We Had Our 9/11 (But Pretended It Didn't Happen)

07/31/2014 03:59 pm 15:59:15 | Updated Sep 30, 2014
SERGEI SUPINSKY via Getty Images

That Europe is not raising its voice to stop the bloodshed in Gaza is no big surprise. Sadly, we are used to a 28 Member States consensus-based foreign policy that tends to be anodyne. Bad news for Europe's potential, but much worse for others around the world who miss our ambition to be assertive about human rights and international law beyond our borders.

What is more striking, however, is that a missile intentionally launched by someone shot down a civilian aircraft carrying numerous EU citizens amongst its passengers and somehow we have reacted as if it was due to a storm or a little bird inside of one of the motors. An attack which caused the loss of hundreds of lives, mostly Europeans, on an aircraft which took off from a European capital and which was obliterated some hundred kilometers from the EU borders. Yes, fellow Europeans, Ukraine is not a southern region of Australia nor Amsterdam the capital of Malaysia.

Can anyone imagine that after 9/11 the citizens and authorities of California, Nevada, Ohio or Massachusetts would have behaved as if the attack and the tragedy was only of relevance for citizens of New York?

In the summer when we commemorate the beginning of World War I it wouldn't be wise to start another war. Of course not. However, there should be a medium way between being bullied by a powerful neighbor and acting like a kamikaze in the slippery world of international relations. Shouldn't we provide dignity for our victims and respect for Europeans?

Naturally, the Netherlands is in shock. 193 compatriots were killed. Their prime minister, Mark Rutte, is outraged, frustrated and feels quite helpless. He had several phone calls with Putin to ask for collaboration but the Russian leader didn't take him very seriously. Rutte has repeatedly complained that the OSCE observers were not able to do their job because the pro-Russian rebels, the main suspects of the crime, have denied free access to the wreckage. There was even alleged looting of wreckage, luggage and personal possessions of those who were on the flight. The rotting corpses were under the sun for days and maneuvered by locals of uncertain origin and profession.

How must the families of the victims feel at the prospect of a bunch of thugs obstructing the investigation and the dignified treatment of bodies?

Of course, the Dutch prime minister cannot do much himself. It's a torturous exercise comparing the first reaction of the EU and the USA. I encourage you to do it. Obama's statement, prompt, almost immediate, reflected the severity of what happened. Even if no Americans were on the plane! On the contrary, the only thing I've found on the European side was a written press release after the attack. Shouldn't we have taken a swift and urgent action to ensure that the evidence on the field is not destroyed so that a proper investigation could confirm our suspicious?

The European Union and the U.S. has just approved tougher sanctions against Russia. It is indeed the right thing to do. But is that enough to express the gravity of the attack? During the campaigns for the European Elections, leaders and intellectuals alike speak of the European people, but when Europeans suffer an attack it has nothing to do with us. All I've discovered at a European level has been a book of condolences in the European Parliament and a one-minute silence at the start of a Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting in Brussels.

This European coldness may be also a sign of the decadence of the public space, as if any tragedy, of whatever origin, affects only those who have suffered it while others continue with their everyday lives. The show must go on as long as I'm not hit by a missile.