The refusal of the Western allies to intervene in the uprising in Syria, as they did in Libya, may well be blamed on a lack of resources. The Assad regime’s crackdown on protesters in Syria, nonetheless, is hardly more humane or acceptable than what Gaddafi has done and continues to do in trying to quell the uprisings of his own rebellious serfs.

In Syria, however, any military intervention would be much more complex, and in view of the country's strategic location, in the hornet’s nest of the Middle East, the consequences could be incalculable. No wonder the West is in no hurry to rush in – particularly now when it has seemingly got bogged down in stalemate in Libya.

This is hardly surprising. In fact, it's the logical outcome of a failure to sort out, ahead of time, how exactly they wanted to – and indeed would be able to – achieve the only meaningful objective of the whole undertaking: Gaddafi's exit.

Sound reasons for not trying to prevent Syrian tanks from massacring demonstrators cannot serve as an excuse for the European Union, which during this latest crisis has yet again failed utterly to do even the little it could have done, in decent time, and on its own resources. How is it that the strongest sanctions against some of the most prominent members of the Syrian regime were only brought into force on 10 May, and that regime's head, President Bashar al-Assad, is not even on the list?

How is it that the Union gave the go-ahead to an arms embargo against Syria only on 9 May, almost two months after the outbreak of unrest? Both acts may be little more than gestures. But why couldn't these gestures have come a little sooner, to send out that truly "clear and firm signal" that European politicians keep talking about? What few gestures that do get made, as usual, are merely further evidence of impotence.

Paradoxically, one explanation may be found in the pain-staking, so-called "construction" of a single European diplomacy. So far, however, the only influence that single diplomacy has brought to bear on the Union’s dream of exerting its military capacities on the world stage has been a negative one. Decisions go on being made the same way as before: the big member states work out an agreement amongst themselves. To make it look a lot less embarrassing, one more round of deliberation must now be added, purely out of politeness, and so the EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, and her entourage, are brought in. No wonder Brussels gets even less done than before.

Translated from the Slovak by Anton Baer