Josep Borrell’s recent blog post on the situation in the Union of Myanmar hides the EU’s own inaction behind “geopolitics”. While ostensibly expressing support for the people of Myanmar, the post is a slap in the face of the democratic resistance to the military coup and displays an embarrassing lack of understanding of the situation.
A fairy tale reality
 Whatever the other arguments in the blog post are, all of them are undermined by the baffling and factually wrong description of the years since the general elections of 2015, which can only be described as a fairy tale version of reality. Not only are there several minor factual mistakes, but Borrell makes the baffling argument that, “The democratic transition was accompanied in the same year  by ethnic peace.”
 What? Has Borrell – or rather, whoever wrote that post in his name – read any of the internal EU Delegation reports, or the numerous reports by local civil society organisations from these years? Even if you do not count the 2016/17 Rohingya crisis as part of the ethnic conflict – it is often treated as an at least partly separate issue besides the decade-long ethnic conflict around federalism – there has been major fighting in Kachin, Northern Shan and Rakhine States. Hundreds of thousands of IDPs bear witness to that. In nominal ceasefire areas in Karen State, the Tatmadaw has been continuously encroaching upon territory controlled by the Karen National Union in breach of said ceasefire.
 The ceasefire in question is the so-called “Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement” (NCA), that is, contrary to Borrell’s depiction, nationwide in name only and barely a ceasefire. While ten EAOs have indeed signed it, only two of them are bigger, influential ones, while over 12 other EAOs, comprising about 75% of all EAO troops, remain outside the NCA.
 Borrell also fails to mention that the “democratic transition” and the constitution of 2008, which guided it, was drafted entirely by the Tatmadaw itself. This lack of understanding displayed by these misrepresentations of the reality of Myanmar in the past years is embarrassing not only for Borrell but reflects badly on the EEAS and the EU Delegation in Myanmar – unnecessarily, because I know that the people working there know better than this.
A missed argument
 A similar lack of detail is displayed in Borrell’s description of the attempted coup by the Tatmadaw starting on 1 February. While it is good and important that he calls it a “coup” and describes the Tatmadaw’s bogus justification of “voter fraud” as lacking any evidence, he could have made it clear that the declaration of the state of emergency constituted a breach of the Tatmadaw’s own 2008 Constitution, as has been argued extensively by constitutional experts.
 This would have given Borrell the chance to poke holes into Russia’s and China’s arguments behind their blocking of any meaningful action through the UN. China consistently talks about resolving the crisis “under the constitutional and legal framework” while insisting the international community should not intervene in Myanmar’s domestic affairs. Given the unconstitutionality of the state of emergency, defending the Tatmadaw and its illegal “State Administrative Council” (SAC) from meaningful international action actually amounts to interfering in Myanmar’s internal affairs by defending an illegal usurper of state power. This even more so as representatives of the legitimate civilian government of the Union of Myanmar have repeatedly demanded the UN to step in.
Hiding behind “geopolitics”
 Thus, Borrell lost a chance to make his argument against China and Russia a strong one, which brings me to the next point. Much of the blog post is focused on blaming “geopolitics” for a lack of meaningful response by the international community and the EU itself. China has strategic interests and will thus block any meaningful action by the UN Security Council such as an arms embargo, goes Borrell’s argument. While there is no doubt that neither Russia nor China have been particularly helpful – to put it mildly – in the current situation, this ignores that especially China is actually in a dilemma. They know that a return to military rule is not the best for their “interests” in the country and have been, for their standards, quite measured in their response to the coup.
 It is thus not entirely impossible to move China to at least abstain a potential resolution in the Security Council. They have openly stated that the current situation is “absolutely not what China wants to see” and have even engaged with the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), the main political body opposing the coup formed out of members of Myanmar Parliament elected last November. Instead of assuming China would block any strong measures at the UN Security Council, we should thus rather engage them and show them that not defending the junta is in their best (strategic) interest, which they probably have realised themselves already – instead of hiding our own inaction behind the simplistic view of China as always defending the bad guys.
Offering carrots where there are none
 Borrell also suggests supporting efforts to find a solution to the crisis through ASEAN, although, as he himself admits, there is little chance of success in this, given ASEAN’s own constraints. While this approach is nevertheless understandable, Borrell’s suggestions that the EU “could reinforce this diplomatic track by offering to increase our economic ties if Myanmar returns to the path of democracy” is mind-boggling on several aspects.
 Do we really believe that if we just offer the generals more investment, they will stop murdering and hand back power to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? The generals are fighting for their very own survival right now, which is tied to staying in power. They will not relinquish this for any however fancy “state-of-the-art technologies and sustainable business principles” offered by the EU.
 And think of the message this would send: After the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya, the EU threatens to withdraw “Everything but Arms” trade preferences – but when the Tatmadaw threatens to push the whole country into the abyss, we offer them more investment if they just stop?
No return to the fairy world
 The larger problem depicted by this approach is the belief that there is a way back to the status quo ante coup. The Tatmadaw has made zero efforts in finding a “compromise”; one core point of the coup most likely was to get rid of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, if not the NLD as a whole. Any actual election following this coup would thus not include them and would therefore barely be acceptable to the general population.
 But even if there was some sort of compromise including the NLD, it is highly questionable whether it would be accepted by the people. The Tatmadaw and its more than flawed 2008 Constitution already enjoyed little trust from most people and that little trust has been completely destroyed by the coup and the senseless butchering of unarmed civilians, including dozens of children, by the Tatmadaw. They have proven once and for all what they mean by “discipline-flourishing democracy” and the people clearly have had enough of it.
Doing harm by doing no harm
 Borrell goes on to claim that the EU’s response has been “swift”, while in reality we are three steps and two months behind with every measure we take. It took us until 22 March to issue what amounts to toothless travel bans against the top generals, while the US, UK and others have already started sanctioning the two economic conglomerates in the hands of the Tatmadaw. While this seems to be in the works for the EU now as well, Borrell reiterates that any sanctions should “do no harm” to the wider population.
 Admittedly, this is a very tricky question and generally, I support that stance. But that approach stems from the experience of the 1990s with firmly established SLORC-rule, where sanctions were taken in a long-term approach to force regime change, with little success. The situation right now, though, is far from this – the coup is not a fait accompli, the battle for state power is wide open. Thinking around sanctions should therefore mainly be guided by short- and mid-term thinking to weaken the junta in this current battle. This could mean that some spill over harm of targeted sanctions on the general economy might be acceptable, especially given that the resistance itself has effectively brought trade and the banking sector to an almost-standstill. Details will be important here and should be coordinated with the National Unity Government (see below), but a general „do no harm“ approach might stop us from putting useful sanctions in place.
More than punitive measures
 But much more important than the seemingly automatic resort to punitive measures that will likely have little effect anyway, is to find ways to actively support the democratic movement in their battle for state power. And this is where Borrell’s post is most disappointing. He states that we have „to make sure that the will of Myanmar’s people, as expressed at the November 2020 elections, is respected“. Yet, he does not even mention the CRPH, which consists of elected lawmakers from precisely those elections.
 Shortly after the initiation of the coup, members-elect of the Myanmar Parliament swore themselves into office and formed the CRPH to perform the legislative branch of government. They soon named several interim ministers and an interim vice-president. This is, by all means, the legitimate government of the Union of Myanmar.
 But more than that, the CRPH has just announced the formation of the National Unity Government together with ethnic political parties, EAOs, civil society and the Civil Disobedience Movement. To achieve this goal, they have promulgated the Federal Democracy Charter, laying the grounds for the abolishment of military rule and the establishment of a true federal democratic republic.
 This was and is no simple task and reflects the huge steps taken in recent weeks to overcome old antagonisms and to rebuild trust lost, also due to the NLD’s own mistakes of the past years. After all, the question of federalism is a historic one going back to the agreements following World War II that formed the basis of the modern Union of Burma; the breaching of these agreements in turn were and are a major cause for the over 70-year-old civil war in the country. Within the misery of the coup and the violence, there is thus also an historic opportunity to overcome differences of the past and end the civil war.
 Therefore, recognising and supporting this National Unity Government would be a crucial measure by the EU and its member states to support these efforts. It is also the single most useful action, as it would open up further diplomatic, financial, material and legal avenues for the democratic resistance – without needing consent from Russia and China.
 Obviously, Borrell could not give this recognition in a blog post (not least because it had not been formed at the time of writing). But not even mentioning the CRPH and its efforts, done under immense pressure and personal danger for all involved parties, is an insult to them and the democracy movement as a whole. This despite the recent appearance of interim foreign minister Daw Zin Mar Aung at the UN Security Council’s Arria meeting, as well as the resolution passed by EU parliament on 11 February that acknowledged the efforts by the members-elect. Showing solidarity by at least acknowledging the CRPH and its efforts would have been the bare minimum Borrell could and should have done.
 If we are to take the promotion of democracy and human rights as outlined in the EU’s Global Strategy seriously, we must do more than issue ill-informed and empty blog posts such as Borrell’s latest on Myanmar and start to look for ways to actively support the people of the Union of Myanmar in their struggle for a federal democratic country.
Georg Bauer is a University Assistant (praedoc) at the Department of History at the University of Vienna, where he focusses on nationalisms, historical narratives and state building in the Union of Myanmar. Prior to that, he lived in the Union of Myanmar for two years, where he worked for the EU Delegation and the Australian Embassy on human rights issues and the peace process.
Quote as: Georg Bauer: „The EU’s Geopolitical Hideout in Myanmar – Georg Bauer on Borrell’s blog post on Myanmar“. In: Wolfgang Schmale: „Mein Europa“ Blog – https://wolfgangschmale.eu/eu-geopolitical-hideout-in-myanmar – published 16 April 2021.
Is the desire to promote democracy and human rights a means to ensure security of EU or a policy goal in its own right ? If the former is the case I wonder how Myanmar affects security of EU. The country is unlike its Eastern European neighbourhood, Africa or the Middle East outside the sphere of influence of the community.