Europe’s Afghanistan Dilemma: EU Sets Five Conditions to ‘Engage But Not Recognize’ Taliban

Written by | Saturday, September 11th, 2021

The European Union will not recognize the Taliban but it still wants to engage with the Islamist religious-political movement and military organization. ” In order to support the Afghan population, we have to engage with the new government in Afghanistan,” said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell (3 September). Brussels also wants to send a ‘joint European presence’ to Kabul, if security conditions allow for it, as part of a wider effort to evacuate more Europeans and Afghan nationals. “We are going to see how we can do that in a coordinated manner, putting conditions and, according to the fulfillment of these conditions and according to the kind of government that the Taliban will form and how do they behave, we will be engaging successively with them,” Borrell said.
Borrell also made the difference between factual and political recognition. On the factual recognition, he said that “If you are in power and, certainly, they are in power, we have to recognize the reality. As we recognize the reality when we were talking with them on how to bring people to the [Kabul] airport.” Meanwhile, political recognition can come “if I like you and if you behave according to with my values, according to with my wishes and interests – and this is what a conditions-based recognition is, and that requires time and seeing how things are going,” Borrell explained. “There is a new reality in Afghanistan, whether we like it or not,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas concurred (2 September), adding that “if the EU is to play a role, which it should do, we have to act fast and very quickly find a common position on Afghanistan.”
The bloc also laid out its conditions for stepping up engagement with the Taliban, agreeing to establish a joint European–Kabul civilian presence in what is merely “an operational engagement,” Borrell announced after EU foreign ministers endorsed the position. In recent weeks, however, it has been unclear what such engagement would look like and whether this would mean formal recognition of the Taliban’s takeover. “This operational engagement will increase depending on the behaviour of this government,” Borrell said, adding that this would not by itself constitute the formal recognition of the Taliban government, but “increase depending on the behaviour” of it. The five benchmarks for potential engagement, he said, include the condition that the country under a Taliban rule will not become a breeding ground for terrorists, it must also respect human rights, the rule of law and guarantee media freedom, allow other political forces into a transitional government and grant free access to humanitarian aid, respecting EU procedures and conditions for delivery.

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Asia-Pacific · GLOBAL EUROPE

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