The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

The approach taken by Brussels with the wars in Ukraine and Gaza diverge significantly.

The Hamas attack on Israel last October triggered an Israeli response that has turned Gaza into a living hell for most of its residents. According to some estimates, nearly 38,100 people have been killed, about half of them children. Civilians are constantly on the move, from the north to the south, from buildings to tents, haunted by the relentless violence. Meanwhile, neither Hamas nor Israel has agreed to the ceasefire terms proposed by the United States. Without decisive action, the number of civilian casualties will continue to increase.

Europe faces two wars on its periphery. As a leading supranational organization, the European Union’s approach to these crises has drawn international scrutiny. Despite the differences in severity, actors, and victim counts between these conflicts, the EU’s actions suggest self-interest often trumps humanitarian principles.

To show its solidarity with Ukraine, the EU has divided its support into several actions. Since Russia’s aggression began in February 2022, the EU has bolstered Ukraine’s economic, social, and financial resilience, provided military assistance, and helped Ukrainian refugees within EU member states. A year into the conflict, Brussels and Kyiv signed an agreement for Ukraine to eventually join the European Union, granting access to markets, a favorable business environment, sustainable growth, and internationalization. In providing humanitarian aid and civil protection, the EU has offered shelters, healthcare, education, water sanitation, and cash support.

In the military sector, the EU has allocated billions of euros under the European Peace Facility to support the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine. In March, Brussels established the Ukraine Assistance Fund, bringing the total financial support up to €11 billion. The EU Military Assistance Mission for Ukraine also helps to tackle the training needs of the Ukrainian military and has trained thousands of Ukrainian soldiers.

It is clear that the EU fully supports Ukraine’s efforts to face Russia’s aggression. As an international government organization close to Ukraine, the EU plays its role as if it is trying to show the world that it is implementing the values it has been promoting: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, and human rights.

Even though Palestine is losing hundreds of people every single day, the West is still talking about how Israel has the right to defend itself while also saying that the world is witnessing a true humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. For the record, the EU has long supported a two-state solution to the conflict. In June 1980, through the Venice Declaration, the European Council affirmed the need for these two countries to live side by side within secure and recognized borders. The 2016 Global Strategy also included the EU’s ambition to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But today, good intentions and commitments do not meet expectations.

During the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the EU is stepping up its funding to support Palestinians, aiming to scale up the desperately needed food assistance, nutritional, health, water and sanitation, and shelter support. Since many borders are closed, hardening the way to enter Gaza, the EU also shows support by sending aid through the EU Humanitarian Air Bridge, which has conducted 48 humanitarian air bridges since October 2023.

It is clear that the EU does everything but send troops and military aid to stop the aggression faced by thousands of civilians. Good relations with Israel should make it easier for the EU to use its soft power to stop this so-called humanitarian catastrophe.

In November last year, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, explained the EU’s position on the Israel-Hamas war, condemning the appalling terrorist attack by Hamas. What the Israelis and Palestinians are facing today is a form of failure of collective political and moral action. The awareness of the violence that escalated into a humanitarian tragedy in Gaza for the EU’s stakeholders seems to be real. However, the actions taken to suppress attacks carried out by Israel appear to have never occurred. In helping Ukraine fight back against Russia, Borrell himself said that the EU has been helping Ukraine economically and militarily. Whereas, in the case of the Israel-Palestine war, the EU keeps saying that soft power is the best thing they can do while having Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, sent to Israel to show support.

The EU’s reliance on U.S. alignment is evident. Divergent opinions among the 27 member states hinder autonomous decision-making, particularly when U.S. interests are at stake. In Ukraine, the EU’s actions mirror U.S. policy, condemning Russian human rights violations. Conversely, in Gaza, the EU’s calls for a two-state solution coexist with passive acceptance of Israel’s actions, reflecting a double standard.

This disparity reveals the EU’s struggle to uphold human rights uniformly, prioritizing alignment with U.S. policies over consistent humanitarian advocacy. The EU’s stance on Ukraine underscores its geopolitical dependencies, contrasting sharply with its tepid response to the Palestinian plight.

Lusi Agustia is currently a student majoring in International Relations at Andalas University, Indonesia. Her concentration in International Relations are Politics, Security, and Social Movements.