports/2005/ china 0405): The continuing “strike hard” campaign has resulted in even more arrests for the 50th anniversary of the Uyghur region. Religious and other repression continues. For example, many Uyghurs are jobless, but Beijing brought in more than 600,000 persons from the mainland for the cotton harvest. The Uyghur language has been barred from being taught in schools even though it is the official language of the region.


Falun Gong: Enter “Falun Gong persecution by Government of China” on Google ca and fully 298,000 entries appear. China’s consul in Toronto was found by a Canadian court to have libeled a Canadian FG practitioner, when the official wrote to a local newspaper in Toronto that the Canadian was a member of a “sinister cult” who wanted to “instigate hate”. AI ( has a good report on its website about the continuing outrageous persecution of FG within China.


Comprehensive Engagement Strategy


Do we European and Canadian parliamentarians not think it’s time for a comprehensive engagement strategy, which calls for friendly cooperation with China, but also constant comment on human rights, environmental and other issues?  Over the longer term, our national interests are complementary. Ignoring or downplaying such matters does not encourage more responsible conduct.


Take China’s emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, which are running at many times more than in Europe. Over the next eight years, Beijing expects to commence operations in fully 562 coal-fired plants, which will be nearly half the world’s total. An estimated 400,000 Chinese residents already die annually from lung and heart diseases related to air pollution. Acid rain covers almost a third of the country’s land surface. An energy specialist at the Asian Development Bank says that China is the source of as much as 40% of the air pollution in Japan & South Korea. How much real pressure and encouragement are the EU, Canadian and other governments providing towards reforming environmental practices in China?


On Taiwan, I believe some EU politicians have said things that are both unprincipled and unhelpful to world peace. The former French premier Raffarin was reported to have said in Beijing earlier this year that he supports China’s “anti-secession” law, which purports to allow China to attack Taiwan; he added that he favoured lifting the EU arms embargo imposed by the EU & US after Tiananmen Square in 1989. Was Raffarin encouraging China to take military action against Taiwan? Selling French arms to China could result in such weapons being deployed against US and other soldiers if China were ever to attack Taiwan? Was he surprised that Japan, Australia and others in South East Asia expressed concern about the EU’s thankfully short-lived policy change on the embargo? Lifting the embargo would remove EU leverage with China regarding human rights and send the wrong signal to other rights-abusing governments?


There is certainly a widespread impression that your governments and successive ones in Canada are weak on pushing human rights issues. AI for one noted: “(T)rade contracts worth millions of US dollars are determining the European Union’s policy on human rights in China” and went on to say that “The European Union lacked a commitment to condemn China’s human rights record.” The same is equally true for Canada despite some rhetoric to the contrary during President Hu’s recent visit to Canada.


A More Principled Approach


The evolution of China is one of the most critical issues of the new century. Why aren’t democratic development and human rights at the centre of EU and Canadian bilateral relations with both China & Russia?


 Here are some suggestions:


  • Encourage the building of democratic governance and the rule of law at all times,


  • Offer incentives to reform. For example, India-with whom we should all be seeking a strategic relationship- should be invited to join the G-8 because it is a democracy, with human rights standards and the rule of law. It must be made clear that progress in these areas is essential to acceptance and inclusion in the broader international community.


  • Vigorously seek to increase trade with countries like India to further promote the democratic values they represent. Surprisingly, India currently only accounts for 1.7% of total EU trade, most of it coming from the UK. If China sees EU and Canadian trade start to grow faster with democracies such as India, its rulers might be encouraged to reform.


  • Maximise the number of students from the EU/Canada and China/Russia going to study in one another’s other post-secondary institutions.


  • Encourage tourists from China/Russia to visit the EU/ Canada and visa versa.




EU leaders recently held a summit with Russian President Putin in London, with access to Russian oil and the anti-terrorist campaign topping the agenda. Prior to the event, AI had issued an updated report on human rights violations in Chechnya, including torture and forced confessions, which did not seem to attract the attention of any of the leaders present. Despite a long history of disagreement between the EU and Russia on human rights, bilateral trade grew rapidly during last year, especially in the energy sector. More than half of Russia’s foreign trade now is with EU countries.


Germany and Russia recently agreed to build a gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea. Poland protested, saying that Russia is using its oil to apply political pressure on Europe. Moscow certainly does not want Europe to be more politically and economically involved with the former Soviet republics, especially in Central Asia. Turkey, which certainly has human rights issues as well, as a prospective member of the EU promises to bring better access to Central Asian regions, thus making Europeans less dependant on Russian oil.


Being dependent on this oil might make European leaders less willing to continue to bring pressure on Russia on transparency and human rights violations. Russia has belonged to the Council of Europe since 1996 and therefore must comply with the European Convention of Human Rights. Was not its membership bid based on the condition that it would meet the Council’s standards for a pluralistic democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights? Some of us thought that improving its human rights record in Chechnya was the main condition of Russia’s acceptance into the Assembly (Resolution 1055).


Legitimacy in the eyes of the world is one of the central goals of diplomacy today. State reputation is now connected with the degree that a nation can influence others. If in the past influence was mainly defined by nuclear arsenals, bombs and rockets, having them today is not enough to have real influence in the community of nations. Even the US has come to accept this concept. The aura of legitimacy has become a very precious commodity, which the governments of Russia and China understand too.


Moscow has recently indicated that it wants to be perceived as a good world citizen. As a result, its government is about to start broadcasting its first 24-hour English language called Russia Today, aimed at presenting a more positive image of the country throughout the world. It will be broadcast in North America, Europe, and Asia with a distinctly British accent (the anchor is British). It remains to be seen whether the new strategy will include complying with international norms, including good governance and  adherence to the Declaration of Human Rights.


The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has issued a number of resolutions deploring the ongoing serious human rights violations in the Chechen Republic (eg, Resolution 1323). There is also the matter of Platon Lebedev, the associate of Mr. Khodarkovsky, who remains imprisoned (Resolution 1418).


Since Russia does not want to lose its membership in the Council of Europe, pressures can be employed because the price of not complying may be too high. Strasbourg urged Moscow to join the International Criminal Court to make the country more accountable for its conduct in Chechnya and elsewhere. Both China and Russia refuse to become members of the International Criminal Court, which embraces 99 member-states, including Canada and the countries of the EU. The court is becoming more important as an integral part of the structure of international law. Unfortunately, three out of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council refuse to be accountable to the International Criminal Court whose main objective is to punish perpetrators of crimes against humanity.


China And Russia in East Asia


The gaping democratic deficits in East Asia have far-reaching negative consequences for global human security. The region is controlled by the two powers, which culturally, despite a long history of distrust and tension, now seem to be building a new partnership. In geo-political terms, China represents a threat as a competing Asian land power, heavily overpopulated and sitting next to the wide expanses of Russia’s Far East, where energy and other natural resources abound. The pair really have very little in common, especially with most Russians feeling closer to Europe than to China.


In political terms, however, they share commonalities. In both, the expression of citizenship has two major modes: it is either enmeshed in escapism and disengagement from the social and the political, or in the dominant and hierarchical character of the state.  As we know from history, both absolute power and the absence of power are corrupting; both instill irresponsibility. Neither country has a system of democratic regional elections in place (Russia abolished its regional election of governors last year under the very weak pretext of fighting terrorism). Both lack free and democratic media to ensure transparency and have appalling human rights records. The fairly long tradition in each of authoritarian rule affects their civic culture in a negative way. In both, there is little respect for individual citizens; people have been sacrificed in large numbers to achieve goals, often unattainable, set by brutal tyrants. No wonder Russia and China have weak civil societies; in each, such bodies have virtually no independence from the state. Fear of opposition and alternative voices is chronic in both. Each spends a disproportionate amount of its GNP on the military.

Recent developments suggest a new friendship. Some experts believe the two governments are drifting into an embrace that could dramatically reshape international relations in the near future. Where exactly are they going? What does it probably mean?

This summer, China and Russia participated in their first ever bilateral war game. Peace Mission 2005 displayed to the rest of the world, particularly to the US and Taiwan, their mutual military capabilities. The main idea was to show that they control the region, especially in the central Asian states where both want to secure a sphere of influence. Russia also wants to continue its military sales to China to which it is already the main supplier of weapons and military technologies, particularly new naval ones.


Another mutual interest is natural resources. China is desperate for Russian oil, which could arrive in some abundance through building the more than 4,000 km Russian Pacific pipeline from Siberia to the Pacific and to China by mid-2008.  


Such areas of interest are moving China and Russia closer together. Both governments also dislike the growing US dominance in Central Asia. Russia wants to regain its control over the former Soviet republics, which was partly lost due to US influence. China wants to secure access to Kazakhstan and its oil; it does not want the US to be present in the region.


Beijing and Moscow are both attempting to strengthen the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. In terms of population, it is an impressive formation, bringing together about 1.4 billion people (thanks to China), and covering about three fifths of Eurasia (thanks to Russia). All members share an important characteristic besides their geo-strategic location vis-à-vis Afghanistan and the oil fields in Kazakhstan and Russia; they have weak or absent democratic institutions. This imposes special challenges for other governments.


International Stability

What does this means for international stability? First, two major players are building an organization, the largest in terms of population and the territory of its members, where the rule of law and the respect for human rights are irrelevant when it comes to their geo-strategic interests. Such an alliance has the potential to increase the democracy deficit in a strategically important region by providing support to non-democratic governments and by threatening existing democracies across Asia. The lack of transparency in the region also poses a threat to the environment, to global public health and human security generally.

To illustrate, sixteen of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in China. The country is already the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the United States. In the 1980s, there were virtually no private cars in China; by 2003, there were 14 million. By 2015, China will have an estimated 150 million cars, and the number will grow exponentially. This is simply unsustainable, although we all know how unfair it is for anyone to argue that residents of some continents only can own cars.

The outbreak of SARS in China two years ago created much anxiety around the world. The fact that its government attempted to hide the epidemic from the World Health (WHO) Organization put global health in serious danger. Viruses of course migrate freely without visas.  In both Ontario and British Columbia, SARS was imported by Canadians returning from Asia. As the result of the SARS outbreak, the Chinese government found itself under uncompromising pressure from the WHO to increase its transparency in reporting to the UN agency.

Canada and the EU could use similar mechanisms to put pressure on China through other international organizations where we both hold memberships to improve its transparency on human rights, public health and the environment?  Other kinds of influence, including diplomatic, should be applied to encourage both China and Russia-and the US- to join the International Criminal Court and other organizations promoting transparency and the rule of law.

The underlying question is can democratic nations join to create a solid set of principles which ensure the sustainable growth of representative democracy and good governance across Europe and Asia? How should those principles guide our relationships with China, Russia and other nations to ensure that the broadly-accepted principles which guide the international community today are not consistently compromised and ignored.


China and Russia are (with the US) adept at manipulating the international community through trade or access to oil and other natural resources. Can the EU, Canada and other nations afford to have a political order in which major powers have different and often incompatible positions in their treatment of the environment, respect for rules and principles embedded in international law?




1)      It is important for China, as it becomes more involved as a member of the international community, to be a responsible world citizen. China wants to be respected on a global level. The evidence is in its bid for the Olympic Games of 2008 and for the World Exhibition of 2010.


2)      Democratic governments must develop stronger position when it comes to China. We need to be firmer and more united. We should also demonstrate stronger support for the concerns of civil society; journalists, human rights activists, NGOs and  individuals and groups within China peacefully seeking freedom of religion, expression and other human rights and freedoms taken for granted in the West.


3)      China has to meet environmental and labour standards. The International Labour Organization is working with China to improve labour standards.




The EU has to be firmer with Russia as well. As a member of the Council of Europe, Russia needs to act in conformity with international human rights standards, particularly the European Convention on Human Rights. Europe has long been a leader on rights, especially on its own continent. Russia was accepted into the Council of Europe as a member based on the condition that it would meet its obligations to conform to the Council’s standards.



1)      We both need to show greater support for civil society movements in the Central Asian States.


For Both


1)      Europe and Canada should support independent media and civil society, to ensure transparency


2)      We both should insist that international and human rights observers have access to places where human security is in danger.


3)      There should be some way of encouraging the private sectors in the EU and Canada to be more accountable to the peoples of Russia, China and elsewhere. Oil cannot dominate the private sector’s agenda to the exclusion of human rights and sustainable development


4)      The EU and Canada need to set an example by investing more in alternatives to fossil fuel energy and advocating solutions such as hydrogen, solar energy, and bio-fuels.  Alternative sources of energy are becoming a dominant theme in the global public policy discourse; the results will have important industrial and geopolitical consequences. 




The EU and Canada in short should demonstrate stronger leadership in the community of responsible nations in advancing fundamental principles that are dear to us: human rights, democracy, environmental sustainability, rule of law, transparency and good governance. We should stop allowing our foreign policies to be driven mostly by profit expectations. Economic policy and international policy should have separate foundations and different objectives.


Today, international reputation matters a great deal and can be used as a mechanism of pressure. It is a cachet that can not be accumulated overnight. A good reputation gives a country an aura of legitimacy and makes it more respected and influential among other nations. Most governments are beginning to realize this fully. If China and Russia want to become respected partners in the community of nations, they should comply with the existing norms of conduct. The EU and Canada have obligations to promote the principles of multilateral actions based on international law. Canada has to accept more principled positions. This is also Canada’s responsibility as one of the prominent G8 leaders among the responsible democratic nations.


.The United Nation as an agency committed to the enforcement of international law is often ineffective in dealing with such problems, especially since its Security Council members Russia and China, among others, too often exercise their veto power irresponsibly. It is a clear conflict of interest. The UN has to be reformed through the expansion of the Security Council membership and through the elimination of the power of veto.


Transparency and respect for international law and international norms is the key for building trust among the community of nations and the foundation for building a more stable and secure world.


Thank you.



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