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Europe and the United States (May 31, 2003)

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During the leaden months prior to the outbreak of the war in Iraq, a morally obscene division of labor provoked strong emotions. The large-scale logistical operation of ceaseless military preparation and the hectic activity of humanitarian aid organizations meshed together as precisely as the teeth of a gear. Moreover, the spectacle took place undisturbed before the eyes of the very population that – robbed of their own initiative – was to be victimized. [ . . . ]

A Common European Foreign Policy: Who First?

There is no doubt that the power of emotions has brought European citizens jointly to their feet. Yet at the same time, the war made Europeans conscious of the failure of their common foreign policy, a failure that has been a long time in the making. As in the rest of the world, the impetuous break with international law has ignited a debate over the future of the international order in Europe as well. But here, the divisive arguments have cut deeper, and have caused familiar fault lines to emerge even more sharply. Controversies over the role of the American superpower, a future world order, and the relevance of international law and the United Nations all have caused latent contradictions to break out into the open. The gap has grown deeper between continental and Anglo-American countries on the one side, and ‘Old Europe’ and the Central and Eastern European candidates for entry into the European Union on the other.

In Great Britain, while the special relationship with the United States is by no means uncontested, the priorities of Downing Street are still quite clear. And the Central and Eastern European countries, while certainly working hard for their admission into the EU, are nevertheless not yet ready to place limits on the sovereignty that they have so recently regained. The Iraq crisis was only a catalyst. In the Brussels constitutional convention, there is now a visible contrast between the nations that really want a stronger EU, and those with an understandable interest in freezing, or at best cosmetically changing, the existing mode of intergovernmental governance. This contradiction can no longer be finessed. The future constitution will grant us a European foreign minister. But what good is a new political office if governments don’t unify in a common policy? A Fischer with a changed job description would remain as powerless as Solana.*

For the moment, only the core European nations are ready to endow the EU with certain qualities of a state. But what happens if these countries are able to agree only on a definition of ‘self-interest’? If Europe is not to fall apart, these countries will have to make use of the mechanisms for ‘strengthened cooperation’ mandated by the EU conference at Nice, as a way of taking a first step toward a common foreign policy, a common security policy, and a common defense policy. Only such a step will succeed in generating the momentum that other member-states – initially in the euro zone – will not be able to resist in the long run. In the framework of the future European constitution, there can and must be no separatism. Taking a leading role does not mean excluding. The avantgardist core of Europe must not wall itself off into a new ‘Small Europe.’ It must – as it has so often – be the locomotive. It is their own self-interest, to be sure, that will cause the more closely-cooperating member states of the EU to hold the door open. And the probability that the invited states will pass through that door will increase the more capable the core of Europe becomes in effective action externally, and the sooner it can prove that in a complex global society, it’s not just divisions that count, but also the soft power of negotiating agendas, relations, and economic advantages.

* Javier Solana, formerly the Secretary General of NATO, is High Representative of the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy – in effect the EU’s foreign minister. Much criticism has been levelled at the evident lack of influence and political power invested in the office. Joschka Fischer, Germany’s popular foreign minister, has been mentioned frequently as a candidate to head a new and presumably expanded EU foreign ministry, though Fischer himself has disavowed any such ambitions.

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