(Rome) - A split within the European Union produced the weak EU speech at the opening day of a conference to establish an International Criminal Court (ICC). 
 
The speech was given by Tony Lloyd, Minister of State of the British Foreign and Office, on behalf of the European Union, of which the United Kingdom is currently president.  
 
The United Kingdom recently joined the "like-minded group" of more than 50 states, which seeks to form an ICC with strong and independent powers to investigate and punish genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.  
 
All the members of the European Union except France are also members of the like-minded group.  
 
"In the last nine months, the UK has had a very positive position on the ICC," said Richard Dicker, who heads the ICC campaign for Human Rights Watch, an international monitoring organization based in New York. "We expect the UK, under intense pressure during the course of this conference, to stick to their principles."  
 
In his speech, Lloyd said that all members of the European Union supported the establishment of an ICC. Yet he failed to address the three most contentious issues of the conference:  
 
whether states will have to give their consent to allow an investigation to go forward  
 
whether the ICC prosecutor will be subject to the veto of permanent members of the United Nations Security Council  
 
whether the prosecutor will be able to initiate investigations, or whether he or she will depend on referral from national governments or the Security Council.  
 
"The ICC could really make a difference in how the world punishes grave human rights abuses," said Dicker. "The U.K. can play a historic role in that process - if it maintains its strong positions."