Thursday, January 30, 2003
New Labour, New Europe - 30th January 2003, 23.06

It is too early to consider how damaging the current division in Europe has proved to the integrationist hopes of many countries for a common foreign and security policy. The forceful letter which confirmed support from European states for a 'coalition of the willing' demonstrated that only five EU countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom and Denmark) out of fifteen would follow Bush's lead. From the perspective of the European Union, these five countries broke rank and issued a minority report. The letter also confirmed, an an alarming development to France and Germany, that US influence looms larger in east central Europe than their combined strength and commands more loyalty amongst the more powerful candidates picked for enlargement.

Still in Germany, the multilateralist perspective commands media attention. Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute misreads the situation and still argues from a time when the United Nations mattered. He states that France and Germany could make a stand in the Security Council if they found enough states to support them. "It will be difficult to stop Washington's rush to war. United foreign opposition offers the only hope of doing so." The United States would have, will, brush them aside like chaff.

Tonight, the European Union is in disarray as its heralded common foreign policy self-destructs. The Dutch Prime Minister, Jan-Peter Balkenende refused to sign the letter, preferring European solidarity. Costas Simitas, the Greek Prime Minister and holder of the European Presidency, the European Commission, France, Germany and most other states, were not informed of the proposed missive. The European Parliament has voted 287-209, in an attempt to confirm its lack of influence over foreign policy, that military action in Iraq should not go ahead. Reactions from the Germans have been most quoted by Reuters:

The chairman of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee, German Christian Democrat Elmar Brok, said any chance of Europe's voice being heard had been undone. "This way the Americans will lead and some Europeans will follow. The race of the vassals has begun," he said. "The result of this policy will be an irreversible damage to Germany's position in the community of common values of the West," said Michael Glos, parliamentary leader of the opposition Christian Social Union.

We will see many articles on Old Europe vs. New Europe but the latter term was coined by Blair, unsurprisingly, in November 2002 and, used yet again, on the 16th December last year. There is a rhetorical linkage here but does this signify Blair's objectives for the European Union - pragmatic and flexible, integrated in certain areas, Atlanticist in tone, squaring the circle?


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